Who Owes Me Three Dollars?

April 17, 2008

Calling All Scholars

Filed under: Uncategorized — ineedsheetmusic @ 7:27 pm

"Paul was a man of the schools with the best theological training of his day at Tarsus and Jerusalem. The chosen vessel of Christ for the conquest of the Roman Empire was the ablest mind of the age with Hebrew, Greek and Roman culture and not the fishermen of Galilee, who had courage but lacked the special scholastic equipment that Paul possessed. Paul was a linguist at home in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and probably Latin and did not need an interpreter like Mark was for Peter. Paul wrote and spoke the vernacular Koine, but did so as an educated man in touch with the intellectual life of his time. Paul knew the power in a word and in a phrase and was able to write 1 Cor 13, the noblest prose poem in all literature. Man of genius that he was, he was also a man of the schools as Peter and John were not. He became the great preacher, missionary and theologian of the ages. Linguistic learning is not all that the preacher requires, but the supreme preacher like Paul does need it.

"The physician has to study chemistry and physiology. Other men may or may not. The lawyer has to study his Blackstone. The preacher has to know his Bible or the people suffer the consequences of his ignorance, as in the case of the physician or lawyer. [Editor’s note: A defining moment in my developing call was when I realized that that book in the zippered leather case stuffed with bulletins and other junk is not the Bible. It is an uninspired attempt by fallible men with agendas – committees of scholars in most cases – to render what they think is contained in the extant copies of the original.]

"The preacher can not get away from the fact that the New Testament was written in the Greek language of the first century A.D. The only way for him to become an expert in this literature of which he is an exponent by profession is to know it in the original. That this may be a difficult task is not to be considered a valid excuse. One will not tolerate such an excuse in a physician or a lawyer. The preacher lets himself off too easily when he asserts that he is too busy to learn his Greek New Testament. He is saying he is too busy with other things than to do the main thing, to learn his message and tell it. When asked what he thought about the neglect of  ministers to learn Hebrew and Greek Carlyle declared, ‘What! Your priests don’t even know their own sacred texts?’

"One is familiar with the retort that the preacher must not be a doctor ‘dry as dust’. It is assumed that technicalities sap the life out of one’s spirit. The famous German professor who lamented on his death-bed that he had not devoted his life to the study of the dative case is flaunted in our face. This the preacher proudly reminds us while he preaches live sermons to moved audiences. ‘Grammar to the wolves.’ He will be a preacher not a scholar. He will leave scholarship to the men who cannot preach. Such a preacher seems to rejoice in the fact that he cannot look into his Greek grammar or Testament and make any sense of it.

"It is not argued here that the preacher should bring the dust and debris of the workshop into the pulpit, only that the workman shall have a workshop and that he spends time in it. There is music in the ring of the hammer on the anvil when the sparks fly under the blows. Certainly the iron has to be struck while it is hot. No parade or display of learning is called for. Results and not processes suit the pulpit. The non-theological audience can usually tell when the sermon is the result of real work. The glow is still in the product. There are men who study grammar and never learn how to read a language, men who cannot see the wood for the trees, who see in language only skeletons and paradigms, who find no life in words, who use language to conceal thought, who have only the lumber of learning. These men create the impression that scholarship is dry. It is ignorance itself that is the driest thing on earth. One does not become juicy by remaining ignorant. The mind that is awake and alert leaps with joy with every scholarly discovery that throws light on the thought of a passage."

Excerpted from A.T. Robertson The Minister and His Greek New Testament

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  1. Sheet Music,

    It was good to see you and speak with you last night. Thanks for the encouragement regarding learning to see physical setbacks as a message from God to “slow down,” at least some times.

    Anyway, this is a great quote. I really appreciate it since I, like you I’m sure, have had pastor’s in the past that don’t know their Greek and like the story above says, almost glory in that fact. It is a wonderful think to have a pastor that actually knows the languages and wrestles with them each week to bring us the hard earned gold he mines in the “workshop.”



    Comment by kazooless — April 20, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  2. One does not become juicy by remaining ignorant.

    Reminds me of the sweatpants I’ve seen around with “JUICY” embroidered across the butt. Maybe I can recommend that my pastor preach in those. Nobody would see it, but he might find it personally inspiring (“results and not processes…”)

    Comment by RubeRad — April 30, 2008 @ 6:48 am

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