Thursday, 22 May 2008

Using Hebrew in Pastoral Ministry II

I am too busy and Hebrew is too difficult to maintain after college.

Hebrew is a difficult language to keep up. I am not speaking from a great deal of experience being only out of college a few months, but the following are ideas that I have heard from others or am intending to follow myself:

i. Most importantly be convinced it is important. Perhaps this post is in the wrong place as we haven't dealt with all the objections yet, but unless you are convinced that it is worth keeping up with Hebrew you never will.

ii. Practically, I think 'little and often' is the key. I have worked out that I have about 15 minutes a day to keep up my Hebrew, so I try and read as much as I can in that length of time. But however much time you have, it seems better to do it every day than just reading big chunks once a week say. I also try and read aloud which helps with my concentration.

iii.One of the books that I have been most excited to buy this year is the Reader's Hebrew Bible. This contains the text of the BHS but footnotes every word that occurs less than 100 times in the Hebrew Bible. This has two advantages. Firstly, it means that you can read the Hebrew text without constantly looking up a lexicon. The editors label the footnotes as 'glosses' – which they are. And they emphasise that they should not be used instead of lexica for detailed exegetical work. Secondly, when you come across a word that does not have a footnote, it means that you should know it. This forces you to pause and try and remember the word rather than simply looking it up. Words that appear more than 100 times are listed in an appendix and as there are only about 500 (?) of them, this is a manageable amount of vocab to maintain.


Joshua said...

Hi Pete,
Thanks for these two posts. I'm looking forward to the third. I'm more and more interested in how you (and others) are coping with life in full time ministry in the first year out from college. One of my issues is how often you use your Greek and Hebrew.

Dave, any thing to share from your experience?


Peter Orr said...

Hi Josh

Third post on its way! I use my Greek or Hebrew for every sermon but to varying degrees. At the very least I will try and translate the passage which forces me to read it slowly. I don't do a huge amount of exegetical work but I have occasionally noticed things not evident in the ENglish. That said,I am not working on a full-load at church (just 3 days a week) so my experience may be a little different to Dave.
In general I think if you go in determined to use the languages you will...

Seumas Macdonald said...

To chime in, I will work over the Greek for a NT sermon, and consul greek-based commentaries. My Hebrew isn't currently up to translating long OT passages, but I will make sure i consult commentaries working from the hebrew if it's an OT sermon.

Dave Clancey said...

With Pete, I try and use Greek for every sermon (I don't have Hebrew). I have found the key issue as to the usefulness of the originals is time. I have worked hard (and not always succeeded) at doing translation and structuring the passage on Monday. If I don't do it then, generally I don't do it. Using your first year to establish good patterns of ministry is, I have found, invaluable. Set up systems now, and let them serve you for the rest of your ministry.

I was never a gun at Greek, so for me the cash value comes from finding the logical order of the passage, seeing structure through repetition of words, etc., as well as picking up on alliteration, repetition of key content words, and so on. My straight translation is surprisingly close to the NIV/NASB! The key thing, though, is to start using Greek straight away. I think if you even leave the languages until March or April in your first year out you'll find that you've lost a lot. Not all of us are awesome (or Orrsome).