Department of Classics and Biblical Languages
“Your enlightenment depends on the company you keep. You do not know the world until you know the men who have possessed it and tried its wares before you were ever given your brief run upon it.” ~Woodrow Wilson
What does the Department of Classics and Biblical Languages Study?
- Classics – This is an umbrella discipline. It includes the languages, literature, history, philosophy, archaeology and art of the Ancient Greek and Roman world.
- Biblical Languages – This is designed for students who desire to read and interpret the Christian Scriptures within their social, historical and linguistic contexts.
Why are Classics and Biblical Languages Together?
The New Testament was written by Jews in the language of Greece to a world ruled by Rome. Paul says in Galatians 4:4: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son.” The world was ready to hear the Gospel. Studying Classics broadly can therefore provide valuable insights into the context of Christianity and the Bible.
What Counts as a Biblical Language?
The official definition:
For university and major/minor purposes, “biblical languages” refers to the original languages in which the Bible was written: Hebrew (most of the Old Testament), Koine Greek (the New Testament), and Aramaic (significant portions of Daniel and Ezra, as well as smatterings elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments; also the language the many Jews of Jesus’ day).
The “broader” definition:
Just as the term “Biblical Archaeology” includes digs not only at sites mentioned in the Bible, but also at extrabiblical sites that shed light on the world of the Bible, we suggest that “biblical languages” may also be applied to languages that help us to understand the Bible better. The term, then, could cover not only Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek, but also more broadly Classical Greek (the language of Ancient Greece), Latin (the language of the Romans), and other lesser known languages of the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East.
What is the Difference Between Koine and Classical Greek?
You will see that we offer both Classical and Koine Greek. What is the difference?
Short answer: not much.
Longer answer: Classical Greek is the Greek spoken and written by native Greeks during the time of Plato and Aristotle (400s BC). When Alexander the Great conquered a lot of that area of the world (330s BC), he took the Greek culture and language with him. Greek became the primary language of business, politics and culture, even among people whose native language was something else. The Greek spoken by these non-native speakers was a more simplified version of the Greek. It has the bare essentials necessary for communicating clearly. This form of Greek is called Koine, which simply means “common.” The writers of the New Testament, though most spoke Aramaic natively, wrote in Koine Greek in order to allow for their works to be read by the greatest number of people possible. So learning Koine Greek allows for quick and easy access to the New Testament. Learning Classical Greek includes Koine Greek but also expands to include information necessary to enable students to read Plato and other Greek writers.
What Degrees Can I pursue?
Currently, HBU offers a Master of Arts (MA) in Biblical Languages, Master of Arts (MA) in Classics and Early Christianity, Major (BA) in Biblical Languages, a Minor in Biblical Languages, a Major (BA) in Classics, a Minor in Classics, a Major (BA) in Latin, and a Minor in Latin.
Our Classics & Biblical Languages faculty are very strong teachers who strive to help you, not just learn the languages, but also to understand the world in which they originated. The goal in all of this is not a dry academic exercise but rather to help you develop as a whole person and to prepare you for your chosen vocation. Many of our graduates pursue careers in teaching or further degrees in law, education, medicine, creative writing and business.
Where Can I Go From Here?
Many of our students have gone on to engage in master’s and doctoral graduate work at top Classics & Biblical Language programs. Many go on to become pastors, missionaries, Bible translators, language instructors, worship leaders and ministers in churches and schools throughout the world.