Why Do We Learn Greek and Hebrew?

And why do we not learn Latin? (Or Dutch, French, <u>or</u> German) But that is the subject of a different post.

As the time for Ordination Exams begins at the end of this week for many of my PC(USA) colleagues here at Pittsburgh Seminary I am beginning to wonder at the purpose of teaching the primary languages. For the vast majority it is nothing but a hurdle that will be jettisoned after Tuesday afternoon of next week when exegesis papers are due. If I was a professor who spent hours laboring over the instruction of Hebrew and Greek the shear knowledge that what I was teaching was a nuisance for most and an outright waste of time for the majority would cause me epileptic fits. No wonder most department heads have a hard time encouraging the faculty to teach these courses. (Of course a notable exception is at PTS where Dale Allison and Robert Gagnon teach Greek, though I am sure both are somewhat disheartened in the understanding that most of their students are not that interested in having a working knowledge but in knowing enough to pass exams).

This is of course a rhetorical question. The knowledge of Greek and Hebrew is non-negotiable. A direct corollary can be drawn between the abandonment of the linguistic studies and the ignorance/shallowness of the Pastorate. The purposeful ignorance of the original languages (and any other language) is of courseĀ  not a problem that is localized to the PC(USA) or other liberal denominations. It has been my experience that this is a disease that infects most theological students (this one included, for which I am currently paying) despite their individual denominational affiliation and the otherwise orthodox nature of their theology. Is it the lack of focus given to Greek and Hebrew in other courses? The lack of focus in existing clergy? Whatever the reason for the decline of the seen importance of knowing Hebrew and Greek one thing remains true. <u>We</u> as graduate students need to make it a priority to not only take our languages seriously and to make a concerted effort to help the new students understand the vital nature of knowing how not only to translate but develop a love for the words used by the Holy Spirit through the hands of Moses, the scribes, Apostles and the other writers of Holy Writ as well as the knowledge of properly applying the tools to preaching, teaching, and, believe it or not, Pastoral Care.

One More Before We Get Back to Timothy

Here is an excellent article by Richard Gaffin, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia that appeared in Modern Reformation magazine. I am an unabashed Cessationist and found this article in this weeks White Horse Inn e-mail quite good.

Defense of Cessationism

by Richard Gaffin

“Cessationism is a term that carries a lot of baggage. By itself it’s negative, suggesting what no longer exists or, in current debate about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, what one is against. So at the outset, certain misconceptions about the “cessationist” viewpoint need to be addressed.

It’s not that today God’s Spirit is no longer at work in dynamic and dramatic ways. What, for instance, could be more powerful and impressive, even miraculous, than the 180-degree reversal in walk that occurs when the Spirit transforms those dead in their sins into those alive for good works? This, Paul says, involves nothing less than a work of resurrection, of (re-) creation (Eph. 2:1-10). Awesome indeed!

Nor is the point that all spiritual gifts have ceased and are no longer present in the Church today. As will become clear, at issue is the cessation of a limited number of such gifts; the continuation of the large remainder is not in dispute…”

Read the rest on the Modern Reformation website.

More on the Continuation vs Cessation Front…

Tim Challies about two years ago brought together Dr. Samuel E. Waldron and Dr. Wayne Grudem to discuss the Cessationist and Continuationist position from a Reformed perspective. I think a more Academic discussion may help those who fall on either side of the issue to better understand how the other feels. Feel free to discuss the merits of either position.

Pro-Cessationist: Dr. Samuel E. Waldron

Pro-Continuation: Dr. Wayne Grudem