[B-Greek] referential complexity: frames & scenarios and Galatians 6:18

Lists jeffreyrequadt_list at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 26 18:32:07 EDT 2010

I don't typically write on this list because (a) it's really more of a hobby than anything else at this point, having grown more into my role as an elementary teacher in a typical public school; (b) I usually say far more than is necessary; (c) I usually end up making lots of series of sub-points like these, when I should be more concise. So anyway, I thought I would just jump in here *briefly*. :)

Someone that I've been corresponding with off-list has pointed out to me, I think very legitimately, that whenever something is vitally important to us, we take whatever time is necessary to do it. For example, someone who is deeply interested in sports spends a great deal of their time watching sports, talking about sports, and reading about sports. They are fluent in sports. Someone like me may understand sports, and may even have an idea of some of the terminology about different sports (especially soccer), but will be lost in any discussion of the current sports world, e.g., who is playing what, when they are playing, or even who is in the super bowl. That's right, I said it: I didn't even know who was in the super bowl this year until the day of. I DIDN'T CARE. But when it comes to education, I can take part in those conversations. I read about it on my own time. I look up people's MA theses online about the different uses of representations in math. I'm actually considering getting my own MA in education. I'm familiar with the terminology used in education--I'm fluent. When I read an article in a journal, I don't usually have to look up the words.
When it comes to biblical Greek, if someone is vitally interested in learning it, they will immerse themselves in it. Perhaps part of the reason that we have these discussions about whether or not one can do analysis of the Greek with an English version is because too many of us who care about analyzing the biblical texts, regardless of one's view of the THEOPNEUSTOS of the biblical texts, don't care ENOUGH to actually read them in their original form. Of course it is impossible to read them as a first-century reader, simply because we live in different times and continents. But if someone truly cares about comprehending them as accurately as possible, probably because to that reader they are the most authentic witnesses we have to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and of his closest followers, then wouldn't that reader also want to comprehend them without the lens or filter of a translator/paraphrase/commentator? I.e., learn to read them without doing analysis? Is the analysis important? Yes, because analysis allows one to comprehend more fully. But shouldn’t it be an ADDITION to the fluency, an AID to the fluency, and not a SUBSTITUTE for it?
Here's an example from my little third grade world. I just finished working for half an hour with a student after school on a text that had quite a few words that escaped the student--words like "Thwack!" and "pound" (as in "pounding the corn") and "dented" and "prissy." We did some analysis, unbeknownst to her, in that we used took off the -ed ending in "dented" and then figured out what it was; we looked up "pound" in the dictionary and realized that it wasn't "poured" as she originally thought; we discussed whether "prizzy" meant anything, and then looked carefully at the word and noticed that it had a double S instead of a double Z, and knew that "prissy" meant "snotty." In other words, we actually did quite a bit of analysis. But we never did all that work in order to analyze the text. We analyzed it as a support to our understanding. We also did quite a lot of visualizing and re-reading and making connections--especially when the text talked about pounding corn to make cornbread, because here in Arizona we have a lot of that, and also her grandmother mushes up a lot of bananas and nuts to make banana bread.
But the analysis and the connections and the visualizing were never the point. The point was automatic comprehension of the text, a text which was written by one human being to be understood by another.
My point is that if there are people, probably Christians, and maybe even Evangelicals, who care deeply about understanding Jesus and Paul, for whatever reason, shouldn't they care enough that they will do whatever it takes to understand what the gospels and the epistles actually say--not what an English translator says that they mean? I.e., if doing analysis in Greek is so important because of what it allows one to do or understand, then wouldn't the true disciple be willing to do whatever it takes to reach the goal without needing someone else to do the really important work for them? In other words, if we were really serious about knowing what the Greek words in the New Testament mean, we wouldn't reduce ourselves to interlinears or translations, no matter how wooden or dynamic. I'm not putting myself in that camp quite yet, simply because my own use of time and resources betrays the fact that I don't care enough about that, or I would actually be doing it. But for people who claim to care so much about it that they are willing to put in some (maybe even many) hours a week doing analysis, shouldn't they be putting all their time and effort into automatic fluency and comprehension as well? In other words, they need to put in thousands of hours into reading widely and deeply in ancient Greek. They need to learn to THINK in biblical Greek before they have the right to tell anyone else what it means, and before they can evaluate a Bible translation or version. I guess this all could have been best summed up as Randall Buth did earlier:  "If you love Cervantes, learn Spanish fluently. If you love Schiller, learn German fluently. If you love the Bard, learn English fluently. If you love Jesus, learn Greek fluently (Hebrew fluently too). And learn analytical tools in parallel to the language skills."

Jeffrey T. Requadt
Tucson, AZ

-----Original Message-----
From: b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:b-greek-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Dr. Don Wilkins
Sent: Monday, April 26, 2010 2:15 PM
To: Carl Conrad
Cc: B Greek; Steve Runge; Randall Buth
Subject: Re: [B-Greek] referential complexity: frames & scenarios and Galatians 6:18

Thanks for allowing further discussion of this thread, Carl.

On Apr 26, 2010, at 12:10 PM, Carl Conrad wrote:

> ...
> So far as I can see, the prevalent pedagogical method in Biblical
> Greek employed in seminaries and denominationally-oriented
> undergraduate schools is instruction in traditional analytical
> terminologies and descriptions of morphology, syntax, and
> lexicology and envisions the "proof of the pudding" of successful
> instruction as capacity to produce a more-or-less woodenly-literal
> version in the student's native language. I personally think this
> methodology is bankrupt

It certainly falls short of what we would like, possibly even into  
the category of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. But I  
don't think there are any shortcuts to true competency, and we've  
been living in a world of fast instruction to go along with our fast  
>> Elizabeth has once again refused further comment, but I appreciate
>> her input and Yancy's. It appears that you all think that a
>> translation that is "wooden" for analysis purposes is a bad idea. I'm
>> not sure Steve Runge would agree, because he seems to see value in
>> linguistic analysis of an English translation.
> Well, Steve can and should speak for himself. I don't see much value
> in analysis of an English version other than as an analysis of how an
> English text expresses its meaning. I don't see how one can analyze
> a Greek text other than in terms of the elements constituting that
> Greek text.

I was raising the possibility of an English text that mirrored the  
Greek. Historically this has been attempted, always with shortcomings  
and never with significant success, if any, in the marketplace  
because of the awkward English. Consider an interlinear to be both  
the extreme and the worst-case scenario. On the other hand, consider  
what people who are attempting to do Bible study with only an English  
(or other modern language) translation are really doing. From your  
description, as I understand you, they are only analyzing how the  
translator chose to express the meaning of the original. In my view  
the translator's choices essentially are commentary, more or less  
close to the intended meaning of the original.
>> On that point,
>> Randall, if you have the time, I would appreciate clarification of
>> your question, "...should someone who reads Greek poorly at best be
>> doing Greek analysis from an English text?" I was not asking about
>> Greek analysis, only linguistic analysis of an English text that is
>> "wooden" to accurately reflect the Greek text. Perhaps you don't
>> believe it's possible to accurately represent the original. If you
>> are saying that one has to master ancient Greek to properly analyze
>> ancient Greek, and similarly to do linguistic analysis of the Greek
>> text, I agree. And if you're saying that the best of bad alternatives
>> is that the non-Greek reader is at the mercy of the translator, I'm
>> not sure this is best, but I think that it is reality for the average
>> Bible student. Yancy's argument for using multiple translations in
>> Bible study works better for someone who reads Greek than for those
>> who don't, because someone like us can view the different
>> translations as commentaries, while those who don't read Greek have
>> no criteria for deciding the most accurate translation (i.e. the one
>> best representing the Greek). They need the guidance of a proficient
>> reader of the Greek (or the Hebrew for the OT). But this is way off-
>> topic (Carl, I apologize in advance).
> Randall too can and should speak for himself. I personally would
> agree with Yancy's view that a serious student of the Bible who
> cannot read Greek would do best to read several different versions
> rather than any single one. Like it or not, those who DO read Greek
> with some competence are hardly of one mind about what any
> particular Biblical Greek text must mean. Nor are they of one
> mind about which is/are the better translation(s). One who does not  
> have
> any competence in Biblical Greek will have to discern for herself
> which supposedly-competent "expert" she chooses to trust. I would
> want to do my own picking and choosing, but I don't think I would
> lay the burden trustworthiness all on any single so-called "expert."
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
But the non-Greek reader is in an "as good as it gets" situation, as  
Randall says. What you say about those of us who do read Greek is  
true; we have the ability to be critical of experts and to pick and  
choose intelligently. It's probably also true that the average person  
will simply read and prefer what he likes, as Yancy pointed out. I  
suspect that a serious student is going to want to come as close as  
she can to the original text. Then just consider the issue of lexical  
study. Are all translations equally accurate? Does it make sense to  
use an unabridged English dictionary to get an "in-depth" meaning for  
a special term in one or more English versions? Or do we think it  
would be better to look up the word of interest in BDAG or KB etc.?  
Here again, we can be critical of what we find in the standard  
lexicons, but wouldn't the reader who does not read the original  
languages be better off if she were pointed to one (or more) of the  
lexicon definitions? At least she would be pointed in the right  
direction for further investigation, unless perhaps we are going to  
say that the lexicons are not sufficiently reliable. I think we would  
agree that access to the lexicons is better than having to rely  
solely on what we find in different Bible versions.

Don Wilkins

>> On Apr 25, 2010, at 2:11 AM, Randall Buth wrote:
>>>> The end
>>>> product would not be a "Study Bible," but (to use an old term) a
>>>> thought-for-thought translation whose accuracy depends entirely on
>>>> the understanding of the translator.
>>> Having spent twenty years in Bible translation, I would say that
>>> all good
>>> translation is done this way and is always similarly limited. Yet
>>> it is
>>> as good as it gets.
>>> The alternative--to list glosses that mimic the structure of the
>>> source
>>> language (Greek, in this case), is to guarantee less accuracy. The
>>> reader/audience has no alternative but to interpret the 'glosses'
>>> according
>>> to the target language, and will correspondingly be more distant  
>>> from
>>> a fullly accurate interpretation. Any 'Greek' [SIC] training will  
>>> just
>>> compound the issue, because they won't have the necessary breadth to
>>> qualify the training that they get and will again woodenly apply
>>> 'rules'
>>> to a language whose cadence they do not hear.
>>> However, the above quote was not made for translation purposes but
>>> for analysis purposes. That brings one back to the question--
>>> should someone who reads Greek poorly at best be doing Greek
>>> analysis from an English text? I just can't see it, and have  
>>> heard far
>>> too many 'radio-preachers' to believe that the good will outweigh  
>>> the
>>> bad. I think that the bad outweighs the good. Students will be  
>>> better
>>> off, more on-target and in-the-ball-park, working from multiple
>>> English
>>> translations done by qualified, skilled translators. And with a  
>>> little
>>> training in order to appreciate the various translations vis-a-vis
>>> 'wooden glosses'.
>>> Personally, I don't see any other route than to learn Greek well if
>>> someone wants to be a skilled, lifelong, interpreter of ancient
>>> Greek literature and the NT in particular.
>>> If you love Cervantes, learn Spanish fluently. If you love Schiller,
>>> learn German fluently. If you love the Bard, learn English fluently.
>>> If you love Jesus, learn Greek fluently (Hebrew fluently too).
>>> And learn analytical tools in parallel to the language skills.

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