“Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.
Post Reply
cwconrad
Posts: 2109
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

“Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by cwconrad » September 14th, 2014, 7:40 am

cwconrad wrote:
Wes Wood wrote:This is something that his Basics of Biblical Morphology does not discuss, to my knowledge. I say this because I had an identical question about this ending on another second person perfect a few years ago and did not find a satisfactory answer there. I believe I must have just thought "it happens" and moved on. I had forgotten about it until your post. I fear I have become less and less aware of these types of "discrepancies."
My inclination is to blame Zondervan for this; they want to market Biblical Greek pedagogical books under the sure-sell title, "Basics of ... (X, Y, or Z)" -- and hopeful students will purchase them, find (later, rather than sooner) that the books are less helpful than they'd hoped; then they can move on to the books titled "(X,Y, or Z) Beyond the Basics," fondly hoping that all their questions about arcane Greek forms and constructions will be resolved. I'm here to tell you that those unresolved questions about arcane Greek forms and constructions are still coming at me well over 50 years since I began studying Greek.
I think that what I stated above in a thread on the verb-form κεκοπίακες in Rev. 2:3 may have been misconstrued by some readers. Let me then reformulate the substance of that comment in hope of making my intent clearer.

For one thing, I don’t really fault Zondervan for the marketing strategy I’ve described — I think it’s a good marketing strategy for selling pedagogical books in a relatively small market. The important question to consider, however, is where we draw the line between what is “basic” and what lies “beyond the basics.” A few years ago I thought that question had been finessed with the publication of Campbell’s Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. I objectied not so much to the book and its content as I did rather to calling “basic” what is an eclectic account of a subject still very much in dispute.

There are several pedagogical problems regarding teaching Biblical Greek. One obvious question is “What comes first?” The standard practice: first-declension nouns in η and present indicative active ω verbs. Wherever one starts, there are elements in the illustrative material that have to be glossed now and explained at some later time. A major problem is determining (a) what’s “basic” and what’s “beyond the basic” — what ought to be taught or learned in a “basic” course and what sequence of essential features of the language ought to be undertaken. There’s another question of pedagogical strategy regarding “regular” and “irregular” forms and usage: Do we just set forth and practice what’s “regular” and wait until it’s absolutely necessary to start discussing what’s deviant? We can’t avoid the contract verbs very long, much as we might wish to do so, but let’s put off as long as possible the μι verbs (apart from εἶναι which can’t do without). Should we talk about the optative mood in a first-year course? Which paradigms should be committed to memory, which should students be advised to consult an appendix for? More fundamentally, do we teach students what is “regular” and then, as need arises, drop lesser or greater “bombshells” of irregular forms and usage on them? For a struggling student, such repeated pedagogical “bombshells” can be like progressive stages of disillusionment to a sheltered child suddenly forced to “grow up.” For my part, I always tried to explain “regular” forms and usage as the “norms” in relation to which there were “deviants” to be encountered at a later time.

Is there a solid consensus about what’s “basic” in Biblical Greek and what should be postponed for “intermediate” or ‘advanced” study? Perhaps there is, but I don’t think it’s cut and dried.
RandallButh wrote:Over πεντήκοντα, huh? well then I'm only at Jack's τριάκοντα ἐννέα.
At least the funny forms have a place to sit between the regular ones, after all of the regular slots get filled in.
And the funny forms often have some kind of simplification analogy going on.
I quite agree with what Randall says here. I will say that recognition of verb forms in ancient Greek texts hasn’t been a problem for me since my earliest years of Greek. I think, however, that my own unusual three-year progression from NT Koine in the first year to Homer in the second year to Attic prose and verse in the third year served to alert me to the hows and whys of morphological change over the millennium or more of ancient Greek. Much of that started with my second-year fascination with Homeric verse as a repository of Greek "linguistic archaeology."
0 x


οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 14th, 2014, 8:30 am

If people want to learn Greek without so many irregular forms, while still having a useful breadth of forms / vocabulary for both understanding and expression, they could try Modern Greek. Plutarch's ἦλθον, εἶδον, ἐνίκησα is now more regularly ήλθα, είδα, ενίκησα. (Plutarch, Life of Caesar 50.2)
Last edited by Stephen Hughes on September 14th, 2014, 8:48 am, edited 2 times in total.
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
Posts: 2109
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by cwconrad » September 14th, 2014, 8:46 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:If people want to learn Greek without so many irregular forms, while still having a useful breadth of forms / vocabulary for both understanding and expression, they could try Modern Greek. Plutarch's ἦλθον, εἶδον, ἐνίκησα is now more regularly ήλθα, είδα, ενίκησα. (Plutarch, Life of Caesar 50.3.3)
Formwise that's neat, but it's still a far cry from the classic crystalline form of Caesar's Latin:
veni, vidi, vici
.
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 14th, 2014, 8:54 am

cwconrad wrote:Formwise that's neat, but it's still a far cry from the classic crystalline form of Caesar's Latin:
veni, vidi, vici
.
That's basically what Plutarch goes on to say:
Ῥωμαϊστὶ δὲ αἱ λέξεις εἰς ὅμοιον ἀπολήγουσαι σχῆμα ῥήματος οὐκ ἀπίθανον τὴν βραχυλογίαν ἔχουσιν.
In Latin, however, the words have the same inflectional ending, and so a brevity which is most impressive. (English, Bernadotte Perrin, 1919, Loeb series)
ἀπολήγουσαι (participle) - ending with, ἀπίθανον - unconvincing

I had the reference wrong there, it should be Plutarch, Life of Caesar 50.2
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Wes Wood
Posts: 692
Joined: September 20th, 2013, 8:18 pm

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Wes Wood » September 14th, 2014, 9:10 am

cwconrad wrote: For one thing, I don’t really fault Zondervan for the marketing strategy I’ve described — I think it’s a good marketing strategy for selling pedagogical books in a relatively small market. The important question to consider, however, is where we draw the line between what is “basic” and what lies “beyond the basics.” A few years ago I thought that question had been finessed with the publication of Campbell’s Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. I objectied not so much to the book and its content as I did rather to calling “basic” what is an eclectic account of a subject still very much in dispute.

There are several pedagogical problems regarding teaching Biblical Greek. One obvious question is “What comes first?” The standard practice: first-declension nouns in η and present indicative active ω verbs. Wherever one starts, there are elements in the illustrative material that have to be glossed now and explained at some later time. A major problem is determining (a) what’s “basic” and what’s “beyond the basic” — what ought to be taught or learned in a “basic” course and what sequence of essential features of the language ought to be undertaken. There’s another question of pedagogical strategy regarding “regular” and “irregular” forms and usage: Do we just set forth and practice what’s “regular” and wait until it’s absolutely necessary to start discussing what’s deviant? We can’t avoid the contract verbs very long, much as we might wish to do so, but let’s put off as long as possible the μι verbs (apart from εἶναι which can’t do without). Should we talk about the optative mood in a first-year course? Which paradigms should be committed to memory, which should students be advised to consult an appendix for? More fundamentally, do we teach students what is “regular” and then, as need arises, drop lesser or greater “bombshells” of irregular forms and usage on them? For a struggling student, such repeated pedagogical “bombshells” can be like progressive stages of disillusionment to a sheltered child suddenly forced to “grow up.” For my part, I always tried to explain “regular” forms and usage as the “norms” in relation to which there were “deviants” to be encountered at a later time.

Is there a solid consensus about what’s “basic” in Biblical Greek and what should be postponed for “intermediate” or ‘advanced” study? Perhaps there is, but I don’t think it’s cut and dried.
It is interesting that you mention Campbell's work. I bought it to help me understand where he (and others) were coming from on verbal aspect, but by then I was knowledgable enough to know that the book made presented controversial conclusions. I actually remarked to my wife that I felt the title was misleading for this reason. I was pleasantly surprised to see the author's sketch of the work of others who were involved in the debate.

I believe you have your finger on the pulse of a large problem. I now am of the opinion that most Biblical Greek primers don't adequately prepare one for reading Biblical Greek. I think the tendency to focus on New Testament forms is both a blessing and a curse. I wasn't truly prepared to encounter -mi verbs or pluperfects or *especially* the optative. I will readily admit this to be the result of my failings as a learner, but I believe most would be better served learning from less familiar readings that contain more examples from these categories. Least helpful were the texts that more or less said "here are the few examples where this occurs. Be able to figure out the form is ______________ because it isn't anything else." I am obviously exaggerating a bit here. ;)
0 x
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 14th, 2014, 9:45 am

Wes Wood wrote:I believe you have your finger on the pulse of a large problem. I now am of the opinion that most Biblical Greek primers don't adequately prepare one for reading Biblical Greek.
Without frustration, embarrassment and confusion language learning can't take place.

Those things allow one to internalise an external set of grammatical rules (which of course one could take the effort to learn). Internalisation is like joining the dots, if we come from grammar-translation paedagogy to "real" knowledge of a language. It's not only Biblical Greek, it's a normal by-product of the system. Students who learn English from watch movies or listening to the NBA before or alongside grammar have a different type of understanding, and better fluency and confidence. Besides the IELTS stuff, my major job is to take people with grammar knowledge and help them to learn to speak - Exactly what I can't do for myself in Greek!!

Making things easy (no frustration), while still requiring grammar, is a contradiction in terms, I think.
Wes Wood wrote:It is interesting that you mention Campbell's work. I bought it to help me understand where he (and others) were coming from on verbal aspect, but by then I was knowledgeable enough to know that the book made presented controversial conclusions. I actually remarked to my wife that I felt the title was misleading for this reason. I was pleasantly surprised to see the author's sketch of the work of others who were involved in the debate.
I like Dewey's idea of reading a book on every topic. Having an idea as a starting point - even if it not the best, latest or most correct - is starting point for further reading and personal discovery.

If it wasn't for that readable and affordable work, I probably wouldn't have read much about aspect besides ATR.
Wes Wood wrote: wasn't truly prepared to encounter -mi verbs or pluperfects or *especially* the optative.
The way of preparation is backwards, I think, when applied to irregulars. Irregulars are not easy to learn in tables with explanations. They are easier to learn as individualities or in phrases.

The lack of introduction to phrase / sentence forms is another major shortcoming.
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Wes Wood
Posts: 692
Joined: September 20th, 2013, 8:18 pm

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Wes Wood » September 14th, 2014, 2:37 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote: Without frustration, embarrassment and confusion language learning can't take place.

Those things allow one to internalise an external set of grammatical rules (which of course one could take the effort to learn). Internalisation is like joining the dots, if we come from grammar-translation paedagogy to "real" knowledge of a language. It's not only Biblical Greek, it's a normal by-product of the system. Students who learn English from watch movies or listening to the NBA before or alongside grammar have a different type of understanding, and better fluency and confidence. Besides the IELTS stuff, my major job is to take people with grammar knowledge and help them to learn to speak - Exactly what I can't do for myself in Greek!!

Making things easy (no frustration), while still requiring grammar, is a contradiction in terms, I think.
Certainly. I don't believe that I could learn a language without frustration. I knew I was overstating my case :lol: . More specifically it seems that certain topics in many introductory grammars are hurried and underdeveloped. I feel that some of these topics are important enough that they should receive fuller treatment. If a form is rare in Koine greek and it doesn't receive treatment, that would be one thing; but some of the verbal forms are more common enough in Koine but rare in the New Testament. In truth it is hard to determine what "basic" entails.
Stephen Hughes wrote: I like Dewey's idea of reading a book on every topic. Having an idea as a starting point - even if it not the best, latest or most correct - is starting point for further reading and personal discovery.
This is what I prefer to do when I can acquire the resources. Sometimes my greatest gains are made by attempting to understand how someone else reached a conclusion. The process has often proven helpful even if the answer or conclusion is wrong they provide is faulty.[/quote]
Stephen Hughes wrote: If it wasn't for that readable and affordable work, I probably wouldn't have read much about aspect besides ATR.


Are you meaning Campbell's or Dewey's?
Stephen Hughes wrote: The way of preparation is backwards, I think, when applied to irregulars. Irregulars are not easy to learn in tables with explanations. They are easier to learn as individualities or in phrases.

The lack of introduction to phrase / sentence forms is another major shortcoming.
I think this is an instance where adding "more difficult" concepts closer to the beginning can benefit students. I believe the reason most students are comfortable with the forms of eimi is because they have encountered them so frequently by the end of the course. It makes sense to have the most common forms near the beginning of a grammar, but other problems are generated when less frequently occurring ones are saved until nearly the end.

Introducing phrase and sentence forms at the end of the work would be a good way to do this and would teach skills that are necessary for intermediate students. The resulting book would likely be large, however, without a carefully planned curriculum.
0 x
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 17th, 2014, 12:27 pm

cwconrad [url=http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=2745&p=17254#p17254]in another thread[/url] wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:
cwconrad wrote:In particular the usage of the neuter sg. -τέος/α/ον form with an implicit ἐστίν is equivalent to impersonal verbals like ἔξεστιν and πρέπει and χρή and a host of other "idioms", recognition of which distinguishes a competent reader of Greek from a dilettante.
So now, ... do you have any suggestions for other interesting things I could learn and quote to people at social gatherings, to give people the impression that I was something of a competent reader, rather than just a tinkering dilettante in Greek?
Hmmm .... Do you perhaps mean something to use as a sermon illustration? Isn't that what more of those fraudulently claiming to read Greek within our experience do? Now you're raising a broader question: should we distinguish between "big Greeks" and "little Greeks" or rather between "Big Dilettantes" and "Little Dilettantes"?
I don't preach and a good thing too. Imagine how many Sunday lunches would be burnt by the time I got finished speaking. Perhaps only the North American Native Indians would have the patience to sit and listen for that long. Actually, I was thinking of saying that over tea and cakes after the service or some other event involving food. Perhaps even colleagues asking me the time of day.

In terms of where to divide the "Big Dilettantes" from the "Little Dilettantes" on a scale ranging from a passable reader, to a capable, and on to a competent, and then finally an accomplished reader, I would say that passable (and below) would be "Little", and the rest "Big".

In terms of how the terminology has evolved to in this thread, the question could now be, What would you suggest that a competent dilettante should try to master?
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

cwconrad
Posts: 2109
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by cwconrad » September 17th, 2014, 1:18 pm

cwconrad wrote:... a host of other "idioms", recognition of which distinguishes a competent reader of Greek from a dilettante.
Stephen Hughes wrote:So now, ... do you have any suggestions for other interesting things I could learn and quote to people at social gatherings, to give people the impression that I was something of a competent reader, rather than just a tinkering dilettante in Greek?
cwconrad wrote:... should we distinguish between "big Greeks" and "little Greeks" or rather between "Big Dilettantes" and "Little Dilettantes"?
Stephen Hughes wrote:In terms of where to divide the "Big Dilettantes" from the "Little Dilettantes" on a scale ranging from a passable reader, to a capable, and on to a competent, and then finally an accomplished reader, I would say that passable (and below) would be "Little", and the rest "Big".

In terms of how the terminology has evolved to in this thread, the question could now be, What would you suggest that a competent dilettante should try to master?
Well, when you put it that way, I'm inclined to think that some of the old, old assessments of difficult reading might still be useful: If I were a really competent dilettante, I think I might very likely feel comfortable while reading Aeschylus (apart from the Prometheus, which is relatively so easy that it's hard to believe Aeschylus wrote it) or Pindar or Thucydidean speeches (Thucydidean narrative is not nearly so difficult). Philo is right up there too. It's all a matter of what we'd hope to be able to read when we grow up.
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3323
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: “Basic” and “Beyond Basic” in Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Hughes » September 18th, 2014, 10:25 am

cwconrad wrote: If I were a really competent dilettante, I think I might very likely feel comfortable while reading Aeschylus (apart from the Prometheus, which is relatively so easy that it's hard to believe Aeschylus wrote it) or Pindar or Thucydidean speeches (Thucydidean narrative is not nearly so difficult). Philo is right up there too. It's all a matter of what we'd hope to be able to read when we grow up.
D' you mean sight reading without aids? I watched a performance of Electra (I think, perhaps Medea) performed in Modern Greek translation and could follow it along as well as I could. But I'm not sure I could do much with one in the original. The ones you mentioned are right up there.

I think for the moment, at least, I'll be stuck at tinkering dilettante level.
0 x
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Post Reply