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Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 9th, 2019, 11:49 am
by Barry Hofstetter
Jonathan Robie wrote:
November 8th, 2019, 4:33 pm

There are various "living language" approaches. But in general, you need some retraining or significant self-teaching to teach with them. After all, many Greek teachers do not know how to ask or answer a question in Greek.
οἶδα ἀληθῶς!

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 9th, 2019, 12:01 pm
by Jonathan Robie
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
November 9th, 2019, 11:46 am
Adam, honestly, you are already doing a great deal that's right, and I think both you and your students will benefit. Doctor docendo discit! A couple of general principles:

1) Metalanguage discussion aside, the more your students and you engage in the Greek without English intervening the better. Try to think less in terms of translating and more in terms of understanding.
For instance, if you were asking about a text in English, you would ask "who is speaking"? You would not ask "who is the subject of the verb 'to speak'"? When teaching Greek, do the same, ask "τίς λέγει;" And the answer should not be in English.

Here is a handout on asking and answering questions in Greek. Jannaris also has a useful chapter on interrogatives.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
November 9th, 2019, 11:46 am
2) Theology.... hmmm... I think one of the problems with Greek instruction at Christian institutions is that it often serves the purpose of theological apologetics. Best avoided. Work on understanding the Greek as Greek. If the NT, ask yourself and your students how someone with no prior exposure to the Gospel or to the LXX might have read the text. It's impossible to separate ourselves entirely from our reading of the text and equally difficult fully to engage the original context in that sense (so much we don't know), but it's worthwhile to engage in as an exercise, and often helps to see the Greek for what it is.
Again, think English. People who know English well can read the sentences. Start with a simple understanding of what the text says, without imposing any theology on it. Let the text form your theology, not the other way around.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
November 9th, 2019, 11:46 am
3) Use texts outside of the NT as supplements. This exercises the students genuinely in the language (no help from memory) and drives them crazy, a major goal of any teacher... :) I used to teach Latin to Ph.D. students when I was at WTS. For a practice exam, I would give them a section from the Latin translation of 1st Maccabees. One student (who scored nearly perfectly on that practice test and easily passed his real exam) said in frustration, "What was that? It's like the Bible -- but not."

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 9th, 2019, 12:35 pm
by Paul-Nitz
Adam Denoon,

You love Koine and you have a desire to help your students learn and love it, too. That’s the main thing.

Your choice of GNT is good. I use a similar book and love it. Interlinears are unnatural spawn.

Recommendation about classes:
You are learning to teach a language - not an easy thing. Language is not a content subject like biology, history, or even hermeneutics. Language teaching requires different approaches than regular subjects. How about taking classes in Instructed Second Language Acquisition (or, Foreign Language Teaching, same thing)? I can highly recommend this online program from personal experience: .

Teaching/Learning Methods: Three basic approaches
The Grammar-Translation method is the way you learned and the way you are starting out. It views language as a set of rules (grammar) and content (vocabulary) that must be learned. It has faith that explicit labeling and explaining of rules will lead to language comprehension. It understands language learning as a process of deciphering the target language. It demonstrates understanding of the target language via translation in the learner’s mother tongue or metalanguage about the target language, also in the learner’s mother tongue.

Audio Lingual – It was born from Skinnerian behavioralist theories. Teaching methods emphasize aural and oral use of language. Typical exercises include memorizing and acting out a dialogue. Pimsleur, Berlitz, and Rosetta Stone fit here. It views language as a skill to be learned. It demonstrates language learning by reproducing what was memorized in the appropriate contexts.

Communicative Language Teaching – It was born from Chomsky and cognitive linguistics. It views language as hugely complex. It understands language learning as developing from using the target language to successfully carry out communication. Methods include a) exercises in which the teacher commands and the students react appropriately (TPRS), b) telling stories and having students respond to questions about the story appropriately (TPR), c) using the target language to find out new information (Information Gap tasks, or Task Based Learning), d) using the language physically with manipulatives in a controlled setting (Where Are Your Keys).

Here is website where someone compiled some notes on methods:

If you like Grammar Translation methods, then Mounce, Croy, Machen, etc., all are the same to me. The only one that is a bit different is Dobson - less metalanguage and more simple practice. But our B-Greek member Shirley Rollinson improved on Dobson considerably and wrote a new, and free, textbook with the same good features.

If you like Audio-lingual methods, there are several books that would fit. Christopher Rico’s books, Living Koine Part II, Satni Carbonell’s Διαλογος Practicas de Griego Antiguo, and several very old books like Blackie’s Primer with dialogues.

If you like Communicative Language Teaching, then language is best taught without a textbook.

I hope some of this was helpful and that you get more and more help. I was in your spot some years ago when there really was not this sort of opportunity to share and learn from others online. As a teacher, develop a "community of practice" right from the start. It's been said the single best way a teacher can improve is to meet once a week with another teacher within his field.

In the spirit of healthy debate, I'll disagree with a couple bit of advice you've received so far.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 12:28 am
Adam, my advice for you is to read as much Greek as possible, including extra-biblical Greek.
I doubt that reading widely in Greek is an efficient way to build language in your head, unless your reading comprehension is already very good. Read small bits repeatedly and in depth until you are “preaching” them. Learn how to ask questions in Greek and pepper the text you are reading with questions.
Devenios Doulenios wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 10:14 am
find a way of introducing them to authentic Greek readings, at least simple ones, as soon as practicable in your course sequence.
I would say instead, give students language they can understand at 90+%. That’s not the GNT. Sorry to disagree,ΔΔ... συγγνώμην ἔχε φίλε Δεβένιε, ἀλλὰ οὐ σύμφημι τῇ γνώμῃ σου ὅτι δεῖ μαθητὰς ἀναγνῶναι authentic texts. οἱ δὲ ἀναγνῶναι ἐκείνα οὐ δύνανται. κρεῖττον οὖν ἐστιν ἀναγνῶναι ὅ τι ἄν μαθηταὶ δύνωνται καταλαμβάνειν.[/size]

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 9th, 2019, 3:12 pm
by Eeli Kaikkonen
I doubt that reading widely in Greek is an efficient way to build language in your head, unless your reading comprehension is already very good. Read small bits repeatedly and in depth until you are “preaching” them. Learn how to ask questions in Greek and pepper the text you are reading with questions.
I don't think these two methods (or practices) are opposed to each other. Both are good. Think about why you would learn another living language you need. You want to have conversations? Then have conversations, mixing several languages or sign language if necessary, as long as you are understood - because that's the purpose of communcation. You want to read a book for entertainment or for studies? Then read, much and quickly, because if you want to enjoy a whole book or learn from it, you can't spend much time in one sentence. For example I can read a post in this forum quickly to find out the main point, without understanding much of the post. How useful it is for me depends on my needs at that moment. It doesn't necessarily help so much with the language, but the more I read in that way the more I understand. I have read through the GNT but can't say I understood much of the first parts. But I got better along the way (not as good as I would like, though). I just kept reading, sometimes quickly and sometimes less quickly, and I can recommend that.

On the other hand in-depth reading slowly is indispensable to get a different kind of feeling of the language. I don't read Shakespeare, but if I would, I presume I wouldn't get much out of it if I would just try to find a couple of main points in one page. For the Bible, find your favourite passages and memorize them on top of deep understanding.

If you read the Bible for personal edification (in whatever language) you should know that quick and slow reading work in different ways and give you different things, being complementary. So, why not use both styles in Greek? Both for the spiritual and linguistic results. And reading contemporary extrabiblical texts give you better feeling for the mentality and context of of the Bible. That's what "exegetes" should be doing anyways, and nobody who learns a living language limits themselves to 1000 pages corpus on purpose.

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 11th, 2019, 10:04 am
by Paul-Nitz
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote:
November 9th, 2019, 3:12 pm
quick and slow reading work in different ways and give you different things
Very true, different types of reading for different purposes.

If the purpose is to advance in your understanding of a language, then most learners ultimately make quicker and better quality progress by keeping within a certain range of comprehensibility. Often people define that with percentages, that a text should be 90% or 95% comprehensible. The percentage gives somewhat of a picture, but I think there are other ways to determine if the text you are reading is at the right level.

1) Is it enjoyable? If it is drudgery, the text is too hard or you are trying to read too much. This is not good for learning and probably is not going to be sustainable. If it's enjoyable, not only is it right for you, you should keep on reading that text repeatedly, as long as it is still enjoyable.

2) At the end of your session, are you reading, or deciphering? When you first sit with a text, you may spend time practicing good and fluent pronunciation. You may then need to figure out some forms or vocabulary. All that is fine. But with that preparation done, you should be reading what you've unpacked - real reading. Read it like a preacher would a lectionary, announcing, proclaiming, or communicating that text to someone (even an imaginary someone). Read it with full meaning, with gestures, and with emotion. If you cannot do that at the end of your session, then your text is too hard or too long.

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 11th, 2019, 1:20 pm
by Stirling Bartholomew
Adam Denoon wrote:
November 7th, 2019, 6:26 pm
The goal of the students (and my goal as their teacher) is to better understand the theology of the Text, and thus be better able to communicate its truths. That is, being able to identify grammatical-syntactical relationships present in the text to eliminate ambiguity and obtain a more robust interpretation of the author's intended meaning. Our goals in this context are purely Bible-Theology-oriented (Bible Theology according to the Philadelphia school of thought... a holistic biblical-and-systematic theology).
RE: Theology of the Text

I see you have had several negative responses to this goal. The idea that it is somehow possible to read the bible without a theological framework is unsound. The idea that we do theology inductively from the text up is overly simplistic. We read the bible within a theological framework. On the other hand Mining the GNT for proof texts to support your favorite eschatology is a different matter. In other words, proof texting is something that doesn't help you learn to read NT Greek. It also enforces a mechanical view reading and exegesis. This is my main complaint about "exegetical grammars" which approach the text as code that can be unpacked producing assured results that support this or that theological issue. That approach reinforces language theory which is UNSOUND. Meaning is not something buried in the code to be extracted by exegesis. Meaning is dependent on a shared cognitive framework which is external to the text. The exegetical grammar approach in "the path most traveled" reinforces a defective communication theory.

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 11th, 2019, 7:34 pm
by Shirley Rollinson
Paul-Nitz wrote:
November 9th, 2019, 12:35 pm
Adam Denoon,

- - - - snip snip - - -

If you like Grammar Translation methods, then Mounce, Croy, Machen, etc., all are the same to me. The only one that is a bit different is Dobson - less metalanguage and more simple practice. But our B-Greek member Shirley Rollinson improved on Dobson considerably and wrote a new, and free, textbook with the same good features.

- - - snip snip - - -
Dear Adam, welcome to B-Greek - the best way to learn a language is to teach it :-)
The textbook which Paul mentioned is available at

I've been using it for teaching in-class and online for some time now, but it's still a work in progress.
One thing that no-one seems to have mentioned yet, is the memorization of authentic texts. I start off - lesson 1 - Baby Greek, with the Lord's prayer, adding a phrase a week. Starting with πατερ ἡμων (just that bit) - explain the meaning, give a brief talk about bits of grammar (or in the first lesson, the letters and their sounds). By about half-way through the semester the students have the whole of it, and some semesters I have them do some word-processing by typing it out as a poster. By the time we come to the ending we get into textual variants and even some Hebrew :-)
I start each class (four times a week), with having us all recite what we've done of the πατερ so far, and add the next phrase at the start of each new week.
Another thing to remember, particularly about the GNT, is that we are not above the text, picking it apart.
It is above us, speaking to us.
So - tolle lege - pick up, read, and enjoy
Shirley Rollinson

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 12th, 2019, 11:35 am
by Paul-Nitz
Shirley Rollinson wrote:
November 11th, 2019, 7:34 pm
memorization of authentic texts
Good point. And add some questions to that and you have a great learning strategy for an autodidact.

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 12th, 2019, 11:38 am
by Paul-Nitz
Shirley Rollinson
Slightly off topic, but we all do know, don't we, that Shirley is the most interesting person on B-Greek?

Re: New Greek Teacher

Posted: November 12th, 2019, 4:04 pm
by Adam Denoon
Thank you all for your deep responses! This is the kind of can of worms I enjoy to smush around on the table as I pick it apart (how's that for evoking imagery in a shared cognitive framework :lol: )

I'm in agreement with all the criticism re: reading for theology. Part of what learning Greek has done for me was loosed me from various dogmas by getting me closer to the author's intended meaning. Contextual cues, syntax, rhetoric, verbal aspect, etc. have all served to reshape my theology. I'm always very careful to teach my students that the text is to inform our conclusions, and not vice versa. It also helps as a guard against those who "learned just enough Greek to be dangerous" or read something online about how "the infinitive means [x] is always the case." My hope is that my students will learn from the New Testament (and other contemporary literature) based on what is actually said. Of course, as Stirling Bartholomew pointed out, the exegetical grammar isn't nearly the whole picture. Thankfully, conversations about what has been gleaned from contemporary literature (e.g. the secular, koine papyri) help provide additional context for certain grammatico-symantic relationships and vocabulary which serve to inform our understanding of an author's intent. The flip side to this is that I believe God chose writings as a vehicle for His self-revelation for a purpose: they can be read and examined, even if they are in a dead language.

We must always, however, keep an ear to the history of the language, and always strive to get as close as possible to the intended meaning. Walter Kaiser, Jr. makes excellent points about meaning in his "Toward an Exegetical Theology," at one point arguing that originally-intended meaning doesn't change (though application and translation into modern situations does). I am convinced that unless ambiguity was the original intent of a word or statement, each bit of Scripture adds a specific meaning to the immediate and overarching context in which its found. My intent is to always be learning better ways to get "at" that meaning, regardless of what tradition has already concluded.

Part of why I find it so hard to read straight through a book in Greek is that I can become fixated when I find something I've never seen before. For instance, I barely made it into Matthew when I came across "μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν ὁ θεός", and the author's chosen word order, combined with the theological/historical significance of the child, struck me and I couldn't move past it that night. Ὁ θεός has been there all along, but with this child, He's now "With us, God". I'm probably not articulating this accurately, but it provides a small but succinct example of my interest in currently-understood Greek nuances (e.g. word order often used for emphasis), and how it adds something special to the reading of His Word, of which I possess a high view. I don't think I'd enjoy it nearly as much if I read it quickly without as much comprehension :D Of course, I pick back up where I leave off and keep going till I get stuck on the next thing. I'm also vaguely aware that a tendency to fixate could indicate some sort of cognitive issue :roll:

I'm in total agreement with reading extrabiblical, contemporary literature because the authors didn't invent a liturgical language... they wrote to people who read and spoke a common and secular language shared with the other authors (still nodding to special Semitisms and community-specific language features, of course). Reading such is a major help to comprehension of the New Testament, and if that's truly someone's goal, they'll read the other stuff too!

I might be rustling some jimmies with this question: but how much value is added to New Testament interpretation by reviving Koine and turning it into an anachronistic living language usable only by the rare folk who care to learn it? I don't think my students would be interested in using Koine as a spoken language. Their motivation for taking my class has been expressed as gaining a clearer understanding of the underlying text so they can apply it and communicate its precepts more clearly to those who endure their sermons and theology papers. How valuable would living language precepts be to them? (I'm not being snarky, I promise; This is a real question.)

I highly value the resources you all have sent to me, and I will look them over and consider using them however I can!