Greek and Ministry

Thomas Hudgins is teaching Greek, and he thinks students should study with the intention of actually using their Greek in ministry (HT: Dave Black).

I’m delighted to see more and more effort put into this type of teaching. I was very frustrated as a graduate student when I saw how students in the MDiv program were merely trying to get by in their Greek course. The structure of their course work helped foster this particular attitude, because basic Greek was largely an effort to get enough knowledge of the basic vocabulary and grammar to slip through the test so Greek could be ignored from there on. The same applied to Hebrew.

Since my undergraduate degree was in Biblical Languages, and I was in the academic MA program rather than the MDiv program, I got tapped to help tutor Greek students. (My undergraduate program involved the equivalent of five years of Greek, with two year-long courses taken simultaneously, as well as textual criticism.) These students would try to catch me a few hours before their tests so I could drill them on the things they would have to regurgitate on a test paper. They had no patience for any of my efforts to help them understand the material.

Starting with a mastery of grammar actually works well for me. I learn languages fairly easily, but more importantly, I was already convinced of the value before I started my first Greek class, and I was willing to put in the effort necessary to learn the language well enough so I could use it. But for someone who is not planning to specialize, the focus needs to be a bit different.

One of the major differences is simply attitude, both on the part of teacher and of student. Are we acquiring data in order to check off a box on our list of requirements, or are we acquiring a tool?

I think linguistic concepts should be introduced right at the beginning. How does language work? Why do you have a hard time with pronouncing certain sounds? How does etymology help you learn vocabulary, and how can that in turn lead you astray? How can you study deeply, yet share with the people in the pews or in Sunday School classes in a way that is accessible?

I like Dr. Hudgins’ approach and his brochure. I’m sure his students will be blessed. As Dave said, may his tribe increase!

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One Comment

  1. TWH says:

    Dear Henry,

    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Pastors and other Christian servant-leaders need to see the benefit in using Greek in ministry.

    Every Christmas a person in my family gives me a sort of “knick-knack” tool. I always love seeing what it can do, and I usually try it out once or twice. The tool serves a purpose, but it is so strange and the need for it so unusual that it usually gets relegated to the weird drawer in my tool box. The languages really aren’t anything like that. They are as valuable as a phillips-head screwdriver. So valuable are they to exegesis that pastors and teachers should been reaching into their tool pouch regularly, pulling them out, and putting them to work. I really believe that we as teachers have the burden of proof in theological education, especially when it comes to the biblical languages, to show that a knowledge of what we teach will deepen and enrich ministries in the local church when it is used.

    And I especially love the question you posed: Are we acquiring data in order to check off a box on our list of requirements, or are we acquiring a tool? I only cheer for the latter.

    Thank you again, brother.



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