Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thoughts on Learning Greek

I’m taking my first seminary Greek class this semester. This isn’t my first dabbling in Greek. Some time ago while I was still in high school (or was it middle school?) I studied the language with my pastor and a deacon from church. It went well up until school started up and I dropped it just as we were getting to the Aorist and Future Passive Indicative tenses in Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (chapter 24).

Now that I am bilingual in English and Spanish, I have a somewhat better understanding of language learning than I did when I first took Greek. Here are my thoughts as I go into this semester:

1.      I will know very little Greek after this semester. After four years of Spanish I aced the A.P. Final and tested out of a Spanish minor in college. I had an awesome teacher, had spent over three months overseas, and lived with a Spaniard for a year. That kind of helped. Many of the people I met in college who’d taken four years of Spanish could barely order food at the local Mexican restaurant. I shouldn’t pretend to know much Greek after this semester.
2.      One semester is too short to learn Greek. Not only will I not know much, I will be expected to learn about as much Greek after one semester as I knew Spanish after two years. This won’t stop me from trying, but it will stop me from doing many of my favorite activities including blogging, reading books, watching M*A*S*H, and doing a host of other things that I enjoy. Hopefully it will also prevent me from doing things I don’t enjoy, like cleaning the bathroom.
3.      I’m not a linguist. This is related to the first point. A lot of students think that taking a semester or two of systematic theology makes them experts on good doctrine. Likewise, a lot of Greek students think that they are experts on translation. It’s easy to criticize the ESV for being too wooden or the NIV for compromising the integrity of Paul’s argument. After one semester of Greek, the only thing I should really know about translating the ESV and the NIV is that the scholars who worked on those translations had a little bit more Greek instruction than myself.

Pray for me this semester. I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting.

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