[B-Greek] Reading Instead of Dissecting

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Wed May 28 07:09:03 EDT 2008

On May 27, 2008, at 7:11 PM, Barry Hofstetter wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Dr. Don Wilkins" <drdwilkins at verizon.net>
> To: "David Pettys" <david.pettys at yahoo.com>
> Cc: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Sent: Tuesday, May 27, 2008 1:51 PM
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] Reading Instead of Dissecting
>>> Excellent question. My advice is, do a complete dissection and
> analysis of whatever text you are reading, then reread it over and
> over until you no longer have to look at your notes or recall how you
> parsed something; like you would for an exam, only reread it until
> you are completely comfortable with it. Then take a break from it for
> a week or so and return. Chances are you'll see something that has
> not occurred to you before, perhaps another way to view the syntax or
> another way to interpret it, and that's the reward for your effort. I
> doubt that the need to do some parsing will ever go away, unless you
> have ample time to review the text daily. But you can master a
> reading knowledge of chunks of the NT one at a time, working your way
> through the whole NT. You'll feel like you "own" these passages, and
> it will be a great feeling (just don't get cocky).<<
> Right.  And the more you do it, the more second nature it becomes,  
> until you
> find yourself reading instead of dissecting, and you no more have to  
> say to
> yourself "third person singular aorist active indicative" than you  
> have to
> say to yourself "I'm reading" -- first person singular present active
> progressive present, for the English.

I frankly don't understand Don's advice nor Barry's confidence that  
persistence in thoroughgoing analysis will ultimately be rewarded by  
intuitive fluent recognition. That's not my experience. I think that  
John Knightley's earlier response to this question was more on target.  
You do need to have instant recognition of  inflected forms of nouns,  
adjectives, pronouns, verbs and adverbs, but what you really need, I  
think, is to look at the phrases or natural units of Greek sentences  
in the order in which they appear: e.g. Mark 2:1 	Καὶ  
εἰσελθὼν πάλιν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ δι᾿  
ἡμερῶν ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἐν οἴκῳ ἐστίν.  
ESTIN. This falls naturally into the sequence, KAI EISELQWN PALIN EIS  
as, "Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news  
spread that he was at home." If you're translating the way NET does,  
you have to rearrange this so that the Greek words KAI ... DI'  
hHMERWN  are the first English unit; then comes EISELQWN PALIN EIS  
KAFARNAOUM; and finally HKOUSQH hOTI EN OIKWi ESTIN. That's a process  
I would prefer to call "decoding" -- and I would think that's what  
David Pettys wants to get away from in order to reading the Greek text  
as it is written without analyzing it.

I think that the procedure John Knightley has suggested is sensible.  
You might look at Jonathan Robie's GNT that's been marked off in  
natural units such as this and the thread of May 25,2007+ entitled  
"Lining out a Greek Text." Jonathan posted his procedure at http://ibiblio.org/koine/greek/liningout/liningout.html 
  = http://tinyurl.com/3joy9x

Randall would want me to note also the value of his course books with  
accompanying CD's, "Living Koine Greek," available at http://www.biblicalulpan.org/ 
  (click on "Online orders"). You need to hear words that are  
meaningful, phrases that are meaningful, sentences that are  
meaningful; you need to internalize the way Koine Greek works on mind  
and tongue and ear. But I just don't see how one will ever get to  
"reading instead of dissecting" by continuing to do more dissecting.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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