[B-Greek] How to Learn Ancient Greek — Mounce and others weigh in

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Sat May 23 08:50:18 EDT 2009

Much of our recent back-and-forth (I guess that means the same thing  
as the German word I used to like, Auseinandersetzung) over the  
usefulness of “Reader’s Editions” of the GNT or of Classical Greek  
texts has turned upon the issue of what has been traditionally termed  
“proficiency.” Traditional pedagogy in Classical Greek has as its  
objective the acquisition by students of such proficiency that they  
can comfortably read — without resorting to “decoding”: parsing aids  
and glossaries and annotations explaining how the rapidly-recurring  
problem-passages are to be construed and understood, and without  a  
compulsion to convert the Greek text into one’s native language. Older  
pedagogy in Biblical Greek used to have a comparable objective with  
respect to the Biblical Greek text, but more recently the teaching of  
Biblical Greek has surrendered to a far less ambitious goal: teaching  
students to confront the Biblical Greek text through the analytical  
tools for parsing and syntax and lexicographic discrimination prepared  
by scholars and promulgated as tagged texts in software packages,  
interlinears, analytical GNTs such as that published by the Fribergs,  
and, more recently, “Reader’s Editions” of the GNT.

Others have noted as have I that teaching ancient Greek by drilling  
into students the analytical tools for “decoding” ancient Greek texts  
does not really succeed in bringing students to “proficiency” in  
reading ancient Greek texts. There must be somewhere in those students  
who really want to be proficient a drive to transcend "decoding" or  
reading by analyzing the parts of a text and to arrive at an ability  
to read the Greek as Greek -- as it was originally intended to be  
apprehended by the ears and eyes of those who originally communicated  
with the language.

Recently none other than Bill Mounce, whose textbook, Basics of  
Biblical Greek, is standard fare in seminaries, has publicly suggested  
that ancient Greek pedagogy must turn to acquisition of proficiency or  
ability to understand ancient Greek through the use of the language  
for real communication between students and teachers — through  
Here’s te URL for the entry in Zondervan’s Koinonia blog:

Mounce on the future of Greek pedagogy:

What? Is Mounce endorsing the classroom method of Randall Buth? Is  
that really conceivable? Is that something that is really conceivable  
or practical in a seminary classroom. One resounding response is,  
“Absolutely not!” or, as they express it, “No such thing!”:

"Hebrew and Greek Reade"r blog:

I expect that Randall will have his own response (he’s been arguing  
the case on B-Greek for years now, all too often ‘whistling in the  
dark.’ Mike Aubrey is going to have something to say about it. And now  
Seumas Macdonald has entered with a series of thoughtful comments on  
the pedagogical questions involved:

Seumas Macdonald, "Compliant Subversity" blog:

I don’t intend to argue this case further myself; I’ve long since  
retired from active teaching and I didn’t learn Greek myself by the  
oral/aural method, but I know that if I could return to teaching, I  
would certainly adopt it. But I think that those B-Greekers who are  
interested might want to follow this little blip on the radar scans of  
potential pedagogical climate change.

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

More information about the B-Greek mailing list