Practice Greek like a Master Violinist: new Academic Blog post up

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Tavis Bohlinger | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Jul 6 2017 1:34 PM

Check out the new post on theLAB, where I talk about applying the concept of deliberate practice to your study of Greek and Hebrew:

https://academic.logos.com/practice-greek-like-a-master-violinist/

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 6 2017 2:11 PM

Excellent, convicting and motivating article! One of the things I struggle with most when it comes to this is that you can't be the master of many things in life - perhaps not more than one or two. The question is which will those be. I would like to improve my biblical language skills but I'd also like to read more widely, exercise more, spend more intentional time reaching out to my neighbor and much more.

I've thought a lot about this over the years and have come to the conclusion that I will probably never "master" anything because mastery requires too much sacrifice of other important areas of life. That being said, I do read my Greek NT each year but your article has convicted me that I would like to spend more time practicing those basic violin-type exercises when it comes to Greek. Thanks for motivating me to this end.

I'd be interested in what others might say in response to this mastery question.

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, Jul 9 2017 5:10 AM

Does anyone else have some thoughts about this topic?

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DIsciple II | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 4:52 AM

Bruce, towards the end of the article Tavis pens "the more important, question is this: how will this monumental effort serve others, in your vocation as a Christian scholar, pastor, church member, or language enthusiast?"

Mastery of anything simply to serve ourselves is in contrast to the call of the Christian life. But if our efforts to Mastery are in order to bring Glory to God and in service to our 'neighbour' then it is something worth considering and something worth doing right.  Mastety of Greek or Hebrew won't be the way we are all called to do, but mastery of our time is something we all would be wise to do and it is this I see you seeking to do as you contemplate your response to this article and I encourage you to continue to seek God as you endeavour to make the best use of the time as you seek to walk in His wisdom.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 5:48 AM

Disciple of Christ (doc):
"the more important, question is this: how will this monumental effort serve others, in your vocation as a Christian scholar, pastor, church member, or language enthusiast?"

Well, I am not an expert, but almost daily I try to learn something of original languages. The effect what I see that I am not so much hostage of my own era. I mean all what we see and hear shapes our thinking, mostly in a chaotic and pulsating way by the media and the people around us. Learning and using the original languages helps get better perspectives of what is going around and what has eternal value.

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J. Bryant Evans | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 6:14 AM

I have to say the article is a fine analysis of how to master the languages. But as a minister in local work I do not have four hours a day to give to the Greek. But there is no problem with dedicating one hour a day. A year later I am far better than I was before. I will improve. But I improve at a slower pace while still serving the people who call me their preacher.

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Tavis Bohlinger | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 7:25 AM

Just to clarify, I am also not able to spend 4 hours a day on Greek! That was in the summer before I started my doctorate here at Durham. But it was a very fruitful period of study, to be sure. 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 7:45 AM

Bruce Dunning:

Does anyone else have some thoughts about this topic?

Well, gee, Bruce, since you asked.

And I AM the odd lady out ... I think greek is a complete waste of time. No offense to the pastors and language afficionados.  Certainly, it's at the heart of western culture, and yes, western civilization.

- My reasoning is theological ... I don't think hardly any of the NT is original visa viz Jesus and the promises of the prophets.

- The language itself sends a interested person off-track before you even get started. The greek/roman world was in high contrast to the east. It's not by accident, the west held onto Philo and Josephus .... they're the only ones that made any greek sense.

- Better to concentrate on what was available in the 1st century ... the scriptures.

- Granted, it kind of zeros out modern Christianity. My apologies.


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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 8:30 AM

I found the article both incredibly persuasive, but also quite daunting - if not discouraging. Everything Tavis said makes complete sense. The challenge for me is that - to borrow his metaphor - I love music and I'm taking lessons, but I'm never going to be a master violinist.

I have a full-time secular job, but I've made the decision to go to seminary at night - and much of my motivation was to learn the original languages of Scripture. I've finished a year of both Greek and Hebrew (which is really all they offer), I've worked my way through Mounce's Graded Reader for Greek, and I'm most of the way through the similar Graded Reader for Hebrew.  I'm bringing Zondervan's Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible with me to church, and painfully trying to see how much of the readings I can follow along with.

I guess what I'm struggling with is this.  For those of us who know that we're never going to play the Kennedy Center, is there a path to a rewarding and fulfilling sideline as an amateur fiddler?  Does God need garage bands as well as symphonies?  I'd like to believe that the answer to both questions is "yes." 

So, does anyone have advice on how to practice Greek like the fiddler in the neighborhood bluegrass band?

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Justin Gatlin | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 9:05 AM

EastTN:

I found the article both incredibly persuasive, but also quite daunting - if not discouraging. Everything Tavis said makes complete sense. The challenge for me is that - to borrow his metaphor - I love music and I'm taking lessons, but I'm never going to be a master violinist.

I have a full-time secular job, but I've made the decision to go to seminary at night - and much of my motivation was to learn the original languages of Scripture. I've finished a year of both Greek and Hebrew (which is really all they offer), I've worked my way through Mounce's Graded Reader for Greek, and I'm most of the way through the similar Graded Reader for Hebrew.  I'm bringing Zondervan's Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible with me to church, and painfully trying to see how much of the readings I can follow along with.

I guess what I'm struggling with is this.  For those of us who know that we're never going to play the Kennedy Center, is there a path to a rewarding and fulfilling sideline as an amateur fiddler?  Does God need garage bands as well as symphonies?  I'd like to believe that the answer to both questions is "yes." 

So, does anyone have advice on how to practice Greek like the fiddler in the neighborhood bluegrass band?

Others might disagree,  but for that,  I would suggest almost the exact opposite of the idea in the blog post.

Play the original language audio bible while you follow along on paper and just try to understand. Your goal,  if I understand you,  should be more fluidity in reading than the ability to rattle off every grammatical nuance, for which you will likely always use other tools.

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Lonnie Spencer | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 9:08 AM

EastTN:

I found the article both incredibly persuasive, but also quite daunting - if not discouraging. Everything Tavis said makes complete sense. The challenge for me is that - to borrow his metaphor - I love music and I'm taking lessons, but I'm never going to be a master violinist.

I have a full-time secular job, but I've made the decision to go to seminary at night - and much of my motivation was to learn the original languages of Scripture. I've finished a year of both Greek and Hebrew (which is really all they offer), I've worked my way through Mounce's Graded Reader for Greek, and I'm most of the way through the similar Graded Reader for Hebrew.  I'm bringing Zondervan's Reader's Hebrew and Greek Bible with me to church, and painfully trying to see how much of the readings I can follow along with.

I guess what I'm struggling with is this.  For those of us who know that we're never going to play the Kennedy Center, is there a path to a rewarding and fulfilling sideline as an amateur fiddler?  Does God need garage bands as well as symphonies?  I'd like to believe that the answer to both questions is "yes." 

So, does anyone have advice on how to practice Greek like the fiddler in the neighborhood bluegrass band?

You may want to take a look at this little book that was written for us garage band Greek types

https://www.logos.com/product/41553/keep-your-greek

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 9:20 AM

Lonnie Spencer:

You may want to take a look at this little book that was written for us garage band Greek types

https://www.logos.com/product/41553/keep-your-greek

Lonnie, thanks for reminding me of that!  I believe it was one of the free books of the month a year or so ago.  I need to go back and reread it - I was still taking my first Greek class when I originally got it.

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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 12 2017 9:24 AM

Justin Gatlin:

Others might disagree,  but for that,  I would suggest almost the exact opposite of the idea in the blog post.

Play the original language audio bible while you follow along on paper and just try to understand. Your goal,  if I understand you,  should be more fluidity in reading than the ability to rattle off every grammatical nuance, for which you will likely always use other tools.

Justin, thank you very much for that suggestion.  I'll try it. That's very similar to what I'm doing at church, which is just trying to see how much of the sense of the passage I can follow along with.  Sometimes it's not much - sometimes it's a bit more.

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 13 2017 6:48 AM

Denise:
I think greek is a complete waste of time

Those doing Bible translation need Greek. 

Exegesis tries to find out what the writer wanted to say. I think exegesis is not theology as such. Only after going through a kind of "distillery" the results of exegesis become theology: something quite abstract, well above my brain capacity. This is just my opinion, maybe everyone disagrees Big Smile Anyway, because I emphasize exegesis, therefore Greek is the right thing for me. And another aspect, for old people like me, learning new languages keeps them young, according to some (dubious?) research.

Justin Gatlin:
Play the original language audio bible while you follow along on paper and just try to understand.

I am doing that and I feel it is useful and delightful.

Gold package, and original language material and ancient text material, SIL and UBS books, discourse Hebrew OT and Greek NT. PC with Windows 8.1

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 13 2017 7:35 AM

Veli, no doubt translators should as a minimum be able to translate (smiling).

And not to argue theology, but at least not look completely bizarre ...

If one accepts mankind as the Divine target, then the message has to be so simple, that it can cross wealth barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, and gender barriers (women quite likely second-hand hearing as per the Pastorals).

The NT is not that. Ergo authoritarian and sectarian seminaries early on. And it's not surprising that Christianity was largely a European religion (as the West happily watched the Christian East be destroyed), until fairly recently.


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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 13 2017 8:43 AM

Denise:

If one accepts mankind as the Divine target, then the message has to be so simple, that it can cross wealth barriers, cultural barriers, language barriers, and gender barriers (women quite likely second-hand hearing as per the Pastorals).

If that's the standard, I'm not sure where you go.  Yes, the ten commandments are simple - but so is the heart of the gospel. Taken as a whole, I don't see the Hebrew Scriptures as being any less complex than the Greek Scriptures - if anything, the texts are far more diverse.

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 13 2017 9:10 AM

EastTN, I agree ... the minute dissecting of the OT shows up mainly in the greek period (2nd Temple and flowing into the NT) and among the severe religious groups.

The easy illustration, is what could you literally hear (on a hillside) and do, sufficient for Jesus to characterize you as 'righteous'. The OT repeats the answer over and over (as did Jesus). And indeed the same amount of simplicity was demanded for 1600s missionaries with native people on 'newly discovered' lands .... again, the presumed Divine target.


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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Jul 13 2017 11:35 AM

Denise:

The easy illustration, is what could you literally hear (on a hillside) and do, sufficient for Jesus to characterize you as 'righteous'. The OT repeats the answer over and over (as did Jesus). And indeed the same amount of simplicity was demanded for 1600s missionaries with native people on 'newly discovered' lands .... again, the presumed Divine target.

I'm probably crossing the line of what we should be discussing in the forums here, but I suspect what we're really discussing here is where the true significance of Jesus lies.  Is it in the ethical principles that he taught, or in who he is and what he accomplished through his death and resurrection?  If it's the ethical principles, then Hebrews and much of Paul's writings will seem beside the point - as will Ecclesiastes and Job.  But if the main significance lies in who he is and what he accomplished, then both testaments suddenly get a lot more complicated for us.

Having said that, I completely agree with you that we need to do a better job of communicating in a clear and understandable way.
All too often we make the simplest parts of the Bible unnecessarily complicated - and we make the complex parts incomprehensible to anyone but an academically trained theologian. (And then we congratulate ourselves on how well we know the Bible.)

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Jul 14 2017 3:00 AM

Thanks all for your responses. Something to ponder as we all determine how we should best balance our lives. I'm still motivated to push my knowledge to another level of discipline.

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