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Ancient Hebrew Poetry: What’s Wrong with Seminaries? Why Don’t They Provide Solid Training in Biblical Interpretation?

by Stephen Hebert on Thursday - 12 July 2007

in Biblical Studies

Ancient Hebrew Poetry: What’s Wrong with Seminaries? Why Don’t They Provide Solid Training in Biblical Interpretation?

John Hobbins makes an excellent observation. As someone who studied theology in graduate school, I can attest to the rather poor language skills (generally speaking) of the current crop of students.

This is awfully easy for me to say. I spent four years in undergrad learning Greek and Latin. By the time I reached Harvard Divinity School, I really only needed to learn Biblical Hebrew. Further, ancient languages are sort of a passion of mine. I enjoy learning and reading them. Yes. I enjoy it. Stop looking at me as if I am some sort of freak.

After my time at Harvard, my wife and I moved back to southeast Texas. I hadn’t really lived here in 6 years. A lot of water had passed under my bridge in those 6 years, and I was generally surprised to find that most of the church leaders in this area have only feeble Greek and Hebrew skills (if any at all).

So, why is this?

Really, there are a number of contributing factors. Sadly, I think one of them is just an improved set of tools. So often I hear that someone is “doing a word study.” This means that they are going to read someone else’s thoughts about a certain Greek or Hebrew term by using concordances, various software packages, and commentaries. This gives them the ability to stand before a congregation and parse out exactly how we should interpret a certain word.

I’m not going to lie: I typically roll my eyes when I hear it.

I find this pseudo-academia troubling, but there is something far more disturbing about this trend. In my very limited experience, the new guardians of the Biblical languages are mostly university scholars (correct me if I’m wrong). Are we in danger of putting one group into the driver’s seat here? Again, my experience comes out of the University of Texas and Harvard, so I could be wrong, but, for the most part, this particular group appears to be very interested in “historical criticism” (for lack of a better label), and not-so-interested in tradition.

Are the keepers of the “tradition” (i.e., churches) handing it over too readily?

Update(s)

  • Tyler F. Williams puts in his two cents at Codex.

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