One of the requirements for candidacy for ordination in the Christian Reformed Church that is no longer required in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada is Hebrew. The other is Greek. This is the first year that the ELCC has not required a Biblical language and because of this it is possible to get an MDiv without having to learn a language at the Waterloo Lutheran Seminary.
This move has created some controversy. It was made, apparently, to try to boost the enrollment at the seminary and therefore boost the number of new pastors available to the ELCC. The argument was that a number of prospective pastors were being scared off by the prospect of learning a new language. Some argue that the many resources now available, both print and computer programs, make the knowledge of the language unnecessary. On the other side, it is argued that a first hand understanding of the language will allow the reader/pastor to more fully pull out the meaning of the text. This way of thinking comes to us through history from Augustine to the Reformers.
I will admit that I was not sad to learn that I could get the degree without the languages. It felt like a bit of a gift. The prize without the pain. The CRC EPMC program has now forced me to take the languages and, at this point anyway, I am coming to understand that it might not be a bad thing. Discussions in a number of classes over the past two semesters, while not always speaking against the policy of the seminary, have made it clear that my education would be less than complete without more than cursory exposure to the orignal languages of the Bible.
So, I started Hebrew on Friday. Its not as easy as one might think to find a teacher. The seminary has been working on the project since last November. I will be working, one on one, with a Jewish professor whose specialty is actually Greek. Our first class happened in a Starbucks and by the end of it I could read, or at least make the appropriate noises for Genesis 1:1
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ
We are hoping to complete, what would normally be two courses, by the end of the summer and then go on to do some exegesis (Big Word for the Day: a critical explanation or interpretation of a text) of the book of Jonah, likely through the fall. My teacher is excited about the subject and is very flexible as to our studies and our progress. I’m good with that.
It’s another piece of the journey. I sometimes wish I could clearly see where the journey is going though.