[B-Greek] How NOT to learn Biblical Greek

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sat Jul 14 12:27:58 EDT 2007

On Jul 14, 2007, at 10:33 AM, Bryan Cox wrote:

> While I can appreciate the warnings, as an autodidact, I have a very
> different opinion of the various tools that instructors nearly  
> denounce as
> evil.
> Tools such as interlinears, parsing guides, computer software (eg.
> Accordance, Bibleworks, Logos, etc.), and online resources (eg.  
> Perseus,
> Zhubert, Blue Letter Bible, etc.) can also be extremely valuable to  
> those
> learning the languages.
> In the beginning, the learner will obviously be heavily dependent  
> upon such
> resources (unless instructed otherwise, which I think can also be
> potentially damaging to learning).  However, the more often one  
> makes use of
> such resources, the more will sink in and become memorized over time.
> My own experience began with reading through an interlinear Greek  
> Bible.  I
> focused on the Greek words and grammatical structures, referring to  
> the
> English as necessary for lexical definitions and some help with  
> grammar (of
> course other sources must also be used since the English cannot always
> follow the Greek perfectly).  As I continued through the  
> interlinear, my
> recognition of words and sentence structures became better and  
> better so
> that I was eventually able to graduate to a Greek Bible (by  
> Zondervan) that
> had minimal word definitions at the bottom of each page.  Finally,  
> I was
> able to procede to a purely Greek Bible.
> So, while I understand the warnings given, I feel that they may  
> discourage
> (and even scare away) students from using tools that may also  
> benefit them.
> I can't tell you how often I've heard the mantra blindly repeated  
> by recent
> graduates from seminary that interlinears and parsing guides are  
> bad and
> should not be used.  Why?  They are very helpful tools if used  
> correctly
> (that's why they exist to begin with)...I think this sort of  
> indoctrination
> can be damaging.
> Just my 2 cents.

And I'll grant that they CAN be useful, if rightly used. My concern  
with them, as with so much of the pedagogical material prepared for  
Koine Greek students, is with the notion that producing an English  
version of the Greek text is the "proof of the pudding" of  
acquisition of any real mastery of Biblical Greek. It is that notion  
that is really pernicious, and to the extent that interlinears and  
parsing guides promote that notion, to that extent interlinears and  
parsing guides are snares.


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
> To: "B-Greek B-Greek" <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2007 5:55 AM
> Subject: [B-Greek] How NOT to learn Biblical Greek
>> From his early days as a reporter of parliamentary debates, Charles
> Dickens was an indefatigable satirist of the way British government
> functions. The "Circumlocution Office" is the primary instrument of
> Britain's parliamentary government in Dickens' late novel, "Little
> Dorrit." The fundamental concern at which the Circumlocution Office
> labors diligently day and night is "how not to do it."
> The blog to which I call attention this morning bears the title I
> have cited in m my subject-header above. It is yesterday's offering
> in "Withering Fig," maintained by Stephen Hebert:
> http://www.witheringfig.com/2007/07/13/how-not-to-learn-biblical- 
> greek/
> OR: http://tinyurl.com/2yrxq
> I must say that the advice offered therein is not at all at odds with
> what I've urged repeatedly in this forum myself, but I cite the key
> headers and applaud in parentheses:
> "(1) “Reading” Through Perseus: By far, the most egregious error that
> students make is the extensive use of sites like Perseus, or software
> like Logos or Accordance."
> (That is to say, make an interlinear your primary resource -- and an
> online interlinear is quicker and dirtier)
> "(2) Study for the Exam"
> (That is to say, memorize all the endings and rules so that you can
> reproduce them on demand; I've seen all too many students who could
> parrot the endings and rules of grammar and still couldn't make sense
> out of a paragraph or two of Greek text.)
> "(3) Skip to Koine"
> (That is to say, read the Greek NT first and only, and by no means
> make forays beyond the LXX.)
> And finally: "No matter what you do, practice is essential. I
> strongly suggest using flash cards and daily schedules. Treat it like
> exercise. Heck, get religious and fanatical about it. Do it with
> friends if that motivates you. Just find some way that keeps you
> doing it day in and day out."
> (Amen, Amen!)
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
> 1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
> cwconrad2 at mac.com
> WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/
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