Calvin and the Biblical Languages Review: Hebraic Over Speak with a Dash of Hagiography

41boZrhf4+L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Michael Currid shows in Calvin and the Biblical Languages how the return to the originals languages helped spawn the Reformation. It was a recovery of the raw Word, not just a priest or pope’s interpretation of it.

No longer was the Word chained to the pulpit, but farmers and mothers and gardeners were encouraged to understand it for themselves. We have Beza, Calvin, Luther, and Knox to thank for the emphasis on studying and teaching Scripture in the original languages. With skill, Currid summarized Calvin’s monumental preaching schedule and the role in which Greek and Hebrew played.

But as St. Luke likes to say, the points over which to quibble are “not a few”. So lets get started. The first cavil reminds me of the time a seminary professor confessed why he hated to read biographies: the authors presents their subject as nearly perfect—and who can emulate that? In quoting Colladon, the author gets a bit too close to hagiography. “When lecturing, [Calvin] always had only the bare text of Scripture; and yet, see how well he ordered what he said! And it was not as if he had adequate time to prepare; for, whatever he may have wished, he simply had not the opportunity. To say the truth, he usually had less than an hour to prepare” (46-47).

Calvin preach magisterial sermons with virtually no time for preparation. And he didn’t sleep. And he worked 25 hours a day. On the one hand, we are called to labor doggedly over the original languages, but on the other we to admire the Reformer who did his sermon prep on his carriage ride to church. So which is it? Continue reading