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.