Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Working the Biblical Languages

For one of the few times since I finished school I've pulled out all my language reference books and have started translating from the original Hebrew and Greek.

The life of a pastor doesn't afford as much study time as most people think. It's enough to deal with a biblical text with an English translation. If I have questions about a translation I have enough knowledge to look it up using my Bible software, so there has been little inclination to go through the somewhat tedious process of getting out the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, looking up words in the lexicons, deciding on the proper nuances of translation, etc.

(Some might think that because both Greek and Hebrew were part of my Ph.D. studies that I would be somewhat fluent in each, but that is not the case. It takes a lot more than just four years of study to get to the point where you can sight-read two different foreign--and archaic--languages. Besides, the focus of my doctoral work, and the area in which I wrote my dissertation, was biblical literature.)

But after more than twenty years, some of the finer points of the biblical languages have become a little fuzzy, and I need to reacquaint myself with pronominal suffixes, verb declensions, and such. You know, use it or lose it.

It may seem somewhat esoteric, and I guess it somewhat is, but I always enjoyed the work of translation.

Besides, the discipline will be good for me. One verse of Hebrew and one of Greek, every day. I've started with Joshua, for no particular reason other than I've already done most of Genesis, a good bit of Exodus, don't feel like dealing with the law sections of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and prefer to work with a narrative rather than the poetic books, which contain a lot of words that are only used once in Scripture and therefore are harder to look up.

So, Joshua it is. Haven't decided yet which NT book I'll work on. That will go faster, just because, IMHO, Greek is an easier language to translate than Hebrew, though it is also less entertaining.

So, two verses a day. Shouldn't take too much time, but it will be good for me.

(Hendrix just came on the stereo. Translating Hebrew to Hendrix ought to be interesting.)


  1. Sure, I work with God's Word in the original languages and I'm a nerd.

    You play around with sweetened shortening and you're cool.

    (You ought to put Hendrix on when you bake. It'd be cool.)

  2. Rockin' to the Oldies! You're my hero. Please update us on your progress so we can be nerds along with you...

  3. Do you put on Hendrix when you translate. Or those monk chants you used to wake me up with. CREEPPYYY

  4. The Gregorian Chants are beautiful, but they didn't make it on my iTunes. So, yes, it was Hebrew and "Voodoo Child." Wild.

  5. This all started with your line, "The cross of Jesus has more to do with freedom than with forgiveness". Paul agrees with you in Romans 3: 25, 26. It's about the justice of God and his freedom to forgive our unforgiveable stuff. But the freedom comes first.

  6. To Jim: your comment belongs to another string, but I'll answer it here. Yes, God's freedom to forgiven obviously comes first, but that's not the issue I'm dealing with here, which is our forgiveness of and freedom from sin.