Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 7

I listened to a twenty-two year old speak for over an hour this morning (Sunday morning). Every word, apart from names, was in ancient Greek. You are probably like me and find that hard to believe. I too would have been skeptical eight days ago, but the σύνοδος has happened. I saw it, heard it, experienced it. I can’t undo this week.

I’m leaving the σύνοδος feeling like I have seen my future. I simply did not know this was possible. I could continue reading and teaching as I always have, but what I learned this week is that if I go that route, I and my students will read only a small fraction of the Greek that would be possible by learning to speak Greek fluently.

One of the objections that I had before this week, and one I frequently hear from others, is that this is a waste of time because you are just learning a bunch of words that refer to modern things you will never encounter in texts. This is one of the most unbelievable parts of it all — almost every single word I heard and spoke this week is in LSJ! It really is ancient Greek. Sure, there were no cars in the first century, but there were contraptions in which you sit and ride. A car is just a ἅμαξα (LSJ gloss: wagon). Christophe uses ancient Greek words, but he simply applies them to new contexts. Yet another aspect of the week I couldn’t have believed until I saw it.

Today (Monday), I started working through the Polis Greek book. The one other post I want to write is a post that lists everything I plan to do in the coming year to prepare for next year’s σύνοδος.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 4

Today seemed to be a turning point. When we had discussions about texts and pictures, everyone was eager to talk and ask questions. The whole week has been marked by generosity, humility, and sincerity on be part of both the students and teachers. It’s really been remarkable. Until today, however, you could see and feel a sense of apprehension when Stephen or Christophe would stop speaking and ask if anyone has questions. Not only did people feel free to ask questions today, but we all had plenty to say.

The highlight of the morning was when Stephen had us discuss a story about a goddess that essentially took the life of her sons because their work was so difficult. By taking their life, she ushered them into a glory-filled, grief-free existence. I think every student in the class shared an opinion concerning whether it was right for the mother to do this or not. The thoughts shared were not just short little random bursts. Rather, when someone shared a thought, another would follow up with a question or an affirmation or another perspective. In short, we actually had a dialogue in which everyone participated. Stephen has done such a fantastic job leading us in these discussions this week.

The remainder of the morning we learned another host of everyday words. We moved from how to speak about getting dressed, to words that take us to the bus stop and then to work, which for most of us is a school of some sort. After lunch, Stephen directed our discussion of a few comedic pictures, and we worked in small groups of two or three to discuss them. Each time he cut us loose, I got lost in conversation with the person sitting next to me.

The biggest portion of the afternoon was spent with Christophe reading to us Hansel and Gretel. An illustrated version of the story in Greek was projected on the board, and Christophe read it to us slowly and in such a charmingly animated way. It was a long telling of the story, and almost all the vocabulary were common, Hellenistic words. The combination of the familiar vocabulary and Christophe’s ability to read in such a vivid way made the whole evening enchanting. We were not allowed to touch our lexica. Christophe was the lexicon. He would go to great lengths to explain the words by acting out the meaning or running to the kitchen to grab an example of the word. No English glosses were given, of course. Rather, he portrayed the meaning by acting out boisterous illustrations marked by a myriad of ancient Greek words. Greek flows out of Christophe like bourbon flows out of Kentucky. We spent about two and a half hours listening to this story and asking him whatever questions came to mind.

I left the σύνοδος today with a full heart and a worn out mind. Our teachers are such kind souls, full of so much life and joy. The students are here to learn and I cannot think of one situation I’ve been in that was marked by pretense. I have yet to find a good way to say the word “fun” in Greek, but Stephen did help me find a way to say something pretty close: ἀπολαύω τούτου, I’m enjoying this.

It’s time to relax a little before working on tomorrow’s readings.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 3

Today was so much better. I drove home to see the family this evening so just a few thoughts tonight.

First thing this morning we all drove to the university arboretum, and after Christophe talked about the basic parts of a tree, we split off into our beginner and advanced groups. Walking together made a huge impact on how readily students were willing to talk with one another. I had a couple long conversations, and because these were with fellow students who share the same low-level conversational skills I was able to converse for about half an hour with understanding. This felt fantastic.

In the afternoon we discussed several pictures and texts, and Christophe continued to teach us everyday vocabulary. We talked about how to set a table for dinner and how to speak about getting up in the morning and getting dressed.

Yesterday felt like a disaster, but today felt like a success. The long conversations at the arboretum with fellow students is a highlight of the week. Yesterday, conversing in ancient Greek felt impossible, but today I was able to have a continuous half hour conversation. I also felt like I was able to more easily hear with understanding.

Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ (καὶ τοῖς διδασκάλοις ἡμῶν περὶ τῆς μακροθυμίας αὐτῶν).

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 2

Well, I left the σúνοδος today wondering what I could use for an appropriate metaphor of violence. I said I was “dragged through the mud” yesterday. Maybe impaled works for today.

I spent about 15 minutes — felt like 60 — in front of the class completely at a loss as to what the teacher wanted me to do. I knew the vocabulary, but we were acting out a story and I just could not understand what it was he wanted me to do. I committed the cardinal sin. I got so frustrated at one point I was blurted out in English, “Say what?!” My mind was boggled. It was a mayday.

What really helped me turn the corner was when he started telling me, by writing the forms on the board, that εἶπεν is the aorist of λέγω. At this point I moved past my mind being boggled. The fact that I very well know how λέγω conjugates in all its tenses reignited my mind and allowed me to communicate again in Greek. I spat out λέγω’s principal parts and told him in Greek, “I know all the words, but what I don’t know is exactly what it is you want me to do.” He would slow down for a sentence or two, but then there would be another burst of quick speaking, and I was lost again.

It’s not his fault. I think this episode highlights the severity of my main problem, which I explained yesterday. Hearing is far more difficult than communicating. It’s not that vocab isn’t an issue, but we all have our own internalized Greek lexicon. I can use the words I know to communicate. Even still another person has a different lexicon. I do need to know more vocab, especially common, everyday, communicative words. I still feel, however, that my main issue is that hearing with understanding seems like a completely different skill than seeing with understanding.

Of course, all of this is very humbling, and when your inability to hear with understanding is on display in front of everyone, it’s humiliating, too. We could all use our egos lowered a bit, so that is fine. The question I’m left with here at the end of day two is this: Will I actually be able to do this? If I went to Jerusalem and did the two year Greek course, I’m sure I would have enough time to get out of this awful “I can’t hear well” phase. But will that happen by the end of this week? Probably not. So when I return home, what will I do?

Already, Dickey’s composition book seems so much more approachable — that’s a win. Earlier in the summer I began regularly listening to the GNT as I walk in the evening. I need to keep this up. I could frequent the forums and the Google Hangouts I have learned about this week — places online where people converse in ancient Greek. Will that do the trick? As I told one of the more advanced students today, “Σήμερον, τοῦτο φαίνεται ἐμοί ἀδύνατον.” Today, this seems impossible. It’s not; I know. But it seems that way.

I can very clearly see the gulf that Seumas has been talking about for so long — the gulf between the grammar-translation approach and communicative methods. Today it seems that communicating in ancient Greek requires completely different skills than reading through the lense of grammatical knowledge. I know, Seumas has been saying this forever, but I really feel the weight of the issue today.

Much of the day went really well, for the record. I enjoyed the other sessions where we spoke in Greek to describe the scenes portrayed both in Greek texts and in various images. I think we are headed to a garden of some sort to converse about plant life tomorrow. I’ll be driving some of the students, and I really hope that I can focus and not crash the car while people are trying to talk in Greek. I’m going to nurse my wounds and show up tomorrow ready for another beating.

Συνοδος Ελληνικη Day 1

I just finished day one of a journey I have been looking forward to all year. I am taking part in a conversational Greek class at UK this week. Day one was even harder than I expected. My brain is fried so I’m just going to offer a couple thoughts here because I promised myself I would post everyday about this.

I expected this to be difficult, and I expected that I would be a beginner of beginners when it comes to speaking and hearing ancient Greek with understanding. I underestimated just how difficult it would be to hear ancient Greek spoken at a conversational pace. That is the hardest part. If I have a few minutes, I can piece together what I want to say, but listening to those who are more advanced is very difficult.

One unexpected obstacle is the letter omicron. I have always said it like the short o in got. They insist I say it more like the long o in go. There are a lot of omicrons in a lot of words so I’m getting corrected on just about every sentence I speak! I welcome the correction, but what am I going to do in the coming school year? It seems I am going to have to shift my classroom pronunciation to /ō/ and ōmicron!

What did we actually do today? Well, the first couple hours were dedicated to introducing ourselves and learning how to say basic things like, “Get up, sit down, lie down, sleep, pick up the toothbrush (!), brush your teeth,” etc. Later in the day we spent some time talking about various animals and what they are capable of doing (jumping, swimming, etc.), and towards the end of the day we looked at some cartoons and provided captions in Greek.

One thing I was really curious about going into the meeting was what exactly we were going to do with the Greek texts that were given to us beforehand. We were emailed several texts and were instructed to read them beforehand. But what were we going to do in class? We certainly weren’t going to translate them into English! God forbid. When it came time for working through the first text, Christophe called on someone to read the text, he asked us questions about the text in Greek, and he had people act out the scenes using the vocabulary of the provided text but in the inflections necessary to actually carry out the actions in real time.

As I said, I have been beaten down and dragged through the mud today. I learned a lot, but I have a very long row to hoe this week. Beaten down but not dismayed. I’m determined to get better at this. I’ll let you know about day two tomorrow.

Critique textuelle de l’Ancien Testament Online

Charles Jones posted notice that the University of Zurich has made available all five volumes of Dominique Barthélemy’s Critique textuelle de l’ancien Testament.

There is nothing quite like this work. I’ve posted in the past on the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, which led to these volumes, and on the unique role Bathélemy played in the committee’s work. These five volumes are the most comprehensive treatment of the textual problems in the Hebrew Bible ever produced.

In print, each volume is very expensive. I’ve always wanted to own copies, but with the price — a couple hundred bucks a piece if I remember correctly — there was just no way. To have each volume in a quality PDF is so fantastic.

Give them time to download. The files aren’t that big, but they took a bit longer to download than I expected. I should note that they are all in French. Here’s the permalinks:

  • Volume 1 (1982) Josué, Juges, Ruth, Samuel, Rois, Chroniques, Esdras, Néhémie, Esther
  • Volume 2 (1986) Isaïe, Jérémie, Lamentations
  • Volume 3 (1992) Ézéchiel, Daniel et les 12 Prophètes
  • Volume 4 (2005) Psaumes
  • Volume 5 (2015) Job, Proverbes, Qohélet et Cantique des Cantiques

Among Anxious Friends Who Fail

A translation and comment on Mark 8:14–21:

They forgot to bring bread. Except for one loaf, they didn’t have any bread with them in the boat.

Jesus began to warn them, “Be careful. Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

They began to talk with one another about how they didn’t have any bread.

When Jesus realized this, he said to them, “Why are you talking about how you don’t have any bread? Do you not yet understand? Don’t you get it? Do your hearts not work? You have eyes, but do they not see? You have ears, but do they not hear? Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves into five thousand, how many baskets full of left-overs did you pick up?

“Twelve.”

“When the seven loaves became four thousand, how many baskets full of left-overs did you pick up?”

“Seven.”

“Do you not yet get it?”

They could not hear what Jesus was saying because their minds were swirling with anxiety. They failed to bring bread. Jesus was speaking to them, but they had messed up in an everyday sort of way. The problems of the day caused them to hear Jesus’ words in a way that ratcheted up their anxiety instead of turning it down. Quite a normal, human experience.

Jesus realized what was happening and addressed them with a series of questions. The way you hear this series of questions depends on how you personally relate to Jesus. Is he understanding and sympathetic? Or does he point out your faults and walk away? When verse 17 says Jesus became aware of their mistakes, at that moment in the story you assume something about Jesus. His awareness is accompanied by either sympathy or disgust. In the previous paragraph, Jesus was said to inwardly groan at the Pharisees’ unbelief. Is that the way he relates to his friends?

All Jesus’ questions are intended to communicate that when you are with him, you will be taken care of. You are safe. He will provide even when you mess up. I don’t think he could communicate this if his tone were filled with scorn.

Jesus wanted to talk about the kingdom, his mission and their hearts. They were blinded by the problems of daily life, in this case food. They didn’t need to be told that they are stupid. They needed to be told they are taken care of, and that’s exactly what Jesus said. We are free to pursue the “impractical” because we are worth much more than sparrows.

Exegetical Guide to GNT (9 vols.) in Accordance

Getting from elementary grammar to the point where you can comfortably read the Greek New Testament — that’s the goal, but how to get there is not always clear to students. The most important resolution one can make is to regularly pick up a text and read. There is no substitute for regular reading, but there are some tools specifically designed to assist your regular reading.

This week Accordance has released the nine published volumes of B&H Academic’s Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. These nine volumes cover ten books of the GNT, and more are on the way.

  • Matthew (2017) – Charles L. Quarles
  • Luke (2016) – Alan J. Thompson
  • John (2015) – Murray J. Harris
  • Romans (2017) – John D. Harvey
  • Ephesians (2016) – Benjamin L. Merkle
  • Philippians (2015) – Joseph H. Hellerman
  • Colossians and Philemon (1991 Eerdmans, 2010 B&H) – Murray J. Harris
  • James (2013) – Chris A. Vlachos
  • 1 Peter (2014) – Greg W. Forbes

The first time I read through the GNT I found Zerwick’s grammatical analysis very helpful, and these volumes are a more expansive, multivolume treatment of the same issues.

Exegetical Issues

What sort of questions do these commentaries answer? The primary purpose is to answer the questions raised by close reading and exegesis. Take a look at 1 Peter 1:18:

εἰδότες ὅτι οὐ φθαρτοῖς, ἀργυρίῳ ἢ χρυσίῳ, ἐλυτρώθητε ἐκ τῆς ματαίας ὑμῶν ἀναστροφῆς πατροπαραδότου,

As you look at 1 Peter 1:18, you might recognize εἰδότες as adverbial but wonder about the exact adverbial nuance. You expect it is causal, but before you say this to your class or write it in your exegetical paper or preach it from the pulpit you want to hear what someone else thinks. Forbes’ EGGNT volume speaks directly to this question. In the screen shot below you can see EGGNT in parallel with the Tyndale House Greek New Testament:

In the section of the commentary I highlighted, you will also notice that page numbers are included, which makes it easy to cite EGGNT in papers and notes. I’ll discuss another grammatical issue related to participles in the “extensive linking” section below, but let’s take a look at a broader issue the series tackles.

Interpretive Issues Directly Related to Greek

Let’s look at another example from Matthew 1:1:

Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυεὶδ υἱοῦ Ἁβραάμ.

You might have heard that the first two words of Matthew are taken in several different ways by interpreters. What exactly does γένεσις (genesis) mean here? Quarles’ EGGNT volume discusses the range of meanings for βίβλος and γένεσις within scripture and outside scripture, and he then explains the meaning he finds most probable with the passage itself.

Not every interpretive issue is directly related to the Greek language, but this one is and Quarles does an appropriately thorough job speaking to the issue. Of course, you could could write an entire article on this issue or even a dissertation, but in a resource like this you want an overview of the issue and an informed opinion explained. That’s exactly what you get.

Extensive linking to other Greek Resources

I was really happy to see how thoroughly Accordance has added hyperlinks to other resources. In Quarles’ discussion of βίβλος you can see below that both the LSJ reference and the BDAG reference are linked (I’ve highlighted them to clearly point them out):

The linking is not limited to lexicons. The usual suspects are linked — scripture references, extra-biblical texts offered by Accordance, abbreviations — and especially noteworthy are the hyperlinked grammar sections.

If you turn to EGGNT for help with grammar and you want to research the issue further, you’ll be really happy to see that Accordance has tagged every reference to grammars like BDF, Robertson, and Wallace’s syntax.

Other Features

The features listed above are the ones I think are most important, but here are a few more features included in EGGNT.

Parsing

In the last picture above, as Quarles discusses Matthew 1:18 you will notice that each Greek word mentioned is parsed. Since you are accessing the text in Accordance this feature might seem redundant, but it is sometimes helpful to have another opinion in addition to the tagged Greek texts in Accordance.

Word/Phrase Function

You can also see that just within the one paragraph pictured above there are references to a participle functioning temporally, a dative serving as an indirect object, the function of a prepositional phrase, a note on the absence of a definite article, and reference is made to the way certain constructions function in classical Greek. So the series covers bigger picture grammatical concerns like the function of participle clauses, the minutia of parsing, and the way in which individual words and phrases function within clauses.

Intro Issues, Structure, Further Study

While introductory issues are not the focus of the series, each volume does discuss issues like authorship, setting, date, and structure. In the Matthew volume, Quarles closes the volume’s introduction with a list of recommended commentaries, but at the end of each passage there are also references to resources for further study of the particular passage just discussed. The last section of each passage has a homiletical outline, noting the general movement of each passage and how one might begin thinking about moving from text to sermon.

Conclusion

These commentaries are not designed to be advanced discussions of Greek grammar for specialists. They are for students. The goal is to fill in what is lacking when trying to move from elementary grammar to regular reading, teaching, and preaching. They serve this purpose well, and Accordance has done a great job tagging and linking these resources, making them much more useful and helpful to have digitally than in print. These are not the sort of book you are going to read from cover to cover. They are best purchased as digital resources you can access wherever and whenever your questions arise. I think Accordance is the best platform for such purchases.

The nine volume series is currently on sale for 50% off. Accordance’s normal list price is $199. This week you can get the series for $99.90.

If you have previously purchased these resources with another software, checkout Accordance’s crossgrade program. If you agree to keep the copy you purchased in another software, you can get the Accordance edition for $49.75.

Jesus is Determined or He’s Sympathetic

That’s the choices in my mind. Granted, he’s both in the big picture of who Jesus is, but when it comes to how you read the Greek of Matthew 26:50, which character trait is more prominent? Here’s the text of verses 49–50; the key phrase is in bold:

καὶ εὐθέως προσελθὼν τῷ Ἰησοῦ εἶπεν· χαῖρε, ῥαββί, καὶ κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν. 50 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἑταῖρε, ἐφ᾿ ὃ πάρει. τότε προσελθόντες ἐπέβαλον τὰς χεῖρας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰησοῦν καὶ ἐκράτησαν αὐτόν.

Judas approaches Jesus, he greets him, kisses him, and he says either (1) “Friend, do that for which you are here,” or (2) “Friend, why are you here?”

If you think of Jesus in this moment as resolute and determined to drink his cup of suffering, you might read it as “Do that for which you are here.” I, however, because of my default way of thinking of Jesus like to read it, “Friend, why are you here?” The language could go either way, and that is why the translations almost always offer both options. They print the “determined-Jesus” reading in the text and usually offer the “sympathetic-Jesus” reading in the footnotes.

I imagine Jesus in this moment broken at the sight of his close friend being caught up in the destructive pattern he is living out. I imagine the scene with the camera zoomed in on Jesus’s face. His eyes are heavy and tired and perhaps tearing up. Face to face, he looks into Judas’s eyes and with one last attempt to disciple him he speaks to Judas’s confusion, “Friend, why are you here?”

I’ve always read it this way. I’ve never done any extensive study of the phrase in contemporary literature. I just think the sympathetic reading makes the most sense. I think the Gospels portray Jesus as one who bears with and is a friend of sinners, one who meets them in their moments of weakness, and because of that my primary reading is the translations’ alternate reading. I read this line as one of the most emotion filled, tense, dramatic moments in Matthew. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking.