Monday, December 08, 2008

The Value of Hebrew and Greek to Clergymen

On a recent visit to my Alma Mater, Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute, I picked up from the library discard table a free copy of George Ricker Berry's The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament. In fairness, I should disclose the full title of the work: The Interlinear Literal Translation of the Greek New Testament With the Authorized Version Conveniently Presented in the Margins for Ready Reference and With the Various Readings of the Editions of Elzevir 1624, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Tregelles, Alford, and Wordsworth, To Which Has Been Added A New Greek-English New Testament Lexicon Supplemented by a Chapter Elucidating the Synonyms of the New Testament, With a Complete Index to the Synonyms.

As I began to thumb through this sizeable volume, the first thing to catch my eye after the lengthy title was the valuable article found on the reverse of the title page where one would normally expect to find the copyright information. Indeed, the copyright information is there, on a tiny bottom line reading only, “Copyright, 1897, by Wilcox & Follett Co.” But the overwhelming bulk of the page is devoted to “The Value of Hebrew and Greek to Clergymen,” penned I suppose (but uncertainly) by Berry. The text follows:

The Value of HEBREW and GREEK to Clergymen.

1. Without some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you cannot understand the critical commentaries on the Scriptures, and a commentary that is not critical is of doubtful value.
2. Without some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you cannot satisfy yourself or those who look to you for help as to the changes which you will find in the Revised Old and New Testaments.
3. Without some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you cannot appreciate the critical discussions, now so frequent, relating to the books of the Old and New Testaments.
4. Without some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you cannot be certain, in a single instance, that in your sermon based on a Scripture text, you are presenting the correct teaching of that text.
5. Without some knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, you cannot be an independent student, or a reliable interpreter of the word of God.
6. As much knowledge of Hebrew can be secured, with the same method, under the same circumstances, by the same pupil, in one year, with the aid of the Interlinear Old Testament, as can be gained of Latin in three years. Greek, though somewhat more difficult, may be readily acquired within a brief period with the aid of the Interlinear New Testament (which combines a lexicon) and an elementary Greek grammar.
7. The Hebrew language has, in all, about 7,000 words, and these 1,000 occur in the Old Testament over 25 times each.
8. The Hebrew grammar has but one form for the Relative pronoun in all cases, numbers and genders; but three forms for the Demonstrative pronoun. The possible verbal forms are about 300 as compared with the 1,200 found in Greek. It has practically no declension.
9. Within ten years the average man wastes more time in fruitless reading and indifferent talk, than would be used in acquiring a good working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek that in turn would impart to his teaching that quality of independence and of reliability which so greatly enhances one’s power as a teacher.
10. There is not one minister in ten who might not if he but would, find time and opportunity for such study of Hebrew and Greek as would enable him to make a thoroughly practical use of it in his work as a Bible-preacher and Bible-teacher.

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