Old school Lutheran pastors were taught to prepare their sermons by first translating the texts for themselves. I’m not even 50 yet, and already I find myself among the last living generation of those taught by such old school means. We barely had VCRs when I was in seminary. Blockbuster movie rental (the kind you might see in Clerks or something) stores were still a thing. The Internet was just beginning to enter urban homes via dial-up modems. Google wasn’t born yet.
We had books. One book would have the Greek text (I think it was Nestle-Aland 24th or 25th Edition). Your lexicon sat open next to that, the dictionary you had to manually search. You’d have a concordance at hand or nearby on the shelf, where you look up a specific word and there find a list of other places that one word was used throughout Scripture. Nearby were your grammar and syntax books, in case you needed to re-teach yourself the basic rules of that language–or figure out which rule even applies with this word.
One Hebrew or Greek word at a time. One ancient phrase at a time. One verse or sentence at a time diagramming it out if need be to be sure you knew the subjects from the objects of a verb, or which verb of the sentence was the main one and which secondary or subordinate clauses. Which noun does this adjective go with? How did the apostles and prophets of old use this word, how often, and where, and in what circumstances? It was painstaking work. I was taught to take those pains, endure them and acquire by them the strong discipline of humbly studying the Word. Twenty-some years and I’ve still so much to learn.
Even then, guys cut corners. We had half a dozen reputable English versions already. There are dozens now, a few reputable–but most aren’t. Quicker to pick up a commentary, just skip the translating and skim over some other man’s comments and thoughts on a passage rather than let the Word itself teach you what it says. Many men wrote their sermons or prepared a Bible study class with little more than a glance at the Greek. Still I start there, week after week.
It’s one thing for a man to jump to conclusions. It’s another to jump to someone else’s conclusion asking little more than “Do I like what he says, or don’t I?”
Without doing the hard work of study or translating the Bible for oneself, one cannot really agree or disagree. You can only like or dislike. Thumbs up, or thumbs down. Without doing the hard work of study for oneself, one can no longer form reasonable assessments of anything on the basis of the Word–but ever simply react to someone else’s opinion, or echo it. Easier, I suppose than honestly forming an understanding of your own. Also easier to go very, very wrong in what one teaches or preaches or even believes in the name of Christ and His Church.
Fast spiritual food is plentiful and cheap in America. Nuke it in the microwave, just open the pre-packaged stuff. Search Google, copy and paste. Viola! Done. Many of the people of God in our time are living on survival mode rations, serving tour after tour in their spiritual warfare, all the while devouring nothing but a steady diet of uncooked, pre-made Happy Meals-Ready-to-Eat.
Why learn to live off the Promised Land, chop vegetables yourself, cut and prepare a piece of meat, when to use this spice or that, but not those–and how much? Why slow cook a meal for your family? Why make time and take time to study just one word, one verse? Because it tastes better. It is better for them and for you. Because they get a carefully balanced spiritual diet with leftovers well worth enjoying for lunch tomorrow.
Old school Lutherans taught me how to pick, peel, slice and dice everything in the Biblical garden with care. I can cook from the can, but I much prefer and strive to prepare the Sunday meal picked fresh week to week. Thank you to my forefathers in faith, for my mother church, for teaching me the old school know-how to cook good food and feed my family in faith with love,