Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Digging Deeper

I suppose one of the key reasons why I'm a pastor is due to the enjoyment I get out of studying the Scriptures. Call me a geek or a religious nut, but I've always had a knack for remembering the Bible stories I learned as a kid. My dad was a pastor, so we were always in church on Sundays. They weren't mega-churches with crazy awesome kids programs. They were smallish churches with devoted folks who took time to teach Bible stories to a handful of squirrely kids. And I liked it.

And as I grew up I kept on reading the Bible in order to be more familiar with the stories. And the older I got, the more questions I had about what I was reading. The more I was able to link ideas and stories together, the more questions came up in my head - not only about what the stuff meant, but also about who wrote this stuff, why did they write it, what's the history and culture behind it.

This is one of the reasons why I went back to school in 2003 - to dig even deeper into the original languages of the Scriptures (in college my Greek professor said that you could get 20% more out of the text if you read it in the original language); to dig deeper into the culture of the original stories - what was ancient Israel like, what was the Roman Empire like, what was the Mediterranean culture like in the first century. I also wanted to dig deeper into church history - how did the 21st century church get here, what was the road we traveled, and what does that mean for where we are headed. All of this to help me improve my ability to read and understand what was written in the Scriptures.

Here's a problem that many pastors face though, after they've finished all this schooling. Where do you find the time to "use" this knowledge? At school I learned to read the Scriptures in Greek and Hebrew - a totally enlightening experience. Except in order for it to have long term effect, I have to keep working to develop my skill in these languages otherwise I will lose them. And since I'm not very apt at the languages, it takes extra energy and time to stay up on it. And I really liked the experience, paid a bunch of money for the experience, and have seen good things come from it. But the pace of a pastor's life and ministry quickly rules out even a couple of hours a week working on Greek and Hebrew texts.

One of my classes I chose at TEDS, having completed my Greek language courses, was to study the book of Romans; this included translating the whole thing from Greek to English. A very time consuming task but very very rewarding. So a year or two later I shared with my Greek language professor that I had appreciated his class, that he had been very helpful to me, and that I had gone on to translate the book of Romans. Without missing a step (he always walked briskly wherever he was going...) he told me that I should translate the book of Acts next.

Since then, I've been thinking about the challenge. It's about the only way I can really stay in the original texts. I've tried to just do random verses for translation work, but it's too hard to stay with that kind of plan. Since I'm going to be preaching through the book of Acts later in 2010, I'm going to start working on translation now and see how far I can get. Whenever I do some Greek translation work for my sermon prep, it is always rewarding. So now my plan is to spend one very early morning a week to translate at least one chapter every two weeks or so. Though I'll have to go faster than that if I really want to get it done by the time I start my series. We'll see...

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