The Church today is built on the Reformation's linguistic heritage yet is in danger of losing that strong foundation. Many seminaries no longer require that their students learn the biblical languages for their divinity degrees—some do not even teach them! Yet these are the basic tools of any study of the Bible, and if we don't teach the Bible, then what is the church teaching?
If we need encouragement as to what can happen to our sermons and Bible study when we develop a knowledge of the languages that the Scriptures are written in then Calvin is an excellent encourager. John Currid shows us how Calvin used a knowledge of the biblical languages to provide richness, depth and accuracy to his understanding of Scripture—and his exposition of it.
“The preacher’s task is to uncover the intended meaning of a passage in the original language, explain it to his congregation, and finally to apply it to his audience.” (Page 27)
“‘Directness, simplicity and brevity were the marks of a Calvinistic sermon.’” (Page 27)
“In contrast, the Reformation emphasized a literal interpretation of the text; Christian doctrine must be based on the original and literal intent of the authors of Scripture. There is little or no room for allegory. Calvin called allegory a contrivance of Satan and merely a bunch of monkey tricks! Hand in hand with the reformational principle of grammatical historical exegesis was the conviction that at the heart of interpretation are the biblical languages. The exegetical task ‘can be accomplished only through a solid knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages’.” (Pages 11–12)
“Calvin would wholeheartedly agree with Melanchthon’s statement that ‘the Scripture cannot be understood theologically unless it be first understood grammatically’.” (Page 20)
“First, it demonstrates a movement toward professional training rather than academic achievement.” (Page 80)
If your language skills have become rusty . . . Calvin and the Biblical Languages, by John Currid, provides a good reminder of the importance and usefulness of the biblical languages for pastoral ministry and church life.
—Rev. Gordon Ferguson, British Church Newspaper