Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Having just handed in a Hebrew paper it is good to reflect for a moment or two on why all the toil, fear, sweat, pain, prayer, angst and joy is worth it.

7 Reasons to study Biblical Hebrew

1. The Old Testament is the biggest part of the bible, covering the larger part of (revelatory) salvation history. And most of it is written in Hebrew.

2. The Old Testament has been too long neglected by evangelical scholarship and pulpits alike. Negatively this means we have more work to do. Positively, this means there is a lot to discover.

3. Many (good) bible translators make odd textual decisions about the OT, often going with the LXX (Greek translation of the OT) when more thought needs to be given to the Hebrew texts. This makes our English translations potentially less reliable, increasing the need for knowledge of the original language.

4. Hebrew is at the one time more simple and complex. A basic translation leaves open multiple options at a syntactical and discourse analysis level. This means a high level of 'interpretation' in translation, increasing the need for knowledge of Hebrew to properly weigh our English versions.

5. The Old Testament scriptures were the basic scriptures for Christ and the apostles (pretty early on however NT writings were beginning to be added). If we wish to understand the apostles we must understand the OT. The OT is written in Hebrew.

6.OT preaching has tended to emphasise the big picture over the detail (e.g. 'let's do Isaiah in four weeks but Romans over ten years'). A knowledge of Hebrew begins to unlock the God-glorifying, gospel-testifying, Christ-exalting detail.

7. We are not Marcionites (see here).


Neil J. said...

Well said Pete.

While I agree with your point, and most of its support, some might question 5. If we want to understand the apostles, we should learn Hebrew? But when they quote OT, don't they usually quote Septuagint?

Pete said...

Thanks Neil

I take your point, and it did actually occur to me. I have heard it said that there are times when the NT writers were working from a knowledge of the hebrew but I don't know how reliable that is.

I do think however that there are hebrew and OT thought forms present in the writing of the greek (even the way the greek is sometimes used), which thought forms and way of thinking we will understand all the better if we can do hebrew.

But I guess I'm preaching to the converted.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you could help me with a translation. I need all of this translated into Hebrew.

belt of truth
breastplate of righteousness
gospel of peace
shield of faith
helmet of salvation
sword of the spirit

If you can help me with this would you please e-mail me back at

Thanks so very much!