From: Christopher Hutson (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Dec 10 1998 - 08:48:55 EST
Several have offered good reasons for studying Greek. I'd like to
ratchet up the issue a notch by suggesting that there are good reasons
for studying classical Greek.
Here is an excerpt from my syllabus for my first-year Greek class. We
are using Balme & Lawall, _Athenaze_, partly on the recommendation of
b-Greek lister Jim Ware, who did a similar stint in Classics at
Washington U. under the esteemed Carl Conrad before heading to
seminary and doctoral studies in NT. The book is not perfect, but it
is working well enough. Here is how I explained why we were taking
this more difficult route:
"I have firmly decided to study Greek.
Nobody except God can prevent it.
It is not a matter of personal ambition,
but one of understanding the most Sacred Writings."
—Ulrich Zwingli, 1513
In 1513, Ulrich Zwingli was 29 years old. He was an ordained Roman
Catholic priest with an M.A. from the University of Basel and had been
a parish pastor at Glarus, Switzerland, for seven years. He would
later move to Zürich and become the leader of the Swiss Reformation.
Congratulations on your decision to study Greek! The mastery of any
language is difficult, and your studies in Greek will require
extraordinary diligence and discipline on your part. For your
troubles you will receive
(a) a broader and deeper understanding of the linguistic and cultural
milieu in which the NT was written,
(b) access to the best scholarly journals and books in biblical and
theological studies, and
(c) a new appreciation of the richness and depth of the sacred texts,
which heretofore you have come to value even though you have perceived
them only through a veil, dimly. All these will contribute toward
(d) greater independence as an interpreter of Scripture.
Inasmuch as Scripture is foundational to all Christian inquiry, and
the preaching, teaching and application of Scripture is of central
importance to the work of any local minister, you have a great
responsibility to read and understand the texts on their own terms.
Reading the NT in Greek will bring you personal enrichment and will
greatly improve your equipment for ministry.
The Nature of This Course
Many seminaries nowadays take a short cut to Greek by offering only
“New Testament Greek.” But there are two important weaknesses in
this. First, because you are already familiar with the NT, it is easy
to fudge a translation by working from your own memory of standard
English translations without really understanding the vocabulary and
grammar of the Greek itself. In this course, however, you will read
unfamiliar texts, so that you will be forced to understand the
language well in order to translate it.
Second, the short cut method gives the impression that the NT can be
understood in isolation, as if it were unrelated to other literature.
But if you desire to understand the Greek NT, and if you desire to
read (and contribute to!) the best scholarship on the NT, then you
must be familiar with ancient Greek language and culture much more
broadly. NT Greek is part of a mighty tree with deep roots and wide
branches. The more we can comprehend the depth and breadth of the
culture of the NT writers, the better we can understand what they are
saying. Therefore, we shall follow a basic introduction to Attic
Greek (a.k.a., “Classical Greek”). Along the way, we shall take
notice of how Attic evolved into Hellenistic Greek (a.k.a., “koine”)
such as we read in the NT. Always, we’ll keep in mind that reading
the NT is our real goal, so we shall look at that text, a little at
first but more and more as the year progresses.
Attica was the name of the region around Athens. The “classic”
period was the 5th-4th centuries, BCE, when Athens was at its height
economically, militarily, and culturally. This was the era of the
great philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; the great
historians, Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon; the great
playwrights, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes; not to
mention the great artists and architects whose work continues to
symbolize the glory of ancient Greece down to the present day. Both
the ideas forged in this era and the language and style in which those
ideas were expressed became part of a legacy passed down directly to
the writers of the NT.
Alexander the Great (356-323, BCE) was chiefly responsible for
spreading Greek language and culture eastward throughout the “biblical
world,” across Asia Minor, through Palestine, down to Egypt, and over
as far as Persia. The Greek empire superimposed the culture of Hellas
(the Greek name for Greece) upon many disparate peoples. The new,
integrated culture was known broadly as “Hellenistic.” As Greek
became the common language for government and commerce among people
who otherwise spoke many different languages, Greek itself gradually
changed. Among other things, the non-native speakers introduced loan
words from their own languages, and they tended to simplify Greek
grammar somewhat. The result was a new style of Greek that was koine,
or “common.” This koine is the Greek of the NT.
But as various NT writers were either well educated or peasants, came
from various regions, and were writing for readers from similarly
various backgrounds, the vocabulary and style of the NT varies
considerably from text to text. Therefore, our broader approach to
the language, though seemingly more difficult at first, will equip you
much better in the long run to deal with varieties of Greek in the NT
itself, not to mention all the important Greek literature outside the
NT that is related to ancient Judaism and early Christianity.
I do not condemn any b-Greekers who study or teach from various NT
Greek grammars. I want more folks to study Greek for all the good
reasons listers have already given. But I want to encourage teachers
and students alike to consider the possibility of using an Attic
grammar for first-year study, even in seminaries.
Regards to all,
Christopher R. Hutson
Hood Theological Seminary
Salisbury, NC 28144
--- B-Greek home page: http://sunsite.unc.edu/bgreek You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: [firstname.lastname@example.org] To unsubscribe, forward this message to leave-b-greek-329W@franklin.oit.unc.edu To subscribe, send a message to email@example.com
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:10 EDT