Last night, after putting the kids down to sleep, I sighed with relief that the toughest part of the day was finished. I love my kids, but 13 hours is a long time to spend with anybody. I grabbed my nearly-finished glass of Shiraz from the kitchen, one of my beloved Parker Jotter ballpoints, and E. P. Sander’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism. It was time to engage in a conversation through reading.
And then I paused. There I was, sitting on the couch, fireplace burning warmly, quiet house. But I hadn’t practiced Greek yet. In fact, the day was so hectic I hadn’t had any devotions in the scriptures, either. I asked Sanders to hold his thoughts and I would return shortly.
An hour and a half later I had finished reading through Ephesians in the Greek.
So here’s my little word of encouragement for you, my readers. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that at the beginning (merely 23 days ago), I was struggling a bit with keeping up on my reading plan, and only able to get through a chapter of Greek in about 1-2 hours.
But now, not even a full month later, I managed to read through Galatians in one sitting, and then Ephesians the next night, and it didn’t take that long.
There is no place for boasting here: I am surely not the only person in the world who can read through one of Paul’s letters in a foreign language (my wife can do that in three languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese).
My point then is this: the facility that is gained through deliberate practice of the original languages enables the reader to fully engage with the text as a living document through reflection, interrogation, criticism and application. To put it another way, the more one is able to read without stopping to look up words, the more one can put those words into practice; the more one can step back from the text and ask tough questions; the more one can discern the vast range of emotions displayed by the author, and those he intended to incite in the readers; the more one can relish those moments when the heart is ignited with joy at the incomparable kindness, generosity and compassion of God.
So read on, my brothers and sisters! And never boast in your reading speed or expansive vocabulary; nobody cares but you. What matters is what you do with that facility.
What will you do with your fluency in the biblical languages?