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A plea for Hebrew study


Kotzo shel Yod

In this short article, John Piper attempts to cajole his fellow pastors to take their duty to study the original languages of the Scriptures seriously. I would qualify Dr. Piper's comments, however, by insisting that the study of Hebrew must take priority over the study of the Greek text (though of course both are important).

After all, the Greek text of the New Testament derives its authority and veracity from the Jewish Scriptures, and not the other way around. In other words, while it's possible that the Hebrew Scriptures are true and the Greek Scriptures are not, it's impossible for the Greek Scriptures to be true if the Hebrew Scriptures are not. Too many Christian theologians go at this backwards, reading the Greek New Testament as the interpretative filter for the study of the Hebrew text. The hermeneutical primacy of the Hebrew text should be evident to all who study the Scriptures seriously.

Indeed, I would go well beyond Dr. Piper's modest proposal and implore pastors and teachers to study the Hebraic mindset of the Scriptures and to become fluent with Jewish ways of reading and understanding the Scriptures.  It is nothing short of folly for the Christian Church to disregard the wealth of insights afforded by the Jewish sages over the millennia. Moreover, the Jewish mo'edim (holidays) are all clearly prophetic and offer tremendous insights regarding redemption, social concerns, and eschatology.

It is imperative to always remember that God chose to reveal Himself to the world as a Jewish man who was born, who lived, and who died within a Jewish culture and context. The great redemptive work of God is virtually inscrutable apart from this awareness, and "forgetting" this truth invariably leads to all sorts of exegetical errors and fallacious theological inferences (e.g., misinterpreting the dialogs between Jesus and the Pharisees).

Even if you have mastered all the verb paradigms and noun endings in your Greek New Testament, even if you are conversant with the various syntactical rules of Koine Greek grammar, etc., etc., nonetheless -- without a profound comprehension of the Hebraic mindset that informs its pages, you are likely to misread much of its intent, especially considering the implicit anti-Semitism and "Replacement Theology" that has pervaded Christian thinking over the centuries...


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