Is It Really Worth It? Biblical Languages and the Local Church

Have you ever wondered if it is really worth it to teach the biblical languages in the local church? I’ve taught both Greek and Hebrew in my home church, and at the beginning of every new class, I ask myself that very question and worry that it not worth my effort and the discipline required of my students. But at the end of each class, the resounding answer is always, “Yes!”

While I could give you all of the benefits of teaching Greek in your local church (e.g., deeper knowledge of scripture, learning the language better yourself, instilling discipline in yourself and your students, serve the church and Christ), I will give you two concrete examples.

  • The first time I taught Greek, I started with 15 students and only one continued with me through Greek Grammar II. That student also took Hebrew with me—though I functioned more like a tutor than a teacher as he taught himself the language. After he decided to go to seminary, he was able to test out of both Greek and Hebrew Grammar 1 & 2.
  • The second time I taught Greek, I started with about 15 students and ended with about 5 through Greek Grammar I and II. I just got word today that one of my students was able to pass out of Greek 201 and 202, and will be looking to take Greek 303 in the future.

This doesn’t even include all the rest of my students who still use their Greek and Hebrew in their personal study of scripture.

All of this is to say, you have people in your churches that want to know God’s word better and some who might be interested in studying the OT and NT formally. Offering Greek and Hebrew provides those interested in formal study exposure to what that might look like in the academic setting and might possibly enable them to open up extra electives in degree programs that offer few opportunities to study something interesting or something in more depth.

Though I’ve used this post as an opportunity to encourage others to teach the languages in the local church, what I really want to say is …

CONGRATS!

I’m proud of you, S., for passing your Greek competency exam. Keep studying Greek. You have a real talent for it.

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8 Responses to Is It Really Worth It? Biblical Languages and the Local Church

  1. Craig Benno says:

    I think its important, if its important to those who want to learn it. In our area where there is a high rate of illiteracy – offering greek classes wouldn’t be considered good form.

  2. Dave Black says:

    Well done, Jacob. Your work will live on in your students.

  3. jdhomie says:

    Jacob, how did you get into this and how much Greek and Hebrew did you have before you started? Are there books designed for adult ed learners vs. more rigorous seminary settings? I would love to do this to help others and to sharpen my own skills. I belong to a less scripture-focused denomination (ECUSA) so I wonder how many people would be interested in the first place.

    Congrats on your students’ success, BTW! A testament to good teaching!

    • jacobcerone says:

      I began tutoring Greek immediately after finishing Greek Grammar II. (I’m still not sure how I got the job since I only made Bs in Grammar I and II.) That allowed me to firm up a lot of gaps in my understanding of Greek.

      I kept tutoring Greek Grammar I, II, and III throughout my undergrad, and then I starting tutoring those same courses at Seminary. Though, this time I was freelancing instead of working through the school’s tutoring program.

      I believe I taught my first class at the local church about a year and a half into my MDiv. That would have put me at having taken ~6 Greek courses (I had to retake Exegesis I & II in seminary because my undergraduate courses would not, at the time, count).

      All I did was pick a textbook used in seminary and teach through it. I did consciously make a number of adjustments to the normal seminary setting:

      1) I offered quizzes and tests as an option for those who wanted a grade, and as “extra practice” for those who were intimidated by the quiz/test environment.
      2) I made it free to anyone interested.
      3) I purchased a Greek NT or Hebrew OT for each student that finished the course with me.
      4) I opened the course up to anyone in the community. (People in our church were free to tell anyone else about it, and I put it up on a couple websites.)
      5) We made sure to incorporate original text passages as soon as we had enough Greek under our belts to translate some. I found this thrilled the students to see that they were already able to translate the NT in its original language.
      6) I recorded all the lectures and put them online along with the homework, extra exercises, instructional material, etc. I found that I lost fewer students when they were able to go back through the material if they missed something. Or, if they were unable to attend, they were able to catch up.
      7) I adjusted the pace of the class according to the needs of the class. Though there was a syllabus, we had no hard end date, which meant that we could go at a comfortable pace without loosing folks.
      8) I incorporated elements of exegesis (eg. word studies, textual criticism, clausal analysis, logical fallacies) early on. I found this was helpful as a break from the norm and it taught them how to apply their newfound knowledge of Greek.
      9) I made myself available by getting to class before and staying late after answering questions as well as made myself available via email.

      I’m not sure how this would play out in your local church setting. You may still have some people who want to dabble in something new!

      Thanks for the congrats. I think it had more to do with her discipline and tenacity than good teaching :).

  4. S says:

    Thank you Mr. Cerone. Though I may someday forget even the third declension masculine noun endings, I will always remember how your teaching was saturated with grace.

  5. Pingback: Summer’s End: A Brief Update. | Linguae Antiquitatum

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