B-Greek Survey Report: some brief comments

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Mon Oct 20 1997 - 21:17:40 EDT

In sending the report on the recent survey to the list, I received some
good advice and attempted to follow it by letting the responses to the
survey speak as much as possible for themselves. I only want to add a few
comments and reactions of my own, as I am the only person who has seen all
117 of the responses submitted, but even so, I want to separate out my
personal reaction from what the responses themselves say. So here briefly
are a few comments of my own.

>B-Greek Survey: Our List
>33/117 Lay persons seeking to enhance skills in Biblical Greek
>20/117 Pastors seeking to enhance skills in Biblical Greek
> 5/117 Undergraduate college students studying Biblical Greek
> 3/117 Seminary students studying Biblical Greek
>16/117 Lay persons chiefly interested in Koine language/linguistics
>36/117 Professional teachers of Biblical Greek
>Others: Ph.D. candidates; one who wants involvement with "dispassionate
>scholarship in order to keep my scripture interpretation honest"; one
>missionary in Peru; one pastor "beginning to use the GNT in personal
>meditation"; one "bored pastor seeking intellectual stimulation."

I have to say that I think this is a remarkably balanced break-down of our
list-membership (or of those who have responded): there are relatively few
young people beginning to learn Greek in institutions of higher learning;
most of us are adults: lay persons, pastors, and professionals in academia,
with a smattering of individuals now working on professional degrees in
Greek or engaged --a couple, at least -- in mission work abroad, one of
them translating the GNT into a native language.

>Of 117 respondents: 8 currently reside in Australia, 8 in the United
>Kingdom, 4 in Canada, 2 in Norway, 2 in the Philippines, 1 each in
>Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Guatemala, Peru, Poland, and Sweden. States in the
>USA represented are: Arkansas (1), Arizona (1), California (5), Colorado
>(2), District of Columbia (2), Florida (4), Georgia (1), Illinois (5),
>Indiana (1), Iowa (2), Louisiana (2), Maryland (2), Massachusetts (1),
>Michigan (4), Minnesota (4), Missouri (2), Mississippi (1), North Carolina
>(6), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (2), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Ohio
>(3), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (6), South Carolina (2), South
>Dakota (1), Tennessee (5), Texas (7), Virginia (2), West Virginia (3),
>Wisconsin (1), Wyoming (1).

I think this is a remarkable distribution; although more of us are from the
continental U.S.A. than from anywhere else, we are really all over the
world--although I have had no responses from the North Pole (Jim Beale used
to be up there, I thought) and none from Tasmania.

> 6/117 have done little or no study in Biblical Greek
>16/117 have taught themselves much of what they have learned of Biblical Greek
>36/117 have done one or more years of formal course work in Biblical Greek
>50/117 have been reading and studying Biblical Greek for several years
> 9/117 opted the "other" category and have explained themselves as holding
>advanced degrees in Biblical Greek or in exegesis involving skills in
>Greek, four list-members admit to active involvement in research projects
>directly concerned with Biblical Greek linguistics

This is a good breakdown of long-term students and professionals in Greek
and new learners. That explains why we get elementary questions quite
commonly and I think that one of the services we can perform for new
learners is to help them. Personally I think this is a mission we share,
and the more so, the longer we've worked with Greek, although those who
have been learning for a shorter period may have a clearer notion of
exactly what frustrations new learners are coping with. On the other hand,
many of our threads focus upon some fine points of syntax or diction, and
some involve elucidation of background cultural information that some of us
are in better position to supply than are others. Our exchanges thus run
the spectrum from quickie grammatical explanations to much more profound
explorations of the range of possible meanings in a phrase or a pair of
verses. In sum, there's something here for Greeks of all kinds--and
especially for those who bring their gifts ...

>76/117 appreciate grammatical explanations of specific Biblical passages;
>75/117 seek exegetical insights derived through grammatical analysis;
>76/117 look for news and information about Biblical Greek linguistics,
>including lexicology, morphology, and syntax;
>67/117 watch for new or useful bibliographical information;
>47/117 like discussions of pedagogy and experiences of others in learning
>and teaching Biblical Greek
>10/117 sent additional comments: "I like being able to put specific
>questions about my problems and get straight answers;" "I'm looking for...
>ways Biblical and Classical Greek are related;" "I like to see postings
>about Greek materials available at other sites on the Internet;" "I'm
>looking for anything bearing upon the Synoptic problem;" "I like the
>atmosphere of the list and the generosity of list-members;" "I like the
>challenges to my own theological conservatism to sharpen my apologetic
>skills;" "I enjoy even the flames and doctrinal discussions;" "I enjoy
>everything posted; that's why this is my favorite list."

I think the information indicated in these figures underscores what was
already indicated in the responses to #3.

>(a) "theological imperialism"--promoting a distinct theological attitude as
>normative for all; 26 persons--from both ends of the spectrum--voiced this

I think this means that most people don't want evangelism for any one
theological stance to be conducted on this list. I think people want to
learn from each other for their own edification rather than to be preached

>(b) "interminable threads on exhausted subjects": 17 persons;

This is a significant number, suggesting that threads really ought to be
broken off as soon as it is obvious that new input has ceased.

>(e) One person "repeated questions about fundamental things," while another
>was deeply grateful for "recurrent clarifications of elementary grammar;"

This is interesting; it points up again that our list performs two very
different kinds of service for two very different kinds of persons:
learners who need help as well as those interested in deeper analysis of
the GNT.

>(f) "gender wars" on the list: 4 complaints; one spoke more bluntly of
>"testosterone-spitting contests disguised as 'theological discussion.'"

This is worth noting; "inclusive language" in translations and Biblical
conceptions and information on the status of women in the early church are
recurrent topics; when they arise, it is important to focus narrowly upon
what the Greek text itself actually says and not what we want it to say or
have been taught by others (rightly or wrongly) that it says. This is an
area where the perils of eisegesis are particularly acute.

>(j) Excessive citation of an entire previous thread-history--a VERY
>frequent complaint;

It requires a lot more effort on the part of a poster to prune out all but
those items that are essential to understanding what one wants to say in
the present reply. For my part, I tend to be very impatient when I have to
scroll down three or four screens full of cited material before getting to
what the poster wants to say. Pruning the cited material is a simple act of

>-- volume too heavy to keep up with

The Digest really is a viable alternative if you think there's more than
you can handle--check out the subjects and simply skip what you're less
interested in.

>--archive not up to date;

I'm hoping we can get to this soon. List-members should realize that
maintenance of the archive is a labor of love performed for us by Jonathan;
he has been very busy lately and is now in the process of changing jobs. Be
patient on this one and perhaps we'll get the archives since mid-June up.
Note however, that there are several years of good material there and that
there's a search engine that will help you find earlier discussions on
texts and subjects you're particularly curious about.

>--changing the subject without noting the change in their subject-headers;
>--a question may be asked on a topic and the focus will shift to another
>poster's concern before the first question has been answered;

These are related matters; This again is something that calls for
attentiveness on the part of the poster; don't grab somebody else's
question to peddle your own hobby horse and leave that question hanging;
and if you veer toward a different subject matter or alter the focus, mark
it in the subject header (and in parentheses mark it "was: Re: big
mouth"--or whatever.

Others may want to comment on some of this and should feel free to do so,
but I hope the upshot of the survey is our growing awareness of how we can
use this list to serve each other better and to get more out of our
exchanges. My chief reason for adding personal comments in a separate post
is that I have seen all 117 of the responses that were sent in, and to me
those responses are a lot more than numbers: it really is a a grand and
wonderful community we have here, folks.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu OR cconrad@yancey.main.nc.us
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:34 EDT