Re: A little Greek is a dan

Karen Pitts (
23 Aug 1996 14:39:03 U

RE> A little Greek is a dangerous thing 8/23/96 1:45 PM

I was glad to see Jim Vellenga's defense of learning "a little Greek". I'm in
my sixth year of spending at least a couple hours a week at Greek (sometimes
as much as 10 hours). At this point, I'm better than most seminary students
at the end of their MDiv, but I realize I'm not a professor of Greek (although
I do have the gall to teach NT Greek at church).

What people with a moderate amount of (or little, depending on your
perspective) Greek gain is this:
1) awareness of when the translations don't match the text
2) nuances from the Greek language
3) appreciation of concepts and grammar that are hard to translate
4) flavor of how different the Gospels are (they aren't that different
in English)
5) an appreciation for how many Greek words we have in English (empathy,
symphony, gynecology, photolithography, cardiac, pneumatic,. . .)
6) the ability to be a resource for Bible studies in your local community

I'm a quasi-professional statistician (my degree is actually Operations
Research); we statisticians constantly complain that amateurs are doing
statistics when they don't know what they are doing, so I recognize the
problem and sympathize with the emotions. In all our fields, however, you
have to have judgment about how to apply your knowledge. We can't all be
experts about everything, but that doesn't mean we should all stick to one
small area of expertise. I find that boring. Besides which, I feel my
learning and teaching Greek is a calling, and I'm trying to be sensitive to

In reply to David Cashmore:

For the casual Greek user:

At Hopewell Pres., I teach a quasi-traditional course, in that I use a
grammar, the UBS text, and lexicon (which I bring to classes). We learn
paradigms and memorize vocabulary. I find the big requirement is for a much
slower pace, additional exercises, and as early an introduction to actual text
as possible. I've tried two grammars that I'm less than satisfied with. I'm
going to start my next class with Story's Greek to Me, to aid in memorization
and get into Biblical texts faster. All of us teaching Greek to people
learning it in addition to jobs and family responsibilities have had a large
dropout rate (mine is around 75%), which I attribute to 1) a lack of
sufficient time 2) difficulty in learning languages 3) difficulty in
memorizing 4) other priorities overwhelming the desire to learn Greek.

My own resources and practice include several grammars, BAGD, concordance,
computer software, UBS3 & 4, reading 10-20 verses a week with a group, and
lurking on B-Greek. During Bible study and church services, I follow the
Greek text as it is being read in English. For reading, I find I use the text
and lexicon much more than anything else. I use the grammars and concordance
more for answering questions from Bible study or preparing to teach. My
teachers have had an abhorrence of interlinears so I've avoided them and have
no comment one way or the other on their usefulness.

So that's my view from the trenches.

My sincere thanks to all the scholars on B-Greek who put up with the rest of


Karen Pitts
Hopewell Presbyterian Church, Hopewell, N.J., teacher of NT Greek
David Sarnoff Research Center, Princeton, N.J., statistician