Dr. Ellen Davis (Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity) has been spearheading a partnership with Renk Theological College in Southern Sudan.
Listen to her describe what the Sudanese prioritized for their theological training, and why:
A FEW YEARS AGO, when I asked the head of Renk Theological College in Southern Sudan to name his top priority for the school’s faculty and curriculum, he said without hesitation: “We need biblical language teachers.”
I work at persuading American students just to give Hebrew a try, so I was surprised to hear that it was the seminary’s first choice. Moreover, crossing the ocean to teach Hebrew in short spurts seemed like a pedagogical stretch.
The leaders of the college held firm, however, and they were unanimous in their reasoning: “We live in the Old Testament. Ours is a tribal culture, like Israel’s. We are pastoralists and farmers, like the Israelites. And like them, we have suffered terribly in war and exile, and from oppressive imperial regimes. The Bible is our story, and our people must have it in their own languages. Why should we read it in English and Arabic, the languages of colonialism? Why should we translate it from those languages and not from the original? We all speak several languages; we know how much difference a translation makes.”
Read her full article, “Hebrew Without Whining,” here.
What a humbling article. We students had so little to whine about, compared with these folks. Thanks for posting this.
A wonderful article! My father-in-law has had similar experiences doing short term teaching in the Ukraine. He recalls one older pastor, nearly blind, who had to hold the Hebrew text up to his eyes just so that he could read it…
Too bad a few more seminarians here in the states wouldn’t have the same passion for the original languages…
Justin, yes, very humbling. I try to keep these kinds of stories in my mind to keep perspective.
Welcome, Nevada. Thank you for stopping by and sharing about your father-in-law’s experience. I think seminarians and pastors in the U.S. are going to quickly find themselves ill-equipped to keep up with their peers in places like Asia and Africa if they don’t start changing their attitude (and effort) toward learning the biblical languages. I hope these stories spur them on.