John, Luke or Paul

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Mason Barge
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John, Luke or Paul

Post by Mason Barge » August 24th, 2014, 4:29 pm

I am about to enter my fifth semester of koine Greek study and I have to choose one of three paths -- called John, Luke, and Paul - which differ by which books of the New Testament I will translate. I would appreciate any knowledgeable comments.

A. "John": Gospel of John; 1, 2, 3 John; Revelation; part of Matthew
B. "Paul": All the Pauline Epistles
C. "Luke": Gospel of Luke; Acts; Hebrews;

I haven't really toted up the total workload in terms of number of verses, but they seem close enough. John looks easier, but the limited vocabulary and repetition can be deceptive. I have already started 1 John and have spent at least four hours trying to translate the first word: Ὅ. This is my first choice currently. Revelation is the only book of the NT I have not studied; and if there are two NT books I cannot get enough of, they are the Gospels of John and Matthew.

Paul is about even with John in terms of how much it would mean to me in being able to study the content. But since my plan is to translate the entire NT eventually, it might make sense to save Paul for later on. Really, some of the epistles are difficult to read in English! I have looked at Ephesians in Greek and following that chain of participles could easily turn into a nightmare.

Luke is pretty much out, unless someone gives me a compelling reason that I haven't thought of. The reason being, I have studied Acts quite a bit and would rather spend my time on something else in the NT right now. Also, if I'm going to do a long, difficult epistle, I'd rather do Romans first.
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Louis L Sorenson
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Louis L Sorenson » August 24th, 2014, 5:09 pm

What you need are good resources. The Baylor series titled 'Handbook on the Greek Text' will answer almost all you questions about the text. You don't need it if you have a teacher at hand you can bounce questions off of, but that series has been well appreciated by students I have had in class.

http://www.baylorpress.com/en/Series/3/ ... 0Testament


Note: the latest book is Mark 1-8 by our recently deceased B-Greek member Rodney Deckert http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/mem ... file&u=124 who was Professor of New Testament at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania.

John's writings are the simplest because the vocabulary is simpler and the syntax more similar to English word order; Luke and Hebrews are harder, and are known as being more simliar to 'literary Greek', a more polished Greek containing greater vocabulary, freer (free-er) word order, greater use of participles and literary devices like genitive absolutes, longer sentences, etc.
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RandallButh
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by RandallButh » August 25th, 2014, 3:21 am

John, Luke, and Paul - which differ by which books of the New Testament I will translate. I would appreciate any knowledgeable comments.
Mason,
As you are discovering, translation is something different from learning a language. In fact, good translation is a sophisticated, time-consuming, and difficult process that requires intimate knowledge of both the target audience and the source text. Translation is NOT recommended as a language learning strategy. If you wanted to become proficient in reading the German Bible, for example, translation of the Pauline epistles would not be the way into the German language.

What all languages require for in depth learning is use. You learn a language by using it. That is the irony that little children all work their way through. Paraphrasing Johannine lit would be a more profitable language learning strategy than translation into English and interaction with Koine colleagues on a particular text would also be encouraged. Both of these activities can be enhanced when done orally.

[PS: self-disclosure: I spent twenty years in Africa working on Bible translation, so my advice may be more than an armchair internet comment.]
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 25th, 2014, 3:35 am

My feeling that is that you gotta spend time in the language. Pick the book that makes it the most enjoyable for you to spend time on. You state that Matthew and John are your two favorites. Personally, I would pick Matthew as the Greek is good, standard Koine without too many oddities.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 25th, 2014, 3:46 am

Is this "fifth semester" a formal one, by some school which sets your goals and purposes? A hobby-horse of many of us here in B-Greek, which we wish to beat to death, is the so called "grammar-translation" method where the ultimate purpose of learning Greek is to create translation from which you can work onwards exegetically. Our purpose is to read and understand the Greek text as Greek, even to think in Greek. The problem with this in formal education is that you can't measure it in exams, so they take the easy path which actually doesn't help so much our ultimate purpose, i.e. learning and knowing Greek (or to read and understand God's Word in its original language, if you want to put it that way).

If you have to fullfill formal goals I suggest you first select a passage (not just a sentence!), read it through so many times you can read it fast and understand it in Greek, possibly skipping the most difficult parts, and only after that begin with details and translation. The "John" path is probably best for that, because it's easier to read through quickly. The difficulty of vocabulary isn't as crucial for the strict translation method because after you write a word down in English it's there. If you try to understand a passage in Greek in your mind you have to keep several new vocabulary items in memory at the same time, as some kind of concrete or ideal concepts without direct English equivalents (if possible). Also for grammar it's easier to work one sentence at a time, write it in English and leave it. But you'll never get the feel and flow of the original text that way, not as the original writer intended it.

Take hyperbaton for example. The translation is simple direct English, but can you internalize the whole sentence in Greek? As far as I remember Luke, especially Acts, and some non-Pauline epistles use hyperbaton, but not so much Paul and especially John.

The "John" path is the easiest one for grammar and vocabulary. If you want to take the hard path and actually learn Greek by understanding it, and have only limited time to translate all the required texts, I recommend "John". If your goal is to just fullfill the requirements, take any path which feels good. But even if you try both understand and translate the most difficult path (in my opinion "Luke") it's beneficial to work through it quicky. Just try to understand fluently as much you can in certain time and don't feel pressured to understand all and every detail.

BTW, Ephesians is notorious for having some of the most difficult sentences in the NT. But they are not representative. Use phrase-level diagramming for those rare situations and remember that nobody knows for sure how the longest sentence should be undersood.
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RandallButh
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by RandallButh » August 25th, 2014, 4:06 am

Our purpose is to read and understand the Greek text as Greek, even to think in Greek. The problem with this in formal education is that you can't measure it in exams,
Huh?! Since when have monolingual exams prevented measurement of language progress?
Good language programs that reach reasonably high levels of language competence regularly use testing materials that take place in the target language. German in German, French in French, etc.

Stated for an Anglophone audience, what do the Goethe Institute [German language and culture programs] or Alliance Francaise [French language and culture programs] have in common? English exams?! No.
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Stephen Carlson » August 25th, 2014, 4:40 am

RandallButh wrote:
Our purpose is to read and understand the Greek text as Greek, even to think in Greek. The problem with this in formal education is that you can't measure it in exams,
Huh?! Since when have monolingual exams prevented measurement of language progress?
Good language programs that reach reasonably high levels of language competence regularly use testing materials that take place in the target language. German in German, French in French, etc.

Stated for an Anglophone audience, what do the Goethe Institute [German language and culture programs] or Alliance Francaise [French language and culture programs] have in common? English exams?! No.
If Eeli is referring to the typical Greek-to-English translation exams, I can agree that they don't measure what you're looking for.

My Swedish for Immigrants class had competency exams, which you had to pass to get your certification. There were four parts: (1) läsa, which involves reading a new text and answering multiple choice or short-answer questions, (2) skriva, which involves writing a page or two about a personal topic, (3) höra, which involves listening to a number of Swedish conversations and and answering multiple choice or short-answer questions, and finally (4) tala, which involves a brief conversation with a native speaker. None of these test involve any language other than Swedish, of course. Given my age and bent, I tended to excel at these four parts in decreasing order.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen » August 25th, 2014, 5:15 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
RandallButh wrote:
Our purpose is to read and understand the Greek text as Greek, even to think in Greek. The problem with this in formal education is that you can't measure it in exams,
Huh?! Since when have monolingual exams prevented measurement of language progress?
Good language programs that reach reasonably high levels of language competence regularly use testing materials that take place in the target language. German in German, French in French, etc.

Stated for an Anglophone audience, what do the Goethe Institute [German language and culture programs] or Alliance Francaise [French language and culture programs] have in common? English exams?! No.
If Eeli is referring to the typical Greek-to-English translation exams, I can agree that they don't measure what you're looking for.
Yes, I meant the current state of this imperfect world where Greek teachers can't or don't want to evaluate for example oral discussion because they are not fluent themselves. Of course I know how languages are taught and evaluated in general (beginning with 10 years of compulsory English and 6 years of compulsory Swedish and later elementary German). That's of course very different from the usual Koine Greek teaching. And students should somehow get the aha-moment and be enlightened about this fact. It's very commonsensical and self-evident once you notice it but sadly isn't told in Koine classess. Both Randall's and my point is that you don't learn a language by translating text to some other language. Our difference is that my goal is more modest and short-term practical, just reading text with some fluency. Randall aims for complete language learning and keeps telling us that we can't read really fluently without oral fluency. I don't question this, but everyone has to decide their own goals and paths considering their current real world situation and limited resources.
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Shirley Rollinson » August 25th, 2014, 7:09 pm

Mason Barge wrote:I am about to enter my fifth semester of koine Greek study and I have to choose one of three paths -- called John, Luke, and Paul - which differ by which books of the New Testament I will translate. I would appreciate any knowledgeable comments.

A. "John": Gospel of John; 1, 2, 3 John; Revelation; part of Matthew
B. "Paul": All the Pauline Epistles
C. "Luke": Gospel of Luke; Acts; Hebrews;

I haven't really toted up the total workload in terms of number of verses, but they seem close enough. John looks easier, but the limited vocabulary and repetition can be deceptive. I have already started 1 John and have spent at least four hours trying to translate the first word: Ὅ. This is my first choice currently. Revelation is the only book of the NT I have not studied; and if there are two NT books I cannot get enough of, they are the Gospels of John and Matthew.

Paul is about even with John in terms of how much it would mean to me in being able to study the content. But since my plan is to translate the entire NT eventually, it might make sense to save Paul for later on. Really, some of the epistles are difficult to read in English! I have looked at Ephesians in Greek and following that chain of participles could easily turn into a nightmare.

Luke is pretty much out, unless someone gives me a compelling reason that I haven't thought of. The reason being, I have studied Acts quite a bit and would rather spend my time on something else in the NT right now. Also, if I'm going to do a long, difficult epistle, I'd rather do Romans first.
For a good "crib", with some insights into the grammar and etymology, I recommend "Zerwick & Grosvenor" - Maximilian Zerwik and Mary Grosvenor "An Analysis of the Greek New Testament"
Apparently it's now available as a pdf file for download at
http://ebookscentral.com/book/77870/a-g ... unabridged

I think the John/Matthew option might be the best/easiest :-)
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: John, Luke or Paul

Post by Barry Hofstetter » August 26th, 2014, 8:05 am

Mason, you have gotten some really good replies here. I am still reeling over the fact that you say that you have already spent 4 hours on the first word of 1 John, ὅ. It really makes we wonder what was going in your first 4 semesters of Koine Greek? Even in terms of translation, you can't translate a single word in a text unless you have excellent comprehension of that text in both the source and receptor languages. Ideally, you should be able to explain the word and what it's doing in the text in the source language, Greek, but at the very least you should be able to explain it in your own language. The advice you are getting is sound: forget translation, and read the text for comprehension without consciously trying to translate it. The ironic things is that as you develop this essential skill, you will also be laying the foundation necessary for the translation and exegesis that is being formally required of you. This only comes from understanding the language as a language in its own right. You don't spend hours in English trying to understand what "which" means. You simply see or hear it in context and move on from there. That's how automatic you want to make it in Greek.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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