Re: Memorising vocabulary

Randy Leedy (
Mon, 02 Sep 1996 10:46:45 -0400

I want to add a hearty "Amen" to comments made by several regarding
the value of learning to READ Greek. I sometimes tell my students
that the ability for which I am most thankful is the ability to make
my way through the Greek Testament with minimal recourse to a
lexicon; I say this to encourage them to work toward that goal. I
resist attempts to teach Greek as simply giving access to a pool of
exegetical tidbits unavailable to English-only readers. While that
sort of knowledge of Greek may be more valuable than none at all
(perhaps we can avoid rehashing recent discussion of this point?), my
real conviction is that a poor reader can never be a good exegete.
(The relationship between reading and exegesis is an interesting
topic that could perhaps someday become discussion fodder.)

Obviously, the size of one's vocabulary is an important component of
one's reading skill. Is it not reasonable, then, to set as a life's
goal to master ALL the vocabulary? My Ph.D. work included a course
entitled New Testament Vocabulary, in which we learned glosses for
all the words. I cannot say that I still remember them all, but none
of them looks unfamiliar, at least. I suggest this as a LIFE'S goal
for the non-professional. It's kind of like holiness. When a
Christian's heart is really right, he doesn't like the idea of ANY
remaining sin in his life, and, while he must in a sense be content
with imperfection, in another sense he's never content with it. So
why not take the same view about Greek vocab? We can feel as though
we've done as well as we could so far, but we can keep striving for
more complete mastery.

I would also like to suggest that both sanctification and vocabulary
mastery are equally unattainable in this life (with apologies to the
Wesleyans out there). The point I'm trying to make is that memorizing
a few glosses for a word is a STARTING POINT, greatly valuable, but
not at all the same as mastering the word. As best I've figured it
out so far, to really master a word is to know its full range of
meanings, the related meanings it CANNOT have, and the kinds of
contexts in which it fits and doesn't fit. So, it seems to me that
we've all got our work cut out for us and that we can enjoy pursuing
it as long as we live.

In Love to God and Neighbor,
Randy Leedy
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC