Blunders and blessings of learning Greek and Hebrew
Many students will tell you that Greek and Hebrew are some of the hardest classes offered at CAPA.
“Greek has been exciting to learn but difficult to grasp,” said Abel Sauti-Phiri, who is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at CAPA. “Lots of concepts and to memorize vocabulary, that’s my greatest challenge. But I don’t want to give up.”
But students will also say that those same classes are some of the most rewarding ones offered at CAPA. Take, for example, Julius Malewezi, who graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2018.
“Yeah, my favorite class now is Greek,” said Julius after two years of Greek. “My professor has indicated to me that I have improved so much. So the subject that was not favorite [but] fearful ... later [turned out] to be my best subject.”
For some students, Greek and Hebrew are actually the very reason they came to CAPA in the first place. Although Malawi has multiple Bible-centered universities, few of them offer courses in Greek and Hebrew at the same level CAPA does.
So, although learning the biblical languages can be intimidating, many students said they see value in them in how they bolster biblical interpretation.
“Greek has helped me to see the Scriptures the way they were given originally, because most of the [other] translations we are using—the English versions, different versions—they are different,” said Patrick Tsiga, a Master of Divinity graduate. “But when you are going to the Greek, there are certain things that they don’t show up in English versions, but you see them when you’re doing Greek.”
The story of Stanford
Stanford Kapanda was of many students who came into the Master of Divinity program unprepared for the rigors of Greek.
“The moment I entered into class, and I saw some letters, scratches,” Stanford recalled. “I said, ‘Wow! Am I going to manage to learn these things?’ I did not hesitate but to go back to the president of the school, [Jim Ayres]. I said to him, ‘Mr. President, I’m dropping out.’”
Stanford revealed his intention to withdraw from CAPA in a letter. After Jim received it, he met with Stanford under a mango tree to discuss Stanford’s future at CAPA.
“To his dismay, I did not accept the letter, but rather told him that he didn’t have to be good, just faithful,” Jim wrote in one of his newsletters as he recounted the incident.
Stanford decided to stay for the year. Then he stayed for the next. And the next.
At the end of his third year, he graduated as a part of CAPA’s first Master of Divinity class.
“After going through it, learning here and there, I have realized that learning these two subjects have helped us, especially Greek, to know more about the New Testament, and Hebrew, to know more about the Old Testament,” Stanford said at a graduation dinner.
Shortly after receiving his degree, Stanford had the opportunity at a pastor’s conference to demonstrate how much he had grown in his Greek understanding since the day Jim confronted him under the mango tree.
A speaker was trying to make a point using Greek, but Stanford recognized that it was incorrect. He raised his hand and gently corrected the speaker. The speaker then acknowledged his mistake and invited Stanford to prepare a small message for the following morning. Stanford accepted the invitation.
Stanford gathered with other CAPA alumni that were with him and, together, they created a sermon outline from a passage in the Bible using the Greek knowledge they acquired while at CAPA.
Jim recounted the incident in another one of his newsletters.
“The next morning, the original speaker was so encouraged by Stanford’s message that he gave an open invitation to anyone else who wanted to give a devotional the following morning. However, no one else dared to volunteer because they could not handle the text the way Stanford did,” Jim said. “Instead, everyone wanted to know where he had learned to preach like that.”
From this incident, we see that Stanford not only grew in his academic understanding of Greek but also in how to use that academic understanding for a greater purpose—glorifying God through the proper interpretation of Scripture. And he was able to use that proper interpretation to preach truth to that pastor’s conference, and we trust that he is doing the same at his church in Malawi.
“After reaching this far, I am no longer the same. I am changed Kapanda,” Stanford said. “And my church is no longer the same. Every elder at my church, they practice expository preaching.”
We praise God that Jim shepherded Stanford under that mango tree, convincing him to stay at CAPA. But, beyond just being thankful for Jim’s efforts, we’re also incredibly grateful to all the supporters out there who donated to CAPA. Without their generous gifts, students like Stanford would not have the financial means necessary to complete their degrees.
“I mean, I couldn’t manage to pay for the master’s class,” Stanford said. “It’s very, very expensive, but I have seen the providence of God in that [financial supporters] stand with us right away from America, supporting us and supporting our school and here I am, and we pay very little. So in so doing, I can say, indeed God is God of providence.”
To Stanford, our financial supporters are an answer to prayer.
There are still many students now enrolled at CAPA who require that same financial help. If you would like to support students like Stanford, please consider making a financial donation here. You can also support CAPA by reading through our prayer requests and praying for us.