Spending time in Scripture’s original languages is unquestionably important. But it’s rarely urgent unless you’re teaching or taking a class based on these languages.
This means it’s all too easy to put it off to another day, to let things slip. And before long, even a passage that you might have found relatively straightforward looks like a jumbled mess.
So, amid the clamor of urgent activities vying for your attention, how do you make time to keep your biblical language skills sharp? How can you ensure this critically important activity doesn’t get lost amid the noise?
To ensure you make time to work on your languages, seven steps can help.
1. Focus on what really matters
You can improve your facility with Scripture’s languages in any number of ways. Each one has its virtues and its challenges.
But you’re probably not so interested in these languages for their own sake. You’re probably interested in them because they’re Scripture’s languages.
That fact means some ways of working on these languages have more direct benefits, others less.
You could drill vocabulary cards, read grammars, or work over morphology patterns. All of these activities are great. All of them can be beneficial. They all get you into using some incredibly helpful tools.
The downside is that they’re not the text of Scripture. So, if you focus on ancillary resources—helpful as they are—you’re not focusing on the core reason you’re interested in these languages in the first place.
Instead, if you focus on reading biblical texts in their original languages, some passages will definitely be heavy going. You might get stuck and not know what you’re looking at.
But if that happens, you’ll end up working on vocabulary, consulting grammars, and sorting out morphology patterns. And you’ll get something much more besides—first-hand involvement with Scripture’s text.
2. Start small
Although they’re important, it can be a challenge to make time for biblical languages. If you focus on the biblical text and start small, however, you can pretty quickly develop a regular habit that’s sustainable over time.
It might be tempting to set a lofty goal for how much text you want to work through. The trouble is that there’s a lot that’s competing for your attention. That’s why you need to be intentional about making time.
So, instead, start small. Starting small will make it easier for you to actually get started while you free up space elsewhere in your schedule. Begin with as little as one verse a day. Even at that pace, you can get through more text more quickly than you might think.
My students and I normally do two to four verses a day in the Hebrew Bible and another two to four in the Greek New Testament. Even accounting for days when we don’t hit that comparatively doable pace over the past few years, we’ve worked all the way through Genesis and the Gospels, we’re the better part of the way through Exodus, and we’re moving along in Acts.
3. Notice where your time is going
In order to free up space in your schedule, you need to know where your time normally goes every week.
You might already know. If so, that’s great. But if not, try noting the big things that you find yourself spending time on. Track those activities for a few weeks.
Do any patterns emerge? Is there anything you’re consistently spending more time on than you think you really should?
You don’t need a complete picture. You just need a basic understanding to get you started. As you peel back the layers and notice what you’re doing on autopilot every week, you can make some intentional decisions about whether to keep that activity and, if so, on what terms.
As you do, it’ll be helpful to have in mind the classic two-by-two “Eisenhower Matrix” that classifies activities as either “urgent or not” or “important or not.” Depending on an activity’s characteristics, it also has an appropriate response.
4. Eliminate activities that aren’t urgent or important
It might be counterintuitive, but you want to start by addressing activities that are neither urgent nor important. You want to start here because you shouldn’t be doing these activities anyhow.
So, doing them at all in any form means that you’re allowing them to take time away from other things, like work in Scripture’s original languages.
This could involve getting distracted into “doom swiping” on social media. But it also has more “productive” forms.
Maybe there are meetings you regularly attend but really shouldn’t. Or maybe there are emails that you get, but you really shouldn’t. Yes, it’s okay and even good to unsubscribe from a newsletter or to filter a sender so that they don’t keep dragging your attention away from where it needs to be.
5. Separate yourself from activities that are urgent but not important
Next on the chopping block are activities that have some urgency to them but that aren’t important and so are in the way. You have two options for how to separate yourself from these activities: delegate them or automate them.
Unless you’re in an administrative role, you might not have anyone to delegate to directly. But you can still entrust others to do certain things without your direct involvement. Letting go of your peripheral involvement might even help them move more quickly.
Automation might take the form of using software to put some things on autopilot. But other kinds of automation can be helpful too (and not require you to take up computer programming as a hobby when you’re trying to invest more time in Scripture’s original text).
Some of these other kinds of automation include:
- habits or routines that you consciously optimize
- templates that you develop for repeated tasks
- checklists that help you or others move through a process more quickly and easily.
6. Abbreviate activities that are both urgent and important
At first glance, urgent and important activities might seem to deserve whatever time they need. But the problem is that, because they’re urgent, they’ll still squeeze out other important activities that aren’t urgent—like spending time in Scripture’s original languages.
So, yes, you have to address what’s in front of you that’s both urgent and important. But as you do, ask yourself what you can do to prevent something similar from becoming urgent in the future.
Is it a quick conversation you need to have? A heads-up email you need to send? A larger allowance you need to make for unexpected events that might come up and alter your scheduling plans?
The more you can take simple, small, preventative measures to keep important things from becoming urgent, the less likely they’ll be to require that you derail work on other important, but less urgent, activities.
7. Concentrate even more on Scripture in its original languages
Clearing the decks as in steps 3–6 above isn’t a one-time process. It’s a continuous cycle. But each time you go around the cycle, you should get more margin back in your days.
That greater margin will make it easier for you to keep up with your current plan to read in Scripture’s original languages. And over time, it will also make it more feasible for you to expand that time until you find the right balance for it.
It can be hard to prioritize what matters but isn’t noisily urgent. And in some ways, it might never be easy—even when something as important as time in Scripture’s original languages is at stake.
So, especially as you’re getting started—or restarted—with prioritizing time in Scripture’s text, focus on that core activity of reading the text. Even a little at a time will mean that, in not too long, you’ll be looking back at some measurable progress.
And having time for reading Scripture in its original languages can get easier as you
- eliminate or separate yourself from what’s unimportant and
- take preventative measures to help keep what’s important from clamoring for you to drop everything else.
As you go through the cycle, you’ll find yourself able to invest more in important (but rarely urgent) activities like carefully working through a biblical text in its original language.For additional help making time for the biblical languages, download my free resource pack. It’ll help get you started and give you some tools to start making even more time for Scripture’s original languages as you go along.
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains
Regular price: $27.99
Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament
Regular price: $29.99
Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament | HALOT (5 vols.)
Regular price: $159.99
Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible (LHI)
Regular price: $49.99
Collins Latin Dictionary and Grammar
Regular price: $16.99
The Greek New Testament: Apparatus
Regular price: $9.99
Basics of Latin: A Grammar with Readings and Exercises from the Christian Tradition
Regular price: $47.99