Memorizing in original languages - Fool's errand?

Discussion in 'Languages' started by RPEphesian, Mar 5, 2019.

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  1. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    It's been my ambition to read and memorize the Bible in Greek and Hebrew. I don't have much trouble reading Greek, my Hebrew is coming, I do have some passages memorized in the originals. I like to have in mind the very original words that Christ has spoken, and languages are a gift God has given me. There's need of people who are fluent in these languages. It takes fluency to most effectively use the languages in understanding a passage, many errors start because of misunderstanding of the languages, and I love languages. Plain and simple. So the ambition sounds reasonable and possible.

    Still, whatever the arguments, English is just easier and more edifying at this time. "I will sprinkle clean water on you and you shall be clean" easily trumps "vzarachti aleychem mayim tahorim vtahartem mikal tumotheychem." In English I already have a world of natural associations built with each of the words in that simple clause, and the passage is powerful and compelling in English, but in Hebrew even the common words such as "mayim" don't strike me effectively enough, and the sentence contains about three words I didn't know before I set out to memorize the passage, and then of course dealing with at least one irregular verb. Now multiply that phenomenon by about five or six verses.

    And practically speaking, it's easier to quote a passage to someone in English than think of it in Greek or Hebrew, do quick translation, and then try to deliver the passage with fluency, conviction and persuasion.

    At the same time, I know it takes so much work to maintain the languages, and if you're semi-fluent you know just enough to be dangerous. So, to lessen the efforts means potentially losing ground, and I know that fluency in these languages (for what can be had for dead languages) is possible. John Wesley knew his Greek New Testament better than the English. And there's very great need for people in the church who are fluent experts in these languages.

    So I'm just beginning to wonder, am I simply laying a burden on myself too heavy to be borne, and might God be saying to me, "Who required this at your hand?" Might I just not be thankful enough for the labor of scholars and translators who have put the Bible in English, and might this whole thing just reek of academic pride? Or is there anyone else has had these ideas, stuck with them, and say they'd never do it another way, and this is actually a reasonable and wise use of my gifts?
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Memorizing in the original languages makes learning the language easier. Really helped me in Hebrew. Find some mp3s of the Hebrew bible
  3. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    May I ask a why you are doing this? :) I seems to me one could spend ones time in more profitable endeavors.
  4. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    If you don't use it, you lose it. It is hard to learn a new language unless you are doing it daily. I think it is largely a waste of time unless you plan to do it daily.
  5. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I haven't gone near Hebrew, which is a shame since my mother's side of the family were Jewish (non observant). I have been trying to teach myself Greek and spend time daily in memorizing words.

    My ambition is not to memorize verses in Greek, but to be able to read and understand the NT in Greek. I also read that 'man of the book', John Wesley, read the NT in Greek. I was impressed by that, and probably influenced to strive to emulate him.

    I see nothing wrong with your working to master the original languages of the Bible. Especially if you have the gift of languages, a gift I unfortunately do not have.
  6. iainduguid

    iainduguid Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think Jacob is right; the goals are different. Memorizing Hebrew and Greek will help with your language study; memorization in English is probably better for hiding God's Word in your heart. We all have limited time and have to decide how to spend it most wisely.
  7. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    A few years ago the motives weren't good--I didn't want the hassle of contentions over translations to which I decided I'd just do the originals (that was crippling). Then of course I found there were textual criticism issues....

    I've grown up since then. I think I can say now it's just wanting to know God's Word in the original in its full color, if you will. Also, I do have a teaching gift, and improving on the languages is a wise stewardship. Also, the idea of memorizing is to enhance fluency, with the idea of giving myself an innate sense of how the language works by thinking and meditating and comparing the originals in my mind.

    And... I just love foreign language.

    It's your comments on hiding God's Word in my heart that are getting me to rethink this. My thought was that perhaps with fluency in Greek and Hebrew I could indeed accomplish both--it's quite difficult at my current level of ability, thus I wonder if it's worth it, or perhaps this is a good endeavor in reach of a wrong goal. I want God's Word hid in my heart in the originals, but I have to face it, zarachtiy just doesn't convey all the beauty in my mind that the work "sprinkle" does, nor "tahartem" as "you will be clean," and the Bible is translated into the vulgar languages for these very reasons.
  8. Johnathan Lee Allen

    Johnathan Lee Allen Puritan Board Freshman

    I think God has clearly given you something you are good at and passionate about. I think you should continue to pursue this. You’ll be able to help your brothers and sisters who are learning the languages. It’ll only benefit you and others to the glory of God. That said, you need to actively strengthen your understanding or memorization of the English text. I think, if you looked hard enough, you would find time hiding in places that could be reallocated. I want to encourage you to do both as it will grow you and others.
  9. earl40

    earl40 Puritan Board Professor

    If you decide in a particular translation (preferably KJV) you will not have to be critical of The Word other than learning proper English :)

    So I take it you are going to be a Pastor one day and assume teaching The Word? Don't get me wrong I understand many believe a RE is allowed to teach, but I would humbly disagree. Alas another topic for another day. :)
  10. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    If you speak the original languages out loud when you are reading and memorizing, then you are employing more senses in the learning process. That means it is going to "click" easier.
  11. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Maybe it's telling that I feel myself breathing easier just thinking about memorizing and meditating on an English translation. Oh young restless Reformed that I am!

    I'm a KJV-preferred guy and on a practical level a lover of the TR, with NKJV not far behind. I'm neither a TE or RE at this point, but I am called on by our Teaching Elder to teach from time to time, and others know and confirm I have a gift, so I feel responsible as a steward to improve it. I just happen to have a special love for this area of study.

    Singing works nicely too, and yes the reading out loud helps.
  12. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yep, put it to music. Things become much easier. My daughter is able to learn Latin declensions simply by singing little ditties.
  13. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Daughter and I listen to Earworms for Spanish in the car all of the time. Too bad there isn’t a biblical languages version.
  14. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    For all the good that did him, being an Arminian! Perhaps if Wesley had spent less time memorizing the Greek New Testament and more time studying it, he wouldn't have ended up with bad theology.
  15. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    Another time and place.
  16. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    My only point was that memorizing may get the words into your mind, but that's no guarantee that you'll end up with orthodox theology. Memorizing is not the same as studying.
  17. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Perhaps, but memorizing can "click" how the morphology works and why it takes this verb form rather than that.

    On the other hand, Rushdoony studied the bible for 3 hours a day and he ended up believing in the dietary laws.
  18. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Doctor

    So maybe we should just chuck both memorization and study out the window. LOL
  19. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Correct. You deduced my point correctly.

    My point was simply "studying" the Bible won't necessarily get you to the right answer. On the other hand, hard work with the languages can minimize many of the dangers.
  20. RPEphesian

    RPEphesian Puritan Board Junior

    I kinda think the replies have told me what is the best course; memorize Hebrew for study, memorize English for meditation.
  21. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    I'm far from an expert in the languages, but I've been thinking about your question, and one thing that occurred to me ... if you memorize Scripture in Hebrew, and/or Greek, but not in English, it won't do you much good if you're witnessing to someone and want to quote Scripture to illustrate a point of doctrine.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  23. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member

    Jake, carry on! Call it a self-edifying hobby and tell folks you enjoy it. I can see you do.

    Such things do not require justification or permission. BTW, some of my best meditations happen when I contemplate a passage in Hebrew and/or Greek.

    True enough that our time is limited, but sometimes we make the most of our time working on things that may never have a practical purpose. In any event, it beats watching TV.
  24. Tallifer

    Tallifer Puritan Board Freshman

    I have started memorizing the Bible in Korean, the language where I live now. I try to productively and spiritually benefit from long subway rides or walks to memorize, and the repeated difficult effort helps me to meditate on those few passages (as well as communicate more easily with Koreans).
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