Biblical Languages for Daily Liturgy: Introduction

The most common reply I receive when I  describe my Ph.D. major with a minor in biblical languages is, “I’m not good at languages.” Honestly, I can relate! One of the most daunting tasks a seminarian undertakes is the study of God’s Word in the original language. I recall beginning my Greek and Hebrew studies at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. I must confess, I never achieved top scores in my quizzes, exams, and papers. I was what you might call a B level student. What I didn’t understand at that point is that I learn language very differently, and you might too! I have since continued my Greek and Hebrew studies through my Ph.D. and am still not fluent. However, I have developed a way to better my skills, and the skills of those I teach. 

One day when talking with a Jewish friend of mine, I confessed my serious struggle with Greek and Hebrew. I was astounded at his reply. He simply said, “you should just use it… and magically it’ll stick.” He told me how as he grew up the family and his Synagogue just haphazardly utilized Hebrew in regular speech and in their daily liturgy. His confession made me feel capable, “I had no clue what most of it meant, but one day I just simply understood it all!” He continued, “bro...this is exactly how you learned your first language as a baby...your parents talked to you and you said words till one day you grasped the language.” 

Since that conversation, I have spent hours researching “Polyglots,” and “liturgy.” While my personal goal of being a hyperpolyglot (more than 12 languages) is a ridiculous desire, the goal of integrating biblical languages into my daily life is not. If you’re like me and grew up in a church which has a liturgy, then you’ve already got the mechanism to introduce, practice, and learn your Biblical languages. I grew up in a Baptist church where we quoted the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles Creed, and the Beatitudes. We also memorized Scripture and consistently sang doctrinally rich hymns. I often tell my parishioners this consistent liturgy taught me doctrines which formed me into being the minister and biblical scholar I am today. Imagine if that liturgy had been in the biblical languages, what would my grades in seminary have been? How much better could I handle God’s Word today?

You might say, “But Mario you can’t utilize Greek and Hebrew in church.” I have taken numerous preaching courses from some great preachers of the faith. They all consistently told me to never utilize Greek and Hebrew from the pulpit or lectern. I love my professors and teachers, but the reality is that the USA is no longer mono-linguistic, therefore, we’re constantly inundated with terms from other languages. So, why can’t we inundate our churches with God’s word in the original languages? 

My personal practice is to introduce one new Greek and Hebrew word every week to my parishioners. The word will come either from the passage at hand, or a connected topic. At first, the parishioners gawked at the strange words being shared with them. However, after a few months of doing such most look forward to writing down the new word for the week, so they can learn it and share it.

For myself and anyone who desires, I am beginning my Biblical Languages for Daily Liturgy book as a blog series. I feel convicted that my training and scholarship are for the sake of the Church, thus I am sharing my writings freely here, and hopefully one day in bound & published form. 

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