Re: Little Greeks

From: Noel Maddy (
Date: Mon Oct 06 1997 - 11:38:23 EDT

On 5 Oct 1997, David McKay wrote:
> 5th October, 1997
> I have applied for a job at our local Christian school, which involves
> teaching Biblical Studies to high school students aged from 11 to 18, in 2
> or 3 lessons per week.
> I am hoping, if I get the job, to give the students a little Greek and an
> even littler bit of Hebrew.
> If you have taught students of this age, or are now, I'm all ears!


I've had three teenagers from a local Christian school involved in an
informal Greek class that I'm teaching at our church--two of them for
over two years, and the third for over a year. It's been a real joy to
see them absorb the language and use it to understand the Word better.
I'm sure you'll be equally thrilled. I think their minds are much more
flexible than some of us older geezers ;)

> You should know that our neck of the woods is almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon
> and fiercely monolingual. The school uses Spanish for its compulsory
> language in the junior years, BTW.

It will probably make a difference whether you are teaching them the
Greek before or after they take the Spanish class. Usually, the first
foreign language learned is the hardest, since it forces you to think
in abstracts rather than in English. I took Latin (!) in high school,
and that gave me a wonderful start on Greek.

> What I am thinking of doing [if they'll have me] is beginning with the
> alphabet, then words that are similar to English words, or are behind
> English words, then well-known words such as AGAPH and QEOS, then "reading"
> phrases or very simple verses, with the vocab supplied.
> Any suggestions gratefully received.

I've put together a very informal curriculum for my Greek class. I
focus more on the practical issues of reading and interpretation than
on memorizing vocabulary and word formation. This gives the students
the basis they need to use common Greek tools in their Bible study,
without making them dependent on memorized knowledge that will probably
evaporate in a few years for lack of use. In addition, it helps to
divorce them from the formula-based Greek interpretation that is way
too common in many Christian circles today.

I've structured the curriculum around the first chapter of John. It
allows me to go over the simpler grammar first, and leave the
complexities of verbs until after they're starting to think in Greek
concepts a bit. It also lets me expose them to practical
interpretation and the richness of Greek within a Biblical context.
For instance, one of our first discussions is the meaning of O LOGOS in
that context.

Since I get about 1 1/2 hours weekly, it takes about 9 months (roughly
35 class periods) to get to the point where they're comfortable with
doing basic translation and interpretation. I cover the majority of
the grammar in the first 20 class periods or so, and then focus
increasingly on interpretation and review of the grammatical principles
that apply to each verse.

Once the students have reached this point, I have an "advanced" class
that is making an actual translation of the gospel of John. We started
back at verse 1 about a year and a half ago, and we're nearly done with
the chapter now. Again, the focus is more on the practical
interpretation issues, but we also cover some of the deeper theological
issues, and enough translation details so that they can understand how
translations can differ somewhat and still be accurate and useful.

I also do my best to always speak the Greek phrases that we're dealing
with in class, often followed by an English translation or comment, so
that the students' auditory channel is involved as well. That also
helps out when I'm trying to introduce them to some of the poetic feel
of Greek.
> This job sounds like a break from 16 years of high school music teaching! In
> some ways, I might be paid to do what I already do for free!

Praise the Lord! I'll be praying for your endeavour.

This space intentionally left content-free.

Noel Maddy (

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:31 EDT