Re: A little Greek is a dangerous thing

Jonathan Robie (
24 Aug 96 13:31:43 EDT

As one of the "little Greeks" here, I very much appreciated Carl's admonition
to really get a feel for the language by reading and re-reading to get
to the natural rhythms of the speech. I don't see that as elitist, or an attack
on those
who don't speak Hellenistic Greek as their native language, and I'm surprised by
some of the heat this has touched off.

Let me offer an opinion for people to jump on: Modern translations are so good
that there
would be no reason to learn Greek just to do a better job of translating it into
None of us "little Greeks" will do better than existing Bible translators. What
we can gain
is an appreciation for the subtleties of the text, those things which can not
easily be
translated into English. This requires careful listening, and it takes time.

What Carl originally said was:

> What we really need to do is to understand the structure and sense of the
> Greek in its own right and carry that sense over into an English that has its
> own appropriate way of structuring that sense, a way that may often be
> from the Greek way.

Note that the message in which he said this pointed out the structure and sense
of a construction I had bumped up against, so that I, one of the "little
Greeks", could
appreciate one more aspect of the language. In this context, he gave a concrete
suggestion for improving my feeling for the language:

> This sense of idiomatic structures doesn't come overnight but only through
> continual reading and re-reading and becoming accustomed to the natural
> rhythms of Greek speech so that you THINK the thought of the Greek writer
> as you read it rather than attempt to translate it piecemeal into comparable
> English units.

As a result of his advice, I took the passage he had commented on and read it
and re-read it out loud, with and without the MEN-DE-DE construction. I think
this helped me understand better than just reading his message would have. As
a result of other messages about a month ago, I have also started re-reading the
passages I have worked through, reading them out loud and repeatedly. I really
that this is helping me.