Re: reading for vocabulary

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Thu Sep 24 1998 - 09:30:55 EDT

At 06:24 PM 9/23/98 -0400, yochanan bitan wrote:
>another thought on goals: i don't believe that 'translation' is a goal for
>NT Greek readers at all. typical nt greek intro books may say that and pass
>on a common, methodological mistake here. most students have an abundance
>of NT translations already available in their language of education.
>relatively few who study greek are professionally engaged in translation,
>which is a field quite removed from greek. students want to read greek and
>some of them would probably like to break out of an english mold. if
>students want to read goethe or moliere, it is probably not in order to
>'translate them', even if they do want to be able to discuss them with
>friends. goodness, when i read a book in one language or another, the last
>thing i would do is spend the tremendous energy necessary to translate it
>into another language.

Some beginning Greek students seem to think that there is something
fundamentally wrong with most translations, and they expect that by
learning Greek, they will be able to come up with a truly accurate
translation, more accurate than what they can go out and buy now. This is,
of course, silly. Many people with extensive background in Greek and Hebrew
have been translating the Bible for centuries, and few of us will ever do
as good a job as they have. We have many good translations, and the
discrepancies among them, in most cases, simply reflect the fact that
translators must make choices about what aspects of the original meaning
are most important to convey. No translation can be 100% equivalent to the
original. Because of the value we put on the Bible, translations of the
Bible are generally better than translations of Goethe or Rilke, and more
translations are available for comparison.

But if you like language, and you like story, and you like to grasp the
meaning of the original in the original language... you have to learn Greek.

>ironically, i'm saying that an aural/oral foundation (of course mixed with
>extensive reading) is the best way to focus on reading and prepare for its
>nuts and bolts. ('reading' as in 'close reading' is a whole 'nother level
>of reading training.)

I basically agree, but I also think that careful, focused attention to the
grammar is important, because most adults can't just absorb the grammar
without it.


Jonathan Robie

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