Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The idolatry of liberty and the sin of slavery

I was reading just yesterday some of Edwin Judge's work in Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century, and particularly was enjoying some of his perceptive comments on Paul as radical critic of society.

One of the standard criticisms of Christianity, and the New Testament in particular, is how little it does to oppose slavery. Why doesn't it? Why didn't Christians abolish slavery immediately? This kind of discourse is, I find, especially prevalent in American circles. I believe it emerges from a number of complex factors. These include that (1) Americans generally understand and process 'slavery' through the American experience of slavery. This tends to skew their perception of slavery practices in other times and places. (2) Americans are enculturated in a tradition that makes the civil war, and the abolition of slavery in the US, part of the defining history of their national identity. We can point to Wilberforce and Evangelicals in England all we like, the American narrative is different. (3) Liberty, in both a political and an ideological sense, is deeply embedded as a core cultural value in the American psyche. That concept of liberty has become more extreme in contemporary political and philosophical discourses, so that radical autonomy of the will is seen as the great moral good.

Which is why, in contemporary American thinking, slavery is one of the great moral evils, one which America banished and defeated. And anything that can be tied to slavery is also 'on the wrong side of history'.

Anyway, let's return to Edwin's work. Edwin points out how Paul seems so radically uninterested in questions of social status and the way friendships work in classical society. He has many female friends, and calls them co-workers, and doesn't make a big deal of this. He moves freely across social strata. He engages in manual labour. He seems simply not to care that people are slaves. Judge suggests that this is part of a relativisation of social status. That, in Paul's new social ordering where service is such a key element, being or not being a slave is not so important. "Become free if you can" means that Paul sees the social advantage of being emancipated, but no moral imperative to do so.

I want to point to a few interesting elements of the New Testament in this regard In 1 Peter 2:13, Peter writes "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution". I wrote in my exegetical notes on this passage that here Peter, while on the one hand upholding a contemporary social order, at the same time radically undermines it because he places submission to authority on the foundation of submission to the supreme authority of God. This delegitimises other claims to authority and power - they are all dependent and subordinate upon the supreme God.

Secondly, in looking at Galatians 3:26-29, I have argued that what Paul is articulating is radical equality of status before God, not radical abolition of difference. This is clearly apparent in the first two instances, since slaves and free-people continue to be the same, and Jews and Gentiles remain Jews and Gentiles. Paul elsewhere continues his practice of relating differently to differences, and does not argue for a gender egalitarianism that means no gender distinction at all. Simply put, before God, these differences mean nothing.

Is not the same true for slavery? If as a slave I am entirely free and equal before God, what theological meaning attaches to my slavery at all? None. This is even more radical than overturning the slave system of antiquity, it renders it meaningless, powerless, void, all in an instant. And for Paul that opens up a possibility that is impossible for modern liberty-minded folk to contemplate: it might be of more service to remain a slave, even when you could go free. 

I am almost certain to be misunderstood by some people in this post. I have no desire to return to a world with slaves (all the while acknowledging that the slave trade is in fact real and happening in today's world). Slavery has, indeed, been a system of great and terrible evils. But the NT shows us something shockingly different - slavery is not the greatest evil of all. In fact, Philippians 2 tells us the most amazing thing: the one in the form of God took on the form of a slave, and so became obedient unto death.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (2): Michael Halcomb

It's my pleasure this week to interview Michael Halcomb. Not to be confused with the several Michael Holcombs out there! Halcomb. Anyway, I have had some personal connection with Michael, taking a few courses through the CKI program which, given how many other Ancient Greek speakers I run into on the streets of Ulaanbaatar, has been a real blessing. In this field, nothing is quite like real-time in-language interaction. Anyway, I think Michael's doing great work, and so let's hear from him:

1. What’s your personal academic background?

      First of all Seumas, let me say “Thanks!” for inviting me to share on your site by way of this short interview/questionnaire. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog as the opportunities to do have arisen and am glad there are folks like yourself writing about language, language teaching, and language learning. But to get to your question, I have four degrees in Biblical Studies. I earned a B.S. with a double-major (Bible, and Youth & Family Ministries) + a minor (Homiletics) from Kentucky Christian University and then went on to do my M.Div. at Lexington Theological Seminary. After that I did an M.A in Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and after taking a year off, went back to Asbury and finished a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (New Testament focus). In addition to that I've done some continuing education along the way in ancient Greek.



2. How did you first learn Greek?

      When I first started learning Greek it was something that I really came to despise. My first exposure to it was via a traditional online class. Basically we just logged into a Moodle-like forum, uploaded an assignment, commented on a thread, and logged off. Essentially, I was wrestling through teaching myself Greek by way of using a grammar book. There were no audio lectures, no video lectures, no live online meetings, no live in-person meetings, etc.. It was just me and the book, and despite having studied some French and Spanish in high school many years earlier, this experience and this type of approach was completely foreign to me (in multiple ways). All that set me on a path that kept me in a constant wrestling match with Greek. One thing I knew about myself was that this just wasn't working for me like I wanted it to.

      The result was that I eventually started creating my own resources to help “get” the language. I created my own notes and dictionaries, flash games, websites, interactive quizzes, audio recordings, etc.. I was attempting to fire on all cylinders and have my interaction with the language be more holistic. This helped me tremendously as I went on to take exegesis, research, reading, and language courses across the span of my academic career.

3. What made you shift to a communicative methodology?

      I mentioned just above that in my journey of language learning I had been creating all sorts of resources for myself. This was not just for Greek, however, because I eventually had to take exams for German, French, Hebrew, and Aramaic. In studying those languages and preparing for quizzes, exams, and classes, I found that two things were especially helpful for me personally in engaging and retaining the vocabulary, etc: 1) Creating audio recordings; and 2) Writing in the language. To this day, those two elements—speaking and writing—are what I find to be key in the language learning process.

      Eventually, I came to learn that others were doing similar things, that is, making recordings, writing in the language, etc.. In fact, I realized that folks had been doing this for many many years. And so, when I ran into others online who were engaging in similar practices and realized that a small community existed, I was incredibly relieved. This seemed to not only affirm my struggle with the language but also my desire to move in what many today would consider “unorthodox” or “non-traditional” ways of teaching (which may actually be kind of backwards, historically speaking). So, I think that one of the major things that caused me to go ahead and make the whole shift into teaching via a communicative approach was the realization that there were others, a type of small community, who were trying to do it too. And that’s precisely the DNA of the Conversational Koine Institute—it’s a rapidly growing community consisting of folks who want a more holistic approach to language learning and language teaching.

4. How did you first equip yourself to use a communicative method? What were some of the difficulties?

      As I noted previously, two of the things I have done most, in addition to reading, is making audio recordings and writing in the target language. Apart from what education I've had and the skills I gained there, I started getting involved in small pockets of communities where folks were trying to speak. What I noticed happening, however, was a sort of antagonistic pendulum swing. It was not only as if the so-called “traditional” (i.e. grammar-translation) approach was inefficient, but that it was somehow evil and wretched. That sort of attitude and discussion was and continues to be a constant turn-off to me; in my opinion, it’s just not all that helpful or needed. And that has led many to just neglect and even discard explicit grammar teaching altogether. To me, that’s even worse! In my view, then, that needed to be remedied. And that’s why I launched the Conversational Koine Institute. Here, students will be exposed to classes taught in the target language in fun, conversational ways, but also get needed discussions of grammar, grammatical terminology, syntax, etc., also in the target language. This equips students with the ability to navigate the language in the language as well as to talk about and discuss the language in the language (I’m thinking “meta-language” here). So, one of the first things I started doing was researching ancient grammar and grammar terms. Since nothing like that really existed and students kept requesting it, I turned it into a book and had it published. Getting that settled was one of the initial hurdles I had to jump over. Another hurdle was getting the word out about CKI. Fortunately, CKI is growing quickly today and I’m grateful for that; I’m grateful to see a portion of the movement spring forth from CKI!

5. What courses or materials do you currently offer?

      At present the Conversational Koine Institute offers a number of classes, workshops, and materials. With regard to the classes we have a core curriculum that consists of Greek 1-5. In addition to this there are Greek Readings classes and various types of immersion events and workshops year-round. We now also have Hebrew 1 and Latin 1 courses. CKI is always innovating and new courses in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin will be offered continually. CKI also has a Greek Certificate Program that offers Continuing Education Units/Credits in conjunction with Asbury Theological Seminary. We have also formed a relationship with an undergraduate institution in Canada.

      As far as materials, CKI offers a lot. In addition to live classes, I have created a number of helpful audio, video, and print resources. You can find some free ones here (http://www.conversationalkoine.com/2013/02/sneak-peeks-downloadables-etc.html). There's a list of print resources (some of which have additional audio companion files) with links at the end of this interview.

6. What sort of outcomes do your students generally finish with? Where are they ‘at’ when they’ve completed a course of study with you?

      This is actually a really tough question. It is tough because every single student is different. Students have different work ethics, attitudes, focus levels, backgrounds in (the) language, interest levels, amounts of time to put into the language, etc.. But this, of course, is not something unique to CKI students; rather, this is pretty much just the case with students taking any subject anywhere. Nevertheless, I do try to shoot for several outcomes for students who can make it all the way through Greek 5. So, let me speak with a view to going all the way through as opposed to just completing a single class. In addition to being able to listen, respond, and speak, one of my biggest goals is to equip students to be able to read Greek texts like the New Testament with a high level of comfort. I would hope that the students who can make it through these 5 core classes would be able to take an intermediate level seminary class and be farther along than most of the other students in there, and eager and ready to move on to an advanced class. They should be farther along because they will have a broader understanding of the language and the way it works as well as a much more expansive vocabulary. At CKI, when students make it all the way through the 5 courses, they are permitted to take the Greek Readings courses that are offered each semester (everyone else must be enrolled in another Greek class to take those). Of course, I cannot make any promises as to where an individual student may be. But if they come and really apply themselves and stick with it, my hope is that they’d be, as I said before, comfortably at home within the Greek New Testament, and well-equipped to take an intermediate level seminary class and eager and ready to move on to advanced classes.

      With that said, I’d love to invite any of your readers to come join us at CKI. Early Fall classes begin Tues. Aug. 12th for Greek and Sat. Aug. 16th for Hebrew and Latin. Classes are already filling up quick. If folks are interested, they can register on the site here (http://www.conversationalkoine.com/p/contact.html).

     Thanks again for hosting this conversation, Seumas, I hope readers find it edifying and helpful. Keep up the good work!

Links
Mark: GlossaHouse Illustrated Greek-English New Testament
Speak Koine Greek: A Conversational Handbook (has audio companion files)
ἡ ὁδός: The Path to Learning Greek (has companion audio files)
ὀκτακόσιοι λόγοι καὶ εἰκόνες: 800 Words and Images: A New Testament Greek Vocabulary Builder (has companion audio files)
A Handbook of Ancient Greek Grammatical Terms: Greek-English and English-Greek
Ποῦ Οἱ Σταφυλῖνοι Εἰσιν; διήημα ἐν τῇ Κοινῇ διαλέκτῳ (Where Are The Carrots? A story in Koine) (has audio and video companion files)
A Parallel & Interlinear New Testament Polyglot: Luke-Acts in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, German, and French


Friday, July 25, 2014

Developing the Neo-Koine vocabulary

One of the great challenges for anyone wanting to speak some 'contemporary' Ancient Greek is that often there are simply not good vocabulary resources available. That is beginning to change, but slowly.

The past week I've been working on a little something that will help this along. Over at this site there is a 625 word list of common words. It's English based, but what we need in this case is a common word list of spoken language, and so this is as good as anything. We can acquire a good reading vocabulary through reading, but a speaking vocabulary needs words for everyday things.

I took that list and have been creating my own multi-lingual version of it, and the version we are interested in today is Ancient Greek. Here's the section on 'locations':

Greek English
πόλις, έως, ἡ city
οἰκία, ας, ἡ house
κατοικία, ας, ἡ apartment
ὁδος, ου, ἡ street
ὁδος, ου, ἡ road
ὁ τοῦ ἀέρος λιμήν airport
σταθμός, οῦ, ὁ train station
γέφυρα, ας, ἡ bridge
πανδοκεῖον, ου, τό hotel
καπηλεῖον, ου, τό restaurant
ἀγρός, οῦ, ὁ farm
δικαστήριον, ου, τό court
διδασκαλεῖον, ου, τό school
ἐργαστήριον, ου, τό office
οἴκημα, ατος, τό room
πόλις, έως, ἡ town
πανεπιστήμιον, ου, τό university
χορειοθηκή, ῆς, ἡ nightclub
καπηλεῖον, ου, τό bar
κῆπος, ου, ὁ park
σκηναί, ῶν, αἱ camp
πωλητήριον, ου, τό store/shop
θέατρον, ου, τό theater
βιβλιοθήκη, ης, ἡ library
νοσοκομεῖον, ου, τό hospital
ἐκκλησία, ας, ἡ church
ἀγορά, ᾶς, ἡ market
χώρα, ας, ἡ country
οἰκοδόμημα, ατος, τό building
ἔδαφος, ου, τό ground
οὐρανός, οῦ, ὁ space
οὖδας, οὔδεος, τό floor
τράπεζα, ας, ἡ bank
τόπος, ου, ὁ location


There are three types of words here. Some are indeed classical/Koine words already attested. Others are retro-engineered terms, which I derive by taking Modern Greek and working backwords. πανεπιστήμιον is one of those, though I suspect a better word might be found for "university". Thirdly there are terms that are neologisms of my own construction, for example χορειοθηκή is made up from χορειος - relating to dance, and θήκη - a case, but already used in βιβλιοθήκη, and related to latin thēca so not a big leap to χορειοθήκη.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

1 Peter 3:13-17 Exegetical Notes

Text

13 Καὶ τίς κακώσων ὑμᾶς ἐὰν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ γένησθε; 14 ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ πάσχοιτε διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι. τὸν δὲ φόβον αὐτῶν μὴ φοβηθῆτε μηδὲ ταραχθῆτε, 15 κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, ἕτοιμοι ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι ὑμᾶς λόγον περὶ τῆς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐλπίδος, 16 ἀλλὰ μετὰ πραΰτητος καὶ φόβου, συνείδησιν ἔχοντες ἀγαθήν, ἵνα ἐν καταλαλεῖσθε καταισχυνθῶσιν οἱ ἐπηρεάζοντες ὑμῶν τὴν ἀγαθὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστροφήν. 17 κρεῖττον γὰρ ἀγαθοποιοῦντας, εἰ θέλοι τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, πάσχειν κακοποιοῦντας.

Critical

v14 μηδὲ ταραχθῆτε / καὶ οὐ μὴ ταραχθῆτε / omit
The first reading has strong support. Omission can be explained as the eye moving from φοβηθητε to ταραχθητε.

v15 τὸν Χριστόν / τὸν θεόν
The former reading has widespread and early support.

v16 καταλαλεῖσθε / καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν / καταλαλοῦσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν / καταλαλῶσιν ὑμῶν ὡς κακοποιῶν
Again, the shorter reading is preferable, the later readings more likely explicable as accretions.

Translation

And who is the one who will harm you if you become zealots of what is good? But even if you should suffer on account of righteousness, you are blessed. “Do not fear their fear nor be troubled”, but consecrate the Lord Christ in your hearts, being always prepared to give a defense to all that inquire of you concerning the hope that is in you, but with humility and respect, having a good conscience, so that in that which they speak against you they may be ashamed, those that malign your good way of life in Christ. For it is better, doing good, if the will of God wills it, to suffer, than [because of] doing evil.

Commentary

Verse 13 offers us a rhetorical question following from verse 12, possibly an allusion to Isa 50:9 LXX. The implied answer is “no one”, though that answer must be nuanced by the reality of the situation Peter is addressing. It is indeed possible that someone will bring harm against the believers. Peter, rather, is configuring the situation in light of God’s sovereign goodness. It is the Petrine parallel to a passage like Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

However, given the general tone of the passage, it is probably correct to understand the socio-historical setting as prior to the Neronic persecution, for otherwise the rhetorical power of the question is lost; if the setting were one of significant persecution or the possibility of the same, then the perceived answer would be that there were indeed those seeking to harm believers. We must, then, balance the reality of possible suffering, as Peter addresses repeatedly not only for believers who are slaves, but all believers, against the Christocentric expression of God’s goodness through unjust suffering. This is seen in the first part of v14, where the the real possibility of various forms of suffering is acknowledged, in the conditional + optative phrase. In light of this, believers are “blessed”; the only other reference to believers being blessed in this way comes in 4:14, in a similar context. We would do well to compare with Matthew 5:10 and I suggest that Peter’s understanding in this context derives from Jesus’ own teaching. Jobes puts it well, “for Peter the privilege of living rightly because of Christ and suffering for it is nothing less than a blessing, a sign of God’s favor and evidence of one’s salvation.”

Verse 14b offers the first half of a response, quoting from Isa 8:12 LXX. IN context, Isaiah is encouraging Judah not to feer the Israel-Aram alliance of Assyria, because ultimately (a) God is with them, and (b) God is to be feared. While the grammar of v14 is difficult in English translation, “do not fear their fear”, the sense is “the fear that they cause” rather than “the fear which they fear”. This is complicated by the fact that in the Isaiah context it is the latter sense that is intended. Peter modifies the quotation slightly replacing a singular 3rd person pronoun referring back to ‘this people’ with a plural, ‘their’, but this really only adjusts to the lack of a collective antecedent. It is the setting in Peter that transforms the meaning.

Verse 15 continues the quotation, and provides the counter-part to the negative command in 14b, “sanctify the Lord, Christ”. Again there is modification from Isa 8:13 LXX, and this time more significant. Peter takes κύριον αὐτὸν ἁγιάσατε (sanctify the Lord himself) and substitutes in τὸν Χριστόν for αὐτόν. Assuming that the grammatical construction remains similar, this yields to appositional phrase “sanctify the Lord, Christ”, giving a clear example of identifying the Christ with the Lord of the OT.

The setting is different, and so the exhortation is appropriately adjusted, but its basic thrust is the same. In the face of opposition and threat, believers are to put their trust in the Lord himself, as he is both with believers, and is to be feared. For NT believers, the Lord they know, the Lord who is with them, the Lord to be feared, is Christ himself. Theocentric faith is, post-incarnation, always Christocentric faith.

The second part of v15 has long been used as the springboard verse for Christian apologetics, and not without good reason. However it is unlikely that Peter has in mind either philosophical presentation or a strict legal setting for ‘defence’, but rather the readiness of believers to give an account of their belief in the face of inquiry, particularly pointed or hostile inquiry. “Hope that is in you” means something like “the eschatological expectation of salvation that is shared among the community of believers.” Such a presentation must be a meaningful communication with outsiders, not the mere re-patterning of insider language for self-affirmation.
Further, v16 consists of qualifications of the manner and purpose of such an account. Firstly, with fear and humility. Fear is probably better understood here as ‘reverence’ or ‘respect’, in keeping with Peter’s general usage through the letter. Achtemeier understands it as respect towards God, while Jobes prefers respect towards outsiders grounded in respect towards God (cf 2:17-18).

Secondly, having a good conscience, believers are to offer such an account with integrity, both of message and of conduct. Integrity of witness is dependent not only upon the content of the message, but the conduct of the speaker, both in the delivery of the account, and in the day-to-day life of the believer.

Thirdly, the purpose of such giving an answer is to evoke shame for those that malign believers’ way of life in Christ. Again, we must not directly read contemporary western notions of shame as embarrassment into the text, but recognise that shame has to do with social status in terms of loss of face and social defeat. Christians are not to engage in the same kind of honour-contest behaviour as unbelievers, i.e. using malignant language and insult, but rather by patient, honourable, upright discourse and lifestyle shaped by continual trust in the Lord and eventual vindication.

This ethical response is brought full circle in v17 with a “better than” proverbial statement, comparable to Jesus’ teaching, as well as OT Wisdom literature.


Candida Moss on 'Persecuted'

I think Moss is wrong about ancient persecution, deliberately misreading the evidence to downplay actual events. But she is dead right about this:


"Given the amount of violence in the world—the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ISIS’s destructive rampage through Iraq, war in the Ukraine, and actual persecution of various religious groups around the globe—it might seem strange or, I daresay, insensitive and delusional for any American Christian to claim that they are persecuted. And yet they do. Claims that American Christians are unfairly victimized, attacked, and persecuted continue. Some even think they are on the cusp of being martyred. Martyrdom, in this context, being defined as “mockery, slander, ostracism.” Or, as I like to call it, middle school."

~ from her review of the film 'Persecuted', available here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

You know, when I speak English, my English not so good.

I have a chronic language problem. I'm an over-accommodater, and it's sub-conscious.

Whenever I speak with someone I accommodate my language. This ranges from imitation of vocal range and accent, through to language structures. It's particularly acute when I speak with Mongolians in English. Firstly, whenever I am talking to, or even mentally thinking about talking to, Mongolians, my first instinct is to try to frame things in Mongolian. But sometimes I can't, I don't have either the vocabulary, or my brain is not quick enough to frame some more complex sentences, and then I revert to English. Also I have some Mongolian friends who just prefer to speak English. So when I speak English, I accommodate my English as well.

This drives my wife crazy.

Recently I was giving a talk to Mongolians, speaking English and using a translator. Because of this my level of accommodation was very high. And the result was that my English became very poor and ungrammatical. Especially, I drop almost all my articles. This is because Mongolian has neither definite or indefinite articles, so they're just cluttering up the airwaves!

Consciously, I can observe this phenomenon as it happens, but I find that it takes an extreme amount of control to counter-act it. Even when speaking with some very English-competent Mongolians, I will accommodate not to their level of English, but to my version Mongolian-English. Good thing I am not teaching English here.




Monday, July 21, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (1): Sebastian Carnazzo

Introduction

All the way back in March I posted about Communicative Approaches to Latin and Greek: Who is doing what? and tried to summarise a little about what I know various people are doing. I thought that over the summer it would be good to interview a few of these folk and find out more about what they are doing, and how they ended up there. Today I'm pleased to share responses from Sebastian Carnazzo from the Academy of Classical Languages. So without further ado, let's hear from Sebastian.

1. What is your personal academic background?

My BS was in Animal Science with a pre-veterinary concentration.  Having become more interested in religious studies toward the end of that program, I decided to change directions and went on to complete an MA in Theology with a concentration in Sacred Scripture.  After that I entered a doctoral program at Catholic University of America (DC) and completed a PhD in Biblical Studies.  My dissertation was published as Seeing Blood and Water: A Narrative-Critical Study of John 19:34.

2. How did you first learn Greek?

I dabbled a bit in Greek during my MA but only began serious study during the doctoral program where, along with the study of Hebrew and Aramaic,  I had the immense privilege and honor of taking five intensive semesters of Greek under the late Francis T. Gignac, author of, among others works, A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods.  The program was very fast paced.  Using Gignac's beginning Greek grammar (An Introductory New Testament Greek Course), we completed basic Greek grammar by Thanksgiving vacation the first semester.  After that it was speed reading/translation with Gignac.  Gignac was a marathon runner and I think he was always on a race no matter what he was doing.  So studying Greek with him was basically like running a marathon at a full sprint.  The pace was taxing but as a result we covered an amazing amount of material in those five semesters.  The last semester, the history of the Greek language, was the most enjoyable.  We began by reading Mycenaean Greek in the Linear B syllabary.  Then through looking at various sample texts, we surveyed the particular characteristics of the disparate dialects of the classical period.  After that we examined and discussed the Koine, Byzantine, and modern periods.  It was incredible.  Gignac was not only a world class Greek grammarian, he was also a master Semitic and Indo-european Linguist.

3. What made you shift to a communicative methodology?

During my language studies in the doctoral program, while racking my brain memorizing paradigms and principle parts, I would often think back to the ancient world and wonder about the natural acquisition of these languages by the ancient native speakers.  After the doctoral program I got a job teaching Scripture and Biblical Languages in a seminary.  I continued to ponder this question as I would watch the pain in the faces of my students going through the same process as I did memorizing those same paradigms and principle parts.  I knew there had to be a better way.  Once I learned about the communicative method and saw the results I shifted almost over night.

4. How did you first equip yourself to use a communicative method? What were some of the difficulties?

While teaching at the seminary and continuing the search for answers to the above stated question I did an internet search "Koine Greek Living Language" and came upon Randall Buth's program, Living Koine Greek.  I ordered the first volume and started to reteach myself Greek.  After spending a few hours with the program I was convinced that I had found a treasure.  I decided to experiment on my kids.  They loved the program.  I was so impressed with the results that I began incorporating the program into my Greek courses at the seminary.  You asked about difficulties.  The problem at this stage was I just didn't really understand the teaching techniques.  I had never seen someone teach Greek this way.  Then I went to an intensive program in Fresno, CA, put on by Randall Buth and the Biblical Language Center to help Greek teachers learn how to teach Greek as a Living Language.  While there, among a number of other things, I also learned about the work of James Asher and his work in TPR.  I read all the pertinent articles about TPR and TPRS on his website.  That summer changed everything.  The following fall semester  I went back to the seminary classroom with the tools to accomplish my goals.  The seminarians loved it and so did I.

5. What courses or materials do you currently offer?

A few years ago I created the Academy of Classical Language site and began teaching Greek online (academyofclassicallanguages.com).  The Greek program is multi-level in both Koine and Classical and incorporates Randall Buth's, Living Koine Greek, vol. 1 and Athenaze, vol. 1, respectively.

6. What sort of outcomes do your students generally finish with? Where are they ‘at’ when they’ve completed a course of study with you?

They all come to the program with different backgrounds.  Some have never studied Greek.  Others have quite substantial experience.  Our goals are simple.  Teach Greek (Latin is also taught on the same site) as a living language to help those who have never studied Greek learn Greek and those who have already studied Greek learn Greek in a more natural way.  Everyone moves through the program at their own pace.  Most of the students come with a desire to learn a little Greek for their own personal bible study.  Once they have learned enough to satisfy their desire they move on to other things.  Others, like myself, can't get enough of it and, I think, would study Greek to the detriment of their health if given the opportunity.

All joking aside, I have been quite impressed with the results.  I have seen a number of students go from not knowing hardly anything about Greek to becoming quite proficient at it, surely beyond a typical seminary program, and that's through spending only a few hours a week and enjoying it all along the way.  That's a far cry from the pain of memorizing paradigms and principle parts only to be able to do little more than recite paradigms and principle parts.

As I have said to my students and other teachers involved in this way of teaching Greek, it is clearly superior to the conventional method, but we are not yet able to reach the full potential because we don't yet have the proper environment.  For example, when someone studies a modern language like Spanish or French as a living language in a classroom, they can then go from the classroom to a few months or a semester in a real language immersion environment, like Spain or France.  There they can complete their living acquisition of the language in a real world.  This is, in fact, the way most modern language programs work.  We who teach ancient Greek can create the same classroom experience but don't have a way, at least yet, to then put that student in a real language immersion environment for a few months were they can complete their living acquisition of the language in a real world.  I'm currently pondering buying a small country like San Marino or Liechtenstein to where we can all immigrate..hmm...or maybe a Greek Island would be more appropriate.  Any donors?



Epilogue: And that's all from Sebastian, thanks very much for taking the time to share with us. I have about 6 more of these little interviews lined up, and should be posting one every Monday for the next month and a half. If you happen to be doing something in this field and would like to be interviewed, please send me an email and it can be arranged.


Friday, July 18, 2014

State of the Ørberg, II, with another excerpt

I have to confess that progress on my Greek translation of Lingua Latina is going quite slow this summer, which is a shame because I had high hopes for making solid progress. There are a number of reasons: more attention being paid to my doctorate, work on other exciting projects, needing to preach almost weekly, and a little less than perfect enthusiasm. It is also difficult to motivate when I have no guarantee that I can release a full version of it. Last month I attempted to email the publishing house response (Domus Latina, not Focus), but heard no reply to my inquiry about translation rights. Since my work is almost entirely derivative, I don't see how I could release a copy into the public without some permission for it.

Anyway, I am still working on it. It's excellent work for myself, and earlier this week I completed most of (the text portion anyway) chapter 12. So here's another little excerpt from the draft version.

Στέφανος· ἆρα ἔτι οἱ Γερμανικοὶ τὴν πατρίδα ἑαυτῶν ἀμύνονται;

Δημοσθένης· ἀλλὰ ἡ πατρὶς ἡμέτερα καλλίων ἢ ἐκείνων! καὶ δὲ καὶ οἱ Γερμανικοὶ ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροί εἰσιν.

Στέφανος· ἆρα μὴ ἀνδρεῖοί εἰσι οἱ Γερμανικοί;


Δημοσθένης· ἀνδρεῖοί εἰσι ἐκεῖνοι, ἀλλὰ οἱ Ῥωμαϊκοὶ ἀνδρειότεροί εἰσιν, οὐδὲ τὸ ὅπλα τῶν Γερμανικῶν τοσαῦτα ἀγαθά ἐστι ὅσα ἡμέτερα. ἡ ἀσπὶς αὐτῶν λίαν μικρά ἐστιν, ὁ ὑσσὸς λίαν μακρὸς καὶ βαρύς· οὺδὲ γὰρ ὑσσὸς τοσοῦτος βαρύς πόρρω βαλλέσθαι δύναται. ὁ οὖν ὑσσὸς ἡμέτερος βραχὺς καὶ κοῦφός ἐστιβαρχύτερος καὶ κουφότερος  ἢ ὑσσὸς τῶν Γερμανικῶν. οἱ στρατίωται οἱ Ῥωμαϊκοὶ εὖ μάχονται, ὅτι οἱ ὑσσοι αὐτῶν βραχεῖς καὶ κοῦφοί εἰσιν, οὐ μακροὶ καὶ βαρεῖς ὡς Γερμανικῶν. τὴν πατρίδα ἡμῶν ὅπλα ἀγαθά ἀμύνονται. οὐδεῖς πολέμιος τὴν πόλιν καταπολεμεῖν δύναται.