(Old Facebook Post)
Did you know that Conrad Grebel and Felix Mantz were “men learned in the German, Latin, Greek, and also Hebrew, languages”? (From the Hutterite Chronicle.) Felix Mantz had even been marked out by Zwingli for teacher of Hebrew in Zwingli’s projected evangelical academy. The Hutterite Chronicle also states that “soon thereafter [after the first re-baptism service] several others made their way to them [to Grebel, Mantz, and Blaurock], for example, Balthasar Hubmaier of Friedberg, Louis Haetzer, and still others, men well instructed in the German, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages, very well versed in Scripture.”
Do we have such men in our churches today? Or we content to pretend such education is really unnecessary–claiming, on the one hand, that Scripture is plain enough that education beyond high school is only likely to confuse our interpretation and relying, on the other hand, rather casually on the expert scholarship of others–those who translate our Bibles for us, produce our Bible dictionaries and commentaries, and do the heavy work for us of refuting false doctrine by their careful exegesis of Scripture? Should our own heritage teach us something about the crucial role of exegesis in biblical languages? (I’m posting these questions as someone who cannot read Hebrew or Greek.)
Conservative Anabaptists have no truly first-rate Bible scholars, to my knowledge (despite lots of wonderful second and third-rate Bible teachers), and I think our doctrine suffers for it in ways that tend to hamper the health of our churches and the success of our witness.
I remember John Piper once stopping in the middle of one of his teaching sessions (something pretty technical, I forget) and telling his audience that most of them should not live the life he does. He told of how he walked passed a homeless man on the way to the meeting, too busy to help because of the fast pace of his life as a scholar-pastor-teacher. Most people should be free enough to stop and help. His point was that the church needs a few people like himself and lots of people not like himself. I think he was right. I’m arguing we might not have the few scholars that we need.