Why Study Greek?

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Stephen Carlson
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Why Study Greek?

Post by Stephen Carlson » January 16th, 2016, 10:31 pm

A classicist, Bruce McMenomy, blogs his own answer. http://www.scholarsonline.org/Blog/?p=403

Here's his bit about New Testament:
For a Christian, of course, being able to read the New Testament in its original form is a very significant advantage. Those who have spent any time investigating what we do at Scholars Online will realize that this is perhaps an odd thing to bring up, since we don’t teach New Testament Greek as such. My rationale there is really quite simple: the marginal cost of learning classical Attic Greek is small enough, compared with its advantages, that there seems no point in learning merely the New Testament (koine) version of the language. Anyone who can read Attic Greek can handle the New Testament with virtually no trouble. Yes, there are a few different forms: some internal consonants are lost, so that γίγνομαι (gignomai) becomes γίνομαι (ginomai), and the like. Yes, some of the more elaborate constructions go away, and one has to get used to a range of conditions (for example) that is significantly diminished from the Attic models I talked about above. But none of this will really throw a student of Attic into a tailspin; the converse is not true. Someone trained in New Testament Greek can read only New Testament Greek. Homer, Euripides, Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Herodotus, Thucydides — all the treasures of the classical Greek tradition remain inaccessible. But the important contents of the New Testament and the early Greek church fathers is open even with this restricted subset of Greek — and they are very well worth reading.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 16th, 2016, 10:46 pm

Are there resources for learning Attic if you know Hellenistic Greek? BDF goes the other way around, it would be nice to have an "Attic Greek for those who know New Testament Greek".
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http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

RandallButh
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by RandallButh » January 17th, 2016, 3:11 am

I don't believe that there is any hinderance in learning Greek if one starts with Koine. What do you think Josephus, Paul, Luke and others did themselves?
They entered Attic from a spoken Koine.

NB: I am not arguing for a "NT-only" Greek, which is just a small slice of the language. However, more important than dialect is fluency and internalization.
Let the student (and teachers!) internalize the Koine. There are plenty of nice literary texts for expanding vocab and forms that make a transfer into Attic almost seemless. And Lucian's "Syrian Goddess" is a great intro into Ionic.
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cwconrad
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by cwconrad » January 17th, 2016, 7:14 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:Are there resources for learning Attic if you know Hellenistic Greek? BDF goes the other way around, it would be nice to have an "Attic Greek for those who know New Testament Greek".
The method is called, "Hold your nose and dive in!" I've recounted my own experience several times: studied NT Koine as a freshman in college and spent my sophomore year reading Homer's Iliad; in the first semester of my junior year I worked through Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics and in the second semester did Sophocles; Oedipus Rex. It's not the sequence I'd recommend.

If you're not going to follow Randall's advice and immerse yourself in 2nd c. CE Koine first -- any many will not do that --, then I'd recommend working through the JACT Reading Greek course, wherein you'll first gain a mastery of Attic and then move to introductions to Herodotean Ionic, to a section of Homer's Odyssey Book 6, and some Plato.
RandallButh wrote:I don't believe that there is any hinderance in learning Greek if one starts with Koine. What do you think Josephus, Paul, Luke and others did themselves?
They entered Attic from a spoken Koine.

NB: I am not arguing for a "NT-only" Greek, which is just a small slice of the language. However, more important than dialect is fluency and internalization.
Let the student (and teachers!) internalize the Koine. There are plenty of nice literary texts for expanding vocab and forms that make a transfer into Attic almost seemless. And Lucian's "Syrian Goddess" is a great intro into Ionic.
The "Syrian Goddess" is pseudo-Lucian, but very well-worth reading; fascinating too is pseudo-Lucian's Λούκιος ἣ ῎Ονος. Lucian himself -- a native of Samosata on the eastern side of the Galilean lake who must have been fluent in the Koine of his 2nd c. CE Koine, was a committed Atticist; he wrote brilliant satire in a lucid and compelling style of Attic that I'd very much like to emulate.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

RandallButh
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by RandallButh » January 17th, 2016, 10:04 am

The "Syrian Goddess" is pseudo-Lucian, but very well-worth reading;
Definitely worth reading. Not so sure that it was a pseudo-Lucian. The blackest mark against "whoever" was writing such impressive Ionic Greek. I think the question has been re-opened or kept open by at least a few.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » January 17th, 2016, 4:34 pm

I remember Ann Nyland saying something like this eons ago in this forum. Attic first, years of it. Then Koine. But your not going to get any seminary student to buy into that. The language requirment is a nusiance to the vast majority of seminiary students. If you tell them they need to learn Attic and Homer first they will just laugh in your face and do an end run around languages. I know because I did it. Ralph Alexander, Ezekiel commenatator, came very close to throwing me out of his office in Nov of 1974 when I told him that I wasn't going to study languages. I was the second person refered to him by a friend in Seattle who had told him "no languages" and he was not tolerant of that attitude.
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C. Stirling Bartholomew

Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why Study Greek?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 18th, 2016, 9:11 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:I remember Ann Nyland saying something like this eons ago in this forum. Attic first, years of it. Then Koine. But your not going to get any seminary student to buy into that. The language requirment is a nusiance to the vast majority of seminiary students. If you tell them they need to learn Attic and Homer first they will just laugh in your face and do an end run around languages. I know because I did it. Ralph Alexander, Ezekiel commenatator, came very close to throwing me out of his office in Nov of 1974 when I told him that I wasn't going to study languages. I was the second person refered to him by a friend in Seattle who had told him "no languages" and he was not tolerant of that attitude.
This one of the few things I've done right, but I really did it by dumb luck. When starting college, I knew that the NT had been written in Greek. I may have been vaguely aware of the difference between Attic and Koine (my high school Latin teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Eakin, might have mentioned it), but it didn't mean anything to me, so I started my pursuit of Greek studying Attic, and had three semesters before my first NT course reading the Gospel of Mark. It seemed pretty easy after Plato, and much easier than the following semester with Aristophanes and Thucydides... :shock:

It's true that too many students would like to skip it altogether, especially when some have the unfortunate perception that electronic tools can substitute for honest language acquisition. But just as our parents and teachers encouraged and forced us to do what was good for us, let's not cater to immaturity and youthful haste, but encourage them to do the right thing the right way.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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