Re: Reading the classics to improve fine-tuning

Edgar M. Krentz (
Sun, 3 Nov 1996 22:52:50 -0500

You wrote some time ago:
>At this point, I still haven't read most of the GNT in Greek. Would it make
>more sense for me to finish the GNT and parts of the Septuagint before
>venturing into other, more difficult forms of Greek? Especially if I have to
>buy new Grammars, new Lexica, and other aids to read classical Greek?

There is no one right way to do this. The advantage of reading non NT texts
is that your memory of the English translation does not falsely suggest
that you know more Greek than you do.
>I thought you Really Big Greeks read Greek faster than English ;->
>Seriously, there *has* to be a big difference. For me, there is still a
>difference between reading German and reading English, but not much, not
>enough to keep me from reading a book in German rather than in English. Do
>people ever get to that point in dead languages?
>Re: your lists of authors by difficulty: Any suggestions for Apostolic
>Fathers? >You say they are relatively simple, and I would find them

Suggestions for the Apostolic Fathers.

(1) get the revised edition of the Greek text and translation by Jl; B.
Lightfoot. Inexpensive for a hardback these days. Good brief introductions,
translation is a reliable guide, and in less stilted English than Kirsopp
Lake's LCL edition.

(2) Begin with the Didache. It is closest to the NT in its language, has an
interesting two-ways ethical schema, and gives interesting insights into
the worship life of the Syrian church about A.D. 95.

(3) After that move to the Epistle of Polykarp and the letters of Ignatius.
both have a slightly more difficult vocabulary, but the syntax and
morphology will not throw you. Then the Martyrdom of Polykarp. If the
fragments of Papias are included, read them next.

(4) Then tackle 1 & 2 Clement, a bit more difficult still, since Clement
makes some use of Greek philosophic concepts.

(5) Next Barnabas (or put it in 4th place) and then the Shepherd of Hermas.

(6) Finally, the Epistle to Diognetus, the most difficult text in the
Apostolic Fathers. It comes close to the second century apologists.

For all of these your BAGD will serve well. As you translate, don't overly
trust the English translation. I didn't check this out, but I recall
someone recently stating on this list that the Didache does not recommend
baptizing in lakes, etc. Actually, if my memory serves well, the Didache
recommends baptizing in "living water"--whcih should mean any that is in a
natural state, i.e. in a stream, a lake, the sea, etc. [In that sense it is
close to the Jewish view of the proper water for a Miqveh.]

As you translate try to do the following: (1) analyze every compound word
you meet, trying to guess its meaning from the constituent words. then
check it in the lexicon. Such intelligent guessing will lead to an
increased vocabulary faster that merely paging the lexicon will. (2) Read
for content, not just to learn Greek. (3) Before you translate any
sentence, read it out loud in Greek rather slowly. Then ask yourself: What
is the subject? the main verb? the content? That is, try to read the Greek
first for its sense, before you translate. Then translate to check on
yourself. You should reread the sentence in Greek after you translate it,
trying to use rhythm and stress as you would in reading English aloud for
another's comprehension. Graudually you will develop the ability to read
Greek rather than translate it. Es lauft sehr langsam, aber es laeuft!

Pay attention to the Greek prover: OU POLL' ALLA POLU. It's good advice,
and as they say in Latin, FESTINA LENTE!

I h ope you find something useful in all this. Peace

Edgar Krentz, New Testament OR *****
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
1100 East 55th Street
TEL.: 773-256-0752 FAX: 773-256-0782