If their “faithful interpretation” leads them to conclude that the body of water the Israelites crossed was only ankle-deep, or that the 5,000 brought their own bread and fish and shared them with others, that is also acceptable.
|Pastor: “I don’t know. I didn’t study Greek.” Members of PCUSA churches: forget about asking your future pastors those “unimportant” questions. After a two-year “self-review process” in which it solicited questions and concerns about the examination, the denomination has junked a couple of exegetical examination requirements: (1) a working knowledge of Biblical Greek and Hebrew; and (2) understanding the “principal meaning” of the assigned examination text.|
Beginning August 2008, PCUSA candidates for ordination only have to consult the NIV, TEV, Living Bible, or any of their favored English paraphrase in preparing for their exam and for their future Bible studies or sermons. And if their “faithful interpretation” leads them to conclude that the body of water the Israelites crossed was only ankle-deep, or that the 5,000 brought their own bread and fish and shared them with others, that is also acceptable.
Furthermore, the committee says it hopes that these changes “will free students to focus on the larger issues of interpretation and practical application of Scripture.” How then would pastors interpret and apply Scripture without studying the “principal meaning” (what the author originally intended to say to the original readers) of the text?
Dr. Mark D. Roberts, senior director and scholar-in-residence for Laity Lodge and former pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in California, says the move is “indicative” of a denomination in big trouble:
[W]hat we have seen is indicative of why this denomination is reeling, well on its way to oblivion. We have lost touch with the common ground of biblical truth on which the PC(USA) was founded. And we no longer have any reliable way of getting back to that common ground in a denomination filled with equally-valid faithful interpretations. The changes in the ordination exam add up to a placard that reads: PCUSA… the end is near!
Why Study the Original Languages?
Westminster Seminary in California Professor Dr. Dennis Johnson in his article, “The Perils of Pastors Without the Biblical Languages,” gives ample reasons why knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is essential to ministers:
- Numerous English translations give significant variations in meanings to the text. Which one is the most accurate? The answer can be found in the original languages.
- False teachings such as those of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Word-Faith Movement, and the prosperity gospel, deceive people by their so-called “etymologies,” “word studies,” and “new insight.” They can be exposed easily by studying the original text.
- Many issues in the church today – ordination of women, homosexuality, worship wars – can be answered more clearly with the use of the original text.
- Pastors must also be scholars and theologians in order to strike a balance between doctrine and application in the church.
- A good knowledge of the meaning of the original text maintains a “freshness” in a pastor’s preaching and teaching.
- Biblical discernment with the use of the original languages plays a very practical part when new situations arise and new methods are adopted in the church.
Hopefully, those rare seminaries that persevere in teaching our future ministers how to exegete Scripture using the original languages will continue to do so in the face of widespread anti-doctrinalism and anti-intellectualism in the churches today.