The following quote from Martin Luther is well-known in evangelical circles. Nevertheless it seems that every generation of evangelicalism has to struggle with the priority of Greek and Hebrew in theological education. For this reason, I think it’s worth reminding ourselves from time to time of Luther’s sage words. It’s a reminder to educators to hold the line. It’s an encouragement to students to remember the goal of their toil—to know God through His word.
And let us be sure of this: we will not long preserve the gospel without the languages. The languages are the sheath in which this sword of the Spirit is contained; they are the casket in which this jewel is enshrined; they are the vessel in which this wine is held; they are the larder in which this food is stored; and, as the gospel itself points out, they are the baskets in which are kept these loaves and fishes and fragments. If through our neglect we let the languages go (which God forbid!), we shall not only lose the gospel, but the time will come when we shall be unable either to speak or write a correct Latin or German…
Hence, it is inevitable that unless the languages remain, the gospel must finally perish.
For more on the priority of the languages, I recommend Jason DeRouchie’s excellent essay “The Profit of Employing the Biblical Languages: Scriptural and Historical Reflections” Themelios 37.1 (2012): 32-50. DeRouchie concludes with exhortations to Christians of all vocational callings:
1. Seminary professors and administrators. Fight to make exegeting the Word in the original languages the core of every curriculum that is designed to train vocational ministers of God’s Book.
2. Church shepherds and shepherds-in-training. Seek to become God-dependent, rigorous thinkers who study, practice, and teach the Word—in that order!
3. Other congregational leaders. Give your ministers who are called to preach and teach time to study, and help your congregations see this as a priority.
4. Young adult leaders and college professors. Encourage those sensing a call to vocational ministry of the Word to become thoroughly equipped for the task.
5. Everyone. Pray to our glorious God for the preservation of the gospel, for our leaders, and for the churches and schools training them.