Keep your Greek: Testing some lines 2

8 10 2009

From the chapter on software tools…

Bible software tools provide incredible speed and convenience […]. But, they come at a risk. And—just like cars—the very thing that makes them convenient is also the thing that threatens to kill your Greek: Speed.

By moving that cursor too quickly, you can replicate the perennial problem that is inflicted by the dreaded interlinear (that you have recently burnt).

So, my advice to you is the same as it will be to my kids when they’re old enough to drive (in the way-distant future): by all means harness the power of software tools, but be very careful that their speed does not kill your Greek.

Posted by Con Campbell




15 responses

8 10 2009
Steve Runge

Are you going to be providing the other side of the coin, or are you focusing on “what not to do” for now? So far we have burned our tools and are living in a cave. You have gotten lots of affirmation on B-Greek for your lines, but few if any of these respondents represent your target readers. Who are they and what is their reality? If you are trying to encourage a minister 10 years out of seminary to go back and relearn his paradigms and vocabulary before he dare crack a book, or the Christian Ed leader who is not regularly preaching but doing their best to keep up their skills, are they really going to carry flash cards with them? People I have met in this situation using the strategy you appear to be advocating rarely venture outside the text they studied in school–John, Mark, etc. I really hope there is a more balanced approach in the full chapter. These lines will be popular with the profs, but likely perpetuate the very frustration and sense of hopelessness that you are trying to address in the student.

8 10 2009
c. stirling bartholomew

A decade or so back I was using the computer based parsing and lexical tools to fake my way through Hebrew. Sometime early in this decade I faced up to the reality that my skills in Hebrew reading were not improving. I made a hard choice. Decided to ditch Hebrew and focus on Attic greek. Diogenes + TLG provides parsing and lexical (LSJ) support for any text. I use it as a last resort. I don’t read Greek in the same room with the computer. This may sound retro to people who grew up with a cell phone in their hand but reading in my office, a computer free zone, using real books and paper for notes seems to help me retain what I am learning. Even so, it seems that I forget vocabulary very quickly. What I seem to retain is the syntax and some of the idioms.

I read attic tragedy very slowly, stare at it, struggle with it, sweat it out. Once in a great while I run into a few lines which just jump off page but mostly it is just plain hard work.

8 10 2009

Perhaps knowing paradigms like a parrot should not be our goal, for obviously even a parrot could do this. Our goal is rather to know God’s word, no where in the bible is a list of paradigm charts or an explanation of apollonius canon. Rather these definitions and lectures in the class room serve to help us understand Greek better. But there is no replacement for what Dr. Campbell is calling for, interacting with the Greek (i.e. the Word) on a consistent basis so that it becomes more and more internalized. Not merely something that we have notes. I don’t seek to merely parse a verb, rather I want to know how Paul is using that Optative. And this only comes from having seen it again and again, not like a parrot but like a child learns. As a child I learned not only by the form of the words that my mom used but by her tone that I was about to whipped. This internalization came from constantly being in trouble (my mom can attest to that). So also we must interact with the languages consistently, even if in small bites, to ever hope to really understand more than a few facts about what form the words are in. Dr. Campbell is completely correct to point out that wrong learning methods serve to have big biceps without the ability to walk over to the object which we wish to pick up.
Thanks for the posts, solid and practical reflections.
Professor Campbell, are you are going to make mention of the benefits of reading out loud or other audio methods being mixed with the visual?

8 10 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks, all, for the feedback. Great stuff.

Steve, you’re right, of course. Most of the book will be positive and practical. I’m working on a chapter on vocabulary right now, and proposing some solutions for busy people in ministry who can’t make learning Greek their first, second, third, or fourth priority. But, I do believe bad habits need to be broken before good ones can be developed, hence the negative approach re interlinears and cautious approach to software. Besides, the chapter on software has much that is positive too.

Redpooba, an audio approach is a great suggestion; thanks!

20 10 2009

You might also suggest some software tools to help learn vocabulary. I use the iflipr app on my iphone which was only 5 bucks, and had all of Mounce’s vocab from BBG available to download. This makes vocab review very simple.

20 10 2009

I’m with Steve Runge on this. As much as I would love to have my students read Greek using helps with just a Greek ‘reader,’ they simply do not have enough required Greek to get to that point. Within a couple years of seminary, most have have given up… I have, therefore, been trying to teach Greek using software as a way to promote lifelong interaction with the text. So my ‘line’ is:
Trying to read Greek without using software resources is like doing push-ups with both hands behind your back.

20 10 2009
Keeping your Greek « NT Resources Blog

[…] You can find the original here. […]

20 10 2009

I understand your sentiment and see that this is perhaps a way out of the issue, but is it the best? I would ask how you learned English, was it software tools? There are things, even some of the most basic core things that you know about english that you could never in thousands upon thousands of hours of study learn merely through software tools.
I have sat under multiple learning styles of Greek (Attic, Koine, Modern), and different pedagogical methods do indeed tend towards different results. Software can show us where exceptions to Apollonius’s canon are, but software can never in a million hours of study let us have a feel for the text. Learning only software methods, i.e. pansy pushes, will lead to the exegetical fallacies that Dr. Carson warns against. Furthermore, it will never allow a student, an exegete of God’s word, to engage in time consuming discourse study to get the warf and woof of scripture. The ESV is not inspired, thus true exegesis does not begin, end, or remain in that text.
Again, I fully agree that software is a huge blessing. I have actually had lunch with some of the Bibleworks software team in order to show my gratitude. Learning, studying, and using God’s chosen languages with software is a blessing, but we must still train to do one-armed push ups. Destined only for those who are truly willing and ready to endure the challenges of pursuing God with all of their heart, mind, soul, and Spirit empowered strength in order to teach His word.
May our endurance in learning be dependent upon Him, and for Him.

20 10 2009

I noticed these lines you were suggesting. I think the fact that using the Greek is the best way to prevent form losing it. The first thing to do is translate sentences every day/week. Just doing ten sentences a week like one did in school (I learned Greek at a secular University) can go a long way to keeping it sharp. Just as a sword needs to be sharpened, so to does honing ones Greek need a little work. If the work is done consistently, then one does not need to spend a long time doing it. However, a blade that has become dull due to sitting around for a long time takes longer to put an edge back on.
The second thing I would suggest is to teach Greek. I teach Greek on a volunteer basis. It is only an introductory class, but I find that it helps the body of Christ and also helps me maintain my skills. While reading the Bible in English is good, it is only like looking at a black and white photograph. However, reading the Bible in its original language is comparable to looking at a color photo. Once we have seen in color, going back to the black and white is equivalent to going back into Plato’s cave to sit in front of the fire.
I also understand that it is very difficult to find time to do the necessary work to keep these languages proficient. We all spend our time and money where our heart is. If a minister is not going to take the time to keep his language skills up, it shows that it really isn’t important. I saw this happen when I took Greek. Many people who had a desire for the word of God let the rest of their life get in the way of true study of that word. It is a sad condition. It is critical that Pastors/Priests keep their skills up because such knowledge helps to combat a multitude of heresies.

My Line: “While we fight against the principalities of this world, we must have good armor and a sturdy shield, but the word is our sword and not keeping it sharp can be fatal.”

20 10 2009

I agree with both redpooba and cowboychris, but I spent 14 years in parish ministry before becoming a seminary teacher. I was pretty adept at Greek, but it really suffered in the parish. As much as I love reading and studying the Greek, if someone is in the hospital, that had to be my priority. Teaching confirmation classes and preparing sermons gave me the excuse to look at the texts, but most of the time I had to move rather quickly from the texts to getting something ready to go.
SO… what I have been working on is developing good practices of how one can use the software to ask the right questions of the text. Here is a preliminary approach I am using:
Suggestions appreciated!

23 10 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks, all, for your comments and thoughts. I’ll be thinking it through.


23 10 2009
Jason Chamberlain

There are times when even the Reader’s Greek is painfully slow for me. However, I know that if I don’t trudge through it I won’t ever get any sharper. When I’m just sight-reading that way I don’t get too caught up in all the stuff I learned in my Wallace grammar, but instead am looking for general meaning.

23 10 2009

Bible software tools are like credits cards: they are not bad in and of themselves. They can be helpful when used wisely, but they can quickly become harmful when one becomes dependent upon and indebted to them.

5 11 2009

Years ago I took two years of greek at Cedarville College under the great teaching of Dr. Robert Gromacki. I remember him encouraging us to look for the prepositional phrases in our translation work. I can’t say that I was his best student, but I still try to keep up with my greek studies. I keep a copy of the greek N.T. and Machen’s, “N.T. Greek for Beginners” in my briefcase. I try to keep going over the fundementals.
I remember Dr. Gromacki as a man of prayer. He encouraged us to pray and ask God to help us learn greek as we studied it. While taking his class I found the following quote and wrote in the front of my Greek N.T.
“After all is said and done, the only way to know the Greek Testament properly is by prayer.” – J.B. Lightfoot

8 11 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks for the Lightfoot quote. What a champ!

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