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Archive for March 23rd, 2013

Greek

This 90 page book, written by Constantine R. Campbell was a light and enjoyable book for anyone who aspires to learn Greek. I think that beginning Greek students, graduates of the Greek language, teachers, and preachers, will find this book edifying and enjoyable.   After reading this book, I am going to recommend this to some people in my church who just started learning the Koine Greek.  I hope that it will be an invaluable tool for them during their Greek endeavor.

This book will help them learn the Greek vocabulary, paradigms, grammar, syntax–to name but a few, better.  If I could give you one summary about this book so that you could remember at least one thing for the future long-haul, it would be this: “Maintain your Greek now because it will save you pain in the long run.”  This book has good strategies; and will provide an effective battle plan against this temptation: “I will stop learning Greek because it is too hard.”

On another note, invaluable insights of this book can be found in these ten main points which are broken down into 10 different chapters: “Read Every Day, Burn Your Interlinear, Use Software Tools Wisely, Make Vocabulary Your Friend, Practice Your Parsing, Read Fast, Read Slow, Use Your Senses, Get Your Greek Back, Putting It All Together.”  Since there are some great quotes concerning those points I mentioned above, I will gather some excerpts.  Let’s start with the first chapter: “Read Every Day.”

Read Every Day:

  • “Reading reminds, refreshes, and reinforces.”
  • “Long ago I learned a trick that can help the pastor–on four or five days a week spend ten to fifteen minutes in the Greek text just reading.  Open up your Greek New Testament, have a translation to its side and a lexicon to consult, use a parsing guide for words you can’t parse, and just read the text itself.”
  • “Learning Greek vocabulary, practicing paradigms, and other such things have their place, and I’ll discuss them later in this book.  But they are no substitute for reading Greek, and for busy people who can only afford to do one thing related to Greek each day, it must be this.  There are several reasons for this.
    • First, reading Greek is our goal.  It’s why we’ve learned Greek in the first place: to read and understand the Greek New Testament.  There’s nothing like practicing to achieve your goal.
    • Second, reading Greek brings all the other skills into play: vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are all required for reading, and the reading reminds, refreshes, and reinforces all those things.
    • Third, there is no substitute for getting the vibe of Greek besides reading it.”
  • “…begin with ‘easy’ Greek, like John’s gospel.  The vocabulary is limited and the syntax is straightforward (while the theology is profound!).  This will help your confidence and get you into the swing of things.”
  • Summary: “Reading Greek is not only effective for maintaining and developing your Greek skills; it can also be done regularly without a huge time commitment.”

Burn Your Interlinear: Here in this chapter, the author says to burn your interlinear because it is a tool of the devil.  That statement itself will light up questions all over your mind.  Why does he urge one to burn it?  This is his answer:

  • “A tool of the devil?  I’m kidding, of course–interlinears have their place.  If you don’t know much Greek, and have no intention of getting good at it, then an interlinear can be useful to check a word here or there and see what Greek word underlies an English translation.  But if you want to keep your Greek, if you want to read the Greek New Testament, then take your interlinear outside, douse it with gasoline, and light a match.”

It may sound like an extreme suggestion from the author, but he does make a good point.  More of his explanation can be found in chapter 2

  • Summary: “Reading Greek=good.  Interlinear=bad.  Bicep curls=ouch!”

Use Software Tools Wisely: The author does not cast anathemas to individuals who use Bible softwares; nor is he against its use, but he does exhort one to not abuse it.  The author does mention that during his doctorate program, the aid of BibleWorks helped him.  Without it, he would have taken ten years to finish the program.

  • “Bible software can be a blessing or a curse–it’s up to you.”
  • Here are some tips he gives in order for one to keep his or her Greek rather than to kill one:
    • “When you are doing your ten to thirty minutes per day of Greek reading (see chapter  1), do not  have an English translation open to the screen.  Make sure you can see only the Greek (all the software programs enable this).  Feel free to check an English translation once you’ve done some reading (perhaps after each verse, or after a paragraph), but don’t look at it while you’re trying to read the Greek.  In this way, you’ll be replicating the experience of reading a (paper) Greek New Testament, though the advantages of the software are still close to hand.”
  • Summary: “If you’re disciplined, go ahead and use software for your Greek reading.  But if you can’t be trusted not to cheat, then close your laptop and get out a paper Greek New Testament.  If you can find one.”

Make Vocabulary Your Friend:

  • “Clearly one of the hardest elements of keeping your Greek is vocabulary.  Even if you remember your paradigms and recall the syntax, without knowing what the words mean, it is all for nought!  Not only is vocabulary easily forgotten, there are many words that only appear once or twice in the New Testament.  All of this means that vocabulary acquisition and retention can become a major hurdle for keeping your Greek.”
    • What the author said above is in accordance with my experience.  I found Greek challenging during some of the Greek quizzes, because there were moments where I was not saturated with some of the vocabulary words.
  • Some tips the author provides in order to retain the vocabulary words is to have a memory hook, make the words fun to remember, pronounce each word, listen to the vocabs, write out the vocabs, try translating the vocabs from English to Greek; and make Greek a passionate, long-term pursuit.
  • Summary: “By making words your friends, you will take a lot of the frustration out of reading Greek, and instead you’ll enjoy more quality time with buddies!”

Practice Your Parsing:

  • Unlike the Greek, the English translation of the Bible does not make a difference between the singular “you” and plural “you.”  If it fails to make the distinction, just imagine what are some of the implications entails for verb tenses.  As a result, practicing your parsing is critical.
  • “You don’t want to end of sort of recognizing verb forms, but not being able to spell out what they are–that’s a sign of unkeeping your Greek!

Paradigmn

Read Fast: Most people will tell you read slow so that you will be able to comprehend the material better.  This is not just for Greek, but for all reading in any language.  Reading slow is critical as many are aware, but so is reading fast.

  • “Reading quickly will also help you to ‘internalize’ the language in a way that slow and careful reading may not.  To internalize a langauage means that you no longer treat it as an abstract ‘code’ to be deciphered.  Rather, it becomes more like a song you know really well.”
  • Summary: “Read Greek quickly and dig the vibe, man.”
  • Try reading this verse quickly: Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ᾽ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

Read Slow: Reading fast is one good strategy, but so is reading slow.  According to the author, you will need to mix it up.

  • “The best Greek students are the ones who get the ‘vibe’ of the language and also have a strong grip on the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.  The key way to reinforce and sharpen your grasp of the ‘details’ of Greek is to practice reading slowly.”
  • “Reading slowly with care can be rewarding, since it is through this kind of reading that we can find in the Greek text the sorts of things that many of us learned Greek for in the first place: little hidden nuances and exegetical insights that are conveyed by the Greek, but are so often lost in the English translation; the richer, deeper comprehension of the text; and appreciation of the structure of sentences.  Such insights don’t normally occur without slow and careful reading.”
  • Summary: Reading Greek slowly will not be easy at first, but overtime, your skills will increase if you practice this method.

Use Your Senses: In this chapter, the author mentions that Greek is not a language that you just merely see on a page, but it is a language that requires the use of your senses in the area of speaking and hearing if you want to maximize your learning.

  • “Speaking Greek out loud can be a useful way to internalize the language.  Hearing Greek spoken aloud causes us to process the information in a different way to reading, and therefore strengthens our overall comprehension.  This will be the case for most people, but especially for aural learners.”
  • Accents at times are a neglected area from students learning Greek.  Some will tell you it is not necessary or important to learn them, but here is what the author says, “Accents are often ignored by students, as we’re told that they’re not important for the meaning of the text.  But in pronunciation we need to stress one of the syllables of each word, so why not stress the syllable that is supposed to be stressed?”
  • Please visit this site if you want to hear the Greek being spoken: http://www.greeklatinaudio.com.  Have your Greek Bible with you when doing this exercise.
  • Try singling songs when trying to learn the Greek paradigms.
  • Another good exercise is to reproduce the Greek vocab and paradigms on paper.

Get Your Greek Back: “If you did it once, you can do it again.  And it will be easier this time.”

  • “Take heart!  It will come to you more quickly than it did the first time.  It’s easier to remember the Greek you’ve forgotten than it was to learn it in the first place. This is true for most learned skills; once you get back into the swing of things, your memory starts to access that old information more and more quickly.”
  • “Its a bit like muscle-training.  It hurts at first and can be quite a shock to the system.  There may not be any visible results right away.  But with perseverance, you will make progress, once step at a time…those muscles need to be strained in order to enhance their development.”

Putting it All Together:

  • In this chapter, the author summarizes what was said in the earlier chapters and provides examples of how he implements them in his daily life.

I hope this review was somewhat helpful.  What I can tell you is that knowing Greek is like watching HD television.  Greek will provide you discernment when reading commentaries.  You will not be at their mercy.  Greek will help you become more astute when you are interacting with journal articles.  Moreover, Greek will enhance your preaching and teaching skills, and will strengthen your relationship with the Lord. I hope that is enough to motivate you to pursue Greek.

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