On "using" Koine Greek viva voce

From: Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Date: Sat Aug 03 1996 - 16:30:24 EDT

From: LUCY::EHOBBS "Edward Hobbs" 3-AUG-1996 15:28:52.98
To: IN%"nichael@sover.net"
Subj: RE: Have you ever _used_ Greek pronunciation

Nichael asks:

Anyway, what I was wondering is has anyone ever had an opportunity of
communicating with a stranger --i.e. not a colleague or a student or
teacher-- through Koine/NT Greek?

The recent thread over NT Greek pronunciation has brought to mind a long
time fantasy: I find myself in an airport or on a ship next to a stranger.
After a few attempts at conversation we finally establish that we share no
common language (that is, he speaks 14 languages fluently --I speak only
English). However we then realize that we both have a reasonable working
knowledge of NT Greek and so are able to pass a pleasant --albeit
stumbling-- half-hour in conversation ("So, how old is your daughter?") in
NT Greek.

Has anything of this sort every happened to anyone here?


Edward Hobbs replying:

Oddly enough, yes, just once. Sometime during the academic year 1958-59, a
high-ranking delegation of Russian Orthodox bishops visited the San
Francisco Bay Area. The group included Metropolitan Nikodim, expected to
become the next Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church but widely rumored
to be a Communist (thus an infiltrator!). They wanted to meet (and eat and
drink) with some theologians; there being no Orthodox faculty in the area,
they settled on the one group they were in communion with, the Anglicans.
So Massey Shepherd (liturgics), Sherman Johnson (New Testament), and I were
chosen to be their counterparts for dinner and discussion. Somehow, no one
had thought to provide an English interpreter, though Nikodim himself could
speak some English. So during the dinner, Johnson and Shepherd managed to
converse with Nikodim, while I was just far enough away not to overhear
that conversation well, while between me and them sat Archimandrite
Juvenale, who knew no English (and I of course knew no Russian). I tried
German, thinking he surely would know that, which he did--but THAT was a
red flag (not a Communist red flag, either!) to him. Most Russians were
still very, very bitter about how the Germans treated them in World War II
(the "Great Patriotic War"), and German was anathema. We stumbled around a
bit, and then discovered that we both knew (NT) Greek. So for an hour or
more, we did our best to converse in Greek, shifting to Latin when a word
failed us, or when we were completely misunderstood. When neither language
would suffice, he was willing to have me throw in a German word or
phrase, and he did the same occasionally.

I've not found the occasion, since then.

Edward Hobbs

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