Note: I post the article below every year as seminary students arrive. I hope it will prove helpful for a new group of readers (or maybe even prior ones!)
A few weeks ago, a new crop of seminary students began the grueling month-long experience of Summer Greek. And, like all seminary students before them, they will begin to ask the question of why studying these ancient languages even matters. After all, a few years after graduation all will be forgotten. In the midst of a busy pastoral life, who could possibly maintain proficiency in the languages?
As a result of these questions, some students decide (very early on) that the biblical languages are just something to be endured. They are like a hazing ritual at a college fraternity. No one likes it, but you have to go through it to be in the club. And then it will be over.
Behind this “take your medicine” approach to the biblical languages are a couple of assumptions that need to be challenged. First, the characterization of pastoral ministry as somehow incompatible with the languages (due to busyness, or other causes), is an unfortunate misunderstanding of what a pastorate is all about. No doubt, pastors should be busy shepherding their flock, meeting with ministry leaders, and running the church. But, the core of the calling is to be a “minister of the word.”
And if the pastoral call is to be a minister of the Word, then there is a significant component of pastoral life that should be devoted to serious study of the biblical text—beyond just the preparation for that week’s sermon. Put differently, pastors should continue to be students. They need to be readers, thinkers, and theologians.