The Word Order Hurdle

Seventh graders at HLS start their first year of Greek having already taken a few years of Latin, so they are used to seeing subject-object-verb word order in translation exercises. They are not accustomed to seeing sentences that start with a verb, often a third person verb. For example, given a sentence like ἔχουσιν ἀδελφὸς καὶ ἀδελφὴ γῆν, students would likely begin their translation, “They have …”

It seems like I spend a large chunk of the first trimester shaking a sign like the one pictured below over their heads and chanting along with them, “When I see a third person verb in a sentence, I’m going to look for a nominative subject!”

Every class makes a poster board with this mantra, but I thought this one was particularly cool.


But this one is charming, as well:


Chant it till you dream it!

Ancient Errors, Modern Scribes

While checking notecards today, I came across a few modern examples of parablepsis and unintentional scribal changes — the kind of stuff normally discussed in introductions to textual criticism.1For example: Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012), 227ff.; Paul D. Wegner, A Students Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods, and Results (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 44. It’s nice when you have the opportunity to test your solutions to text-critical problems by speaking with the actual scribes.


The first one is a clear example of an unintentional variant created by phonological similarity — the student wrote ο rather than ω. The neat thing is that the student was copying out of the book but made an error of hearing. She read θέλω, turned to her notecard, said the word to herself correctly as “thĕlō,” and then wrote θελο. So this was a confusion of phonologically similar letters from someone copying a written text and pronouncing the word only in her mind, not aloud.


This is a fun sort of parablepsis. The student saw διδάσκω in the vocab list and began to write the first part of the word, looked back at his book, and his eye fell on the last portion of the previous word, γράφω. So διδάσκω + γράφω = διδάφω.

One more: this time the issue is a blend of graphic similarity and interference of the native language.


The word is supposed to be βλέπω (blĕpō). The fact that π makes the sound of an English p is obviously an issue here, similar to the first example above. But this one has an added element. I don’t think the student would have made this mistake if rho (ρ), a similar looking letter to English p, were not a part of the Greek alphabet.

Even if Greek ρ makes a different sound than English prho provides some warrant for writing ρ in a Greek word to represent the sound of an English p.

I wanted to give these students extra credit for their scribal errors because they are just so fascinating.

Notes   [ + ]

1. For example: Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012), 227ff.; Paul D. Wegner, A Students Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods, and Results (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 44.

Beginning of Year Four at HLS

We are about two weeks into the 2016-17 school year, and it’s off to a great start.

Major highlight of the new year: I have 20 students coming to my 7am Greek 3, NT Readings elective. The first year I taught at HLS I set a goal of having 20 in Greek 3, so when the 20th arrived on Friday I was thrilled.


This year I’m teaching the following:

HLS on Tuesday-Friday

  • Two units of Greek 1
  • Two units of Greek 2
  • Greek 3, NT readings elective
  • Two units of Logic/Rhetoric

Cottage school on Mondays

  • Henle 1 Latin

Memoria Press Online Academy on Mondays

  • Greek 1
  • Greek 2

I’m looking forward to cool fall weather and an exciting year.


Carson, Greek Accents 

Dickey’s first chapter on accents was too short and condensed for me. I’ve never systematically studied accents, and this is step one for composition, so I’ve taken off the shelf a book I bought years ago and haven’t touched: Carson’s Greek Accents: A Student’s Manual (Baker, 1985). It’s 167 pages containing 36 short lessons, a summary of rules and principal parts, and an answer key.

I’m a few chapters in and can say two things with certainty:

  1. This material is very well laid out and explained.
  2. This is my favorite Carson book, hands down.

Eleanor Dickey on the Importance of Memorization

I’m so excited about this new Greek composition book. The entire preface is full of quotable material, but this paragraph I found especially noteworthy (p. iv):

To derive maximum benefit from the exercises the relevant vocabulary and gramatical forms should be memorized before each chapter is undertaken, so that the sentences can be done without the consultation of reference works. Students starting to learn prose composition are often mislead into believing that no memorization is necessary, but such deception is ultimately in no-one’s interest: the rules of Greek grammar and syntax are so complex that it is impossible even to know what to look up unless one has done a fair amount of memorization, and looking up all the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax required for even a single sentence takes so long that discouragement is inevitable and very few sentences can be done. The author, as a student, wasted years over the non-memorization method and later wished bitterly that someone had told her how much more efficient it would be just to sit down and learn things by heart; it would have been the single most useful tip anyone could have given her, so she hereby passes it on.

How to Work with Definitions in a Lexicon

9780226136158What are you supposed to do with those “extended definitions,” and why don’t they just give you a one word gloss, a translation equivalent?

This is from Danker’s Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. vii:

For many glosses and translation of phrases I encourage users, should they be inclined, to form an alternative rendering while keeping the extended definition in mind as the governing semantic agent. Thus the user takes part in the lexical enterprise and the corresponding challenge for acceptable translation.

Ponder the definitions and come up with your own word or phrase that captures the meaning as best you can.


Graduate Research Seminar: Writing Tools

I gave a talk today at the SBTS Graduate Research Seminar about writing tools for seminar papers and dissertations.

Here’s the handout: GRS 2016 – Writing Tools

We covered the following:

Google Drive | Office 365 | Templates | Zotero | 1Password | PDF Expert

The last two are not directly related to writing but are too helpful to leave out. If you only subscribe to one thing in all of your life, let it be 1Password (links in the handout).

I didn’t go into Mellel or Bookends because only a small percentage of students use these — especially since Word 2016 now handles right-to-left when using a compatible font like Times New Roman (not SBL Hebrew or BibLit). I also didn’t mention Ulysses, which is the program I used to write the handout (PDF export style: Rough Cut).