Re: Improbable Probability Statements Revisited

From: Robert J. Petry, C.L. (
Date: Sat May 24 1997 - 09:32:41 EDT

Clayton Bartholomew wrote:

> Re: Improbable Probability Statements Revisited
> Rereading my last post on this subject with all it's discussion of
> indeterminacy, it seemed like I left the poor NT Greek student in
> kind of a bad fix. Like I was suggesting that it was impossible to
> understand the language adequately for translation and exegesis. This
> is not really what I intended to convey.
> I believe that the Language of the NT and LXX can be mastered by a
> mixture of reading, analysis and grammar study. But I think reading
> should get first priority. Since the language system is complex and
> most of us will never acquire a neat and tidy model of it that will
> cover all the bases and include all the fuzzy data, what we can do is
> read. Read voluminously (Professor Conrad's expression). By reading
> voluminously we can, over vast periods of time (decades) acquire a
> natural ability to deal with the complexities of the language system
> even though we may not be able to explain all the details in an
> exegesis paper.
> For those who want to write grammar's I have an off the wall
> suggestion. Try starting from the top down for a change. Try a meta
> model approach, where you describe a language architecture first and
> then fit the details into the meta model. Your meta model will always
> fail at some point, but risk it anyway.
> To borrow from the seriously flawed analogy I used in my last post, I
> think too much attention is devoted to looking at the *noise* in NT
> Greek. We are naturally intrigued by what we don't understand but I
> am not sure we will ever solve these problems of language
> indeterminacy by simply piling on more traditional research and
> analysis.
> Following up on my off the wall suggestion, I believe that one way to
> go after unsolved enigmas is to propose new meta models. When the
> model breaks down, modify it or throw it away and start over. Throw
> away models as rapidly as they fail. Don't hang on to them and wait
> for the next generation to discard them.
> This is enough off the wall suggestions for one post.
> Clay Bartholomew
> Three Tree Point

 Clay Bartholomew is right to be concerned for the new student of Greek.
I have finished, as some know, the first volume of a "teach yourself
Greek" by reading the New Testament series. This is a progessive method
of reading and learning without the use of a grammar, etc. at first.
And, it helps the student learn the Greek in a "progressive" manner and
in a context they already understand. If all the New Testament is read
in this way, I believe a new student will be able to read and understand
the basis of NT Koine upwards of 65% or more, and never have touched a
grammar or dictionary. Plus, the work is based on the premise of
learning to "think" in Greek, versus learning to wrestle with another
language with "English language thinking." Below is a quote from A. T.
Robertson's work that got me started on this. And, I am having excellent
results with those who have tried this method of learning. If the quote
is too long just flip past it.
"At the age of sixteen John Brown, of Haddington, startled a bookseller
by asking for a copy of the Greek Testament. He was barefooted and clad
in ragged homespun clothes. He was a shepherd boy form the hills of
Scotland. 'What would you do with that book?' a professor scornfully
asked. 'I'll try to read it,' the lad replied, and proceeded to read off
a passage in the Gospel of John. He went off in triumph with the coveted
prize, but the story spread that he was a wizard and had learned Greek
by the black art. He was actually arraigned for witchcraft, but in 1746
the elders and deacons at Abernethy gave him a vote of acquittal, though
the minister would not sign it. His letter of defence, Sir W. Robertson
Nicoll says..., deserves to be reckoned among the memorable letters of
the world.' John brown became a divinity student and finally professor
of divinity. In the chapel at Mansfield College, Oxford Brown's figure
ranks with those of Doddridge, Fry, Chalmers, Vinet, Schleiermacher. He
had taught himself greek while herding his sheep, and he did it without
a grammar. Surely young John Brown of Haddington should forever put to
shame those theological students and busy pastors who neglect the Greek
Testament, though teacher, grammar, lexicon are at their disposal." p.
xix A Grammar of the Greek New Testament.
Hope this hasn't been too long for the list. But, I have been greatlly
inspired to continue my own studies in Koine and to encourage others to
do the same. I see the point of this being that no matter what our level
of understanding in Koine, there is always more to learn and it is
possible to gain understanding of this language.
Robert J. Petry, C.L.
Tucson, Arizona

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