"Non-Academic" Original Languages?

Trevor & Julie Peterson 06peterson at cua.edu
Mon Dec 16 15:51:39 EST 2002


Mark wrote:

> If you have taught Biblical Hebrew / Greek in a non-academic setting (eg.
> church, neighbourhood group, etc), what text(s) have you used, or
> have you
> had to create your own material?

I've done both--Greek to two small groups at church and Hebrew to one brave
soul. I've also taught Greek as a college night course, for a basis of
comparison. I used Mounce for Greek. I tried switching to something else
with the second group, but they struggled with the textbook, so I switched
back. (Generally speaking, you can't put the kind of class time into this
sort of teaching that you get in a college or graduate course, so the
textbook has to be very user-friendly.) I used Seow for Hebrew, just because
it was what I was used to. I don't recommend it for this purpose, though.

> I would like to offer a
> Biblical language
> course that is not "pre-seminary", but instead raises the
> original language
> awareness of the participants (why the languages are important,
> how to use
> the better lexicons and commentaries, issues in translation, etc).

When I taught, the purpose was to cover basically the same sort of stuff
you'd normally cover in any college introductory grammar class. I have a lot
of reservations about teaching people how to use a language without learning
it. That's why I haven't tried to do so yet. I keep toying with teaching
something on the topic at church--maybe something like "How not to use
biblical languages," or a similarly tongue-in-cheek title that puts the
point right up front, that trying to use the languages without learning them
well is dangerous. I probably wouldn't teach people to use an interlinear,
except perhaps as a quick look-up for a key number to get into the tools.
You can do the same thing with an exhaustive concordance, but it is
admittedly faster to use a keyed interlinear. I would also make sure to
teach them how to work with tools that require no linguistic knowledge. You
really can go further than most laypersons ever care to, just by using a
good Bible dictionary and commentary. Teaching them the scripts and
alphabets would be useful, so they can work a bit more intelligently with
the tools they use. Source-language concordances would be high on my list,
since they can do their own contextual word-study without knowing anything
about the languages. There is very little about the grammar that would do
more good than harm in the hands of a novice. The problem with grammar is
that you generally have to know both what something is doing and what it
could be doing but isn't. In other words, you need to have a comprehensive
feel for the grammar that will never be acquired by learning a few key
points here and there.

Well, that's enough time on my soapbox :-) I'm not saying such a thing can't
be done--just recommending some caution.

Trevor Peterson
CUA/Semitics




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