Friday, October 01, 2010

Dave Black on "13 Things your Greek Professor Won't Tell You"

I saw this first on the B-Greek reading list. It comes originally from what a B-Greeker called Dave Black's Non-Blog. Dave Black does not use blogging software, so there is no way to get permanently to this particular post. His general site is here, but this link will just get you to whatever happens to be at the top of his site.

Here is what Black wrote:

The latest issue of The Reader's Digest has an interesting article entitled "13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won't Tell You." Here are "13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won't Tell You":

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it's only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don't stop there. (You'll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what's possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don't believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek had to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there's only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of "Holy Ghost" Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, "The word in the Greek means..."? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called "illegitimate totality transfer" by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I'll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, "Greek is an easy language; it's us Greek teachers who get in the way." The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can't. I tell my students that it's almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it's taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I've embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had "used Greek in ministry" if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I've discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than "another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation" then it loses its power as the Word of God. That's why I'm so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using myGreek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called "Additional Exercises."

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don't expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you've had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I'm done. And yes, I'm exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!

Now who wants to tackle "13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won't Tell You"?


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Touch of the Master's Hand

My heart is heavy this afternoon. We have just lost a colleague due to a moral failure. Our faculty is already minimized, with a dear brother on sabbatical, and a couple on medical leave. Others, already overworked will have to pick up the slack.

In our "in house family meeting" our president told a story which I will reproduce here, that highlights God's knack for taking a bad situation, and transforming it. The story is kind of like the well known poem by Myra Brooks Welch, "The Touch of the Master's Hand." I will link to the poem, but will not cite it.

This story was knew to me. I used Google to trace the story. It has been published in a number of different places. I'm not sure where our president, Matt Proctor, found it. Most recently, it was published in a book by Lenya Heitzig and Penny Rose titled Live Deeply: A Study in the Parables (David C. Cook, 2009). I'll quote from that book (pp. 136-137):

Over a hundred years ago in a Scottish seaside inn, some fishermen were relaxing after a long day at sea. As a serving maid walked past the fishermen's table with a pot of tea, one of the men made a sweeping gesture to describe the size of the fish he claimed to have caught. His hand hit the teapot, sending it crashing against the whitewashed wall, staining a large area. "That stain will never come out," the innkeeper said. "The whole wall will have to be repainted."

"Perhaps no." All eyes turned to the stranger who had spoken. "What do you mean?" asked the innkeeper. "Let me work with the stain," said the stranger. "If my work meets your approval, you won't need to repaint the wall." So he picked up a box and went to the wall. Opening the box, he withdrew pencils, brushes, and some glass jars of linseed oil and pigment. He began to sketch lines around the stain and fill it in here and there with dabs of color and swashes of shading. Soon a picture began to emerge. The random splashes of tea were transformed into the image of a magnificent stag. The man inscribed his signature on the painting, paid for his meal, and left.

"Do you know who that man was?" the innkeeper said in amazement. "E. H. Landseer!" Indeed, the famous wildlife painter. Sir Edwin Landseer had visited the village.

God sent Jesus to take the stains and disappointments from our lives--not merely to erase them, but to turn them into a thing of beauty. Will we be like the religious leaders and reject Him as the cornerstone of our faith, or will be gladly accept Him as one who can transform our lives into a masterpiece?


For the unknowing, like myself, Sir Edwin H. Landseer was a famous British wildlife artist in the 19th century.

May God turn the ashes from this situation, toward His greater glory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

10 Chapters a Day

Have you ever gotten to the point where you want to read the Bible in a systematic way, but have fallen behind? Over the years, I have read the Bible through using a variety of systems. After using each system for a while, I find that I begin to lose interest.

Let me try to explain what I mean. If one begins in Genesis, reading straight through to Revelation, it takes forever to get to Jesus. One tends to bog down in the Old Testament. I love the book of Genesis, but I usually don't tell people to begin reading there. They'll get lost for certain through Leviticus and Numbers.

I have used a Chronological Bible, which is not the same thing as reading from Genesis to Revelation, but has some of the same problems, as it takes so long to get to Jesus.

I have also used a system where one reads a portion from the Old Testament (except for Psalms and Proverbs), a portion from Psalms, a portion from Proverbs, and a portion from the New Testament, every day, so that one will finish reading the entire Bible in a year.

How much must one read each day to finish reading the entire Bible in a year? About 3 chapters, more or less, per day.

Whoa, this post is titled 10 chapters a day! If one reads 10 chapters a day, one will read the Bible through quicker than one year--but it is SO EXCITING!

The drawback I mentioned to reading through one of the systems described above is that it takes too long to get to the good stuff. Last week I cam across a "10 chapter per day" system. I have been using it daily for the past week, and it has been exciting.

It was developed by Professor Grant Horner, who teaches at The Master's College in California. You can begin it at any time, and it just keeps coming at you. Basically, you start reading in 10 different sections of the Bible, reading one chapter in each of the sections, each day. The sections are as follows:
  • Gospels
  • Genesis - Deuteronomy
  • Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews
  • 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timoty, Titus, Philemon, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-2-3 John, Jude, Revelation
  • Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 -2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
  • Isaiah - Malachi
  • Acts
That way, you read a WIDE variety of Scripture every day, and you get the good stuff every day! At the end of the year, you should have read the gospels about 4 times, the Pentateuch about twice, the epistles 4 or 5 times, the books of Poetry (other than Psalms and Proverbs) nearly 6 times, the book of Psalms more than twice, the book of Proverbs nearly every single month, the books of OT History nearly twice, the OT Prophets nearly twice, and the book of Acts more than 12 times.

Does that sound exciting? It requires a little more reading time than the other systems mentioned above, but it is great! If you would like to see Professor Horner's own description of the system (PDF file), which includes a sheet with bookmarks that can be cut out to use in your Bible, click here.

If you decide to give this system a try, drop me a line to let me know how YOU like it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Reflecting on OCC's Greek Program

I've been teaching NT Greek at OCC for a number of years now. I have enjoyed co-teaching with my advanced Greek professor, Kenneth L. Boles, at both the 2nd year Greek level, and 3rd year Greek level. When I started teaching Greek, I taught 1st year students for a number of years. The last several years, however, I have spent my time teaching more advanced students. I hope someday to get some more whacks at 1st year Greek as well as teaching the advanced level students.

At any rate, this reflection has its roots in a conversation that I had earlier this year with one of our graduates. He went on to do some graduate study at a rather prestigious graduate school. He took a Greek proficiency exam, and needed to take a leveling course in Greek, as he did not show himself to be proficient in NT Greek, despite studying Greek at OCC for 3 years! OUCH!!

He took his leveling course in Greek, and was able to continue on in his Greek studies at the prestigious graduate school. Once he got into the courses that he should have been taking, he saw that he could read Greek far better than most of the people in the course. The reason for his reading proficiency is because that is what we foster in our advanced Greek courses. In other institutions, advanced Greek courses teach the intricacies of Greek grammar, but students don't learn to read Greek.

For the past several years, in our 2nd year Greek classes, we have used Daniel Wallace's The Basics of New Testament Syntax, which is the abridged version to his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. We attempt to expose students to all of the categories, while at the same time getting them massive amounts of Greek reading. Our 3rd year Greek classes consist of massive amounts of reading, talking about the grammar that surfaces from our reading. For example, my 3rd year Greek students from the 2009-2010 school year read the following in Greek: Mark, Romans, 1-2 Peter, Jude, and Ephesians. We spent some time the last week of the semester reading some Patristics.

Seumas MacDonald, an Aussie who authors several blogs, has a post today on his blog, Compliant Subversity, along these same lines. In it, reflecting on the tendency at seminaries to emphasize grammatical categories in their 2nd year Greek classes, says:
I’m not sure this is the best use of a 2nd year Greek education. Let’s at least acknowledge the fact that Greek speakers rarely looked at a genitive and asked ‘what category of the genitive does this fall into?’. Did they sometimes do that kind of in-depth analysis of their own language? Certainly, as we do in English sometimes when disambiguating or arguing over complex or unclear words. But not in our everyday discourse. Far better, I contend, that we spend 2nd year Greek studies trying to get students deeply into reading Greek qua Greek, and far less on memorising 183 uses of the dative.
I agree with him wholeheartedly.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do You Text? Interpret This:

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl
  1. no1 b4 me. srsly.
  2. dnt wrshp pix/idols
  3. no omg's
  4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)
  5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool
  6. dnt kill ppl
  7. :-X only w/ m8
  8. dnt steal
  9. dnt lie re:bf
  10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.
My colleague Gary Zustiak shared this with me. I believe it is taken from the current issue of Reader's Digest.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Logos Bible Software Scholarship for Bible College Students

OCC Students (& other Bible college students): Logos Bible Software has had a seminary scholarship program for some time. They just released a new program, offering scholarships and Bible software to undergraduate Bible college students. The recipient could be you! Check it out!

Appeared on their blog this morning: click here.

Monday, March 01, 2010

We're Praying for Chile

Chile was devastated by one of the strongest earthquakes in history early Saturday morning. 25 years ago (almost on the same weekend--last weekend before the school year was to begin), Santiago was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter scale (as a comparison, the January earthquake in Haiti was 7.0).

This quake, with an epicenter near Concepción (the 2nd largest Chilean city), registered 8.8 on the Richter scale. Only the 1960 earthquake in Valdivia, CHILE measured larger (9.5 on the Richter scale). We are praying for Chile, and are very concerned about many friends in the VII Region of the country.

This music video is making the rounds on Facebook. The music is sung by a Christian duet (man and wife) called Tercer Cielo (3rd Heaven). The song, titled Yo Te Extrañaré (I'll Miss You) appeared on their album titled Hollywood (2008). The song, together with images from Saturday's earthquake, moves me to tears. Knowing that many of you do not understand Spanish, I wanted to help you understand the lyrics to the song.

Please remember to pray for Chile.
video

Sunday, February 14, 2010

It is for calves, and I like it in frozen form (perhaps with strawberries) . . .

I did not write this. The author's name is Mark Lightman. But I liked it . . .

Μαρκος τοις δυναμενοις αναγιγνωσκειν Ελληνιστι. Χαιρετε, ω φιλοι! Πως εχετε; Εγω Μαρκος καλως εχω.
Σημερον ὁ τοπος του Μαρκου «γαλα» εστιν. Γιγνωσκεις το ρημα «γαλα;» γαλα ποσις εστιν. Πινομεν γαλα. Γαλα λευκον εστιν. Εκ βοῶν γαλα εστιν. Μαρκος χεει το γαλα επι των «fruit loops» αυτου. Το γαλα εστιν «2%» ἢ «1%» ἢ «4%» ἢ «skim.»
Τοις ανθρωποις ὑγιειαν φέρει το γαλα. Αλλὰ γαλα και ωφελιμον εστιν προς το μανθανειν την γλωσσαν Ελληνικην. Την αληθειαν λεγω. Ουκ ψευδομαι. Εγω Μαρκος λεγω υμιν οτι γαλα βοηθήσει υμιν μανθανειν την Ελληνικην.
Γαλα γαρ «ακρωνυμον» εστιν: γ-α-λ-α.
γ-γραφε
α-ακουε
λ-λαλεῖ
α-αναγιγνωσκε.
Μαρκος λεγει: μικρον γαλα καθ’ ημεραν. γραφε Ελληνιστι και ακουε Ελληνιστι και λαλεῖ Ελληνιστι και αναγιγνωσκε Ελληνιστι. Ποιουντες ταυτα παντες ημεις προκοψομεν.
Ερωτῶ ουν σε: γαλα εχεις;
χαρις υμιν.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

I haven't blogged for a very long time . . .

I thought that the next blog I would post would be a reflection on the movie Avatar. I still haven't written that one down.

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. In my e-mail this morning was a very thoughtful reflection on attitudes of Christians towards sports. It was written by my Chilean friend, Fernando Soto Dupuy, who ministers on the west coast. He recounts how he grew up in a church culture in Chile (different from the one in which we ministered), that viewed a Christian's participation in sports as an indication of carnality. I once led a Bible Study in a home in Chile, shortly after having my nose broken playing basketball. At the end of the Bible Study, my Chilean colleague asked the woman of the home to dismiss our meeting in prayer. She came toward me, put her hands on my head and began to pray for me, casting out the demons of sports. That shows a prevailing attitude of a certain Christian sub-culture at the time in Chile.

At any rate, Fernando's reflection was based on personal experience, and on an article titled "Sports Fanatics" by Shirl James Hoffman, published in Christianity Today. I know that most of the readers of this blog are more proficient in reading English than Spanish. You can access the article by Hoffman by clicking on the link.

Some of my readers will appreciate Fernando Soto's essay, titled "El Cristianismo el el deporte competitivo". If you read Spanish well, you may enjoy reading it. I know that I did!