Re: Greek... Latin? German?

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Apr 20 1997 - 08:58:49 EDT

At 6:17 AM -0500 4/20/97, Walt McFall wrote:
>Carl wrote:
>> <snip> Perhaps in
>> edition 30 or so these sections too will be in either German or English,
>> since those have become the chief languages of NT scholarship. But there
>> WAS a time, and not that far back in the Christian era, when the ONLY
>> language one could expect readers of the GNT everywhere to know, apart from
>> NT Greek, was Latin.
>G'day Carl (& All),
>Regarding NT/OT studies... after one learns the basics of Greek and
>Hebrew (and then of course, keeps studying Greek and Hebrew further),
>which other language would be of the greatest assistance and should
>be the next in line to begin studying... Latin or German ? Why ?

That's a nice citation from Augustine in your signature file (but I note
that you did note cite him in Latin ;-) ).

I don't really think your question can be given a general answer; it really
depends on whether you intend primarily to understand the Biblical text
itself better or whether you intend to do scholarly research--and whether
it is OT or NT research that you would focus upon. Aramaic might be useful
particularly if you're interested in later parts of the OT and Palestinian
Judaism, but my guess is that if you want to do research in Biblical areas
German would be the tool you'd need first. Latin would not be so very
important unless you get concerned with patristic studies, but it certainly
wouldn't hurt to have a fundamental knowledge of Latin--basic grammar.
Scholarship calls for much more in the way of tools than does personal
Bible study, and the truth of the matter, so far as Biblical scholarship is
concerned, is that nobody can possibly master it all; so one gets the tools
most important for the area of one's chief concentration. And my guess is
that once one has Hebrew and Greek firmly in command, German would be the
most useful tool beyond that. (Churchill said of required languages for
British children something like: make sure they really know English first,
then reward them with Greek and Latin).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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