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Reading Greek and Hebrew as Greek and Hebrew

It is so refreshing to read the following from John Walton:

“When people want to study the Bible seriously, one of the steps they take is to learn the language. As I teach language students, I am still always faced with the challenge of persuading them that they will not succeed simply by learning enough of the language to engage in translation. Truly learning the language requires leaving English behind, entering the world of the text and understanding the language in its Hebrew context without creating English words in their minds. They must understand the Hebrew as Hebrew text” (Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, 9).

One of my contentions in modern study of the ancient languages is that this desire to teach and learn the languages for the purpose of only being able to translate has led to some major problems in the understanding of the biblical text amongst scholars and preachers. Being able to translate a text is not the same as being able to understand the text. And the best translators will be the ones who really understand the languages.

Will You Teach Your Kids the Languages?

We all have hopes and dreams for our children, do we not? Even if we are yet to be parents we sometimes think about what we would desire for our children.

I find myself right now searching online for classical/Hellenistic Greek and classical Hebrew resources for kids. I have a 2 year old and back before he could speak a word of English I thought it would be fun if his first word was Greek. Since some of his first sounds were “k,” “a,” and something resembling “oo” I tried, foolishly, to get him to say “ἀκούω,”  (akouo) the Hellenistic Greek for “I am listening.” But he didn’t get it. Why didn’t I try something easier like, “μεθερμηνευόμενον” (methermeneuomenon)? Oh wait, something easier like, “καί” (kai)? 3 syllables was too many! Well, hindsight is 20/20. I decided to let it be after that but only to be picked up at a later date.

When I think about the desires I have for my son, they are plenty. Primary among them is for him to desire to and, in fact, love Jesus. If only this happened I would be a happy man. Following from this I have many desires with respect to his character and education. Not only do I believe having desires for our children is good, I think it is inevitable that we will have them. Some may care more than others, but we have desires and we do have a responsibility with our children. We decide, at least in their younger ages, what they watch, what they learn, etc. I don’t want to be naive and think my wife and I have the only influence in his life (nor should we) but we are strong influencers with great responsibility nonetheless.

Of course this can be mishandled. Just as the failed wannabe NHL superstar can foist upon their son their own dreams of NHL stardom and work the kid ruthlessly through rep hockey, so I can foist upon my son the education I never had with wrong motives (My education wasn’t a poor one, it just didn’t include classical languages and the study of the Bible). And while this is a danger to avoid, we as parents do have control over many of the influences our children will encounter and the education he or she will receive. What are we going to do with that influence and responsibility?

If we care about the Bible as God’s Word to us, then chief among our children’s education should be a grounding in the Word; English, German, Spanish, whatever. And this next part isn’t for everyone, but maybe some of us will begin to teach our children the original languages of the Bible from a young age: Greek and Hebrew. I’m sure that sounds daunting for someone who doesn’t themselves know the languages, but for those of us who do (and maybe we can create resources and training for other kids) is it a worthy endeavor?

It seems to require wisdom based on the personality of the child, but how is teaching them Greek any different from teaching them math? I’m not sure yet if two years old is too young without immersion in a native context (which unfortunately doesn’t exist), but some exposure surely can’t hurt and I want to show my son that I love Jesus, love his Word, and love the study of it in the original. Something might rub off as I begin to teach him.

Give a child a modern language and they can read in their time. Give a child a classical language and they can read beyond their time. Hmm, doesn’t have the same ring as the “fish proverb” but I think it makes a point. Learning Greek and Hebrew wouldn’t be helpful only for biblical study but also to be able to read widely in classical literature and gain all that comes from being multilingual.

Have you considered this or in fact started this endeavor with your kids? I’d love to know how you’ve approached it. And if you have any resources to recommend, please share!

Two resources I have quickly found that look like they could be good (though I haven’t spent a good deal of time investigating them yet) are:

Greek for Children from Classical Academic Press; and

these Hebrew books from EKS Publishing Co.

General Update – State of the Blog

A little “state of the blog” seems to be in order right now.

I have added a video to the ‘about’ page. I’m hoping I can start something video related but we’ll see how things go. Here is the video:

Regarding my health, for those interested, I met with doctors in Toronto this week and I won’t be proceeding with a stem-cell transplant for my Leukemia at this time. The risks greatly outweigh the benefits right now. The chance of death would be 1 in 3 to 1 in 2. And if I did survive I could end up with another disease anyway. Not doing the transplant now is great since the procedure is awful. It’s like bringing you to the point of death and then relying on a donor’s stem-cells to bring you back to life with no guarantee that it will work. Keep in mind many have had successful transplants, but this is my scenario based on my cytogenetics and the donor match that was found. A transplant could still happen if I relapse.

Am I going to continue my John studies on here? Yes. I’ve been tired recovering from chemo but I hope to pick things up soon!

Reflections on Tweeting through Isaiah 1–12

Yesterday I tried a little experiment. As I was studying Isaiah I thought I would tweet through the first 12 chapters over the course of the day. Here are some reflections on tweeting through a book and then on the content of the book itself.

Reflections on Tweeting

I posted a new tweet every 5-10 minutes. I probably annoyed anyone who doesn’t follow many people on twitter since I would be the only person showing up all day. For those that follow a substantial number of people the tweets would have looked staggered (somewhat).

Tweeting through Isaiah 1–12 was helpful to me as I had to think about how to communicate the message of those chapters in so few characters. If I were to do it again I would have done more summary of the content interspersed with quotations from Isaiah.

Reflections on Isaiah 1–12

What a magnificent passage of Scripture! Scary, but magnificent. God’s judgment is cast in pretty strong language. The vineyard imagery of chapter 5 is one such example. Justice appears to be a major theme of the section as Judah is condemned for their lack of having justice on the oppressed.

But the passage is also filled with hope. We see that God’s judgment of Judah is not the last word. Yes they will go into exile as part of God’s judgment for their rebellion, but then God will turn and judge Assyria (conquerers of Judah).

Even more than this, there are beautiful moments of hope for the future. Chapter 4 shares the Branch of the Lord and tells of a time when the Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion and cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem. The end of chapter 8 and into chapter 9 speaks of a great light that is to shine in the darkness. It then talks of the child to be born, the son to be given. It gives him divine names like, “Mighty God,” and talks about him as the coming Davidic king who will rule forever. Chapter 11 talks about the coming Messiah again in terms of the shoot coming up out of the stump. Judah is leveled but a stump remains and out of this stump (read, remnant) the messiah will come who will have the Spirit of the Lord resting on him. Then it talks about how the nations will rally to him. There is no racism and no ethnic boundary! Chapter 12 concludes this section with wonderful praise to God and the call to proclaim his greatness to the nations.

With respect to the sign given to Ahaz in chapter 7, Immanuel (God With Us), I do see it as a judgment on Ahaz. Where it is picked up in Matthew 1 it is often seen without any sense of judgment. One writer has suggested Matthew uses Immanuel with the notion of judgment there too. It’s something I need to follow up on. I’m not sure yet.

Being more familiar with John’s Gospel, and the New Testament in general, I’m starting to see the thematic connections between Isaiah and those books much more intimately. I’m looking forward to tracing them out more fully!The above came more from my own study throughout the day rather than through the process of tweeting. But, the tweeting did help me solidify what I was learning by trying to decide how to present it on twitter and through the process of writing those things out. I think I will do something similar again but just not with so many tweets.

God’s Dwelling with Us

I’m thankful to God that I had enough energy and was not sick these past two weeks so that I could preach this past Sunday. It was my first time speaking in front of people since before I was diagnosed with Leukemia in December.

I had spent a couple weeks working on the sermon as I was able (hence why this blog space has been kind of quiet) but then I sensed that the sermon needed to go in a bit of a different direction on Friday afternoon so I wrote a new sermon (incorporating one previous section) on Friday/Saturday.

I have received feedback on the sermon (content/form) for which I’m thankful but I haven’t yet dialogued with anyone on the content.

My argument was that the Bible shows us that our greatest need is not money, pleasure, meaning in work, acceptance or love, etc., and in a certain sense not even in forgiveness of sins, but the presence of God.

I don’t mean to denigrate forgiveness of sins by any stretch of the imagination. It was sin that broke the relationship with God and so the sin issue has to be dealt with. And it was. Jesus paid for our sin on the cross. But, not just for sin’s sake. It was for the sake of bringing us back into relationship with God.

So, I started the sermon by raising the question of our greatest need and then went to the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32–34 to show God’s judgment, mercy and grace. The people deserved death for their wicked rebellion. God has mercy on them by forgiving them. But further, he has grace by giving them the gift of his presence. Moses knew that only this would sustain them (cf. Ex. 33 & 34).

I then took the entire Bible as my text to walk through a biblical theology of God’s dwelling with us to show how it occurs in the Bible. It began in the garden as a pure and whole relationship between God and his people. Sin broke that relationship. But God continued to act in history to provide us with what we most need, his presence. He did it through the tabernacle. This takes us from Sinai to Solomon. He then provides his presence on earth in the temple. This takes us from Solomon all the way to the 1st c. A.D. (with of course the proper noting of the 2nd Temple and all that). I noted along the way that there was still a sense that God had not fulfilled his promises to come back to dwell among his people at the temple, however. So there was a great expectation for its fulfillment.

Well, it comes. And it comes in the person of Jesus. He shows up at the Temple in John 2:19 and says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” He was talking about his body. And John 1:14 says that the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. God dwelt with his people in the person of Jesus Christ. What grace!

Following Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the body of Christ, the church, becomes God’s presence on earth. 1 Cor. 3:16-17 talks about us being the temple of God. God’s Spirit dwells within us and we now mediate God to a broken and lost world.

Finally, all of this is heading somewhere. It will end the way it began: in the garden. But this garden is a restored garden and we will never go astray again. We will dwell in the holy of holies. Revelation 21 paints a beautiful picture of our forever being in the presence of our God. He will dwell among us and we will be his people! Revelation 22 depicts the restored garden. There are bookends to our Bible. We start in the garden and we finish in a garden, made possible by the Lamb (Jesus) dying for our sins. And again, not for sin in itself, but to bring us into relationship with God. To give us what we most need: his presence.

I may post the audio at a later time but I’m also working to expand it in written form.