Confidence in the Grammar

Stephen Hughes
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Stephen Hughes » January 26th, 2015, 5:12 am

Wes Wood wrote:I would start with Koine Greek outside of the Bible itself. My primary reasons for this, and these two are by no means exhaustive, would be that you can avoid the interactions that will occur if you translate familiar Bible passages, and you can develop an appreciation for terms that have broader usage than are frequently considered while translating the New Testament as a novice.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:I am so familiar with the text in either language that its hard to separate predisposition from direct experience.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Soon be time for Joesphus and Philo and Epictetus!
I would agree with you that to move on from where you are at they would be good Koine authours.
I agree with Stephen Hughes that if I were to design an approach to learn "Biblical Greek" I would start with Koine Greek outside of the Bible itself.
As good an idea as it is, it is not going to sell. Young people are driven and open to change, that is no different in the Church. From their (maybe not still your at 30) point of view the middle aged are in a rut, and the elderly are some between dotage and an escape (speaking generally of course). Of course, from the middle aged's point of view they getting better / more practiced / comfortable at what they do. Mark Twain's 14 - 21 is similar to 1st to 4th year of seminary for some. Point being, if someone has a head full of idealism and "I'm going to learn Greek to read the New Testament" and he is offered a beginners' textbook based on a mixture between the easy reading works of Longinus, Chariton and Achilles Tatius and the works you have mentioned, how's that going to go down? Anyway, you can imagine for yourself the reactions. The "crises" of faith that usually beset theological students as the small ideas they have suddenly become larger than they can personally handle or even relate to would perhaps for some be mirrored in the expansion / realisation of the extent of the horizon of Greek.

From hindsight we have, we might be able to see that the Gospel narrative (story) is really quite close to the popular novel, and that the teaching (asides in the narrative context) are similar to some degree in style to philosophical dialogue that we could draw from Epictetus. And we see that a good preparation for reading the Acts would have been Philo and Josephus. Of course there is no reason to not include New Testament passages in that as well. For further exploration there is a whole gamut of Classical literature to bring students to a mature (educated) status in their Greek. But from the point of view of a beginner with a zeal to read THE book ..... I don't know if many could be convinced easily. Given the options, "Do you want to struggle with Greek for a while, then pick up the New Testament and read with some fluency OR Do you want to struggle with the New Testament and eventually gain some fluency in reading that work?", I don't know how students would decide.

To add the dimension that they would be taught in Greek to as large an extent as possible would seem reasonable to some and way out there to others. But that would be a normal thing in most other language instruction senarios.
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cwconrad
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by cwconrad » January 26th, 2015, 9:34 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:From hindsight we have, we might be able to see that the Gospel narrative (story) is really quite close to the popular novel, and that the teaching (asides in the narrative context) are similar to some degree in style to philosophical dialogue that we could draw from Epictetus. And we see that a good preparation for reading the Acts would have been Philo and Josephus. Of course there is no reason to not include New Testament passages in that as well. For further exploration there is a whole gamut of Classical literature to bring students to a mature (educated) status in their Greek. But from the point of view of a beginner with a zeal to read THE book ..... I don't know if many could be convinced easily. Given the options, "Do you want to struggle with Greek for a while, then pick up the New Testament and read with some fluency OR Do you want to struggle with the New Testament and eventually gain some fluency in reading that work?", I don't know how students would decide.
It may be that we're overgeneralizing about young people undertaking their first study of Biblical Greek. There are the autodidacts like Wes Wood and the younger Thomas Dolhanty, there are the seminary students confronted with Mounce, or preferably with Decker's new primer, or (God forbid!) Machen. I suppose there are still some Bible colleges that teach NT Koine (Missouri Synod Lutheran colleges, I think, still do Greek and Latin classics whole!). Of course there are those who are learning Greek with the fundamental objective of reading (i.e. translating!) the GNT. Success will depend upon how bright they are, how intent they are upon gaining their objective, and in general on their "grit and determination." Probably not many -- if any at all -- will think of learning the language as an end in itself, although it just possibly should be so learned. In olden days(! really? maybe) liberal arts schools offered courses of language study and courses in history for the value of these disciplines as expanding students' grasp of what it is to be human. "It doesn't matter", they said, "whether you study French history or American history or Roman history; you study history in order to better understand the ways in which human societies interact to their own detriment and improvement. And it doesn't matter which language you study; you should learn enough of it to acquire a sense of what it is like to think in the thought-patterns of a different culture. You should study some kind of history and some kind of language in order to expand your own cramped and naive cultural horizons." That really was a fantastic dream notion of liberal education -- once upon a time. There's something to be said, however (and I'm trying to say it) for learning Greek (Homeric, Attic, Koine, Byzantine, Medieval, Katharevousa, Demotic -- any or all of these) for its own sake, in order to become acquainted with "the language and its speakers." I guess such students are exceedingly rare -- and God knows they are an unaffordable luxury in the cramped educational economy of our era, but just imagine: a non-Machiavellian aspiration to learn Greek without an ulterior motive!
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Carl W. Conrad
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 26th, 2015, 3:52 pm

cwconrad wrote:Of course there are those who are learning Greek with the fundamental objective of reading (i.e. translating!) the GNT.
If this is to be understood as saying ‘the only possibility for those who read just the GNT is “translating”’, I think it’s too narrow. To be sure, that is not what is says, but that does seem to be what is implied. My comments assume that to be the case.

That one either commands a relatively full range (vocabulary, varied usage, idioms and idiosyncrasies, subtleties/nuances, etc.) of the language or else must “translate” I find to be a false dichotomy. Without doubt the 138, 000 Greek words of NA27, represents a small corpus opposite the 503,000 of War and Peace, and one would rather at least talk about the 699,000 of the Greek Bible. Still, even with the 138,000, if one is well studied in the Greek text I don’t think he is bound just to “translate”

“Translate” I understand to mean that the reader simply relates every Greek word, or words, or construction(s) to the ‘parallel’ English word or words or construction(s). “Translate” suggests to me the idea of “glosses in little dictionaries”. But surely if one is well versed in the GNT, and reads it daily, and meditates on the Greek text of certain passages against the Greek text of certain other passages – even within the 138,000 word corpus – and seeks to expand his grasp of what is being said by reference to something grander than “little dictionaries” – surely this one is doing something more than “translating”. He is doing something more than simply decoding the Greek word against a thin gloss.

If he is diligent, he is accessing the reflections of the ‘masters’ through works like BDAG etc. and is applying that to his growing understanding of the Greek Bible. He is thinking more and more in the language and the constructions of his 138,000 word narrative. I do not say he has all of the scope of the Greek scholar, but guess what – I suggest he can have MORE scope in some manner and in some usages because he is (likely) giving greater attention to a smaller corpus. The idea that this one is only able to “translate” I find to be an unfortunate portrayal.
Success will depend upon how bright they are, how intent they are upon gaining their objective, and in general on their "grit and determination."
True for some, like Wes and me, but too limited as a generalization. There are many, and I’m certainly not just speaking about young people, who will succeed if they have the right guidance and the right encouragement, and the wisdom of those who have gone before as a model. Not all are pioneers. Many, I find, have all the grey matter and the ‘grit’ needed, but a different character set than the pioneers, and they need to climb the mountain by established trails and with a guide. I think of one person I am teaching right now who is smarter than me by half – a very bright guy (Must be, right? He's smarter than me!) and an accomplished individual in a demanding profession. But he needs a ‘teacher’ to help him along the way, and if he is to succeed eminently, he needs help in choosing the “good way” and avoiding the “by-way”. I believe there are many like this. I am teaching another very capable individual who set out on his own 20 years ago, and got quite far, but eventually became discouraged. That seems to be quite common, and I am convinced that many of these would have succeeded with the right encouragement and direction. Even better study materials, I believe, would have made a difference.
There's something to be said, however (and I'm trying to say it) for learning Greek (Homeric, Attic, Koine, Byzantine, Medieval, Katharevousa, Demotic -- any or all of these) for its own sake, in order to become acquainted with "the language and its speakers." I guess such students are exceedingly rare -- and God knows they are an unaffordable luxury in the cramped educational economy of our era, but just imagine: a non-Machiavellian aspiration to learn Greek without an ulterior motive!
the cramped educational economy of our era [emphasis added]
When I first began my career in the administration of higher education I was asked to do a study on the rapid expansion of post secondary education after WW2 and Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex”. The academy exploded into a populist vocational school over night, as it were, if I might depict in black and white. What was once the small quiet enclave of real scholars became the required training centre for the great range of vocations in a split second of historic time. Very quickly the academy got 'hooked' on the $kazillions coming its way, and made room. Of course this change did not begin with WW2, but the war gave great impetus to the ‘explosion’. I would argue that not only the demise of the study of the classics, but also much of the character of the global village, including the internet, are the ‘children’ of this development. Moreover, we are a fair distance downstream now, and who knows where it will end.

One very sad observation that I personally relate to this change was the 'utilitarian obsession' of university freshmen by the time I retired, compared to the disinterest I and my colleagues had in 'getting a job' back in the 60's. I was quite saddened to see so many young people unwilling to alter their path at all, unless they saw the change as immediately serving their vocational aspirations. Ah well, "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end ..."
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cwconrad
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by cwconrad » January 26th, 2015, 4:20 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
cwconrad wrote:Of course there are those who are learning Greek with the fundamental objective of reading (i.e. translating!) the GNT.
If this is to be understood as saying ‘the only possibility for those who read just the GNT is “translating”’, I think it’s too narrow. To be sure, that is not what is says, but that does seem to be what is implied. My comments assume that to be the case.
Of course that is not what I was saying. I'm suggesting that this is one category (of several) of students who take up the study of Biblical Greek. I suspect it's a very large category, but I have no idea how many fall into it. I wouldn't expect that active participants in this forum fall into that category. But I do think there's a sizable number of students who take courses in schools or begin studying Greek on their own, with little intent to do much more than put segments of the GNT into their own language with the understanding that they have thereby grasped the sense of the Greek text. Many seminaries now teach crash courses lasting a few weeks prior to moving them into a class in exegesis. I suspect that teaching students how to use Biblical software that produces a variety of interlinear versions is also becoming more common.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 26th, 2015, 7:16 pm

What I see happening where I live, and notably in the large churches of the area, is that there is an obvious lack of value placed on the Biblical languages, and very little reward for clergy who spend the time and effort necessary to become proficient in Greek or Hebrew. It just isn't considered a priority. Very few pastors, if any, from large pastoral staffs in this area could pass your B-Greek entrance exam. I know also that you are correct in your guess that many (most of those I know of directly) rely on tech tools and such resources as interlinears.

The real interest in the languages, in the churches I know of, is coming from laymen and from that quarter there is a real interest indeed. Perhaps it is out of this group that will come some of the torch-bearers of tomorrow. Tyndale would be pleased.
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Wes Wood
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Wes Wood » January 27th, 2015, 12:06 am

cwconrad wrote:Of course that is not what I was saying. I'm suggesting that this is one category (of several) of students who take up the study of Biblical Greek. I suspect it's a very large category, but I have no idea how many fall into it. I wouldn't expect that active participants in this forum fall into that category. But I do think there's a sizable number of students who take courses in schools or begin studying Greek on their own, with little intent to do much more than put segments of the GNT into their own language with the understanding that they have thereby grasped the sense of the Greek text. Many seminaries now teach crash courses lasting a few weeks prior to moving them into a class in exegesis. I suspect that teaching students how to use Biblical software that produces a variety of interlinear versions is also becoming more common.
This is a much better expression of one of the things I was trying to say.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:If this is to be understood as saying ‘the only possibility for those who read just the GNT is “translating”’, I think it’s too narrow. To be sure, that is not what is says, but that does seem to be what is implied. My comments assume that to be the case.
Please, don't mistake what I am saying. I am not viewing translation as a low level of understanding. I think translation is an extremely difficult task, and the demands on the grammar of one's native tongue to be able to accurately convey a thought from a foreign language are in many ways as great as those required to understand that foreign language. The "sizable number of students" that Dr. Conrad is the one that I have personally encountered most frequently. I do believe, however, that you can have a reasonably good translation and miss a great deal of information. There seems to be a wide range of levels in this term as well.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 27th, 2015, 2:07 am

Wes Wood wrote:I am not viewing translation as a low level of understanding. I think translation is an extremely difficult task, and the demands on the grammar of one's native tongue to be able to accurately convey a thought from a foreign language are in many ways as great as those required to understand that foreign language.
Their goal, however, is not to translate from Greek to English. If it were, I would suggest to them that this has already been done rather well, and remind them that they will not likely ever be as good at it as the least member of a New Testament translation committee. Their goal is to read the Greek as Greek. To that end they labour, as do I. They want to 'taste' the language, and hear it as it was expressed, and weigh it in its own context. Some will get so far; others, I pray, will get much farther.

Meantime, more than a few who are established translators and commentators and instructors, and who are studied in a range of Classical and Hellenistic Greek, do not actually "read the Greek as Greek". This I know from my spies in the business, and in fact it is hardly a secret. It is not a given that studying beyond the range of Biblical Greek makes you one who can actually use the language as a language, nor, say I, is it a given that those who know only Biblical Greek cannot read the Greek as Greek. And again, I do understand that it is important to move beyond Biblical Koine at some point to complete your education.
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cwconrad
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by cwconrad » January 27th, 2015, 6:54 am

I've found this discussion interesting, although it has seemed to me to meander all across the range of recent Greek pedagogy and the practice both of those who are trying to teach it and those who are trying to learn it. I put that "try" in quite deliberately, because I think there is some lack of clarity in thinking about the why, the how, and the what of both teaching and learning Greek.
Wes Wood wrote:I am not viewing translation as a low level of understanding. I think translation is an extremely difficult task, and the demands on the grammar of one's native tongue to be able to accurately convey a thought from a foreign language are in many ways as great as those required to understand that foreign language.
I am in agreement with Wes here: I think that translation of a Greek (or other foreign) text into English (or whatever one's native tongue may be) is a demanding process that requires not only a clear grasp of what the original text means but a considerable facility and command of the resources of one's native language. I think that what beginning students of Greek generally aim to produce is a reformulation of the words of the Greek text into words in the native language -- a woodenly literal version that recreates the structure and expressions of the Greek formulation in a more-or-less intelligible but unidiomatic English version. Real translation is an art and it requires levels of competence in one's native language transcending that of most beginning students of Greek.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Their goal, however, is not to translate from Greek to English. If it were, I would suggest to them that this has already been done rather well, and remind them that they will not likely ever be as good at it as the least member of a New Testament translation committee. Their goal is to read the Greek as Greek. To that end they labour, as do I. They want to 'taste' the language, and hear it as it was expressed, and weigh it in its own context. Some will get so far; others, I pray, will get much farther.
I'm not sure who is being described here; it's not, I think, the majority of beginning students of Biblical Greek. They, I think, do view their goal as being able to convert the Greek text of the Bible into English. I rather doubt that the goal of most beginning students of Biblical Greek is to read the Greek as Greek, although that's what I think they ought to aim at. I would guess that is indeed what you are hoping to achieve with your beginning students of Biblical Greek.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Meantime, more than a few who are established translators and commentators and instructors, and who are studied in a range of Classical and Hellenistic Greek, do not actually "read the Greek as Greek". This I know from my spies in the business, and in fact it is hardly a secret. It is not a given that studying beyond the range of Biblical Greek makes you one who can actually use the language as a language, nor, say I, is it a given that those who know only Biblical Greek cannot read the Greek as Greek. And again, I do understand that it is important to move beyond Biblical Koine at some point to complete your education.
I'm not sure who you're talking about, but I have no reason to doubt you. I am concerned, however, with one indicator of a degree of neglect of the Biblical Greek text by those who are supposed to know Greek: several more recent commentaries on NT authors don't cite the Greek text of the passage currently under discussion. That seems to me to indicate that they don't expect their readers to read or understand the Greek text, but it may also indicate that they are themselves perhaps not competent to read or understand the Greek text.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » January 27th, 2015, 10:48 am

cwconrad wrote:I've found this discussion interesting, although it has seemed to me to meander all across the range of recent Greek pedagogy and the practice both of those who are trying to teach it and those who are trying to learn it. I put that "try" in quite deliberately, because I think there is some lack of clarity in thinking about the why, the how, and the what of both teaching and learning Greek.
What? A group of learners who've set out to learn the Greek Bible in its native language; to be able to ‘read’ it in Greek, that is, rather than reading with the intent of converting it to English. A group of learners, nevertheless, whose purpose is not to become language scholars.

Why? Because we believe that the text warrants the effort, and the task is both worthwhile and doable, Without question the text itself is the motivation and the focus.

How? With a particular focus on Greek text itself, while developing an understanding of the syntax, the vocabulary, and the and the structure of the language. That focus includes frequent class readings of the text, and an attempt to “internalize” the language by reading unfamiliar text (see Lewis below), communicative drills, memorization of Greek passages, and so on.
cwconrad wrote:
Wes Wood wrote:I am not viewing translation as a low level of understanding. I think translation is an extremely difficult task, and the demands on the grammar of one's native tongue to be able to accurately convey a thought from a foreign language are in many ways as great as those required to understand that foreign language.
I am in agreement with Wes here: I think that translation of a Greek (or other foreign) text into English (or whatever one's native tongue may be) is a demanding process that requires not only a clear grasp of what the original text means but a considerable facility and command of the resources of one's native language. I think that what beginning students of Greek generally aim to produce is a reformulation of the words of the Greek text into words in the native language -- a woodenly literal version that recreates the structure and expressions of the Greek formulation in a more-or-less intelligible but unidiomatic English version. Real translation is an art and it requires levels of competence in one's native language transcending that of most beginning students of Greek.
We’re all in agreement with Wes here. It must be said though, that the tone above is a bit different than 'most people who would like to know "Biblical Greek" are content with having the ability to translate'.
cwconrad wrote:
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:Their goal, however, is not to translate from Greek to English. If it were, I would suggest to them that this has already been done rather well, and remind them that they will not likely ever be as good at it as the least member of a New Testament translation committee. Their goal is to read the Greek as Greek. To that end they labour, as do I. They want to 'taste' the language, and hear it as it was expressed, and weigh it in its own context. Some will get so far; others, I pray, will get much farther.
I'm not sure who is being described here; it's not, I think, the majority of beginning students of Biblical Greek. They, I think, do view their goal as being able to convert the Greek text of the Bible into English. I rather doubt that the goal of most beginning students of Biblical Greek is to read the Greek as Greek, although that's what I think they ought to aim at. I would guess that is indeed what you are hoping to achieve with your beginning students of Biblical Greek.
May I quote C.S Lewis again (and you will no doubt consent to the choice of text for his exercise):
C.S Lewis wrote:I arrived at Gastons (so the Knock’s house was called) on a Saturday, and he announced that we would begin Homer on Monday. I explained that I had never read a word in any dialect but the Attic, assuming that when he knew this we would approach Homer through some preliminary lessons on the Epic language… At nine o’clock we sat down to work in the little upstairs study which soon became so familiar to me. It contained a sofa, a table and chair a bookcase, a gas stone, and a framed photograph of Mr Gladstone. We opened our books at Iliad, Book I. Without a word of introduction Knock read aloud the first twenty lines… He then translated, with a few, a very few, explanations about a hundred lines. I had never seen a classical author taken in such large gulps before. When he had finished he handed over Crucius’ Lexicon and, having told me to go through again as much as I could of what he had done, left the room. At first I could travel only a very short way along the trail he had blazed, but every day I could travel further… He appeared at this stage to value speed more than absolute accuracy. The great gain was that I was very soon able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. – C S Lewis, Surprised by Joy (1955:163)
Whatever the goal of the “the majority of beginning students of Biblical Greek”, our goal is to “think in Greek”, in the sense that Lewis employs the term here. There has been much thought given to method since Lewis wrote this, but the goal is the same. We wish to read the Greek Bible as Greek. To be sure, one must start from somewhere, and use some type of bridge, even to get to “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” English seems necessary to learn the grammar and initial glosses (though some here would challenge the latter) and English seems the most efficient way to 'bridge' to the Greek. Nevertheless, Lewis’ ‘reading immersion’ method (if I can give it that tag), is one that others have also found helpful; the work of those using communicative methods is also very helpful; and the work of those who have excelled in teaching language syntax and structure is essential.

Whether the balance of methods is right, the goal is clear, and it is not different from the goal of so many others who have set out on the same journey over the years.
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Wes Wood
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Re: Confidence in the Grammar

Post by Wes Wood » January 27th, 2015, 11:29 am

I would agree if that was all that I had said that my tone was indeed different. In fairness, context is everything. Look at the full sentence that you are quoting.
Wes Wood wrote:It has been my experience that most people who would like to know "Biblical Greek" are content with having the ability to translate.
My expression of my position may have improved, but my tone has not intentionally shifted for better or worse.
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