Thursday, 29 May 2008

Using Hebrew in Pastoral Ministry III

Why do I need to work with the Hebrew when I can never do it as well as the 'professionals?'

This is perhaps the strongest reason for not keeping up with Hebrew – the investments seem huge and the pay-off seems minimal. I can spend 4 years studying at college, a chunk of time each week keeping it up but when I come to work on the text for a sermon I can barely do more than produce a basic translation. I am still heavily reliant on commentaries for serous insight. Why keep going? Let me give you several reasons why I intend to keep going:

-I think my Hebrew is actually getting (very slowly) better with use. Certainly reading regularly means I can read more fluently. At college I tended to concentrate on getting to know our set-texts in detail, but I am now reading a little more widely and my fluency is (very slowly!) improving.

-Even if my Hebrew is still pretty rudimentary, the tools for serious engagement are there – that is the potential to evaluate the insights of commentaries.

-In practice I read the Hebrew in parallel with the English – and rely on the English. However, I use the Hebrew to check insights I gain from reading the English. So, I recently preached a sermon on Jeremiah 30. Reading the English I noticed the repetition of first person verbs from the Lord's perspective. For example:

v8: I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. 9 But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

I got quite excited about this and was ready to go to town on it in my sermon. However, a very quick scan of the Hebrew showed me that the personal pronoun (for emphasis) was only used a couple of times throughout the chapter. While it is still true that the LORD is the subject of most of the verbs, the Hebrew is not quite as strong as I thought the English was.

So, in short my interaction with the Hebrew is not particularly profound, but it is something that I want to continue to develop and something that I think is already and will continue to be valuable.

Next time: Some conclusions...

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