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Ulrich Zwingli – Know Jesus, Learn the Languages, Walk Humbly

14 Jul


Now, after the youthful mind, which is to be established in virtue, has been rightly molded through faith, the youth should, in consequence of this, order well and adorn beautifully his own heart. Then, after he is rightly and well ordered within himself, he can also advise and assist other persons.

He cannot order his mind and prepare his heart better, however, than by engaging in the study of the Word of God, day and night. This he can do more skillfully and advantageously, when he thoroughly understands Hebrew and Greek; for he will succeed very poorly in gaining a clear and exact knowledge of the Old Testament, without the aid of the former, and of the New Testament, without the aid of the latter.

While we are instructing those who are well grounded in the elements of knowledge, I do not deem it proper to omit the study of the Latin language altogether, as this language is now being so generally used. Although it is less helpful to a clear understanding of the Holy Scriptures than the Greek or the Hebrew language, it is none the less useful for other purposes in active life. It often happens, too, that we come in contact with Latin scholars, in carrying on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Far be it from a Christian, however, to use the languages for mere pecuniary gain or pleasure; for they are a gift of the Holy Ghost.

The next language after the Latin, which we should endeavor to study, is the Greek. We should study it, as already stated, for reading the New Testament in the original; for I take the liberty to say that, as I understand the matter, it seems to me that the doctrines of Christ were not treated so carefully nor taught so purely from the beginning, by the Latin scholars, as they were, by the Greek scholars. For this reason, let the youth be led to the original Gospel language.

The student of the Latin and Greek languages must see to it that he keep his heart in faith and innocence; for there are many things in these languages that have been studied to the detriment of the student, among which are wantonness, craftiness, a domineering and warlike spirit, useless and vain philosophy, and the like. If the mind be warned in due time, it can, like Ulysses, pass by these evils, untouched and unharmed. This will be the case, if the student, at the first warning of his conscience, says to himself: This you hear in order that you should take warning and flee from it, and not that you should accept it.

The Hebrew language I place last, because the use of the Latin is so general and the Greek naturally follows the Latin; otherwise I should have given the Hebrew the first place, and justly, too, because any one who does not know the properties and the peculiarities of this language will find it a difficult task, in many passages, even among Greek scholars, to discover the real sense and natural meaning of the Scriptures. The object I have in view, however, is not to speak at great length of the languages.

With such preparation must he be equipped who would arrive at the inner meaning of this heavenly wisdom, to which no other can be compared, much less made equal. Let him, however, approach it in a humble spirit and thirsting after righteousness.

~Ulrich Zwingli~

The Christian Education of Youth, trans. Alcide Reichenbach (Collegeville, PA: Thompson Brothers, 1899), 69–72.

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