13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You via www.daveblackonline.com/blog.htm
The latest issue of The Reader’s Digest has an interesting
article entitled “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Here are
“13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You”:
1. Greek is not the only tool you
need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component
in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there.
(You’ll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)
2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of
biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you
what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to
disambiguate the text.
3. Greek is not superior to other
languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is
more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.
4. Greek did not have to be the
language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its
complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New
Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin),
and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer
the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as
Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of
Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in
the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize
this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect
the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a
5. Greek words do not have one
meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the
Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have
many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution
to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading
all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which
it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)
6. Greek is not difficult to learn.
I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to
tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who
get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a
poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!
7. Greek can be acquired through any
number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to
use my own
Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my
classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in
California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek
teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly
opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the
right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left
California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now
teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the
textbook that had been required was mine!)
8. Greek students think they can get
away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my
students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even
one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time
management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.
9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s
taught in a fun way.
10. Greek is good for more than word
studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to
get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in
seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the
Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had
consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since
then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the
queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is
structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical
constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.
11. Greek can cause you to lose your
faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when
he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New
Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes
nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic
interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why
I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are
eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in
humble service to His upside-down kingdom.
12. Greek can be learned in an
informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal
class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know
gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of
whom are also using my
Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone
wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a
pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”
13. Greek is not Greek. In other
words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages.
So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because
you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have
mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn
Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).
Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m
exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students
these things. May their tribe increase!
Now who wants to tackle “13
Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?