Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On US Seminaries and the Biblical Languages

Recently my Inbox was filled with a series of posts by NAPHNet members discussing schools that offer Hebrew for only one semester, and what might be possible under such a constraint. Most of the participants in the discussion realized that real ancient language learning was impossible in only a single semester. As part of the discussion, John Hobbins referenced some posts he has done on his blog, "Ancient Hebrew Poetry." One of his posts in particular is of interest, entitled "What's Wrong With Seminaries?" (click here). Take a look if you get a chance. Here are some brief excerpts:

"Overwhelmed by many other claims on time and mind, students end up with a merely cursory and superficial preparation in the literature that is supposed to be compass, mirror, and anchor of the ministry they will carry out. "

"I went to seminary in Italy and Germany, so my experience tells me there is another way: exams before graduation include a grecone and a ebraicone. That is, you have to walk into a room filled with your professors and translate and comment on a passage on sight from anywhere within a subset of the NT (about half) and a subset of the OT (about 60 chapters, if I remember correctly)."


Blogger spankey said...

I took Hebrew second, and then only for the August term. While I am in no way able to translate, etc., it gave me an appreciation for what lies within, beneath, and around the Hebrew Bible. So while it is sad that Seminary students just don't live by the old standards, I am grateful the opportunity was there to at least get a taste.

Thu Dec 13, 11:43:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks, Stephen. Yes, this "at least" perspective was well represented in the NAPHNet series of emails, and I would not disagree that such opportunity is better than no opportunity at all! ---SLC

Thu Dec 13, 01:41:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Peter Carey said...

For what it's worth, I regret not taking more Greek, and any Hebrew at all .... in reality, 3 years in seminary is just not enough to get the foundation we need for today's ministry. I hope to be able to do some Hebrew study now (I teach at a school where we have a teacher of Hebrew).

I think this is an important question and I hope faculties of seminaries are engaging this question, as well as the usefulness and importance of other requirements, thanks for jumping into this discussion! (I see some of the other blogs that are discussing it.)

Peace, PMC

Thu Dec 13, 10:07:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger mibi52/ The Rev. Dr. Mary Brennan Thorpe said...

I did a full year of Hebrew, looked forward to starting a second year (I studied Greek for 18 months before I came to seminary) but was stymied by scheduling constraints. I agree with Peter - it is virtually impossible to get all I will need in three years. The good news is that some of what we need is available in books and such. However, language study is one of those things that really requires a teacher and the classroom experience.

While I doubt I'd be able to do very brilliantly in the kind of oral exam cited in this post, I do know I can translate adequately (with lexicons close by) without simply punting to BibleWorks, and I also know that ability informs my preaching in a way simply reading commentaries would not.

A Biblical scholar in England told me earlier this year that in many ways the theology of the Hebrew Bible and of the Quran are imbedded in their original languages. I'm not ready to take up Arabic, but this is true with Hebrew, at least for me (in concepts like time, for example).

Sighing with frustration...

Mary T

Sat Dec 15, 07:04:00 AM GMT-5  

Post a Comment

<< Home