Question about taking college courses

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.
Austin Dixon
Posts: 4
Joined: December 30th, 2014, 5:18 pm

Question about taking college courses

Post by Austin Dixon » December 30th, 2014, 5:43 pm

I have an interest in learning koine greek; I often use greek lexicons and word studies when I'm studying the bible, but for a long time I have wanted to properly learn the language so I can read straight from a gnt. I have virtually no knowledge of the language as-of-yet (besides a few memorized words and alphabet), so I am trying to decide now what the best method of learning might be.

I work for a university and have the option of free college courses as a work perk, so if I want to I can take classes in classical greek and then teach myself biblical greek. Or I could skip the classes and just go straight to teaching myself (I've taught myself seven computer programming languages, so I have some propensity for self-teaching).

How would you suggest I start? And I understand the subjectiveness of this question, but how much study does it typically take before one could straight read passages of scripture without turning to a lexicon for help?

Jonathan Robie
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Location: Durham, NC
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Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 31st, 2014, 3:13 pm

Welcome to B-Greek, Austin!

I would definitely take the classical Greek classes, if you can read classical Attic, Koine will not be hard for you, and it is much easier to learn with a teacher.

The best way to start is to work through a grammar, perhaps Funk's Grammar, use the workbook, and read Greek for at least 15 - 30 minutes/day, beginning with a simple book like 1 John.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Austin Dixon
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Joined: December 30th, 2014, 5:18 pm

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Austin Dixon » December 31st, 2014, 3:55 pm

Ok, I didn't realize it before, but looking around the university website I found out that they offer two separate programs: classical greek and modern greek. Which would likely be more helpful as a launching point to learn koine?

Thomas Dolhanty
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Location: west coast of Canada

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » December 31st, 2014, 4:11 pm

I agree with Jonathan, Austin. I learned Koine Greek on my own, by necessity, and now read the Greek NT quite well. However, I find that I lost a lot of time doing things the hard way, and I am still 'filling in' where my grammar is lacking.

I actually am teaching a bright group of lay folks first year Greek right now, and I wish I had learned it as they are. Not only do they have the benefit of my mistakes, but maybe even more important, the energy of the class really helps to carry you through. Of course there are teachers and there are teachers; and there are classes and there are classes. It is hard to do it well on your own, though, and will never be as effective as doing it with a good teacher and keen classmates.
γράφω μαθεῖν

Jonathan Robie
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Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
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Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Jonathan Robie » December 31st, 2014, 6:00 pm

Austin Dixon wrote:Ok, I didn't realize it before, but looking around the university website I found out that they offer two separate programs: classical greek and modern greek. Which would likely be more helpful as a launching point to learn koine?
Classical. Definitely classical.

Also: I really like Alpheios as a reading environment for reading Greek texts. It currently works only in the Firefox browser. Installation instructions here.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 31st, 2014, 10:44 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Austin Dixon wrote:Ok, I didn't realize it before, but looking around the university website I found out that they offer two separate programs: classical greek and modern greek. Which would likely be more helpful as a launching point to learn koine?
Classical. Definitely classical.
Yeah, Modern Greek is too different.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 1st, 2015, 5:20 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
Austin Dixon wrote:Ok, I didn't realize it before, but looking around the university website I found out that they offer two separate programs: classical greek and modern greek. Which would likely be more helpful as a launching point to learn koine?
Classical. Definitely classical.
Yeah, Modern Greek is too different.
Classical and New Testament Greek are burdensome and boring to learn, with many long and unsavoury hours of mind-numbingly repetitive and seemingly up-hill learning with the majority of your inter-personal interaction being trying to understand the thoughts of those long since dead. It requires personal sacrifice, dedication and application to the task. But after you've done that, it is good to be able to pick up a Greek New Testament and read. If you use Classical Greek as your "launching point" you will be learning what you want to learn and you won't need to study further, but you will also need to learn to study despite the frustration and lack positive personal feedback. Learning only Classical Greek will allow you to read the New Testament, but it will look a little weird (and badly written) to you. The overhead will be that 20% of the grammar and 60% of the vocabulary that you will learn will not occur in the New Testament.

Modern Greek is fun and interactive, it is the language of a living breathing society and you can have real interaction with your teacher and classmates, using at first simple, but never-the-less real, language. The thought-world and values expressed in the texts you will read are modern and European, so you will be able to more easily intuit meanings of Greek words. While many of the things you will learn in vocabulary are applicable to your reading of the New Testament, the grammar - both inflection, sentence words and narrative construction techniques - is really different. If you use Modern Greek as a "launching point", the learning will be much easier, but you will have to actually learn Ancient Greek later on too. Learning only Modern Greek will not allow you to read the New Testament - you will see many familiar things, but will be unable to put together the meaning of even one entire sentence in the text. The overhead is that most of the Grammar that you learn will only be a little similar to the grammar that you will find in the New Testament and the vocabulary that you learn outside of the field that is broadly termed "the humanities (inc. religion)" consists of loan-words and forms of words that are so far developed from their ancient forms that you will not be able to recognise them. It will also cost you a year's delay.

Those things being stated, what it really comes down to is you the learner. If the arduousness of learning Classical Greek seems now or later turns out to be greater than your initial stamina and naive enthusiasm can either put up with or overlook, then I suggest you could do a very basic course in Modern Greek (there will be some issues with pronunciation, but they are not insurmountable) to get some familiarity with the language as a language for your daily life, your memories and your dreams, THEN (return) to class--ical Greek as language you will only ever read and discuss in class.

Most learners don't have a choice, and sad to say, the vast majority of those who study classical and New Testament Greek don't continue to anything that even remotely resembles (even reading) "mastery" of the language.

If you do have to (or are lucky enough to be able to) make a decision, then the choice depends on your personality and the learning styles you are comfortable with.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Barry Hofstetter
Posts: 998
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 1:48 pm

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 1st, 2015, 9:28 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Classical and New Testament Greek are burdensome and boring to learn, with many long and unsavoury hours of mind-numbingly repetitive and seemingly up-hill learning with the majority of your inter-personal interaction being trying to understand the thoughts of those long since dead. It requires personal sacrifice, dedication and application to the task. But after you've done that, it is good to be able to pick up a Greek New Testament and read. If you use Classical Greek as your "launching point" you will be learning what you want to learn and you won't need to study further, but you will also need to learn to study despite the frustration and lack positive personal feedback. Learning only Classical Greek will allow you to read the New Testament, but it will look a little weird (and badly written) to you. The overhead will be that 20% of the grammar and 60% of the vocabulary that you will learn will not occur in the New Testament.

Modern Greek is fun and interactive, it is the language of a living breathing society and you can have real interaction with your teacher and classmates, using at first simple, but never-the-less real, language. The thought-world and values expressed in the texts you will read are modern and European, so you will be able to more easily intuit meanings of Greek words. While many of the things you will learn in vocabulary are applicable to your reading of the New Testament, the grammar - both inflection, sentence words and narrative construction techniques - is really different. If you use Modern Greek as a "launching point", the learning will be much easier, but you will have to actually learn Ancient Greek later on too. Learning only Modern Greek will not allow you to read the New Testament - you will see many familiar things, but will be unable to put together the meaning of even one entire sentence in the text. The overhead is that most of the Grammar that you learn will only be a little similar to the grammar that you will find in the New Testament and the vocabulary that you learn outside of the field that is broadly termed "the humanities (inc. religion)" consists of loan-words and forms of words that are so far developed from their ancient forms that you will not be able to recognise them. It will also cost you a year's delay.

Those things being stated, what it really comes down to is you the learner. If the arduousness of learning Classical Greek seems now or later turns out to be greater than your initial stamina and naive enthusiasm can either put up with or overlook, then I suggest you could do a very basic course in Modern Greek (there will be some issues with pronunciation, but they are not insurmountable) to get some familiarity with the language as a language for your daily life, your memories and your dreams, THEN (return) to class--ical Greek as language you will only ever read and discuss in class.

Most learners don't have a choice, and sad to say, the vast majority of those who study classical and New Testament Greek don't continue to anything that even remotely resembles (even reading) "mastery" of the language.

If you do have to (or are lucky enough to be able to) make a decision, then the choice depends on your personality and the learning styles you are comfortable with.
I can only speak from my own experience. I started with classical Greek, and it certainly required effort, but it was neither arduous nor burdensome, but like Jacob's 14 years of labor for Rachel, seemed trivial compared to the goal. And I heartily disagree -- in my time especially as an undergrad Classics major, I knew several modern Greek speakers who interacted with our courses, especially "easy" ones such as the NT or Xenophon. They fared no better and no worse than we who had started our study of the language only a few semesters prior. The one or two students of them who did the best were students who had been through the classical track of education in Greece and had taken their study of the language seriously. In other words, to read ancient Greek with understanding, they had to study it as a foreign language. The simple truth is that the study of modern Greek no better prepares you for the study of ancient Greek than the study of modern English prepares you to read old English:

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;Si þin nama gehalgod to becume þin rice gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg and forgyf us ure gyltas swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge ac alys us of yfele soþlice...
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
ἐγὼ δὲ διδάσκω τε καὶ γράφω ἵνα τὰ ἀξιώτερα μανθάνω

Austin Dixon
Posts: 4
Joined: December 30th, 2014, 5:18 pm

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Austin Dixon » January 1st, 2015, 10:29 am

Most learners don't have a choice, and sad to say, the vast majority of those who study classical and New Testament Greek don't continue to anything that even remotely resembles (even reading) "mastery" of the language.
Should I take this to mean that learning the language well enough to pick-up and read a Greek bible is not very obtainable, or that it will take decades of study? I realize that I'm not going to ever be considered a Greek scholar, but being able to read the New Testament is the only goal that would motivate me to take the time and effort to learn.

Stephen Hughes
Posts: 3332
Joined: February 26th, 2013, 7:12 am

Re: Question about taking college courses

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 1st, 2015, 11:44 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:The simple truth is that the study of modern Greek no better prepares you for the study of ancient Greek than the study of modern English prepares you to read old English:

Fæder ure þu þe eart on heofonum;Si þin nama gehalgod to becume þin rice gewurþe ðin willa on eorðan swa swa on heofonum. urne gedæghwamlican hlaf syle us todæg and forgyf us ure gyltas swa swa we forgyfað urum gyltendum and ne gelæd þu us on costnunge ac alys us of yfele soþlice...
My (brief) study of Old English seems to have done little to prepare me to read / pray in Old English either :o :oops:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:I started with classical Greek, and it certainly required effort, but it was neither arduous nor burdensome, but like Jacob's 14 years of labor for Rachel, seemed trivial compared to the goal.
Did it require a greater amount of work than other course that you took? I found it a lot of rote learning and many, many hours of preparing texts for class (maybe 3 or 6 hours preparation for 1 hour of class). Only history subjects, with their great swathes of readings required so much time, but even then not the same effort.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

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