[b-greek] RE: Three quick questions

From: Dave Washburn (dwashbur@nyx.net)
Date: Sun Aug 05 2001 - 18:12:32 EDT

> I'll add my experience, for what it's worth. I had two years of Greek
> in Bible college, followed by two years of Hebrew in seminary.
> Following my two years of Greek, I felt relatively comfortable with most
> of the New Testament: I struggled a bit (and still struggle!) with some
> of Acts, Hebrews and 1 Peter, but I can generally puzzle out almost any
> NT Greek without a lot of trouble.
> Two years of Hebrew has not had the same effect on my ability to
> understand the OT. I can generally handle narrative OK, if a bit
> slowly, but poetry is a real bear.

And this is normal. I suspect that if many of us who work with the
prose of the NT tried diving into Greek poetry we'd find the same
problem. Poetry is a bear in most any language.

> I think there are a number of reasons for this, some of which apply only
> to me, others of which would be common to anyone trying to understand
> both languages:
> (1) The NT was written over maybe a 50 year time-span. The oldest
> passages of the OT are separated by nearly a thousand years from the
> newest parts. That's like having Chaucer, Shakespeare, and William
> Carlos Williams in the same book, and expecting someone from China to
> read it all.

Except that the Hebrew language didn't change even a fraction as
much as English has since Chaucer. A better analogy would be
putting the U.S. Constitution, a Dickens novel, and Francis
Schaeffer in the same book. The actual amount of linguistic
change is much more similar to the situation in Hebrew.

We also can't forget the fact that both languages are dead
languages, and there are things about both that we still don't
know, really can't know because we can't ask a native speaker. It
is for this reason that true mastery of either language is not
possible. The goal should be to know the language well enough to
understand what the problems are and how to interact with them
(such as your example of hapax legomena). Because of the
structural differences between the two languages, I don't
recommend trying to learn both of them at once. Get a good
handle on one, then tackle the other. Fewer headaches that way.

Dave Washburn
"You just keep thinking, Butch. That's what you're good at."

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