15 Nov 2019

Scholars In the Bible, the Servants of God: A Thanksgiving

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Bobby's World, Church, Culture, Discipleship, Reading, Spiritual Disciplines

It is not uncommon to find learning and scholarship put down in some quarters of the church. The mantra rings out, “You do not have to be a scholar to understand the Bible.” “Scholars just mess us up.”

It may be true that one does not have to be a scholar to read the Bible in English (but there are in fact difficult things in the Bible). But it is true that God used scholars to write the Bible.

Some may be surprised that the biblical narrative is loaded with some fairly amazing and sophisticated scholars. Yes, bona fide scholars. Women and men who, in their day, were among the most educated people of their day. They were scholars with a love for the Creator God, the God of Israel. The flame of love flowed in, and through, them. They practiced the Shema by loving the Lord with their mind (Deut 6.4/Mt 22.37).

Who are they? Here is a sampling but is hardly exhaustive.

+ Moses, the Prince of Egypt is second to none in the realm of scholarship. He received a massive royal education. He had mastered all the wisdom and knowledge of Egypt. “And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7.22). His humility and love for the people is equally renown.

+ Solomon, was a man endowed with thirst for knowledge. The son of the victimized Bathsheba loomed in his psyche, he begged the God of Israel to help him be a wise and just ruler. The book in the spirit of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, tells us that he pursued every avenue of wisdom and knowledge. Yes, God granted him knowledge but he also had to exercise his brain. And he did so. The sages of Israel followed Solomon’s example and were students of the knowledge and wisdom from the world around them. However, Solomon, like many, often did not live in line with wisdom.

+ Song of Song’s Woman. I belong to the ever growing crowd of folks that believe a woman wrote the Song of Songs (a female speaks about 70% of the book). Song of Songs is, hands down, the most challenging Hebrew in the Bible. This woman (or if it was a man) had an immense command of the Hebrew language. I think she is inspired by Lady Wisdom that shows up in Proverbs 1-9 and 31. Lady Wisdom does not believe that ignorance is a fruit of the Spirit. In my opinion, only Isaiah of Jerusalem and the NT’s Hebrews Preacher can rival this Woman’s sophistication in the use of language.

+ Isaiah the Prophet. Years ago (about 1992ish) I was in a Hebrew readings class with Dr. James Smith and he referred to Isaiah as “the beast.” By that he meant that Isaiah was extremely complex, and the prophet had memorized the now long lost Hebrew thesaurus! Isaiah, like Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel, was a priest for starters. He was already trained in God’s word. But he was a master of cultural world of his day. If vocabulary is any indication of a person’s educational attainment then Isaiah was in fact a Harvard Ph.D. and editor, along with the Song of Songs woman, of the Jerusalem Unabridged Hebrew Dictionary.

+ Daniel. If there ever was a scholar on the face of this planet it was Daniel. After Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Jerusalem, he directed that the cream of the crop of leaders should be taken to Babylon. So men who were already masters of knowledge and “versed in all wisdom” (1.4-5) were to be taken to Babylon. In Babylon, Daniel was enrolled in a three year Ph.D program (1.5) where he was to master the “language and literature of the Babylonians.” So as the vision suggests later in 10.17, Daniel set his mind to master and learn all the knowledge and become skilled in even dreams (long before Freud!!). Daniel was the scholar among scholars in the book of Daniel. Yet he was humble and kind and loved God with all his heart.

+ Saul, aka Paul the apostle. I struggle with who would win a game of chess, Moses or Paul. Paul was a walking Concordance and had the Bible memorized (as most rabbis did). But Paul sat at the feet of Gamaliel the renowned rabbi of his day. This is like going to Oxford or Harvard today. It’s like a physicist saying Stephen Hawking was his PhD supervisor. Paul can quote, with ease, Epimenides, Aratus, Epimenides, and Menander in the pages of the NT reveals that Saul was one educated “dude” (to quote from Ted).

+ The Hebrews Preacher. The Hebrews Preacher, like the Song of Songs Woman or Isaiah, has the most amazing Greek of the NT. His (or her) style is elevated in the same way as reading Shakespeare next to the newspaper. The Preacher has a firm grasp of Greek rhetoric and uses it brilliantly. Yet the Preacher also is the master of Jewish traditions from the Septuagint to the Maccabees and Wisdom of Solomon. Once again if Isaiah’s vocabulary is an indication of his education then so is the Hebrew’s Preacher who even makes Paul look almost common.

+ Luke the famous Doctor. Luke was a highly educated man. Scholars today debate if he was an ethnic Gentile or at least a God-fearer (or proselyte). Along with the Hebrews Preacher he has the most sophisticated Greek in the NT, a person who lived in two worlds at once, a Greek world and a Jewish world. He can write in a brilliant “biblical” manner (copying the LXX) to make his writings have a “biblical” aura about them. He is the master of historical and theological detail and can siphon echoes from Genesis to Judith to the Prayer of Manasseh.

We may be surprised by how many scholars there are in Scripture. Even the Twelve were in a three year master of divinity program with the master Rabbi himself, Jesus. And after the resurrection Rabbi Jesus took them once again through a 40 day graduate seminar in the Hebrew Bible.

These women and men were servants first and foremost of the King. Servant and knowledge were not, and are not, antitheses.

I do not ask God why he sent some brilliant women and men as his servants. I am just glad he did. Can we imagine a Bible without Moses, Solomon, Song of Songs, Saul/Paul, Hebrews and Luke-Acts?? What a different Bible it would be.


I am grateful for women and men who, like Daniel, have dedicated their lives to mastering the language and literature so most of us can even read the Bible in English. Every time we open an English Bible we should say a prayer of grateful thanksgiving to the Lord.

I personally have been the recipient of amazing teaching by amazing scholars. I praise God for every single one. Each one has shown me what it means to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, strength and “mind.” I am a better servant of my Lord because of them.

True scholarship is simply recognizing that “I” am not sufficient in myself. That “I’ need help because what I know and have experienced is not nearly sufficient. Scholarship it would seem, by definition, confesses its inadequacy and that is why it seeks other’s input and wisdom from the “get go.”

2 Responses to “Scholars In the Bible, the Servants of God: A Thanksgiving”

  1. Ray Hawk Says:

    Thanks for your comments.

  2. Ed Dodds Says:

    RE: a person who lived in two worlds at once – if you think about the heyday of the SCM it was when scholars influenced by European higher education were on the frontiers of a new nation (see also many other denominational groupings). Wycliff, Tyndale, etc. were inspirations to those leaders — translating theological world views. With the help of the Holy Spirit [might works, signs, wonders] the NT records as evangelistic / missiological activity as primarily preaching and teaching [though not necessarily paid]. Paul saw himself as reaching the Genesis “Table of Nations” nations with the announcement that the times of ignorant idol (shedim) worship were over because there was a new King of Kings / Lord of Lords in town. (Shades of Jonah). He apparently trained his disciples to do the same and to do battle with powers and principalities in the heavenlies. USAers are materialistic scientific humanists living in a supernatural henotheistic world — the Reign of God work is about challenging folks re: their national allegiances (among others) and moving it toward the King of Kings. Economics, sociology, missiology, linguistics, philosophy, cultural archeology, computer sciences (#DigitalHumanities), etc. inform this process. Watchman Nee discovered that God delights in using migration as an evangelist tool, moving his prophethood of believers (1 Chron. 16) to and fro, and shaking the nations in judgment after they neglect the teachings of the prophets either raised up from within them or sent to them. Paul also emphasized building meaningful communities to meet the needs of those in need (and some global contribution carrying precedents). Church groups that realize and implement these truths will grow and be persecuted.

Leave a Reply