The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

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cwconrad
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The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by cwconrad » May 31st, 2015, 10:07 am

Elsewhere in this subforum
Stephen Hughes wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:
Emma Ehrhardt wrote:I will add, however, that there is a greater danger that we'll end up with non-standard greek in the novel composition books.

And especially if we're talking about this as a good project for newish students of Greek, I think we would want to steer them towards using attested texts. There's plenty to work within the GNT...
I agree completely.
Attested is not the same as standard.
The question here is one that seems very much to be at issue in every discussion of Biblical Greek pedagogy in this forum (and by far most of what's talked about here is Biblical Greek pedagogy rather than the Biblical Greek language or the Greek Biblical text): What sort of competence are we aiming at when we seek to learn or teach Bibilical Greek?

The answer may seem to be obvious: we want to be able to read the Biblical Greek text with understanding. I am not at all confident, however, that we share a clear notion of what it means to read the Biblical text with understanding.

We lament (many of us) that NT Greek pedagogy, judging from the textbooks available and the classroom methodologies with which we are familiar, aims at the ability to produce a "good" English (or?) version of any given NT Greek text. We would prefer (some of us) that successful learners acquire the abiity to "think" in Greek -- to read the successive words of the text in question and understand their cumulative impact on the meaning being communicated by that text.

We recognize (all of us, I think) that as readers in our own time and place we cannot grasp or respond to the text as did original readers or audience listening to the text read aloud: our perspective is so skewed by our own historical and cultural experience and environment that differs so extensively from theirs.

It seems to me that so much of our pedagogical discussion here involves rudimentary features of the language: images of concrete plants and animals and minerals and fundamental human actions/behaviors accessible to ancient humanity in much the same way as they are accesible to us today. Whether we use photographic images or pictographic images to link Greek words, I think it's rather easy to develop that concrete vocabulary. But what learning a language like the Greek in which the LXX and the GNT were composed means is going to involve, I think, different things for different learners. Being able 'to read the New Testament in Greek" probably means different things to different learners.

I think there are some questions here that we don't ask about what it is that we teach or learn when we teach or learn Biblical Greek. Have we really gotten beyond the notion that the vocabulary of the GNT is a special Greek language, intelligible as a linguistic corpus apart from its context in the world in which its composers lived? How seriously do we take the notion that we can't understand the usage of NT Greek words unless we more fully understand the usage of these words in speech and written texts of Greek-speakers generally of the era in question?

These are just some questions that come to my mind when I see attention being called to the difference between "attested" and "standard" vocabulary and usage. It seems to me that so much of our discussion of Biblical Greek pedagogy -- or more generally, ancient Greek pedagogy, involves implicit but undiscussed assumptions about what it is that we are trying to learn and teach.

I sometimes wonder how somebody in a congregation in Corinth may have heard and made sense, in terms of his or her own experience and social context, of a letter of Paul being read aloud by a reader soon after it had been received from the apostle. It seems to me that it's very difficult for us to conceive or imagine how that text was heard and responded to. And yet it seems to me that what we most want to understand is what Paul really intended that listener to experience and how much of what Paul intended would actually have been grasped by that listener. The Greek language that we teach and learn in NT Greek pedagogy should serve, I think, fundamentally as a conduit for those thoughts and the success with which they have been communicated, both in antiquity and in the context of our own experience. That's quite a bit to ask of our NT Greek pedagogy.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » May 31st, 2015, 2:57 pm

cwconrad wrote:The question here is one that seems very much to be at issue in every discussion of Biblical Greek pedagogy in this forum (and by far most of what's talked about here is Biblical Greek pedagogy rather than the Biblical Greek language or the Greek Biblical text): What sort of competence are we aiming at when we seek to learn or teach Bibilical Greek?

The answer may seem to be obvious: we want to be able to read the Biblical Greek text with understanding. I am not at all confident, however, that we share a clear notion of what it means to read the Biblical text with understanding.
Yes, I agree.
cwconrad wrote:We lament (many of us) that NT Greek pedagogy, judging from the textbooks available and the classroom methodologies with which we are familiar, aims at the ability to produce a "good" English (or?) version of any given NT Greek text. We would prefer (some of us) that successful learners acquire the abiity to "think" in Greek -- to read the successive words of the text in question and understand their cumulative impact on the meaning being communicated by that text.

We recognize (all of us, I think) that as readers in our own time and place we cannot grasp or respond to the text as did original readers or audience listening to the text read aloud: our perspective is so skewed by our own historical and cultural experience and environment that differs so extensively from theirs.
And I suspect there is broad agreement up to this point.
cwconrad wrote:It seems to me that so much of our pedagogical discussion here involves rudimentary features of the language: images of concrete plants and animals and minerals and fundamental human actions/behaviors accessible to ancient humanity in much the same way as they are accesible to us today. Whether we use photographic images or pictographic images to link Greek words, I think it's rather easy to develop that concrete vocabulary. But what learning a language like the Greek in which the LXX and the GNT were composed means is going to involve, I think, different things for different learners. Being able 'to read the New Testament in Greek" probably means different things to different learners.
I think the communicative school places a great deal of emphasis on building the basics of the language, and a lot of it is based on the kinds of materials people need at the beginning. But of course people need to learn at all levels. I agree that the concrete vocabulary is much easier than syntax. And I suspect the corpus is what tells us what kinds of syntax we need to be teaching. For instance, I've become very interested in word order recently, and I think there's a lot more to it than textbooks tell you. I think the variety of word orders one encounters in real texts - even within a phrase sometimes - is one of the things people should be exposed to early on, because it's basic to getting a feel for the language. At the same time, I agree with Emma and Paul that language learning begins with very short phrases.

My own interests are largely about getting people over the hump from the end of first year Greek to becoming capable readers. My own interests are in corpus-based methods that use techniques from teaching other languages, including ESL techniques. Reading texts and responding to them in speech or in writing is an important part of that, and I think the New Testament text is the primary motivation for a lot of us. You're more likely to do things that are about what motivates you.
cwconrad wrote:I think there are some questions here that we don't ask about what it is that we teach or learn when we teach or learn Biblical Greek. Have we really gotten beyond the notion that the vocabulary of the GNT is a special Greek language, intelligible as a linguistic corpus apart from its context in the world in which its composers lived? How seriously do we take the notion that we can't understand the usage of NT Greek words unless we more fully understand the usage of these words in speech and written texts of Greek-speakers generally of the era in question?

These are just some questions that come to my mind when I see attention being called to the difference between "attested" and "standard" vocabulary and usage. It seems to me that so much of our discussion of Biblical Greek pedagogy -- or more generally, ancient Greek pedagogy, involves implicit but undiscussed assumptions about what it is that we are trying to learn and teach.
That's why I want to stay close to the text, and I'm less interested in how to talk about modern things in ancient Greek. We have modern Greek for that. At the same time, I am very impressed by the competence of some people who take this approach, including Randall Buth, Paul Nitz, and Louis Sorenson. So I do think it's important that these people feel welcome here. And I see lots of room for fruitful cross-fertilization between these people and the corpus-driven people like me, Micheal, and Emma. I hope we can make a place for both schools of thought.
cwconrad wrote:I sometimes wonder how somebody in a congregation in Corinth may have heard and made sense, in terms of his or her own experience and social context, of a letter of Paul being read aloud by a reader soon after it had been received from the apostle. It seems to me that it's very difficult for us to conceive or imagine how that text was heard and responded to. And yet it seems to me that what we most want to understand is what Paul really intended that listener to experience and how much of what Paul intended would actually have been grasped by that listener. The Greek language that we teach and learn in NT Greek pedagogy should serve, I think, fundamentally as a conduit for those thoughts and the success with which they have been communicated, both in antiquity and in the context of our own experience. That's quite a bit to ask of our NT Greek pedagogy.
Yes. And I don't think our pedagogy is up to that task yet. That's why we discuss it here so much. I hope some of the approaches we are trying will pan out. I suspect they will. I think it's important that different people are trying different things, and it's premature to claim that any of us have the one true approach.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 1st, 2015, 2:17 pm

I see what we are doing with Biblical Greek as a product of the Renaissance and especially the Protestant Reformation. Those terms are very broad strokes, but I doubt if details of my thinking would be overly useful.

Arguments about what the scriptures mean, and how that affects Church life and governance, have been actively debated and a knowledge of the Greek serves as a means in that discourse. A knowledge of Greek then (in some regards) can be considered polemical. In the time before I joined B-Greek it was what I might metaphorically describe as both the weapons workshop and the arena, where those competent in the language could spar with each other over what it means. Seen in that light, now-a-days it is a place of truce, where people can come and sharpen their Greek, to do battle elsewhere over the issues raised. Greek seen in that way, is primarily a means to correct, rebuke and convince others of the rightness of various doctrinal points held by the speaker. (But of course, Greek is more than that, it is beautiful to look at and poised in its form).

The treatment of "Scripture only" seems to filter down into the corpus model, in so far as the New Testament corpus is the best marked up of all searchable texts. There is sometimes call for a wider understanding, and sometimes the meaning within the NT corpus is sufficiently defined in itself (and different from usages outside the corpus) that looking outside would be almost counter-productive. (Not only where there are words with a high frequency, but also things like the σταμνος which means a wine vessel in other literature, but the pot for the mannah in ours. BDAG seems good for pointing cases like this out).

My activity on the forum and my plainly stated opinions indicate that I favour a much wider exposure to the texts written in the same or a similar language to the Biblical Greek language.

There are some people who believe that by learning English communicatively, a student will achieve the best possible results for their study. In some regards that bears true in the results. Students who learn English primarily by speaking have a number of advantages over their peers who learn from books alone. But there are not only success stories. Grammar is often very poor, the tense system of their mother tongue skews the English, and the range of topic upon which they can converse tends to be limited. The worst case examples are immigrants who perhaps use English at work, but never fully acquire the language, and more so their stay at home relatives. In the best case senario, the fluency that communicative approaches often brings, leads to the L2 user facing lesser degrees of social marginalisation, and that greater ability to participate in the speech community fosters better language acquisition. Of course the only way that is paralleled here on B-Greek, is that those who are more able or more fool-hearty tend to participate more, and by participating tend to get more from it.

The sad fact that studies show is that for people who start language learning before the age of 15, there is a high chance of successfully achieving native or near native competency in an L2, but for those starting after that age, the chances reduce down to about 3 or 5% (or perhaps 10% depending on what is meant). For Greek, like any other language, there is a need for a serious amount of work to be put in. Not all people learning a language are aiming for native speaker competency either. Learning enough for their individual purposes is something that people need to work with and balance with their other life commitments. Various forms of social marginalisation, such as retirement and living abroad can be conducive to immersion in a heritage language like Greek is to Western civilisation and to Christianity in its own way too.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 1st, 2015, 8:10 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:The treatment of "Scripture only" seems to filter down into the corpus model, in so far as the New Testament corpus is the best marked up of all searchable texts. There is sometimes call for a wider understanding, and sometimes the meaning within the NT corpus is sufficiently defined in itself (and different from usages outside the corpus) that looking outside would be almost counter-productive. (Not only where there are words with a high frequency, but also things like the σταμνος which means a wine vessel in other literature, but the pot for the mannah in ours. BDAG seems good for pointing cases like this out).

My activity on the forum and my plainly stated opinions indicate that I favour a much wider exposure to the texts written in the same or a similar language to the Biblical Greek language.
You have to start somewhere. And I think a lot of our approaches to improving pedagogy are closer to their beginning than to their end. The readability statistic stuff I've started working on could be extended to LXX without that much effort, and to some of the classical texts that have been marked up. Other things will work on New Testament and some of these classical texts, using different models to do their queries. Most of the stuff that uses classical texts will need to use a dependency model.

I don't really understand your concern. I'm not claiming that corpus-based approaches are the only ones to use, and we haven't done enough with them yet to know if they will be as useful as we hope.
Stephen Hughes wrote:There are some people who believe that by learning English communicatively, a student will achieve the best possible results for their study. In some regards that bears true in the results. Students who learn English primarily by speaking have a number of advantages over their peers who learn from books alone. But there are not only success stories. Grammar is often very poor, the tense system of their mother tongue skews the English, and the range of topic upon which they can converse tends to be limited.
I'm just beginning to digest some of the SIOP work on ESL and digesting some of the literature on teaching reading / writing again after many years. As far as I can tell, there are multiple objectives, and multiple ways of teaching to meet those objectives. I do think that reading, writing, and speaking in response to a text is a really good way to learn.

But I do think that Hellenistic Greek is primarily for understanding texts from the Hellenistic period. For modern communication, I might prefer modern Greek or English. If these texts did not exist, we wouldn't bother with the language.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 1st, 2015, 10:59 pm

I find this to be an important discussion for all of us, and I appreciate all that has been said so far. For me the trail to learn the languages of Scripture, and to help others learn the languages of Scripture, has taken a few twists and turns that I didn’t foresee, but I feel quite confident that I’m still on the trail. It is a unique undertaking, in some ways, because of the place of the text in my life and because of the necessity to learn an ancient language with enough agility to interact with the text intelligently.

Metaphors are always only partial, and must not be pressed too far, but I do think there are some parallels with the situation where a Wycliffe team helps a people group to codify their language in order to deliver to them the written Scriptures in their own tongue. The team has three tasks: the first is to learn the language of the people, the second is to commit that language to a written form, and the third is to teach the people the written form. Without a doubt, in every successful transfer, the last task will be greatly enhanced by the people group over time so that the written language is expanded to include more and more references than those included in the Bible. As this happens, if it is a dynamic transfer, the written language of the Bible will be refined to better reflect what the people group really understand in the expressions of their language, and the people themselves will be refined and expanded as they more and more acquire the human “gift” of a written language.

It would not serve the Bible well, nor the people well, to try to contain the use of the written language to Biblical expressions. By expanding their use of written language, the people will be expanded, and in this development they will acquire an ever more nimble and nuanced understanding of the Biblical narrative. In the same manner, I find personally, it is necessary for me to gain agility with ancient Greek to interact with the Biblical texts intelligently. (Where the metaphor fails, of course, is that while the translation is ever refined, the Biblical texts themselves are set.) One way to acquire this agility, for certain, is to read Greek from a larger corpus as has been noted here already. Another way, though, is to attain a 'facility of expression’ in the language through use in a real language setting. These approaches are not mutually exclusive, of course, but I am finding modem language acquisition methods to be powerful tools in this task.

The danger is that learning methods will have an undesirable influence on the language itself, but the danger of not acquiring this agility is certainly not a small one. In fact, it is what we have witnessed in the army of individuals who have invested piles of money and countless hours to ‘learn’ Greek or Hebrew, but who have never really “learned” these languages at all. I think the term “dirty little secret” is not entirely unjustified. Institutions in my part of the world charge a king’s ransom to give ‘credit’ courses in Biblical Greek over a very brief span of time in the summer. “Suicide Greek”, as the students call it, serves only to turn most students off the language forever. Whatever the approach, the pedagogy has to fix that - and even expose it as a bit of a scam. I think communicative approaches and pioneers have shone a most uncomfortable - but corrective - light on this regrettable pedagogical failure.

Whether or not “cross fertilization” is the right terminology, I do heartily agree that providing a venue where the different pedagogical approaches can exercise a real influence on each other can only have a positive effect on the development of the discipline.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 1st, 2015, 11:54 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:The treatment of "Scripture only" seems to filter down into the corpus model, in so far as the New Testament corpus is the best marked up of all searchable texts.
I don't really understand your concern. I'm not claiming that corpus-based approaches are the only ones to use, and we haven't done enough with them yet to know if they will be as useful as we hope.
It was a neutral observation rather than a negative concern or criticism. While I think that actively or or unwittingly transferring the idea of using scripture to understand scripture exegetically to their understanding of how to deal with "Biblical Greek" is something to almost be expected of people who come to Greek for exegetical reasons, but it is not good language learning practice. For whatever reasons people made the decision to limit their inquiries, there are a lot of limited inquiry-based resources available, and for some purposes - finding multiple examples for some syntactic patterns, some rhetorical or narrative structures, some meanings of some words, and some declensional patterns - we don't find parallels in the NT corpus. The legacy of already prepared texts (tagged) texts is wat I would consider unbalanced, and I wonder how the corpus of searchable texts could be enlarged.

The concept of "useful" is one that is open to individual consideration.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 2nd, 2015, 9:58 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:For whatever reasons people made the decision to limit their inquiries, there are a lot of limited inquiry-based resources available, and for some purposes - finding multiple examples for some syntactic patterns, some rhetorical or narrative structures, some meanings of some words, and some declensional patterns - we don't find parallels in the NT corpus. The legacy of already prepared texts (tagged) texts is what I would consider unbalanced, and I wonder how the corpus of searchable texts could be enlarged.
Yes, and it is being enlarged. It takes time. The kinds of freely available tagged texts that we have for the Greek New Testament really weren't available until a few years ago, and we're still learning what we can use them for. Similarly tagged texts are now being created for Classical Greek using the Arethusa Annotation Framework, but this started more recently, and I think it will take time before we have as much text tagged up as carefully as we currently have for the Greek New Testament. You could try playing around with Arethusa to get a feel for the process of tagging a text in a dependency framework. Different treebanks use different models and different tools.

I've started using the PROIEL treebank in addition to the GBI and Lowfat treebanks, I'm not sure if high quality annotated texts exist for Hellenistic Greek yet, I'm pretty sure they don't yet for the Septuagint.

Stephen Hughes wrote:The concept of "useful" is one that is open to individual consideration.
Absolutely. I'm currently working with Micheal Palmer, a linguist who teaches ESL and also teaches workshops on how to teach ESL, and is also solid in biblical Greek. I know how to do queries, he knows how to teach languages. We'll see what comes of this, I think we will be able to put some interesting possibilities together between now and November.

We need more good resources for teaching biblical Greek. They should involve active engagement in the language, not the grammar-translation approach. There are lots of ways to do that, and I hope lots of people will pursue these ways and produce materials so we can compare them. The proof is in the pudding ;->
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 2nd, 2015, 1:27 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:I'm not sure if high quality annotated texts exist for Hellenistic Greek yet, I'm pretty sure they don't yet for the Septuagint.
How are you defining quality here?
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 2nd, 2015, 5:46 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Jonathan Robie wrote:I'm not sure if high quality annotated texts exist for Hellenistic Greek yet, I'm pretty sure they don't yet for the Septuagint.
How are you defining quality here?
A number of measures can be used, here are a few that come to mind:
  • Reviewed to ensure agreement that an interpretation is "well-formed" (this kind of relationship can occur in the language) and is a reasonable interpretation of the sentence.
  • Uses some kind of quality-control / version control to make sure that you don't get stupid mistakes like words disappearing from the text.
  • When used for queries, tends to give answers that are not clearly wrong or nonsense.
  • The way that two annotators mark up the same interpretation of a given sentence is the same, they agree on how the model is used to represent a given interpretation. For instance, in a given corpus, you don't have one editor that marks the article as the head of a phrase and another editor that would mark the noun as the head of the same phrase.
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 2nd, 2015, 6:32 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Stephen Hughes wrote:How are you defining quality here?
A number of measures can be used, here are a few that come to mind:
  • ...
  • The way that two annotators mark up the same interpretation of a given sentence is the same, they agree on how the model is used to represent a given interpretation. For instance, in a given corpus, you don't have one editor that marks the article as the head of a phrase and another editor that would mark the noun as the head of the same phrase.
This fourth one seems like it is more about manageability than quality.
Jonathan Robie wrote:Similarly tagged texts are now being created for Classical Greek using the Arethusa Annotation Framework, but this started more recently, and I think it will take time before we have as much text tagged up as carefully as we currently have for the Greek New Testament. You could try playing around with Arethusa to get a feel for the process of tagging a text in a dependency framework. Different treebanks use different models and different tools.
Well I read that page and the related ones. Just a basic question - Is Aresthusa an APP for the phone, a program for the computer or a website? What does one have to do to be able to "play around" with it? Does it require login or download? Is it something like LaTex?
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