Christians and members of the Hebrew Roots movement are united in their view that learning Hebrew is an important part of understanding the Judaic origins of their faith.
Speaking to Breaking Israel News, Bob O’Dell, pro-Israel Christian, author and co-founder of Root Source, described his interest in Hebrew as two-fold. As a frequent traveler to Israel, O’Dell recognizes that learning modern, conversational Hebrew could help him “to fit in a bit better when visiting Israel.”
However, his primary interest is “to understand the Bible better. What motivates me here is the absolute conviction that I am not ‘seeing’ but a small fraction of the potential insights in the various passages by reading an English translation.”
Expanding on this idea, O’Dell expressed his belief that Christians can benefit from learning Hebrew because it will give them “the ability to look at the Biblical text without being fully dependent on previous translators.”
For O’Dell, seeking truth is an important part of his spiritual journey. As a result, he is motivated to understand the Bible in its original language. “I want to get the words directly no matter how difficult they are to hear,” O’Dell stated.
Asked how Jewish people can help Christians learn Hebrew, O’Dell said that, beyond teaching the basics of Hebrew reading, “I think that Jews need to help Christians learn how to study with the Jewish learning methods of interactive, respectful debate. It is not enough to learn Hebrew. We [Christians] need to learn how to perceive the scriptures in a more Jewish style,” he said, referring to the use of ancient Jewish commentaries.
Israel365’s Director of Christian Relations Donna Jollay spoke to Breaking Israel News about her emotional and spiritual connection to Hebrew.
“When I was literally and radically saved by God 20 years ago, He gave me a Jewish heart and I started being drawn to the most unusual things. After that happened, I can remember being in church regularly for the first time in my life and it still tickles me when I remember how excited I got when I learned that ‘Amen’ was Hebrew. Then I learned that ‘Halleluyah’ was Hebrew, too! And I was even more excited to learn that it meant ‘Praise the Lord.’
“It feeds my soul to learn Hebrew. Every nuance is a revelation of God and His awesomeness and love. Learning it knits me together even more with Him and His beloved Hebrew/Jewish people,” Jollay expressed with great enthusiasm.
On a more practical level, she explained that Hebrew is “the language of the Hebrews who are the overwhelming majority of God’s focus in [the Bible] and throughout history. It’s the language of the God of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yakov and I believe it’s the language we’ll all be speaking [in Messianic days].”
For Al McCarn, a member of the Hebrew Roots movement and Executive Director of B’ney Yosef North America, Hebrew is connected to his very identity. “My primary motivation for learning Hebrew is because I have come to think of it as the language of my people. I believe the Torah awakening among those of us who have come from Christian backgrounds is the prophesied restoration of the House of Yosef/Ephraim, which means I identify as a Hebrew. That’s why I want to become competent in the language of Israel, the Hebrew nation.”
“Also, I want to learn the Bible in the its original language so I have a better understanding of the Word of God and the people of God,” he added.
McCarn discussed how Jewish people can help those who come from the Hebrew Roots movement. “What I have found is that the knowledge and understanding Jews possess regarding the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and the Hebrew language in which much of it was written, is something we are sorely lacking.
“If we begin to study Hebrew (either ancient or modern) with any degree of seriousness, we will learn that the best teachers are Jews, and that we do have much that we can contribute to one another.”
Mikell Clayton, President of the Joined to Hashem Hebrew Roots ministry, sees learning Hebrew as a means to an end. “Learning Hebrew is not my focus, but rather learning Torah as the way of life given to those who desire to worship the one true Elohim (God), the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
“Since the Torah was written in Hebrew, the more familiar I can become with the language, the closer I can come to the original meaning of a life lived by Torah instructions.” Clayton encouraged Jewish people to help “in this experience of drawing near to HaShem (God) through His revealed Torah by opening their hearts to people who have open hearts.”
Jonathan Lipnick, a Biblical Hebrew professor at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, has been teaching Biblical Hebrew for years and yet says, “With all of my experience and knowledge, I still find that there is more to uncover and learn every day.” In his live video sessions with students, Lipnick reveals the meanings behind Hebrew Scriptures and texts that are completely missed when reading their translations. “Many words in Hebrew have double or even triple meanings, and when you translate a phrase, you need to choose one of those meanings. It is amazing to me every time to see my students so excited when they discover something new about scriptures they thought they knew so well.”