Seminary exegesis classes

Seminary exegesis classes

Postby Jonathan Robie » February 7th, 2012, 6:32 pm

I'm completely unseminated, but I recently spent some time studying a Greek text with two people who have each taken a handful of exegesis classes at two different seminaries.

Both said their classes used the same pattern - taking turns looking at one verse at a time, translating into English, looking at each word invidually before starting to look at phrases and clauses. Is this typical?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby Jesse Goulet » February 8th, 2012, 3:15 am

I've only been to Bible College, but that's what we did for our Greek Exegesis class which came after the two intro classes. We had to translate half or an entire chapter of John's Gospel for homework, and in class we would go around the class to each person who would translate one verse at a time. After that our teacher would do a bit of lecturing on a few things if there was enough time. Our prof said that this is how he was taught as well.
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby RandallButh » February 8th, 2012, 4:41 am

Wow, maybe German and French literature classes could use this method if they really wanted to get deep into the meaning of the text!




Not.
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby Mark Lightman » February 8th, 2012, 7:51 am

Randall Buth wrote: Wow, maybe German and French literature classes could use this method if they really wanted to get deep into the meaning of the text! Not.



At the risk of contributing further to what Jonathan would call the “Living Koine versus the rest of the world” divide, let me just say that I feel the pain of Randall’s sarcasm. This grammar translation method thus described seems to me to be not a very effective way to learn a language and it sends the wrong message that the goal of learning Greek is to translate and to learn meta-language jargon.

“We reason but from what we know.” I’ve told this story before. A few years back I was involved in just such a reading group where we would take turns translating NT Greek passages and then discuss the grammar in English. In retrospect, I concluded that the group did not really help improve my Greek reading much if at all. Now I am involved in a different group where I Skype with a guy from San Diego. We are working through the Gospel of Mark. We ask each other very simple questions in Greek. Last night we did chapter 13. πόσοι ἄνεμοί ἐισιν? τί εστιν «ὁ σεισμός?» τίς ἐποίησεν τὸ ἱερόν? We discuss, all in Ancient Greek, historical and theological issues (ἄρα ὁ Ιησοῦς λέγει περὶ τοῦ κόσμου ἢ μόνον τῆς Ἰερσουσαλημ τέλους?) but rarely do we discuss the grammar, because the answers to grammatical questions are too subtle for the target language. διἀ τί τοῦτο τὀ ρῆμα ἀόριστόν ἐστιν?

I find this method much more helpful in improving my reading fluency. Even beginners are capable of asking and answering simple questions in Greek because the structure of questions τίς πότε πῶς ποῦ is easier than producing narrative. This is SOP in ESL. I have thought recently that even if one decides not to use a communicative approach for a first year Greek class, it certainly makes sense to use this method for advanced classes.

But I don’t expect the status quo to change much. Daniel Streete has been pushing this method on his blog. Somebody responded to him that they thought the communicative approach was dangerous because if you taught students to speak Ancient Greek they would begin talking about their own (male) brother as an ἀδελφός (μωρός ἐστιν ὁ αδελφός μου!) and then when they read Paul this would interfere with the fact that by ἀδελφοὶ Paul meant to include both men and women. This convinced me that Jonathan is right; there really are two UNIVERSES of Greek learners. Rico is Rico

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJrGaOF- ... AAAAAAAAAA

and Wallace is Wallace and never the twain shall meet. But that’s alright. As we used to say when I was a kid, I’m okay, you’re okay.
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby SusanJeffers » February 8th, 2012, 8:27 am

Hmmm.... in seminary I took an OT exegesis class that did not require knowledge of Hebrew, and an NT exegesis class that did not require knowledge of Greek, as well as Greek III and Hebrew III which each included a lot of exegesis.

In the "exegesis" classes we looked at a series of passages using a set of tools one of which was "establishing the text" -- meaning the original language text -- in which we examined textual and translational issues, and those who had knowledge of the original languages did additional grammatical / structural analysis. This was all background to the actual "exegetical" work.

In the Hebrew III / Greek III classes we studied a series of Bible passages, one per class meeting if I remember correctly, exemplifying a variety of genres. In the Greek III class, the students took turns presenting their work on the passage - when it was your turn to present, you brought photocopies of your translation with grammatical and lexical notes and parsing of key words, for the class - but the main emphasis was on "reading the passage whole" in its context in the particular biblical book. We talked about any grammatical issues, or lexical issues, but the main discussion was on literary structure and how the passage "made meaning" synergistically.

I also audited a couple of exegesis course at another seminary, in which even more emphasis was placed on literary structure and "contouring" or "phrasing" Hebrew/Greek Bible passages.

In my experience, going word-by-word is appropriate to Greek I and II taught using traditional methods (as opposed to "living language") but by Greek III/Exegesis, students should only need to use this approach on particularly challenging bits.

Susan Jeffers
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby Eeli Kaikkonen » February 8th, 2012, 9:13 am

Mark Lightman wrote:
Randall Buth wrote: Wow, maybe German and French literature classes could use this method if they really wanted to get deep into the meaning of the text! Not.


At the risk of contributing further to what Jonathan would call the “Living Koine versus the rest of the world” divide, let me just say that I feel the pain of Randall’s sarcasm.


Me too, and loving it.

But I don’t expect the status quo to change much. Daniel Streete has been pushing this method on his blog. Somebody responded to him that they thought the communicative approach was dangerous because if you taught students to speak Ancient Greek they would begin talking about their own (male) brother as an ἀδελφός (μωρός ἐστιν ὁ αδελφός μου!) and then when they read Paul this would interfere with the fact that by ἀδελφοὶ Paul meant to include both men and women.


I followed that discussion (or some of those discussions?), and couldn't accept the somebody's viewpoint. I can understand it to some point, but can't accept it. I could elaborate this further but don't do it now - I just say about this specific example that if it would be so dangerous, nobody should learn any foreign language. The answer isn't of course not using the method, but being aware of possible problems and using the method correctly. Similar issues will rise with all languages, but how do we deal with them? Of course by telling that "this word is used in this way" etc. You use the male word to refer to males, female word to refer to females and male word to refer to both at the same time. Very simple, no problem. It would actually be much more efficient to learn to understand controversial words correctly by being aware of them and using them than by reading about them. Imagine that students would write a small play where somebody would be "justified" before the court... wouldn't that teach the meaning of the original word much better than some theological treatise? The word is different than the theological concept.

"Little Greek is dangerous Greek" and for many people it would be better to learn to read and understand their own language in context rather than to learn a little bit of Greek, but the final answer isn't less knowlegde but more. And of course this means that we need more and better teachers.
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby cwconrad » February 8th, 2012, 10:52 am

I would agree with Mark that exegesis can be (and probably should be) conducted in the language of the text being exegeted. I certainly do not think that "the be-all-and-end-all" of learning Biblical Greek is the ability to formulate a perfect English version (for that matter, I'm inclined to be skeptical about the concept of a "perfect English version"). On the other hand, Mark seems almost (but not quite) to envision exegesis as an exercise in Biblical Greek pedagogy more than as an exercise in Biblical Greek scholarly interpretation -- but, of course, Jonathan's question was originally posed in terms of how the practice of exegesis is taught in seminaries, and there's at least a vague notion that the successful practice of exegesis ends in a "perfect English version." I would guess that the seminary curriculum includes exegesis with the intention that the seminary graduate should be able to interpret the Bblical text intelligibly and intelligently to others. That does seem to me to be a meaningful objective to be aimed at in pedagogy, but it raises the question: "How are we to interpret the Biblical text intelligibly and intelligently?"

In past B-Greek discussions on the old mailing list as well as on the Forum, we have endeavored to draw a distinction between "understanding a Biblical Greek text as a Greek text: and "elucidating the broader background and doctrinal interpretive implications" of the text under investigation. While that distinction involves a fine line that is not perfectly discernible in every case, interpretation of those broader "background and doctrinal implications" involves assumptions and presuppositions about which exegetes themselves may be considerably at odds. For that reason we've tried to draw the line in our B-Greek discussions between what can be said about the Greek text as a Greek text and what is to be said about the implications, especially the doctrinal implications, of the text.

What troubles me about Mark's account of an alternative mode of "exegesis" is that it seems to depend wholly upon what the participants in the process already know and to eschew -- deliberately -- the employment of a grammatical metalanguage, whether linguistic or traditional, and reference tools, such as lexica, grammars, and background information. While there's something to be said for that as a preliminary step ("Let's be sure we're all on the same page: can we agree about what we all think this text means prior to any investigation of background and broader context as well as how this text is formulated?"). That's what is done in testing reading skills in elementary school or on an SAT exam. But is that as far as exegesis can and should go? I doubt it.

I think that traditional exegesis rightly endeavors to ascertain the precise intended sense of Greek words in context and to employ good lexical tools and a broader, chronologically relevant textual corpus in the process. I also think that questions regarding persons, places, things, institutions, etc. to which the text refers or about which it makes a statement need to be raised and answered as best they can be by means of any useful reference resource. And I think that the syntax binding the elements in the text into a discourse as well as the rhetorical structure and intent of the text are legitimate matters to be investigated in the exegetical process. To the extent that these elements are involved in the exegetical process as taught by the seminaries, I don't think they're doing it wrong. There remain the assumptions and presuppositions that will have much to do with the different end-results of exegesis in different sectarian institutions, but I continue to believe that these elements of analysis should be in play wherever exegesis is well taught and practiced -- even before we get to those matters of broader understanding of implications.
Carl W. Conrad
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… ἐπειδὴ καὶ τὸν οἶνον ἠξίους
πίνειν, συνεκποτέ’ ἐστί σοι καὶ τὴν τρύγα Aristophanes, Plutus 1085
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby SusanJeffers » February 8th, 2012, 11:13 am

Seminaries by and large train preachers and teachers and spiritual counselors and other professional religious workers. The typical MDiv is a 3-year full-time program,or 2 years for an MA. Greek occupies a small portion of the curriculum, even in the most rigorously biblical schools... I think conducting exegetical discussion in the students' native tongue rather than Greek is absolutely essential, if a person is to graduate capable of delivering a well-grounded sermon or Bible lesson in the native tongue.

The purpose of seminary is to train ministers to minister, not to train Greek-speakers... unless the students will be ministering to Greek-speakers of course...
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby RandallButh » February 9th, 2012, 3:56 am

The purpose of seminary is to train ministers to minister, not to train Greek-speakers... unless the students will be ministering to Greek-speakers of course...


Susan, you miss the point of the speaking. Speaking Greek is to make for GOOD READING and more efficient pedagogy.
So I hear you saying that seminaries only train to minister, they do not really train to read Greek. Fair enough.

They would need to thoroughly redesign the whole program to produce high-level language control in three years. No one does that with Greek (and only the Israelis with Hebrew), though I'm pretty sure that Goethe Institute could design a North-American program for Goethe preachers.
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Re: Seminary exegesis classes

Postby SusanJeffers » February 9th, 2012, 6:37 am

I don't underestimate the value of becoming fluent enough in Greek to do GNT exegesis speaking Greek - I just question whether it could be done in the typical time alloted to Greek instruction in a 3 year MDiv program or a 2 year MA.

For example, a pastor might want to teach an adult education class on his or her denomination's distinctive take on some theological topic, using the relevant Bible passages, consulting denominational resources and commentaries that discuss, in English, the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible passages. Even the Greek-and-Hebrew-deficient typical seminary grad can handle that sort of task. I doubt that one would get to that point by talking about the Greek in Greek, (and Hebrew in Hebrew) for the 2 years of 3-hours-a-week instruction that a typical MDiv or MA would allow.

I could be wrong, of course...
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