I was recently asked if studying the original languages of Scripture is ‘worth’ the time and effort involved. An investment spends something you have today for the sake of something you want tomorrow. In terms of finance, you take (hopefully) surplus money to purchase a future return on that investment. The purchase might be in the future productivity of a company, or interest payments for the use of your money. Sometimes your investment ‘pays off,’ but other times you don’t receive the return you expected.
Studying biblical languages is both an investment and a commitment. You take the time you have today and spend that time working to memorize vocabulary and understand grammar. Sound exciting? Not today; not for many days. The initial investment in Biblical languages is usually two semesters (one year) to understand enough vocabulary and grammar to push through the biblical text. The reward is twofold: the ability to read some of the Bible in the original language and new opportunities to draw meaning out of the text. At the same time a new opportunity arises for further investment with new challenges and rewards. With every new opportunity for further study (formal or informal) the student faces a choice: is my continued study ‘worth’ the investment of time and effort?
I have been inspired in my own study by one of my professors. Over a break from school, he sent out an email encouraging us to keep up with our Hebrew and mentioned that he had been reviewing vocabulary. He will retire from teaching after this school year. Is continued study worth the investment? This is ultimately a personal question, since study in any field requires discipline and commitment. The only way we can gauge the potential return on the investment is to look at others who have made similar investments in the past, who are enjoying the rewards (and the new challenges) as we consider our own commitments.
When we think about financial investors, we think of people who keep pushing and are never satisfied no matter how much wealth they have accumulated. I think we should have the same attitude toward investment in Biblical Studies: only satisfied with a little bit more. Not for the purpose of resting in our achievement, but for the purpose of serving our Lord and helping His people.