Westminster Seminary California
On the importance of the biblical languages
J. V. Fesko


I recently read a book on a famous but perhaps now little-known Dutch Reformed theologian by the name of Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706). Van Mastricht was a contemporary of Herman Witsius (1636-1708) and Gisbert Voetius (1589-1676), among others. One of the things that struck me is the emphasis van Mastricht placed upon the importance of the biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew, though he also highlighted the importance of the study of Aramaic as well. In fact, van Mastricht, who has a reputation for being one of the foremost theologians of the seventeenth century was a professor of Hebrew for fifteen years, a pattern not uncommon among van Mastricht’s peers and colleagues. In his exegesis he made constant appeal to Jewish Rabbis of his own day, as well as from the middle ages, as he defined Hebrew terms and sought to understand the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Seventeenth-century Reformed theologians have often been accused of being rationalistic and speculative, but in surveying the technical nature of his exegesis, van Mastricht shows that he was thoroughly exegetical and to a degree of proficiency that outclasses many theologians in our own day. In our own theology we must know the Scriptures well—we must learn to read the Scriptures in their original languages. When ministers read and study the Scriptures in English, they kiss their bride through a veil.