Beginning Greek--NT readings

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Sun Aug 31 1997 - 16:57:33 EDT

From: LUCY::EHOBBS "Edward Hobbs" 31-AUG-1997 15:56:17.44
To: IN%""
Subj: RE: John 21:1

Clay Bartholomew wrote: --->

I have become aware from reading Carl's, Edgar's and Edward's posts that my
notion of *normal* Greek is skewed by the limited scope of my early reading.
You would think that spending a number of years studying books like Hebrews
and Luke/Acts would have eradicated some of this early training but
apparently not as much as one would wish.
I am beginning to wonder if the conventional wisdom of having beginning
students read the simple authors like John is really all that wise. Perhaps it
would be better to start with something like Luke.

That "conventional wisdom" characterizes some of the widely-used textbooks
for the study of the Greek New Testament, and it is one major reason why
those who learn from them suffer just as Clay did. It has long been noted
that Machen's wretched book teaches students, not to read real Greek, but
to read poorly constructed Greek sentences which are woodenly translated
from English into Greek, plus a modicum of the Gospel of John. But what to

My own practice gradually developed into something like this (back when my
students weren't required first to study classical Greek):

Start with a narrative in Mark which is paralleled in Matthew and Luke
(I found that Mark 5 worked well). Work through the three stories in the
chapter; then read Matthew's parallels in Matt. 8 and 9; then read Luke's
marallels in Luke 8. The Matthew and Luke readings give them a somewhat
secure head-start, from having read Mark, but they soon see how Matthew and
Luke can edit Mark's story, and stylistically modify it, if even in small
ways. Next, a narrative in all four gospels (the feeding of the 5000 is
best for this), Mark, then Matthew, then Luke, then John. This one begins
to be an eye-opener. Next, a sayings-block--Mark 4 does nicely, but
followed this time with part of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, then Luke's
Sermon on the Plain. By now, most of them see men--but as trees walking.
After reading a couple of the longer Lucan parables, more scales fall.
Next, I like to have them read John 9, which is a fairly self-contained
narrative-cum-dialogue, and in typical Johannine style. How differently a
narrative can be composed and styled! Matthew 1-2 goes easily at this
point, followed by the utter contrast of Luke 1-2. Some Paul is
like a cold shower at this point--we are suddenly in a world of original
composition and argument. One of my choices used to be Romans 1:1-17
followed by ch. 3. This introduduces them to some snippets of LXX as well,
so that reading Hebrews 1 (OUT LOUD!) is manageabe next. This is about all
that could be managed in the six-weeks intensive introduction to Greek I
used to offer every summer in Berkeley.

        Unfortunately, we had to save Acts and other beauties for follow-
up courses. Since none of my courses were open to anyone who did not have
either a year of Greek or this 6-week intensive course, it meant that all
my NT work could be based always on the Greek text, not on translations.
What a wonderful thing it was for a teacher!

        One drawback, of course, was that the beginning was still heavily
loaded toward the Gospels, with their great similarily AND their use of
limited-vocabulary-and-style oral traditions. Nevertheless, a wider
sprectrum of Greek (while still fairly limited) was learned than if only
John were studied.

Edward Hobbs

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