[B-Greek] My results of teaching NT Greek with Dobson's text

Eric Weiss eweiss at gte.net
Thu Jul 31 22:37:57 EDT 2003

As mentioned several months ago, I taught a church group first-year
Greek using John Dobson's LEARN NEW TESTAMENT GREEK. Before reaching
that decision, I considered BASICS OF BIBLICAL GREEK (Mounce), GREEK TO
ME (Story and Story), as well as Dobson. My decision to try Dobson was
based on the list/explanation of (my personal and/or observed) pros and
cons given as the second part of this message. Teaching a church group
that didn't have to take the course for a degree also influenced my
decision to try Dobson's less rigorous approach.

If you have any comments for me on this, let me know. If you prefer, you
can e-mail me off-list at eweiss at gte.net.

BOTTOM LINE: I will likely use Mounce (his new/revised Second Edition
comes out this August) or Story & Story the next time I teach, and not
use Dobson again.

HOW THE CLASS WENT: I started with 20 students, which soon grew to 22,
but only 8 finished the course. 3 or 4 of them did fairly well
(including the two youngest members, ages 11 and 14 - who are also being
home-schooled by their parents, who attended as they could), and the
other 4 or 5 did so-so, primarily because they did not do the required
daily reading and re-reading and work on memorizing vocabulary and
things like the article paradigm. 3 were able to sight-read quite
fluently, but the others were not - again indicative of not doing what
was asked of them, i.e., regularly reading aloud the exercises.

I do not think any of them achieved what Dobson's book claims to enable
one to do, i.e., the ability to read much of the NT without constant
reference to a dictionary. I think this is partly due to their not fully
applying themselves to the material, and partly due to Dobson's
approach. I do not think that the fault lies with me as the teacher (I
believe I'm being honest, not self-congratulatory). Part of the problem
could be that we met only weekly, but I have no way to get around that
with my work schedule. No matter what book I used, twice-weekly meetings
would always be better than once-a-week.

I think it's important that there be objective measures of a student's
progress and knowledge. I didn't have the lead time to prepare tests and
quizzes for Dobson, and his methodology is based on avoiding this
anyway. I think the lack of such things is a weakness of Dobson, but
there's not really a good way to integrate these things, since the
learning is primarily based on reading and rereading and thinking about
the many translation sentences in each chapter. If the students apply
themselves to the reading, they supposedly should absorb an
understanding of NT Greek. If they don't do the work and THINK ABOUT
what they're doing, I think the methodology will ultimately fail because
they aren't even learning the rudiments of paradigm memorization as
something to fall back on.

Because of the workbook and the quizzes and reviews and tests, as well
as the numerous parsing exercises, as well as translation exercises, I
think Mounce would be my book of choice for my next class, even though
it lacks the vocabulary acquisition of GREEK TO ME and takes longer to
teach. I'll make a decision between the two after I see the new Mounce.
It would give the students required assignments each week, gradable
tests and quizzes, and both them and me an objective measurement of what
they have and have not learned.

If/when I do teach again, I think the first session will be sans books,
and I will spend the time talking with them about what the class/course
involves, so they can spend the next week thinking about whether they
really are willing to make it a priority above all else to devote 4-5
hours each week, on a daily basis, doing the work and homework, and make
such a commitment for 30 weeks, to the exclusion of other choices. Kind
of a "weed-out" session, knowing that I should still expect a 50% or
more attrition rate no matter how well informed or prepared they are in
- - -

My initial choices (and reasons for or against each) were the following
three texts:


The textbook that I learned from.
Used at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where many at church
eventually go.
I have taught from it before, though it was a few years ago.
A nice accompanying workbook with good exercises on parsing, vocabulary,
translation, etc., periodic lengthy Review assignments, and tests and
quizzes the teacher can download off the Internet.
Part of a growing Zondervan series on Greek grammar.
Good grammatical explanations, emphasizing morphology.
Workbook translation exercises are all from New Testament texts, and the
Review translations are lengthy New Testament passages.

It takes a lot of work and a lot of time: About 30 lessons, usually at
one lesson per week. Students should expect to do 4-5 hours per week of
daily work (i.e., 1 hour per day x 5 days per week) outside of class
One primarily learns and uses words that occur only 50x or more in the
New Testament, and has to use Zondervan's A SUMMER GREEK READER, a
twelve-week self-study workbook, to learn words that occur 20x - 49x in
the New Testament. Adding this 12-week workbook extends Mounce's course
to 42 weeks, or at least 6 additional weeks if one does 2 READER
exercises per day.
Other than the Review translations, most of the Workbook translation
exercises are single sentences/verses that are not in context.

What I've read and heard:
Many people like Mounce's book, though others disagree strongly with his
purposeful separation of first learning nouns, pronouns and adjectives
exclusively (chapters 1-15) before verbals (chapter 16 onward), as well
as his late introduction of participles.

II. Cullen I. K. Story & J. Lyle Story GREEK TO ME

Utilizes a unique picture-based approach that helps students learn and
retain vocabulary and paradigms.
Covers all the basic material in 24 lessons that Mounce covers in about
Introduces students to most of the New Testament words that occur 25x or
more, i.e., 600+ words - almost twice the vocabulary of Mounce.
Uses Bible-based, but not Bible-verbatim, translation exercises,
including passages from Justin Martyr, the Didache, and the Septuagint.
Hence, students must think through their translations and not rely upon
their prior memory of the verse(s)/passage.
An optional supplemental multimedia tutorial on CD that has all the
chapter information, translation keys, and quizzes (which unfortunately
are rather rigid re: giving exact answers for vocabulary words).
Dr. Dale Wheeler at Multnomah has had stellar results for many years,
exceeding other texts he's used as he noted in a 1996 e-mail to the
B-Greek list.

No direct verbatim New Testament passage translations.
The "Enrichment" explanations are not too useful or enlightening, and
sometimes seem simplistic (which may be okay for a first-year course).
The pictures for memorizing the paradigms may be less useful than those
for the vocabulary, as they can be somewhat complicated.
Some of the grammatical points and distinctions seem to be simplistic
(again, this may be okay for first year).
No pre-designed quizzes or tests for the teacher, just an answer key for
the Translations. 
It also takes a lot of work and a lot of time: Students should expect to
do 4-5 hours per week of daily work (i.e., 1 hour per day x 5 days per
week) outside of class time.

What I've read and heard:
Dale Wheeler's endorsement cited above is strongly in its favor. I used
it to teach my daughter, and in some ways prefer it to Mounce for its
increased vocabulary and shorter course time.

III. John H. Dobson LEARN NEW TESTAMENT GREEK (Second Edition)

The material can probably be completely and successfully covered in 21
Introduces students to all but 116 words that occur 25x or more in the
New Testament, as well as 148 words that occur 24x - 10x (per my
comparison with Bruce M. Metzger LEXICAL AIDS FOR STUDENTS OF NEW
TESTAMENT GREEK), plus some words that occur less than 10x. 281 of the
at-least-10x words are introduced in the "Words" lists in the chapters.
The others are introduced in the exercises.
Utilizes an inductive/immersive approach by which students do not need
to memorize all they're being exposed to.
States that "by the end of the course you will be able to read much of
the New Testament without constant reference to a dictionary. You will
also have a grasp of the structure of the Greek language and its
grammar, an ability to use commentaries that refer to the Greek text,
and a growing skill as a translator." (That will depend on vocabulary
learning and memorization by the student.)
Chapters are short and succinct, without a lot of repetitive exercises,
so 2 or 3 could be covered each week.
Seems to be quite self-study friendly, but students would definitely
benefit from having a teacher.
Introduces students to translation and textual issues in far greater
depth than other first-year grammars.
Deliberately teaches and tests students to think how best to translate,
instead of unintentionally teaching that translation is primarily a
matter of mathematically substituting English words for Greek words.
Gets students into the Greek New Testament in a short period of time,
and exposes them to passages and not just single sentences.
Probably requires less out-of-class study time than most first-year
Greek courses.

Omits accents except where it's absolutely necessary for distinguishing
Intentionally weak on grammatical rules and paradigm memory, and has
little or no parsing exercises.
Focuses on pointers and cues in the grammar and language and later on
gives the grammatical terms, definitions, etc., after the student has
spent time just reading and seeing these things.
Not systematically structured for paradigm memorization.
Noun paradigms are presented in the order Nominative, Accusative,
Genitive, Dative, instead of the more-standard Nominative, Genitive,
Dative, Accusative.

What I've read and heard:
I tried to find out about this book from persons on the Internet and got
mixed feedback, though one person expressed great enthusiasm after
teaching using such an inductive/immersive approach (though they had not
used Dobson's book).

- - -
Eric S. Weiss
eweiss at gte.net

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