It is Greek to me

Westminster places a high value on knowing the original languages of the Bible. There are 19 hours of Greek and Hebrew courses to be completed prior to beginning some of the biblical theology courses. Typically, incoming students spend the summer before their initial fall semester in an intensive Greek or Hebrew course. Basically, one month of language boot camp. The idea is to get a semester’s worth of vocabulary and grammar under your belt in one language before you begin the rest of your courses (and your second language!) The Greek course begins August 2nd–a week after we move. Mark will be ready to go, probably sitting in the first row. I, however, will be in Maine. Yes, due to the arrival of grandchild #4, I will not be able to attend that first Greek course. I will be helping out with Hannah’s homebirth experience and being Amm� to �va and the new little one (we don’t know if it is a girl or boy yet). There are priorities you know.

But I am not one to fall behind… so I have been studying Greek on my own and should finish the first semester material by the end of August. Just in time to take the placement test. The goal is to do well enough on the exam so that I “place” out of that first semester and can slide right into the next course alongside Mark. My life is currently filled with lots of little flash cards on a large keyring that travel everywhere with me. If I am stuck in traffic, out comes a card and I am looking at paradigms I haven’t memorized yet. When I drive to North Carolina to visit Sarah Joy (my oldest daughter) and her family, I have 3 hours of vocabulary on CD that I can listen to and repeat. This only works when I drive separately from Mark. He can’t quite get into the vocab repetitions yet. I’ve also found some great study guides and a listserv: B-Greek- The Biblcal Greek Mailing List.

It sounds like work, but really it’s just a big, fun puzzle. I love languages. I love writing systems. I love that I will have time to learn more. To see how languages work is beautiful. To understand the order (and chaos) is like appreciating a symphony. If Eric Liddell could say “When I run I feel [God’s] pleasure” then I say “When I study languages I am worshiping.” I am embracing the creative process of a God who communicates with us. Sure, I get some grief for wanting to learn Ugaritic. No one thinks it is practical. “What will you use it for?” I think it is a great misfortune when we believe that only that which is pragmatic is worth studying. Sure, I want to learn Greek and Hebrew to better understand the Bible, to read the OT and NT in their original languages and appreciate the fullness of what is being communicated. But I also want to just savor the language for itself. The language itself, not only what it communicates, reveals to me more of the character of God. And that’s worth all the flashcards and study time I can muster.

10 thoughts on “It is Greek to me

  1. the Sage

    I’ll save you a seat in the front row.

    And I’ll be the proudest guy in town the first time we go to an Ugarite restaurant and you order for us straight off the menu.

  2. SarahJane

    I wish I had realized earlier that you have a blog, karyn, as I have always appreciated your posts on rmfo and hope to make this a regular wandering-place.
    The point of my comment, though, is to say that I am now excited about the fact that you are learning Greek. I often feel like I’ll never have time to do that, since I don’t have room in my schedule to take those classes, but I forget that I have many years ahead of me. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration. I, too, have a passion and love of languages. Your post really struck a chord with me!

  3. Karyn

    hi SarahJane… nice to have a kindred spirit about the languages. I do hope you get the opportunity to formally study Greek (and Hebrew), but if not, you can always start to study the languages on your own. And you’ve got a great perspective… you don’t have to learn everything now! You can save some things for later in your life. Who knows, you may have more time to savor it later.

  4. Karyn

    Geof, you aren’t taking into consideration that you are a whiz at computer languages. That counts! You might be better at it than you know. And, depending on your purposes, there are programs at different seminaries that don’t require the languages. Don’t let the languages be what prevents you from exploring the possibility of seminary!

  5. Mil Vassilatos

    I saw this site by chance.
    Correct me if I am mistaken, but I understand that the original languages of the bible were primarily Aramaic and Greek and not Hebrew and Greek as this site states.
    The old testament was writen primarily in Aramaic with some Hebrew but nertheless more Aramaic and the new testaments were writen primarily in Greek with some Aramaic.

  6. saied hayati

    Dear …
    Here I want to introduce myself and make you familiar with my work.So I think that,s better to begin with my degree.
    I have M.A. degree in Political Science and through my studies about Political thoughts in ancient East.I got interested in Akkadian and Aramaic languages.Therefore I started to study those languages.
    Firstable I started to study Aramaic with Assistant of blessed Mar Johannan Isaee(Athor Bejan)and continue my studies in Akkadian language with Dr.Arfaee.And about my works in this field:
    A.My first trilogy based on Aramaic language:
    I.Translation of Aramaic Grammar by Thomas Arayathinal.
    II.Translation of the Comparative Grammar of the Semetic languages by Sabatino Moscati,which has some compliment articles published in recent years.
    III.Translation of the Akkadian influences on Aramaic by Stephen A.Kaufman,which has some compliment articles published in recent years(I am working on it).
    B.My second trilogy based on ancient languages(Aramaic and Akkadian languages):
    I.Din in Qoran.
    II.Islam in Qoran.
    III.Kophre(irreligion)in Qoran.
    Now I decided to study Aramaic professional.I want you guide me how I can study Aramaic in advaced levels.
    Thanks for your help.
    Saied hayati

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