We have tended to admire the down to earth, not necessarily too educated soul through whom God chooses to speak, the "fool" through whom God changes the world. Indeed, in our history we have sometimes seen education as a tool of Satan to lead the church astray. Not a single institution in my denomination grants a PhD in any area. ;-)
I'm involved with a PhD dissertation defense today at Andrews University and was finishing up the dissertation this morning when an amusing thought hit me. You know, every denomination should at least have one or two Bible scholars, in addition to all its Spirit-filled prophets and leaders. Every denomination should have one or two experts on what the Bible actually meant.
And what does that involve? It involves things that I agree are not the priority for a minister or necessarily a denominational leader. I doubt massively that the most impactful pastors and leaders need to be or will be biblical scholars of this sort. Although I'm clearly having fun in this post, I really mean it when I say the heart and not the head is the number one priority even for a minister or church leader.
But you cannot be an authority on the original meaning of the Bible unless you know thoroughly and deeply:
- the biblical languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic
- the historical-cultural background, meaning for OT the archaeology of the relevant sites and the relevant Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, and Canaanite literature; meaning for the NT the relevant Second Temple Jewish and Greco-Roman literature and archaeology
- the history of interpretation/analysis for the last 100-200 years (the history of ancient interpretation is of minimal value in terms of the original meaning)
- enough textual criticism to be able to reach an informed conclusion on the way the original text read
- how to follow a train of thought inductively, including being able to ask questions the text wants to answer and to answer them using inductive evidence from the text read in its historical context
This is what you need to know to speak authoritatively on the original meaning of any biblical text. God must more often than not speak in living and fresh ways regardless of these things. But I was thinking this morning, every denomination should at least have one or two people somewhere on retainer who are actually qualified to speak to what it really meant too. ;-)