Re: How Long to Learn K. Greek?

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Mon Apr 27 1998 - 01:35:08 EDT

At 11:24 PM -0700 4/25/98, Jane Harper wrote:
>> I would like to give a hearty second to Carl Conrad's comments on learning
>> Greek. What often passes for fluency among New Testament Greek students is
>> simply great familiarity with the biblical text. I would like to offer a
>> chellenge. Try reading something besides the New Testament.
>How about using the church fathers here? Then one could test one's
>fluency AND
>be edified at the same time...

That's true to a certain extent, but the church fathers are quite heavily
influenced by the themes and vocabulary of the biblical text. I suggested
works totally unconnected with the biblical traditions as a good check for
wider knowledge of the language precisely because they do not reflect these
influences. You are certainly correct, though, in suggesting that these
texts can serve the function of testing the fluency of NT Greek students.
It just hadn't occurred to me to suggest them because I was looking for
something unrelated to the biblical texts.

I would suggest, though, that reading the church fathers can be a helpful
step in preparation for moving to other works outside the Christian
traditions. Precisely because they are influenced by the biblical
traditions, they are easier for a student of NT Greek to read than some of
the works I suggested in my last post in this thread. At the same time,
they are different enough from the NT to help increase the reader's
knowledge of the language significantly, making it easier to read works
which are less influenced by the New Testament.

As to why one would want to read works completely unrelated to the
Christian texts, there are two main reasons. First, there is simply some
very good literature out there worth reading. Second, after reading that
literature your level of understanding of the Greek New Testament will be
significantly higher.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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