Biblical Illiteracy

Most Christian clergy (including most with PhDs in Religion) are illiterate in the languages of the Bible (Hebrew for the Hebrew Bible, and Greek for the New Testament) while many rabbis (particularly Reform rabbis) have only a shaky grasp of Hebrew.

When you ask them about this, you’ll notice they’ll have such elaborate explanations for why they don’t need to know the languages of the Bible to instruct their congregants on what the Bible says.

Almost none of the pundits who supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq were literate in Arabic. They didn’t know what they were talking about, no more than the average Christian clery or Reform rabbi does when he tells you what the sacred text means.

Reform rabbis will tell you that the Torah does not come from God, it is the work of men, and hence it is not important to be able to read it fluently in the original. Christian clergy will tell you that as long as you are guided by the Church (if they are Catholic) or by the Holy Spirit (if they are Protestant), you’ll be fine expounding on a text you can’t read easily in the original. They’ll talk about having commentaries and context and the wisdom of their faith and their relationship with the Lord to guide them. They’ll argue that as long as you love God and love your neighbor, everything will fall into place. That’s the true teaching of the Bible, yadda yadda.

People — including clergy — will say anything to maintain their high status position while simultaneously avoiding the hard work of earning their place. Robbers also have explanations for why their thievery is justified.

I have no interests in the Biblical views of those who can’t read the Bible in its original languages and I have no interest in the Middle East views of pundits who can’t read Arabic.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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