Aug 8, 2013

Rationale Statement from GRK 621: GREEK EXEGESIS I

For those considering the value of studying the biblical languages in seminary, here is the opening statement/rationale from my Greek Exegesis I syllabus. 

Rationale: Despite frequent dismissals and even hostility by detractors, competency in New Testament Greek is highly important for the man aspiring to the office of overseer.  The Christian minister must make maximal effort to ensure the proper interpretation of Scripture positively, as well as the avoidance of theological error negatively.  In fact, the pastor’s commission requires that he take the greatest pains necessary to base his life, teaching, and ministry on the Word of God accurately handled (1 Tim 3; Titus 1; 2 Tim 2:15).  In other words, when God calls an individual to ministry, He calls him to a life of the highest level of discipline (1 Tim 4:7; Col 2:5) and study (2 Tim 2:15) so that he may be able to understand and apply the Word of God, to the glory of God.  Though not the only means to this end, Greek exegesis provides an invaluable tool in the accomplishment of this goal.  

As expressed by Moreland and Craig,

Study is itself a spiritual discipline….One who undergoes the discipline of study lives through certain types of experiences where certain skills are developed through habitual study: framing an issue, solving problems, learning how to weigh evidence and eliminate irrelevant factors, cultivating the ability to see important distinctions instead of blurring them, and so on. The discipline of study also aids in the development of certain vi­­rtues and values; for example, a desire for the truth, honesty with data, and openness to criticism, self reflection and an ability to get along non defensively with those who differ with one. —JP Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations.

When keeping in mind the fact that in all matters of faith and practice the Word of God is the final authority, one inherently assumes that authority must be correctly interpreted before it can be correctly applied.  Unfortunately, many pastors have minimized the importance of obedience in the area of studying to show one’s self approved with the result that they have dishonored Christ.  As expressed by Martyn Lloyd-Jones,

[I]n a situation of difficulty and of crisis, the first thing we must do is to make sure that we have grasped the New Testament teaching. I do not want to be controversial, and I am particularly anxious not to be misunderstood, but if I may put it in a phrase, in order to call attention to what I have in mind, I would say that in a situation of crisis the New Testament does not immediately say, “Let us pray.” It always says first, “Let us think, let us understand that truth, let us take a firm hold of the doctrine.” Prayer may be quite useless and quite void. The Bible has a great deal to tell us about prayer and as to how it should be made. Prayer is not a simple thing in one sense: it may be very difficult. Prayer is sometimes an excuse for not thinking, an excuse for avoiding a problem or a situation [bold not in original].

Have we not all known something of this in our personal experience?  We have often been in difficulty and we have prayed to God to deliver us, but in the meantime we have not put something right in our lives as we should have done.
Instead of facing the trouble, and doing what we knew we should be doing, we have prayed.  I suggest that at a point like that, our duty is not to pray, but to face the truth, but to face the doctrine and apply it.   Then we are entitled to pray, and not until then. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Fellowship with God [Recall Ps. 66:18, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear….”]

As should be obvious, Lloyd-Jones is not minimizing prayer, he is elevating obedience particularly in the area of understanding and obeying truth. He who best knows the God of the Word is the one who best knows the Word of God. It is because knowledge of the original languages serves as a tremendous aid in the correct interpretation and application of God’s Word, as well as in the defense of the faith, that it is so important to a theological curriculum.  A failure to be so committed to exegesis often results in theological error, for all theological error is simply the result of saying less than the Scriptures say, more than the Scriptures say, or other than the Scriptures say.  If such a commitment to the primacy of rigorous biblical analysis over autonomous theologizing were valued by all ministers/theologians, many theological problems in the contemporary setting would be avoided.  In short, the key differences between theological perspectives is: (1) how the text of God’s Word viewed, and (2) how the text of God’s Word is handled. 


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