How to progress to patristics?

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Jacob Rhoden
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How to progress to patristics?

Post by Jacob Rhoden » November 17th, 2016, 6:51 pm

Hi everyone,

I am by no means an expert in reading biblical greek, but I am at the point where I can read some of the easier books of the bible in greek quite comfortably. (i.e. 1 John is a pleasure to read, but Hebrews and its frequent hapax legomena is still a bit of a nightmare.

I opened up Barnabas, and 1:1 is like, "whoo this is easy", and then 1:2 is like "errr, what on earth language is this". :D

Aside from doing daily reading in greek, is there anything specific that might help better prepare me for patristics? (I will have the privilege of doing Intermediate greek next semester, but that is 3 months away).
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Wes Wood
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Re: How to progress to patristics?

Post by Wes Wood » November 17th, 2016, 9:40 pm

I opened up Barnabas, and 1:1 is like, "whoo this is easy", and then 1:2 is like "errr, what on earth language is this". :D
I think you are likely selling yourself a bit short here. I would venture to say that in verse 2 the biggest hurdle you are having is vocabulary, but what do I know, right? ;)

These are some of my observations when reading the Church Fathers, but I don't presume that my limited readings are representative of the difficulties you might encounter in the corpus:
1) Depending upon the author, you are likely to encounter Greek forms and usages that you don't see as often in the New Testament. Personally, the items that gave me the most trouble in no particular order were: 1) More frequent use of the optative. 2) More varied use of infinitives. (I have mentioned this last issue quite often on the forum, and I am glad to say this is not nearly the ordeal it once was.) 3) More varied usage of conditionals.

2) On occasion, I have noticed the Fathers quote or allude to other other ancient authors (I have Plato in mind specifically, but there are others. He stands out because I am more familiar with his writings.) There have been times in my readings when understanding the allusion/quote will make or break my understanding of the text, even if I otherwise have the sense of the passage.

3) Learn the vocabulary of a passage before you attempt it. Other than taking the time to work through an Attic Grammar (well, technically, one and a quarter), this has been the single most helpful change that I have made in my own private readings. Skim the passage, jot down the terms you don't know, consult a lexicon, and memorize the definitions, lexical forms, and/or principle parts. Don't start the text until you are confident you know the vocabulary. This has helped me more than I can say.

4) Don't quit.

Good luck!
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Ἀσπάζομαι μὲν καὶ φιλῶ, πείσομαι δὲ μᾶλλον τῷ θεῷ ἢ ὑμῖν.-Ἀπολογία Σωκράτους 29δ

Stephen Hughes
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Re: How to progress to patristics?

Post by Stephen Hughes » November 17th, 2016, 11:29 pm

Jacob Rhoden wrote:s there anything specific that might help better prepare me for patristics?

Treat them like you would treat Christian texts in English. There is a similar range of interactions with scriptures among the Greek fathers as you would find in a modern language resource.

For example, you will find interpretation, exposition, explanation, disagreement with others who done those things and application of the text to individuals or situations. It will help you to expland your concepts of Greek literacy. A writer who was literate in Greek had mastery of a wide range of skills. Realise that you will be developing not only vocabulary as you have found and Wes has commented on, but other things as well.

If you use an English translation to prepare to read a passage, work through some basic questions like, "What is the authour's purpose in writing this paragraph? Who were the audience? How do different ideas flow from one to the other and what is the relationship between them. Seeing the conceptual structure of the section as you read the translation, then taking that to the Greek together with the more obvious vocabulary knowledge, will be quite rewarding and beneficial. Whether you deliberately teach yourself to recognise a text type or become accustomed to differences by wide exposure, once your textual anaysis includes the recognition of text-types you will be better at contextually (educatedly) guessing the meaning of words.

Higher order thinking, critical or informed questioning, educated reading, or whatever you'd like to call it will help you. If your Greek is up to it, the advice you will often hear, encouraging us to read once through quickly can or does give us a sort of orientation to the passage - based on what we do know we make an educated guess about what we will find in the second and subsequent read throughs. Reading on your own, as you will be for this, a debrief or reflective analysis will probably be useful. Ask yourself what it was about the paragraph that first prompted you to think it was such and such a piece of writing,and what was it in the passage that caused you to change your mind. Self-critical meta linguistic analysis (learning from your mistakes) is preferably to the feelings or bewilderment or loss that easily arise.
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Γελᾷ δ' ὁ μωρός, κἄν τι μὴ γέλοιον ᾖ
(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

Tim Evans
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Re: How to progress to patristics?

Post by Tim Evans » November 18th, 2016, 1:16 am

I don't know why I didn't think of that, but on a practical level, it's been true for me that if I know all the vocabulary the grammar starts to seem not difficult at all! I'll start with some Anki word lists preceding each chapter.

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement!
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Shirley Rollinson
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Re: How to progress to patristics?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » November 18th, 2016, 8:57 pm

Tim Evans wrote:I don't know why I didn't think of that, but on a practical level, it's been true for me that if I know all the vocabulary the grammar starts to seem not difficult at all! I'll start with some Anki word lists preceding each chapter.

Thanks for the feedback and encouragement!
I keep a file for my Greek reading - listed under Book, chapter, verse, etc. - the first time I read a passage I make a note of the words, constructions, etc, that I don't know. Then I work out what they mean, and make a note of that. Then I read the passage a couple of times again. It helps if one goes back and re-reads the notes occasionally.
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