At Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, the Master of Divinity program places a strong emphasis on reading the Bible on its own terms. One significant way we do this is through our biblical language and exegesis requirement. We resonate deeply with Eugene Peterson's perspective on exegesis. Here's how he described the process in "Eat This Book:"
Exegesis is an act of love. It loves the one who speaks the words enough to want to get the words right. It respects the words enough to use every means we have to get the words right. Exegesis is loving God enough to stop and listen carefully to what he says. (p. 55)
The Benefits of Knowing Biblical Languages
All M.Div. students engage in a five-course sequence of Greek and a five-course sequence of Hebrew. These courses explore the full breadth of Scripture, listening close to the voice of God in Scripture for your own formation and for your ability to lead and teach others.
We affirm the value of studying the English Bible, but reading the original languages offers many unique and formative benefits.
The process of translation enables ministry leaders to pay attention to the subtle contours of biblical texts. The Bible is a foreign text from a foreign land and culture, and its literary features such as repetition, sentence structure, word use and other important themes often only come into focus when we look closely at the original language.
Reading the Bible in a language that is not our own also fosters a posture of humility. We see clearly that we are not in control of this text. Instead, we are deeply dependent on God and His Spirit to work in our hearts as we lean in and listen carefully. It forces us to be attentive to details we might easily miss in the familiarity of our native language.
When you study Greek and Hebrew, you are also better positioned to access the embedded cultural values and perspectives contained within that language. Ministry leaders who read Greek are able to listen to Paul's words afresh right along with his first-century audience in Rome, and in doing so, bring those under their care directly into that world as well. This cross-cultural, relational approach to Scripture will push you to evaluate your own cultural assumptions and let every thought come under the authority of God's Word.
Cultivate Your Formation
Original language training takes a lot of work, but we believe this crucible is worth it—not just for the ability to lead and teach others. It also cultivates our own formation into Christlikeness. Submitting to God's Word in this way works humility, patience and dependence into your heart as student, and these are characteristics the church desperately needs in its leaders.
Simply put, biblical language training enables pastors, educators and ministry leaders to engage with biblical texts and critical scholarship with integrity, wisdom and a humble heart.