Keep your Greek: testing some lines

6 10 2009

What do you think of these lines?

They come from the chapter I’m working on for Keep your Greek.

Just as performing bicep curls without using your biceps is counterproductive and lame, so too is reading Greek without using your Greek.

Instead of using the primary ‘muscle group’ needed to read Greek—your memory!—the interlinear allows you to underwork your memory and rely on the stronger ‘muscle group’—the printed English vocabulary sitting right there under each Greek word.

So, go ahead and burn that interlinear. Or, at least, give it to someone you don’t like very much.

Posted by Con Campbell




18 responses

6 10 2009

Nah – sounds good!

6 10 2009
David McKay

If you want to learn to play the piano, writing the names of the white notes on them will slow you down, not help you remember the note names.

Similarly, writing the names of the notes under the printed score makes it harder, not easier to read the music.

6 10 2009
Con Campbell

Good one, David!

6 10 2009
Dan Anderson

perhaps you could subtitle your book, “What would Hercules do?”

6 10 2009

Absolutely hilarious! And besides every loves to play with a little fire.

6 10 2009
Scott D. Andersen

From your ealier encouragements I’ve been using the Zondervan Greek Reader and trying hard to read my Greek to keep it up. Really appreciate every article you post on this as an encouragment and an aid to doing better. Maybe I fall into the same trap with the READER that you describe concerning the interlinear. It’s a slow process. But the every day a little method is proving the best.

a novice

6 10 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks, Scott. I think a reader is good, and even if you feel you are defaulting to the vocabulary at the bottom of the page a lot, it sure beats an interlinear! Besides, the provided vocab is for words -30x, which means that you are still practicing your 30+ vocab. Keep it up!

Dan, I think “What would Arnold do?” would be more like it…

7 10 2009
Burn your Interlinears « Crypto-theology

[…] your Interlinears Con Campbell’s post here has created quite a stir on the Biblical Greek email list.  I’m pretty much in agreement […]

12 10 2009

thanks alot for this stern warning. it is easy to think that the more you use this other tools the better you’ll get with greek.

16 10 2009
The Gazman

It’s actually physically impossible to do a bicep curl without using your bicep. Sorry, the PE teacher in me lives on…

20 10 2009

I think maybe a reference to training wheels on a bicycle is closer to the use of an interlinear.

In terms of exercise, you use the bicep, but you don’t actually get any benefit unless you force it beyond its capacity.

20 10 2009
Jimmy Snowden

I am a student of New Testament Greek myself and a busy, overwhelmed pastor (and I do have a long way to go in regard to grasping the Greek language enough to use it with proficiency). I have discussed the importance of learning Greek with many of my fellow pastors. I have found one main thing that keep pastor’s from learning and/or maintaining Greek: most pastors excuse themselves from learning Greek because of a ‘lack of time. However, after talking to most pastors I find that they have more than enough time to learn Greek. Whenever a pastor tells me that they do not have the time to study Greek, I boldly retort, “You do to!” This, of course, sets a fire ablaze in their eyes. I then say, “The reason why you don’t study Greek is not because you don’t have time. No… you have plenty of time. You are just using your time to read books on leadership, church growth, and theology. Your issue is not an issue of ‘time’ as you would like to think; rather, it is an issue of ‘priority.’ You make time for your leadership and theology books because they are important to you. When the Word of God in its most pristine form becomes a greater priority than your books on leadership, you will make time for Greek.” I have a saying that I have written down–I force myself to read it on a regular basis. It goes as such: “If I do not have time to learn to study God’s Word in its most pristine form then I definitely do not have time to read books by Piper, Carson, and Witherington.” Learning Greek is a matter of priority.
The main thing that keeps people from learning Greek is because it does not yield immediate fruit. For example, a person who has never even heard of the ’emerging church’ can pick up a book on the topic and come away within 2 hours with fully developed opinions. People gravitate to church growth, leadership, and theology books more than to the Word of God in its most pure form because these other books bear immediate fruit. It takes years before a student can use the languages with precision. But… if we value the word of God, we will invest in the word of God. The word of God will dethrone books written by men.
So… how do you “Keep Your Greek” (at least according to me)? It has to do with remembering the goal of the pursuit. If a student forgets that we learn Greek in order to read God’s word in its most pure form, theological and practical books by men will dethrone the pursuit. However, if the student remembers that learning Greek is a battle for the superiority of the God’s Holy Word, the long and grueling marathon of learning an ancient language will simply be ‘worth it.’ It is a matter of priority, but our priorities are determined by our values. If we value the Word of God above all knowledge, we will do whatever it take to not lose our Greek. And our values determine our pursuits. I will not lose sleep to catch up on the debate between Wright and Piper, but I will lose sleep to gain a better ability to discern with accuracy the Word of God. Our values determine our priorities, and our priorities determine our pursuits.
This comment was too long… I apologize. Yet, I know this to be the key issue for me in regard to studying Greek.

21 10 2009
Duncan Forbes

II think your book is a good idea. With regards to the bicep analogy. It doesn’t really work for me. Its impossible to do bicep curls without using your biceps. Even very light bicep movements are beneficial to you, and help decrease aptrophy. However put this way, perhaps this is what an interlinear does for some people. An interlinear might not be the equivalent of heavy weight training – but it may help decrease the aptrophy for some people who have stopped learning Greek.

I would suggest perhaps using a sit up analogy. In sit ups its quite common for people to use their hip flexors more than their stomach muscles. You can work hard thinking you are working your abs when you’re working your hip flexors more, and your abs less.

Duncan BSc HONS Sports Science

23 10 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks, all. Yeah, the bicep thing needs the context of the chapter it’s in. My point is that you can do bicep curls by “cheating”, either by swinging the weight, or relying too much on your shoulders. I realize “not using your biceps” is hyperbole, but the point is that by cheating you don’t use your biceps as much as your should to perform the exercise. But I like the sit up idea too!


23 10 2009
Jason Chamberlain

I often tell people that learning a Biblical language is no different from learning an instrument or how to play a sport. There is a long learning curve to basic proficiency. The only way to develop and maintain that proficiency is through consistent and thoughtful practice. This is why I keep doing flashcards regularly and why I read at least a paragraph in my Reader’s Greek every day.

I also have found that more exposure to the language has helped me when I use my UBS4. Of course there are some words I don’t know, but I can often figure them out by context or by breaking the word down into components.

I usually run a 5k 3 times/week and a 10k once/week. There are times when I can’t do that because of sickness, travel, weather, etc. What I’ve found is that consistency breeds more consistency and better performance, but any time I have to take a break it becomes more difficult to get back into it. Greek has been no different for me.

25 10 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks, Jason. I use the musical instrument analogy too; it’s a long-term commitment, and can seem overwhelming at first. But with regular work, it comes together.

26 10 2009
Phil Faris

The “line” about bicep curls doesn’t really work because it blurs the analogy on the Greek side. In a way, interlinear reading is isolating one muscle (recognize Greek letters or words, possibly pronouncing them) but not getting the full-body, holistic exercise of reading passages in Greek without any tools.

So I wouldn’t put that line in the book without revamping it. It is a good start; just not polished in the best way possible.

Regarding “using Greek”: I am writing language retension workbooks for Greek and Hebrew. Language skills can be broken down into the top four plus many sub skills. That is, reading, listening, writing, speaking are the performance skills while many learning techniques form sub-tasks within each of the top four. When I am finished, I send you a copy of my workbooks to see if they offer anything different. Maybe we can take a dozen old pastors and test them to see which methods produce the best results.

26 10 2009
Con Campbell

I’d love to see those workbooks, Phil. You’re right, all the various approaches boil down to those four things; that’s helpful.

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