H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

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Stephen Hughes
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H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 20th, 2016, 1:03 am

I am starting this thread to group together somethings that have made Greek "worth" the Great effort required to learn it. I think that this is more or less what most of the other topics in the forum lead to in a sense, but perhaps putting a few together might be interesting. Has Greek ever actually helped your understanding, or corrected your misunderstanding?
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Stephen Hughes
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 20th, 2016, 1:08 am

Let me offer one of corrected misunderstandings to start off:

In Acts 8:18, I had understood that Simon Magus "offered" money as in he took the apostles aside privately and made a proposition, as in "I'll give you xx gold, if you ...", that sort of "offer", but the Greek προσφέρω means a physical act, like carry it to them and hold out his hands to them and ask them to take it. [Another indirect point is that it was money, not a "bribe" (δῶρον).]
Acts 8:18,19 wrote:Θεασάμενος δὲ ὁ Σίμων ὅτι διὰ τῆς ἐπιθέσεως τῶν χειρῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων δίδοται τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, προσήνεγκεν αὐτοῖς χρήματα, 19 λέγων, Δότε κἀμοὶ τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην, ἵνα ᾧ ἐὰν ἐπιθῶ τὰς χεῖρας, λαμβάνῃ πνεῦμα ἅγιον.
Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

RandallButh
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by RandallButh » February 20th, 2016, 3:40 am

I think that this could be an interesting thread.

How does it sound in my ears? Has English ever helped my Shakespeare? Has Spanish ever helped my Don Quixote? Has Hebrew ever helped my Isaiah?
Probably word by word, syllable by syllable, communicative choice by communicative choice.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways.

So yesterday I was reading εις γην ισραηλ. Matthew 2.
Not την γην
nor του ισραηλ.

You have to feel the love.

cwconrad
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by cwconrad » February 20th, 2016, 8:03 am

RandallButh wrote:I think that this could be an interesting thread.
Amen!
How do I love thee, let me count the ways.
To Elizabeth Barrett Browning I'll add Terence's adage: quot homies, tot sententiae.

I think at once of three ways:
1. Before I could read it I looked at a page of printed Greek ( I think it was a Loeb bilingual format of the iliad), I marveled at the (to me) beautiful shapes of the printed Greek characters and vowed to myself, "I'm going to learn how to read them!";
2. My first teacher was a grad student at Tulane, a brilliant man trained at Louisville Baptist Seminary in the tradition of A.T. Robertson, who filled me with an intense fascinated interest in the construction and linguistic history of this language (rather than for the texts being read in the language); I've always been a lover of puzzles, but the puzzles posed by forms and usage of ancient Greek loom more fascinating and more rewarding than any others;
3. Soon enough I began to love the authors who left us texts in their language, texts that, more than those of English and of other languages that I have learned--and also loved, have revealed to me and helped me grasp the profundities of what it is to be human; epic adventure and pathos in Homer, mythic insight into the human condition in Hesiod, ecstatic expression of passionate feeling in Sappho, rollicking fun in Aristophanes, a sense of how "it comes to an end, but it's good!" in the three tragedians, conversation that is as eloquent as it is provocative in Plato, grotesquely fascinating and artificial portrayals of rustic singers in Theocritus, wit and irreverent eloquence in beautifully lucid language in Lucian -- that's a list that keeps on growing even when the NT documents haven't even been named.
Beyond those three: καὶ τὰ λοιπά.
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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

Paul-Nitz
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Paul-Nitz » February 20th, 2016, 9:37 am

Getting the flow of thought is my biggest reward in reading the Bible in Greek.

The most remarkable example for me so far is Epistle of James. The many seeming non sequiturs melted away. In their place, I saw James speaking to the three groups in the congregation - οἱ πτωχοί, οἱ θρησκοί, καὶ οἱ πλούσοι (according to the way I see it, anyway).

As an aside, my increased understanding did NOT come from an analysis of teeny Greek connectors, a deep word study, or squeezing out the significance of some change in aspect. It came from reading the whole letter through in Greek, out loud, fluently, with comprehension (like a public reading from the lecturn). That took many hours and mighty effort for me, but the rewards were well worth it.

Second to flow of thought, pithy expression in Greek never fails to delight me...
  • τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι;
    versus the overly formal -,
    "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jn 2:4

    τὸ εἰ δύνῃ,
    versus a translation that (necessarily) misses the irritation -
    "If you can?" Mark 9:23

    Νυνὶ δὲ μένει
    πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα·
    μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.

    versus the (necessarily) very dull rendering -
    "And now these three remain,
    faith, hope and love.
    But the greatest of these is love.
    " 1 Corinthians 13:13
And then, there's the delight of creative word order...
Τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ ἀοράτῳ μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν. 1 Ti 1:17

And then there's the clever way words are compounded...
απεκατεστάθη απο + κατα + ισταθῆναι (restore) Luke 6:12
Paul D. Nitz - Lilongwe Malawi

Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 20th, 2016, 10:32 am

This has moved me, many times:
The Bard wrote:To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
This captivates me. In majestic language it conveys both light and harmony, and the Hebrew is a part of that.
Isaiah 40:6-8 wrote: ק֚וֹל אֹמֵ֣ר קְרָ֔א וְאָמַ֖ר מָ֣ה אֶקְרָ֑א כָּל־הַבָּשָׂ֣ר חָצִ֔יר וְכָל־חַסְדּ֖וֹ כְּצִ֥יץ הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃ 7 יָבֵ֤שׁ חָצִיר֙ נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֔יץ כִּ֛י ר֥וּחַ יְהוָ֖ה נָ֣שְׁבָה בּ֑וֹ אָכֵ֥ן חָצִ֖יר הָעָֽם׃ 8 יָבֵ֥שׁ חָצִ֖יר נָ֣בֵֽל צִ֑יץ וּדְבַר־אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יָק֥וּם לְעוֹלָֽם׃ ס
This owns me, and I cannot entirely separate the language from my experience of the text.
John 1:14 wrote: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας.
For me, the TEXT is the thing. The language has brought me closer to the text, and for that reason it has been an enormous blessing.

How has the language brought me closer to the text? I would say first of all that I have to consider carefully what is being said. I have to see the text with new eyes, consider it afresh. Then, as we all know, a translation is but an approximation, often close, sometimes not so much. Again, there are places where having an understanding of the language corrects typical mis-readings that translation falls prey to.

Above all, though, I think there is an experience of language that starts out almost as juvenile pride of accomplishment and then matures into genuine depth of encounter, insight, and the sheer joy that language brings to human beings. It is seen in little children receiving first 'light' through the vehicle of language, and in the teenager who flaunts his knowledge of TS Eliot, but one day begins to actually 'hear' Eliot's poetry. It is not just the words alone, but it is the harmony of the words in concert with the light they bear. The language itself is an integral part of this experience. Reading Isaiah 40 in Hebrew is not the same as reading it in English. Reading John 1:14 in Greek is not the same as reading it in English.

Yes, I agree: "You have to feel the love".
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 20th, 2016, 12:55 pm

Paul-Nitz wrote: Second to flow of thought, pithy expression in Greek never fails to delight me...
  • τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, γύναι;
    versus the overly formal -,
    "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jn 2:4

    τὸ εἰ δύνῃ,
    versus a translation that (necessarily) misses the irritation -
    "If you can?" Mark 9:23

    Νυνὶ δὲ μένει
    πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη, τὰ τρία ταῦτα·
    μείζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.

    versus the (necessarily) very dull rendering -
    "And now these three remain,
    faith, hope and love.
    But the greatest of these is love.
    " 1 Corinthians 13:13
I like these! I would add:
  • ἀνέβη ἐπὶ τὴν καρδίαν αὐτου
    versus the colorless / motionless / emotionless
    it entered his mind Acts 7:23

    τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
    versus the flat / uninteresting / cerebral
    what does this mean? eg Acts 2:12
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Wes Wood
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Wes Wood » February 20th, 2016, 1:43 pm

Since most of the focus so far has been on the later advantages of learning Greek, I will attempt to add some encouragement for those beginning their Greek journeys. One of the biggest initial benefits for learning Greek is that the learners, by necessity, read the their texts more slowly than they would in their native language. This enables them to see the small but meaningful details that might have otherwise eluded them. At least, this has been my experience.
Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » February 20th, 2016, 8:37 pm

It makes me slow down and concentrate on what the text is saying.
Too often I meet a familiar (English) passage and it just flows by like a warm fuzzy.
If I read it in Greek it often hits me with a deeper resonance.
To give one particular example - the account of the Transfiguration (particularly in Luke 9:29) in English sounds like a detergent ad ("My Mommy used Tide/Dreft/Oxydol/etc. and now my dress is whiter than white"), whereas read it in Greek and I get the picture of a blinding strike of lightning - POW - several million volts right in front of me.
As a further encouragement to those just starting - I did a semester of Seminary Greek, flogging through a textbook which was very grammar-oriented, with a teacher who was afraid of the class (he said he knew what the Christian felt like when thrown to the lions). So we did the equivalent of "See Spot run" for all of one semester, and were part way through the next semester, doing the same routine, when I thought I'd try actually reading the GNT (surprise, surprise - that hadn't seemed to be on the agenda for the class). So I opened it up (probably by chance - I don't remember) and read John 13:13 - and found that I could read it and understand it, and that Jesus' simple answer of εἰμι γαρ was mind-blowing. No need of great proclamations or "Trumperies", just simply "that's it, guys" (the Rollinson Standard Version).
BTW - for our further semesters of Seminary Greek we had a really gifted teachers, and did indeed get into the text.

Nathan Binns
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Re: H(ow h)as Greek ever actually helped you?

Post by Nathan Binns » February 25th, 2016, 1:05 am

Knowing Greek means I win bible arguments by appeals to authority (ie. my own) much easier now :D.

On a serious note, being forced to sit and concentrate on a text as I read instead of fly right over it in English means I pick up piles of things I don't even notice in English, and even though the English translations we have are generally excellent, there's still so much nuance etc. that you just can't get based on the English (or any other translation) alone.

Generally speaking learning Greek has also given me a love of language generally, and also apparently learning a language severely decreases your risk of dementia in later life, so there's also that.

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