I do not enjoy details. I do not enjoy rigidly structured environments. I do not enjoy tedium. And as a child, I loved the open window more than I loved the chalkboard. So why then, do I enjoy taking biblical Greek?
Going into my first Greek class last semester I assumed that it would be like learning math, or science. I was not wrong. But I was not wholly right either. I found that though like math and science, biblical Greek was also much to me like Tolkien’s Primitive Quendian, the language first spoken by the first Elves when they awoke into the new-born Middle Earth. There was an art to the writing and the speaking of biblical Greek that I had not thought to find. And in that sense of “otherness,” like a mist of fantasy hanging low amongst the forested slopes of an ancient mountain of structure and detail, I found the last thing I would have expected to find in Dallas Theological Seminary’s New Testament 101…an active and abiding interest.
In all seriousness, this is my first and best piece of advice for learning biblical Greek. Find some aspect of it that interests you.
Perhaps it is the wonder of reading the Gospels in the language it was written in? Maybe you happen to enjoy the previously hidden details discovered on the imperfect bridge between biblical Greek and modern day English. Or it could be that you’re like me and the whole thing has an air of mystery and “cool-ness” that keeps you coming back to the material. And that’s the trick. Whatever reason you can use to make it easier to come back to the material, do so. Because that is what matters in regards to actually learning the material, and not just memorizing for a grade.
Beyond finding ways to engage your interest and stay motivated, here are some other smaller bits of advice that will serve you well…
- A little Greek each day keeps the forgetfulness away. There is a great deal of learning new material, an alphabet, paradigms, vocabulary, grammar, etc. Even just a little bit of practice each day is helpful.
- It is likely that you will be offered regular access to tutors. I strongly advise you to take advantage of those times.
- Buy flashcards, or get an app that does it. Either way, using flashcards is a great way to commit a great deal of information to long term memory through repetition. This practice has been a lifesaver.
- Make your own quizzes and exams. Before one of my exams I had the odd idea to make my own exam based on what we had been told we should study. I purposefully made my own exam way harder than I knew the real one would be. Needless to say the real exam was a great deal easier. This can be done for quizzes as well.
- Make/join a study group. Some people do not learn better this way, and that’s fair. But if you know it would be helpful for you to do, then ask around and see what happens. Maybe you can take turns making up really tough quizzes and exams for each other.
- DO THE TRANSLATIONS!!! So, confession. I would always do the memory work, and slack off on the translations. If I could go back to the beginning and do only one thing differently, it would be this. Translations are where you make use of everything you’ve learned. Neglect them at your own risk!!!!
- If you are confused do not be afraid to ask questions. Biblical Greek may make you feel stupid. I assure you that you are not the only one. So if you have a question, odds are someone else might be thinking the same thing, so do not be afraid to speak up! A good professor will welcome the opportunity to make sure that the material is being understood! At worst you might just have to talk to the professor after class, which leads us right into our next point…
- Do not be afraid to talk to the professor outside of scheduled class times! Whether after class, or by way of appointment, do not hesitate to make use of the professor’s expertise as needed. It has been my experience in both Greek and other classes that my professors have been more than willing to sit down and answer any questions that I had.
- Ask for the powerpoint slides! This goes for whatever materials that the professor uses in class. Anything that can be posted online, emailed, copied, etc. you should ask for, if you think it would be helpful. I have yet to run into any professors at Dallas Theological Seminary that have refused to give me access to their class materials in some fashion.
- Ask for advice! I am only in my second semester of Greek, so I am sure that my advice is far from exhaustive. Ask your professor for study tips and things of that sort. I cannot think of any of these tips that I’ve given you thus far that are completely of my own design. Even ask your classmates, this is seminary, these men and women are smart and probably have some clever ideas! And your smart too, so don’t be afraid to share!
Learning Greek isn’t easy. There is a reason that the saying goes, “It’s all Greek to me.” But, with some effort and attention to the tips above, you’ll be well on your way!
By Colby Anderson. Having just recently discovered the joys of coffee, pickles, sharp cheddar cheese, and fatherhood, you can find him attending Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Theology, which, of course, comes secondary to the continued pursuit of his Beautiful wife. And all of this under Christ, even the pickles. If you’re curious, he sometimes has time to think aloud at more-than-bread.blogspot.com.
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