Re: reading for vocabulary

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 24 1998 - 16:10:12 EDT

At 3:45 PM -0400 9/24/98, Theodore H. Mann wrote:
>On Thu, 24 Sep 1998 09:30:55 -0400 Jonathan Robie <>
>>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
>>do as good a job as they have.
>Am I completely mistaken when I say that, if it is the learner's
>intention to discover hidden meanings and produce a better translation,
>there is no great value in studying biblical Hebrew and/or Greek, unless
>one intends to become really proficient? It seems to me that virtually
>all of the subtleties and nuances of the languages have been (and are
>continuing to be) amply explained in English, and other modern languages
>as well, and that learning Hebrew and Greek will add little to that,
>unless the student becomes so fluent that he can perceive those nuances
>on his own.

These are different objectives, I think. Produce a better translation? I
like to play around with that some, but it's understanding of the original
text that I am still after. And no, it's not so much a matter of searching
for hidden meanings as it is understanding better the familiar text. I
think there are oodles of texts in the GNT that I only half-understand or
don't understand at all, and I can't think of getting older as surrendering
the capacity to be surprised by what's new or unexpected. Edgar Krentz has
adopted Solon's wonderful adage, GHRASKW AEI POLLA DIDASKOMENOS, and I
think it's a pretty good thing to be able to affirm. Here at Washington U.
the evening division, University College, puts a placard at each student's
place on the seminary table that reads, "When you're through learning,
you're through." That too is pretty good, I think.

Personally, I do not study Greek with the expectation that I
>will discover hidden meanings beyond those that have already been
>explained in my mother tongue. Furthermore, I doubt that I will ever
>become so proficient at the language that an immediacy between myself and
>the author/s will be established, unhindered by the process of
>translation. I study the language because I GREATLY enjoy doing so.

Ahhhhh, the secret is out at last. One can read Greek for BOTH pleasure AND

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 OR

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