The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Stephen Hughes
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Stephen Hughes » June 5th, 2015, 1:38 pm

RandallButh wrote:Of course, that "intelligently read the translations" is not the goal of people who do French or Russian literature.
Where the translations are bordering on the unintelligible, then the original is always a good fallback.
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Shirley Rollinson » June 6th, 2015, 10:04 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:
Andrew Chapman wrote:Here is one alternative goal of the instruction:
We start with the vexed question of languages - Hebrew and Greek. ... we propose to give students sufficient instruction on this matter to enable them to use the commentaries in an intelligent manner. Much of the trouble in the past has been due to the fact that students have had to struggle and labour with Greek and Hebrew. This has not proved much help to them when they have become ministers because they do not know enough to pit their opinion against the authorities who write the Commentaries. But they have had to waste much time over this. ... What is needed by preachers today is a sufficient knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to enable them to use their Commentaries, and to read the many translations available in an intelligent manner, and to be able to follow the argumentation of the authorities for one view rather than another. No student who comes here - indeed I go further - 99 per cent of students who go any place of learning, will ever know enough Greek and Hebrew to argue with the great professors. So what is needed is this basic knowledge of these languages. [Martin Lloyd-Jones, Inaugural Address at the opening of the London Theological Seminary, 1977]
Andrew
I am a big fan of the great doctor, but when he was wrong, he was really wrong. Here, I think, is one of those places. His whole premise for launching LTS was to provide a place where men with a genuine call to preach the Gospel could get a solid training in the Scriptures and in the 'art of preaching', and where they could be fitted out with the necessary accoutrements for the preaching ministry. The vision was to provide a place of training for these men to equip them for their basic calling without requiring them to jump through impossible academic barriers for which they were not prepared and in which they often had little interest, and sometimes could not afford. To my knowledge LTS has been very successful in this basic mission, and I have some personal knowledge of that success. I think ML-J would say εὖγε!

Why then require Hebrew or Greek at all? Why not let the men pursue their basic program with a focus on the essentials, and for the student with genuine interest in the languages provide a real training instead of a shabby semblance of the real thing? Who said anything about "arguing with the great professors"? (Although ML-J should have consulted them before making some of his bold assertions about the basic meaning of a word.)

I think this is the quintessence of what is wrong with the pedagogy. It is to give a semblance of learning without the real thing - not the intent, I know, but the result nevertheless. The great majority of folks who speak and read and write and taste and enjoy and reflect upon and chatter to themselves in and dialogue using - English, would not do very well arguing with the 'great professors of English' either. Let's face it - the 'great professors' are weird! We love 'em, we need 'em, we go looking for them sometimes - but they're weird. That is not what a language is about for the great majority of us, and Greek and Hebrew are languages.

The result of a policy like that of LTS is too often students who resent being forced through a painful 'learning' experience the content of which they readily forget; students who often portray themselves as knowing the language but who barely ever knew the basic terminology of the meta-language, and a few students who are frustrated because they actually want to know the language and they don't - and they don't know where or how to begin learning it for real.

Underlying Maryn Lloyd-Jones' comments is a basic premise, I believe, which is just flat wrong!
Learning Greek to "argue with the great professors" is just plain silly. So is arguing with them in English. It's not any reason for learning any language.
So what is the reason for learning koine (as opposed to Homer, classical, modern) ? -
To be able to read the GNT - and Let It Speak To Us. Granted, the text of a good English translation can also speak to us - but with an "English accent'.
Taking the time to learn enough Greek to read (with comprehension) a passage a day, as a prelude to reflection upon what it says, is just part of the spiritual formation of an informed Christian - it is a discipline which is not going to be learnt in a couple of semesters of seminary. All that seminary can do is give the students a start with the languages (Greek and Hebrew) and give them the tools so that they can continue by themselves after seminary if they so desire. Let's face it, learning a language is a life-time occupation. Those who don't want to go further would at least have the chance to taste what the texts are like in Greek/Hebrew, and if that's not their thing, then they can stick with their native language and whatever translations they feel comfortable with. But at least give them the initial taste of Greek/Hebrew.
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Andrew Chapman
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Andrew Chapman » June 7th, 2015, 9:49 am

It seems to me that the 'Objective of "Biblical Greek" Pedagogy', at least for ministerial training colleges and similar, could be to attain a level of reading fluency sufficient to make it practicable for the minister to do his sermon preparation and bible study preparation (at least) from the original text. That way he would be constantly gaining in knowledge of the language simply by fulfilling his minsterial responsibilities. Preferably, he would also read a portion daily. I liked Gresham Machen's suggestions:
... two homely directions may be given. In the first place, the Greek should be read aloud. A language cannot easily be learned by the eye alone. The sound as well as the sense of familiar passages should be impressed upon the mind, until sound and sense are connected without the medium of translation. Let this result not be hastened; it will come of itself if the simple direction be followed. In the second place, the Greek Testament should be read every day without fail, Sabbaths included. Ten minutes a day is of vastly more value than seventy minutes once a week. If the student keeps a "morning watch," the Greek Testament ought to be given a place in it; at any rate, the Greek Testament should be read devotionally. The Greek Testament is a sacred book, and should be treated as such. If it is treated so, the reading of it will soon become a source of joy and power. [‘The Minister & His Greek Testament’, The Presbyterian (February, 1918)]
Andrew
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Paul-Nitz
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Paul-Nitz » June 8th, 2015, 10:25 am

With the previous two excellent posts, I think we are back to the question again:
What is the objective of Biblical Greek pedagogy?

First, to be precise, what do we mean by "Biblical Greek pedagogy"? I understand this:
  • The approach to and methods for Koine Greek learning & teaching which has as its ultimate goal the reading of the Greek Testament. *
I believe the objective of this Biblical Greek pedagogy, as several have said in this thread, is to read, in the normal sense of 'reading.'

Is the objective settled?

I suppose someone might debate that simple objective by contrasting reading with "exegesis."

I've never heard a clear definition of "exegesis." I HAVE seen the results of exegesis. Some of it has been an excellent commentary that helped me to understand what had been written. Some of it was pedantic trying to show me the convoluted debates about how this or that thing in the text has been debated. Some of it was misleading, seeing significance in details about Greek that would never be seen in a normal analysis of language. In general, I'm a bit turned off by the term "exegesis," though it is a very old and venerable term.** I suppose exegesis takes learning a step further. It is considering any textual or interpretive problems in a text and it offers solutions to those problems.

Whatever exegesis is, it seems to be the sort of advanced discussion of a text that must FOLLOW reading comprehension of the text. In fact, I wonder if the sort of exegesis that spends too much time on word studies ("Note that this word comes from....") and too much time parsing ("The Aorist here signifies...") is a product of an author who does not have reading comprehension. It seems to me that the primary pedagogical objective would still be to learn to READ, even if someone would say the ultimate objective is some sort of exegesis.

If we would be satisfied with the idea that the objective is "reading," then I think the next logical question is about the pedagogy: With what approach and with which methods do we learn and teach?


* I had a bit of trouble putting that sentence into English, and wondered if it was actually easier in Greek. It came out as a question: ἆρα ἐν τίνι εἴσοδος καὶ ἐν τίσι τρόποις δεῖ ἡμᾶς μανθάνειν καὶ διδάσκειν τὴν κοινήν Ἑλληνικήν γλώσσαν εἰς τὸ ἀναγινώσκειν τὴν καινήν διαθήκην;

** Charles Antho, in A Manual of Greek Literature (1853) writes in an introduction to the Alexandrine Period (ca. 300 BC): "Commentaries (υπομνήματα ἐξηγήσεις) were then written on entire works; the difficulties of obscure passages were cleared up, and oftentimes difficulties were purposely imagined in order to make a display of sagacity and erudition (ζητήματα, προβλήματα, λυσεις). Those who raised such questions were called ενστατικοί, or "difficulty-starters," and those who answered them, λυτικοί or ἐπιλυτικοί, "difficulty-solvers."
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Andrew Chapman
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Andrew Chapman » June 8th, 2015, 11:20 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:If we would be satisfied with the idea that the objective is "reading,"
How about 'reading comprehension'?

Andrew
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 11:23 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:First, to be precise, what do we mean by "Biblical Greek pedagogy"? I understand this:
  • The approach to and methods for Koine Greek learning & teaching which has as its ultimate goal the reading of the Greek Testament. *
I believe the objective of this Biblical Greek pedagogy, as several have said in this thread, is to read, in the normal sense of 'reading.'
I agree.
Paul-Nitz wrote:Whatever exegesis is, it seems to be the sort of advanced discussion of a text that must FOLLOW reading comprehension of the text. In fact, I wonder if the sort of exegesis that spends too much time on word studies ("Note that this word comes from....") and too much time parsing ("The Aorist here signifies...") is a product of an author who does not have reading comprehension. It seems to me that the primary pedagogical objective would still be to learn to READ, even if someone would say the ultimate objective is some sort of exegesis.
When I studied German literature, we didn't discuss the German language the way exegetes generally discuss the Greek language. I got to the point that I was reasonably good at reading and speaking about German literature, but I wasn't very good at everyday German until I actually moved to Germany - people smiled at my bookish, old fashioned German, and I didn't know common oral idioms or the words for things like diapers or the ingredients found in recipes. I think the objective of everyday conversational German is different from the objective of reading German texts and responding to them orally and in writing, largely because of the differences in subject matter and syntactic structure. To read Thomas Mann, you need to understand complex syntactic structures and vocabulary not found in everyday conversational German, but you don't need a lot of things needed for everyday conversation in modern German.
Paul-Nitz wrote:If we would be satisfied with the idea that the objective is "reading," then I think the next logical question is about the pedagogy: With what approach and with which methods do we learn and teach?

* I had a bit of trouble putting that sentence into English, and wondered if it was actually easier in Greek. It came out as a question: ἆρα ἐν τίνι εἴσοδος καὶ ἐν τίσι τρόποις δεῖ ἡμᾶς μανθάνειν καὶ διδάσκειν τὴν κοινήν Ἑλληνικήν γλώσσαν εἰς τὸ ἀναγινώσκειν τὴν καινήν διαθήκην;
With the same methods that work for teaching reading comprehension in ESL instruction? That seems to be SIOP these days ...
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 11:24 am

Andrew Chapman wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:If we would be satisfied with the idea that the objective is "reading,"
How about 'reading comprehension'?
Bingo.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 8th, 2015, 11:55 am

Andrew Chapman wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:If we would be satisfied with the idea that the objective is "reading,"
How about 'reading comprehension'?

Andrew
I have come to think about READING as a 'dialogue with a text'. If you think about the externals of reading, it is casting your eyes upon some squiggles on a page or on a screen, and scanning the lines of squiggles from side to side (usually). The 'rest is up to you' as they say (a la Frank Smith). The information, or meaning or insight or inspiration comes from recognizing the agreed upon message represented by the squiggles (the easy part), and relating that message to all that your brain will 'summon up' concerning that message.

In this paradigm, READING - or at what I will call 'RICH READING' - involves the ability to 'dialogue with the text'. That is, it requires you to query the content you are viewing - and to 'dialogue' with it - and that requires the ability to express yourself in the language of the text. Your 'reading' ability will take a great leap forward as you begin to acquire the ability to express yourself in the language. I understand this as the underlying meaning of 'thinking in Greek'. At least, it is an essential part of what that phrase means.

Those who are able to express themselves in Greek, who are able to carry on a dialogue in Greek or sit down and write out their thoughts in Greek, READ Greek in a far 'RICHER' manner than those who are not able to express themselves in Greek.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Jonathan Robie » June 8th, 2015, 12:43 pm

Thomas Dolhanty wrote:I have come to think about READING as a 'dialogue with a text'. If you think about the externals of reading, it is casting your eyes upon some squiggles on a page or on a screen, and scanning the lines of squiggles from side to side (usually). The 'rest is up to you' as they say (a la Frank Smith). The information, or meaning or insight or inspiration comes from recognizing the agreed upon message represented by the squiggles (the easy part), and relating that message to all that your brain will 'summon up' concerning that message.
Michael Pressley and Richard Allington's "Reading Instruction That Works" has done a fairly extensive review of the research literature on teaching elementary school reading, and they advocate something they call "Balanced Teaching". Frank Smith is right about a lot of things, and language immersion is extremely important, but spending 10 minutes a day on explicitly teaching phonics skills in addition to immersion makes a very significant difference in children's ability to read. Add 45 minutes a day of reading texts and opportunities to responding to texts orally and in writing, and you've got something going. Skills-based and whole-language instruction are both important. You want to spend much more time in whole-language instruction, tailor skills teaching to the level of individuals as they proceed, and teach skills in the context of content when possible.

Of course, this is all using an analogy with teaching elementary school reading in English to kids growing up speaking English. ESL may be a more accurate comparison. But we should be clear that in both cases, we are trying to reason from things we think are analogous to teaching Greek, and we don't have a lot of research on teaching Greek at the level we want to teach it.
Thomas Dolhanty wrote:In this paradigm, READING - or at what I will call 'RICH READING' - involves the ability to 'dialogue with the text'. That is, it requires you to query the content you are viewing - and to 'dialogue' with it - and that requires the ability to express yourself in the language of the text. Your 'reading' ability will take a great leap forward as you begin to acquire the ability to express yourself in the language. I understand this as the underlying meaning of 'thinking in Greek'. At least, it is an essential part of what that phrase means.

Those who are able to express themselves in Greek, who are able to carry on a dialogue in Greek or sit down and write out their thoughts in Greek, READ Greek in a far 'RICHER' manner than those who are not able to express themselves in Greek.
I agree with that, but (1) if reading biblical texts is what we are most interested in, we should measure this in the ability to dialogue about biblical texts, and (2) I don't know very many people alive today who can write about biblical texts in Greek the same way that Origen or Chrysostom did.

If we look at Bloom's taxonomy, we would ideally like to see people learn Greek sufficiently to speak and write all the way up to Level 6. How far up the chain do we get with today's Greek instruction, classic or communicative or whatever? I'd say not all that far.

Suppose we wanted to make the subject matter the biblical text, get really good at teaching Level 1, then Level 2, then Level 3 ... I imagine we would have to learn to teach at each level, one at a time, progressively. How would that change our instruction?

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Re: The Objective of “Biblical Greek” Pedagogy

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » June 8th, 2015, 2:08 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:I agree with that, but (1) if reading biblical texts is what we are most interested in, we should measure this in the ability to dialogue about biblical texts, and (2) I don't know very many people alive today who can write about biblical texts in Greek the same way that Origen or Chrysostom did.

Well, I think if you bind yourself too closely to the Biblical texts alone as a language learning platform, at the very least you’re facing a very steep and strange ascent! In fact, I think you could only end up with a rather deformed understanding of the language. I think your reference to Origen and Chrysostom illustrates that point. You can’t start there, and you can’t limit yourself to specific texts with sophisticated and highly focussed content, if you want to really learn a language.
Jonathan Robie wrote:If we look at Bloom's taxonomy, we would ideally like to see people learn Greek sufficiently to speak and write all the way up to Level 6. How far up the chain do we get with today's Greek instruction, classic or communicative or whatever? I'd say not all that far.
Interesting! I agree. Not very far at all.
Jonathan Robie wrote:Suppose we wanted to make the subject matter the biblical text, get really good at teaching Level 1, then Level 2, then Level 3 ... I imagine we would have to learn to teach at each level, one at a time, progressively. How would that change our instruction?
Real language expression and dialogue is necessary, and if you really want to learn the language as a language, you have to start with texts that are closer to Goldilocks than Chrysostom. At least that is true for most of us. And you also must access the widest variety of texts possible as the learning progresses. To do otherwise, in my opinion, would be to defeat your purpose of a full dialogue with Biblical texts. Those who wrote those texts, and those who read them well in the original, have developed their language skills from a vastly broader base.

None of this, of course, is at odds with your approach to centre on the Biblical texts. I do think though that you will have to reach way beyond those Biblical texts to actually accomplish your goal fully. When I read in English about Paul's grief at the ignorance and the vanity of Athenian idol worship in Acts 17, I read the fullness of the text because I have broad understanding of false religion and idolatry in my native language. Many images suggest themselves to me when I read this text - and much of that imagery and language association comes from extra-Biblical language. This is necessary in Greek also if you wish to read the Greek text in the same way. For the Greek words to have their full impact, you need to have a wide association in your Greek 'language bank'. Indeed, the more that you read and understand the Greek of Paul's era, the more you will grasp just exactly what he was saying in the Biblical text.
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