It was on this day in 1722 that Judah Monis, the first publisher of a Hebrew book in New England, became a believer in Jesus as the Messiah. Three months following his conversion, Monis, considered to be an apostate by Judaism, became the instructor in Hebrew at Harvard University. And so we have two interesting features in today’s devotion: a Jewish scholar coming to believe in Christ and the fact that the oldest and most prominent university in the United States – liberal, progressive Harvard – once taught Hebrew to its students.
Few realize that, from the day it opened its doors, the study of the Hebrew language was considered to be critical by its Puritan founders. Speaking of these early Americans, one Jewish theologian said, “In America, the Congregationalists were better Hebraists than Jews.” Why was there such a fascination with Hebrew among these early Pilgrims and Puritans? Most likely it’s prompted by the same desire that sparks our interest today – the longing to better understand the Scriptures. They wanted to learn as much about the Word of God as they possibly could and believed that Hebrew provided them a key to a better understanding of the Scriptures. Upon his appointment to Harvard, Judah Monis spoke to the University president and said:
“The more acquainted the ministers of the Gospel are with the Hebrew tongue…the better able they will be to understand the New Testament.”
As you might guess, I couldn’t agree more. In fact, this same notion led me down the path I have been on for more than 30 years. So in light of topic, it seems fitting to look at a Scripture that alludes to the heart of this matter. The prophet Zephaniah wrote:
“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.” (Zephaniah 3:9)
Personally, I feel that the “pure language” will be the language of the Scriptures, that is, Hebrew. So if you haven’t started learning Hebrew yet, today’s a good day to start. And in case you’re thinking, “It’s impossible for me to learn another language,” remember what we addressed yesterday – nothing is impossible with God.