Friday, November 12, 2010

Needing Advice on Preparing for Seminary

I am in the process of thinking about my own call to Pastoral leadership in the PCA and have been prayerfully considering attending Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson beginning in the summer of 2012. In anticipation of a potential leap into an MDiv program, I have begun meeting with my pastor on a regular basis and preparing myself. Here are the tasks I have set for myself as I plunge ahead into the next year and a half:

1. Greek. It is best to prepare in light of your own weaknesses, and this is probably going to be my weakest area. In preparation for learning Greek, I am memorizing Greek vocabulary words using Basics of Biblical Greek Vocabulary Cards. There are a thousand words in the deck for me to memorize, and I'm 50 words in, now. What I really appreciate about these cards in particular is that each day as I leave the house for work, I can stash ten of them in my wallet and pull them out during lulls in my day and review them.

For the next year, I am going to keep going through the deck and getting these words down. This is because I am a doofus when it comes to learning other languages, and I know, for a fact, that I will learn these vocab words way slower than everyone else around me. The fact that I took beginning Greek in my undergraduate studies helped, but the fact that I got a D- does not. Learning Greek and Hebrew will be my Achilles heel, so I know that I need to give myself a head start.

2. Reading. I have set for myself three tasks when it comes to digesting theology, which I will need prior to entering RTS. First, I am committed to completing Calvin's Institutes. Second, I am going to finish reading Vos' Biblical Theology. Finally, I am going to work my way through Miles Van Pelt's book English Grammar to Ace Biblical Hebrew, which was recommended to me by Josh Walker. If I can have these three books completed, and a thousand Greek words memorized, my hope is that I will have a head start and be able to enjoy my time of learning instead of dreading it. I want to read Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics, and I do own the set, but it is so big, and I read so slowly that I am certain I won't be able to finish it all before 2012. I read far too slowly and methodically to get there that quickly. But that's probably what I will aim for if I finish the other three.

What I would like to know is, from others who have been there and done that, what are the things that you wish you had done before entering Seminary in order to prepare yourselves for what was ahead?


  1. It's not a bad idea to try to get a leg up on Greek, no doubt. However, most of the books you are going to need to read are going to be assigned to you in class. I'm going to follow T. David Gordon here and recommend that you do some serious reading in English literature. It is amazing how many guys can parse Greek verbs but cannot understand plain English, or write in good English. You need to get a good feel for how the English language works, how to construct trains of thought that will not derail. Read Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Austen, Walter Scott, etc. My two cents.

  2. Adam,

    Whoever has been preparing you for entering seminary is on the spot. Nothing will prepare you more than learning the biblical languages and reading widely.

    The only other advice I would give you for learning Greek or Hebrew is to sit down every other day and translate through a selected book. This will help you develop a sense of the author's unique style as well as learn the vocabulary in a more concrete manner.

  3. Having gone to RTS-J I can assure you that just as much emphasis is put on Hebrew as Greek (unless things have changed in the last few years). I would encourage you to pick up some Hebrew cards also. It seems like more of us struggled through Hebrew than Greek, and both are required. Also, based on your blog, I don't believe you when you say you are a slow reader :), but if you are, being proactive in learning to read faster would be to your advantage. A good way to do that is to practice with good literature. I dig what Lane is saying but would point out the added advantage of increasing reading speed.

  4. Well, Kevin, it depends on what I'm reading. If it's a Piper book, I can fly through it. If it's a Sherlock Holmes story, I can toast it in no time at all. If it's Bavinck... well, I've owned the 4 book set for two months and am only a hundred pages in. It just takes time to digest. So when I say I'm a slow reader, I really mean that I'm a 'careful' reader.

  5. That's what I suspected. Oh Bavinck, what a jewell. I found that many theological works that were originally written in Dutch required a very similar reading speed. I know they are brilliant and are saying some profound things, but I always wondered if it wouldn't be easier to learn Dutch and read them in their original rather than trying to figure out some of the linguistic anomalies that seem to result from translation. It is really not an unattractive proposition. Sometimes reading the Dutch guys made me think that George Lucas wrote all of Yoda's lines in Dutch and had them translated.

  6. Check out my book for those going into seminary, "Surviving and Thriving in Seminary"


Before posting please read our Comment Policy here.

Think hard about this: the world is watching!