Patricia E. Clawson
"There are three kinds of pastors," says the Rev. Dr. Matthew H. Patton. "Those who are ignorant of Hebrew, those who misuse Hebrew, and those whose knowledge of Hebrew is a life-giving tool for ministering the Word of God. Only the third is acceptable."
This summer Patton seeks to help pastors, licentiates, and men under presbyterial care become the third kind of pastor. He will teach a new course for the Ministerial Training Institute of the OPC (MTIOPC) called A Hebrew Refresher.
"It's hard work," said the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Vandalia, Ohio. "But I hope the delight of knowing this language and the God which the Old Testament reveals will make the work a joy."
After earning his M.Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary, Patton received his PhD in Biblical Theology and Old Testament from Wheaton College. Patton cultivated an expertise in biblical Hebrew as he sought to understand difficult Old Testament texts pertaining to King Jehoiachin for his dissertation. He has taught all levels of Hebrew at Wheaton College and in a special seminary class in Costa Rica.
His approach, called "Discourse Analysis," shows how the Hebrew texts flow from one idea to the next. Patton co-authored a book with Miles Van Pelt and Frederic C. Putnam coming out this fall entitled Basics of Hebrew Discourse (Zondervan) which will teach Discourse Analysis to intermediate Hebrew students.
While there are many excellent English translations, often the translations disagree, he said. The Hebrew Refresher course will help guide the students as they return to the original Scriptural text.
"Reading the Bible in the original language is like reading it for the first time: all kinds of fresh insights and connections leap forth," said Patton. "Our preaching and teaching will be more precise and more vibrant from studying the original texts."
A return to the fundamentals will benefit pros as well as those whose Hebrew has fallen into disuse, said Patton. Since half of language learning is review and the other half reading, this course will review the Hebrew basics as well as reading through Old Testament narrative. During three days of in-person Intensive Training at the end of the semester, the class will focus on how to understand the Hebrew of specific texts and how that knowledge will make the students' preaching and teaching more effective.
A Hebrew Refresher joins a slate of MTIOPC courses offered this summer, including A Greek Refresher, taught by David Noe; OPC History, taught by John Muether; plus another new class called Reformed Evangelism, taught by John Shaw and Eric Watkins. Elders also may take some of the courses.
Enrollment deadline is May 30, 2017. Classes begin on June 1 with online assignments. The online work culminates in the mandatory Intensive Training session, held August 15-17 at Grace Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. Travel scholarships are available to most students. Applications and more information are available on the MTIOPC page.