[B-Greek] Webb & Kysar's Greek for Preachers

bitan buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Sat Apr 22 13:02:44 EDT 2006

Stocking egrapsen
> I have settled for now on Webb & Kysar's Greek for Preachers 
> (Chalice Press) but in some discussions with Eric Weiss on a 
> different forum, he expressed some concerns about popular 
> rather than scholarly treatments about some words and topics. 
> I have the students memorize 70+ vocabulary over the twelve 
> weeks and the def. art. paradigm, but to this point, no verb 
> paradigms (I'm adding them for the next class this fall). In 
> spite of its shortcomings, I like GFP because it teaches 
> grammatical concepts while relying on existing resources 
> (print or electronic) to do the parsing work, since many 
> students have access to that through the Internet anyway.
O DE Penner 
> This is the type of course I am planning to run next year (but for
Hebrew): We would have one overview term of grammatical concepts and only
the most basic paradigms and vocabulary, teaching the use of electronic
tools for parsing and most vocabulary. Then in the second term we would go
back over much of the material in more detail, developing independence from
the electronic tools, bringing the students' skills up to the point normally
expected from a first-year course.
I am glad to hear there is a textbook for the first term of this method for
Greek; I was planning to write my own for Hebrew.>

Ken and Scott are undoubtedly meeting the needs of well-meaning
administrative and academic committee decisions. I commend Ken and Scott. 


The fact that academic committees move in such directions I attribute to a
failure in the field to meet its true responsibilities. To what may this be


Imagine a Russian Shakespeare Society with members pledging their lives to
explicate the poems and literature. For generations, Russian members are
happy (or not) to spend two to six years learning how to parse English verbs
and learn a vocabulary of 1000-3000 words. But people do not learn to a
level where they speak and think in the language. Meanings of words and
structures are defined in Russian and discussed in Russian. When people read
they do not think of the English choices that were or were not taken but
think in terms and parameters of what a Russian dictionary says in Russian. 

One day they discover that a computer can present the definitions
automatically in Russian with a mouse click. So the Society's committees
decide that in the future their students need a different training or less
training in English. A minor committee report in Tibet suggests the
opposite. With the advent of computers we now have access to Chaucer,
Shakespeare, Milton, and the "new discoveries of Bacon, and Bunyon". Society
members need to control English to a higher level that allows rapid access
and synthesis of all of this material. Reading this Shakspearian literature
is more than parsing the verbs and reading grammar descriptions about
conditionals, and "of" phrases, and disappearing subjunctives. This report
was disputed, of course, and others said that it was sufficient for
Shakespeare to be studied in either French or German in addition to Russian.

One day some students from Mali visited the Russian Shakespeare Society.
They were surprised to find that none of the RSS members could speak with
them in the olde English. The RSS folk only spoke with them in Russian or
French and said that Shakespeare was the most important thing in their
lives. The Malians returned to Tombouctou bewildered. 


Well, so much for literary aspirations. 


I understand the academic committees in real life. But that doesn't make
their judgment sound or correct. I think that we have not given them correct
models of success in the past. One thing that helps me is a comparison with
Hebrew. When students get to a level of fluently controlling the language
and reading biblical and mishnaic texts from within the language, discussing
them in the language, they don't go back to a lower level and would not
trade in their skill for foreign translations, dictionaries, or grammatical
descriptions. Not that there is anything wrong with having those latter
items. A language is like a new world and learning a new language is a kind
of newbirth. I actually expect academic committees to expect Biblical Hebrew
teachers to speak modern Hebrew in about 20 years. (Upcoming students take
note!) I don't have such illusions for ancient Greek of any dialect. But
hope is renewable. EPI TINI ELPIZOMEN? 


Randall Buth


Randall Buth, PhD
Biblical Language Center


c/o margbuth at gmail.com

also, Director, Biblical Studies in Israel
under Rothberg International School,

Hebrew University

ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il


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