Medieval languages

steve51885's picture

Hi all-

I am interested in learning more about medieval ideas and wanted to know more about the languages spoken in the Holy roman empire, although it was mostly german. So far I have found out that Latin was an official language for a long time, but the last 200 years german was more dominant. I tend to think that the reformation had something to do with the language change. I don't know if I have time to learn both latin and german (or desire!), but I think that to understand what the monks were learning at that time would be invaluable to Christians. Thanks for your help!


tomgroeneman's picture

ancient languages

Your question, posted again in another thread, was a good one and I wanted to answer before so here goes. The study of languages requires a certain skill set that not all people possess to the same degree. When I studied biblical Greek and Hebrew in seminary I had already learned Spanish as a youth when my family lived in Mexico so studying a language was easier for me. If I had the time, I would add ecclesiastical Latin and German. German is the modern language of theologians and much of the corpus of biblical studies is written in German. But to start with, I would recommend Greek because that is the language of the New Testament. When I studied biblical languages in seminary I had already been a Bible reading Christian for some time but being able to read God's revelation in the original language opened up new territories in understanding God's revelation in the Bible. If you are Catholic and have some classical education, Latin would also be helpful but not necessary even though many works throughout Church history are written in Latin. Most Masses are now said in the vernacular however. Hebrew was the most fun to learn because I liked my teacher and after getting past the difficulty of the alphabet it is a very simple and beautiful language. Most of the medieval works you are probably interested in have been translated into English so unless you want to do graduate level work on the Holy Roman Empire, Latin and German are not as important as Greek and Hebrew in my view.

Tom Groeneman