At some point in every Bible scholar’s life, there is a moment when you realize that the Bible you are reading is a translation. This could be when you realize certain groups base their theology off of a single interpreted version of the Bible in order to make sense of their beliefs. Possibly this realization arrives when you are searching for an answer to a biblical question, and come across two apparently different answers from different interpretations of the same verse. Whenever it is, you may be inclined to search for the answer in the original language – either Hebrew or Greek – to understand exactly what words were inspired.
The problem is that you probably do not know biblical Hebrew or Greek; don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are relatively few people that know the biblical languages outside of academic and theological circles. However, there are options for learning biblical Hebrew and Greek.
Hebrew and Greek study Bibles can be a helpful resource and a great starting point for your studies. These Bibles are written in English (or are available in most first languages), and have key words picked out from different verses with the original translation and explanation offset from the text. This allows the reader to follow along with all that is going on, and still have the resource there to go back to the original meaning and intent of the word quickly.
A great example of this is the Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible, which includes many different linguistic resources for studying the original language, including grammatical and structural break downs of key verses, and both a Hebrew and Greek biblical dictionary.
While this is a great resource to start with and will give extra insight into questioned verses, it will not help you actually read the language – it is essentially doing the comprehension for you, and giving you a summary to work with. These study Bibles are often the first step into further study and learning.
In order to go beyond the learning of the study Bibles, it is necessary to begin taking courses. The biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek are different from the modern Hebrew and Greek languages – in fact, know either of the modern language will be of little help in working through the original biblical text. As such, it is important to understand that courses need to be specific to the biblical languages. These courses are usually offered only through academic institutions.
If you are lucky, there may be a religious academic institution that offers classes in the biblical languages near you. However, it is often difficult to fit classes into a busy routine. As well, institutional classes can be quite expensive; these reasons may make it inconceivable for you to attend. However, there are many online courses available that are priced reasonably and offer students a strong understanding of Hebrew and Greek upon completion.
Online courses are offered through many different portals; one of the best is offered through eTeacher Biblical and is actually accredited through the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Courses such as these are a great compromise, allowing students to determine their work-life balance while still offering academic coursework that will challenge the student. The added advantage of having a course accredited by a university, such as the course mentioned above, is that you know the quality of the course is equivalent to what you would receive in class from other institutions.
Again, this course is reasonably priced, and offers all of the options a regular class would. Lessons are taught virtually by a teacher in pre-recorded sessions. There are also pre-recorded oral practice session to help with learning to speak the languages, and live scheduled practices take place weekly as well. Homework is checked and marked by staff, and is returned to students so they can see where improvement is needed. There is a forum and technical assistance available for students as well; these resources are available 24/7, and allow the student flexibility in scheduling when they do their coursework throughout the week.
Ultimately, a decision needs to be made regarding the depth of understanding you desire for the biblical languages. For some, the Hebrew and Greek study Bible may hold enough resources to satisfy your understanding of details of the Bible. However, others may see the benefit in taking the next step and enrolling in an academic course in order to gain a full, practical understanding of the languages.
Online courses are much more flexible in regards to scheduling and are usually cheaper; this allows more people to register and participate in the classes. At the same time, they offer comparable learning environments to regular post-secondary institutions, with faculty available to teach not only the reading and comprehension of the text, but also the oral speaking aspect of the language. This will take your understanding of biblical Hebrew and Greek to a scholarly level, allowing you to work through your interpretive questions with confidence.