I’m coming even later to the game than everyone else, but in case for some insane reason you follow my blog but not any other better and more popular biblical studies blogs, the conversation revolves around language requirements for PhD students in NT.
I applaud Dr. Hurtado for bringing attention to this, but at the same time I need to ask for some clarification. First off, I agree that Greek and Hebrew is very important. At the seminary I work at, we heavily stress to the MA students the original languages. We encourage them to take as much as possible, and with our recent curriculum restructure we have made it possible to take much more original language courses than ever before.
But I need to ask — are we asking for competence or fluency? Particularly for French and German? Confession: I suck and have to work hard at languages. I’m writing my dissertation now and have worked with a few key German articles. But can I sit down with a cup of joe and read them? Heck no! It takes me forever. And that is my problem that I continue to work on. But the results are the same.
So I ask again, are we wanting competency or fluency? I have known students who, because of their knowledge of the Bible and their Greek vocabulary, can read the Greek NT pretty well. But can they explain case usages? Syntax? Morphology? Not as much. So what exactly do we want from NT PhD’s? Competency or fluency?
I personally want to have expertise in Hebrew and Greek. This means I can analyze the crap out of a passage using the best grammars and lexicons. Do I want to be able to pick up the GNT or Hebrew Bible and read fluently? Yes, but that is secondary to fully understanding the text.
The same goes for German and French. These are going to take me a long time to master. Does that excuse me from using the most important secondary literature related to my research? Absolutely not. It will be a longer and more painful process for me when I read these texts, but the end result is the same. And what do you care how long it takes me? Just as long as I don’t ignore them.
So should reading fluency in French and German be required for an NT PhD? I don’t think so. But should competency in French and German be required? And should I be required to interact with the relevant literature in German and French? Absolutely.