Dr. Michael Brown often shares his testimony of God saving him as a teen from a life of drug abuse and rebellion. He talks of how he would voraciously read the Bible and memorize verse after verse in order to evangelize and apologize (in the sense of defend) but when some Jewish counter-missionaries showed up at his house they’d tell him that his knowledge of the Scriptures in English just wouldn’t do. This led Dr. Brown to studying Near Eastern languages and literature at NYU and eventually earning a PhD in the field. Now he can speak to the counter-missionaries with as much knowledge of the language as they have, and in many cases more because he can appeal to the languages that influenced Hebrew.
I share this to say that I had a moment like this yesterday as I stood in my barbershop. A nice Sephardic Jew came in and complemented us on the shop and its name (Zebulun Jesus is Lord Barber Shop) and shared a bit about what the Scriptures say about Zebulun. He told us that he’s a descendent of Judah and that the Syriac Jews have kept meticulous genealogies for over two millennia. Then he asked if we knew the Bible well enough to discuss it. My pastor (who owns the place) and I said yes and then our discussion began.
As my pastor, who has been working in the midst of the Jewish community in Lakewood, NJ for over 20 years began to share the gospel and why we believe that Jesus is the Messiah this man kept interjecting and telling us why he didn’t think so. There came a point in the conversation where he said, “Listen, I couldn’t care less what you believe because it doesn’t effect me, just like what I believe doesn’t effect you.” He continued to say, “You have your interpretations, and that’s nice, I’ll listen, but this is my book. I know the language and I read it in the original so trust me when I say that I know it better than you.”
At that very moment I decided to take the study of Hebrew seriously. I’ve been dabbling for years but I’ve never devoted the time or attention to the language to be able to say that I “know” it. I can read the words, sure, but I don’t know what most of them mean. I couldn’t tell you hardly anything about rules of Hebrew grammar or syntax. I know how to use a lexicon and all the resources at my disposal but put a Hebrew Bible in front of me and there’s very little I can do. I can’t stomach this any longer.
So I’ve pulled out my Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Workbook, Flash Cards, and DVDs and I’m going to give this a real go. The plan is to wake up early every day and devote at least one hour in the morning to it. I am more than willing to accept any and all help that any of my dear readers want to offer. But the bottom line is that I need to become well versed in the language.