Reader’s Greek & Hebrew Bible

Henry Neufeld at Participatory Bible Study has an excellent post up discussing the strengths and weaknesses of the so-called “reader’s editions” that have been popping up like flies over the past couple years:

A Look at Reader’s Version of Greek and Hebrew Bible

My favorite quote from his thoughts is something I’ve said and thought (as well as several other people) for some time now:

Much too often students see learning Greek and Hebrew (or any other language) as ending when one can use the proper reference tools to manage to gloss a text in the source languages.  I recognize that for many, that is really as far as you’re going to go.  That level of ability will allow you to read commentaries based on the source texts more effectively and to understand discussions of various translation and exegetical issues better.  It does not, however, constitute understanding the language in question.

And it was my point when it comes to my poll about reading versus analysis. Apparently though, 45% of the nearly 100 people who have voted thus far think that simply analyzing the tools and reference works is satisfactory for “knowing” the language.

4 thoughts on “Reader’s Greek & Hebrew Bible

  1. What I’m really curious about is when this more-or-less prevalent attitude and consequent obsolescence of Biblical-language literacy first began to take hold. Some of the factors involved are: (1) denominations formerly upholding competence in Biblical languages as a requisite for ordination have relaxed or dropped that requirement; (2) seminaries formerly requiring significant prior coursework in Greek for admission have dropped it altogether or replaced it with a minimal (4 weeks or less) crash course in NT Koine that’s prerequisite to the required exegesis courses. In sum, competence in Biblical languages is no longer held to be of primary importance in preparation for ministry. I think, moreover, that a major factor contributing to this development is the recognition that a traditional linguistic pedagogy based upon analytic skills (decoding) and word-for-word literal translation will bring about reading ability for very few students. The advent of pre-digested linguistic analyses of the Biblical texts, especially easy-to-use software packages, obviates the sense that the effort to learn the Biblical languages will ever pay dividends.

    1. I agree for the most part. I think another factor is the proliferation of English Bibles (or “Bibles”) that are viewed by the public as reliable. The publishers and, all too often, our churches perpetuate this illusion. In the latter, there is the perception that all versions are more or less equal, and that authenticity is achieved by pooling and comparing these resources rather than going to the original text, which participants (including many pastors) in Bible studies are seldom equipped to do. Typically the authority for word meaning is an English dictionary rather than a lexicon, and the answers to questions about the biblical text are determined by a feel-good standard, like an applause meter at a game show.

      1. Don, is this the best way to characterize translation? To be honest, I really don’t see any basis for what you’re saying. For one, the translations are generally reliable. Secondly, while I agree that it is disturbing that English lexicons are often used in churches to definition “biblical” words, at no time would I ever being willing to call any Lexicon in any language and authority for meaning in that language. Lexicons are no more (and typically much less) than imperfect descriptions of usage. They are not authorities and never will be.

        If you could elaborate what you mean or explain why you hold this view, I’d appreciate it.

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