Monday, April 30, 2007

Maintaining Your Greek

Last week I met with my first year Greek class for the final time. By this point they have spent hundreds of hours learning paradigms, memorizing vocabulary, parsing verbs, and many other often mundane and repetitive tasks in an attempt to be able to read and study the NT in its original language. But as many of you know, it doesn't take long over the summer before that knowledge begins seeping out of one's brain.

In light of this, I gave them the following suggestions for maintaining one's Greek over the summer. I have posted them here in the event they may prove helpful to others who have studied Greek at one time but let their knowledge slip away.

1. Put your Greek to use in teaching and preaching. Too often people have an all or nothing approach in which they feel that since they do not have the time to translate an entire passage themselves they cannot use Greek in preparing to teach. But with the help of certain tools one can dip into the passage and look for certain things that may prove helpful in teaching the passage.

2. Set aside time to read from your Greek NT at least once a week. The emphasis here is on reading, translating and occasionally parsing in your head as you go. Spending as little as 20-30 minutes 1-2 times a week can make a huge difference. To make this realistic, I would suggest one of the following two tools. The first is A Reader's Greek New Testament. This version of the NT provides glosses of every word that occurs less than 30 times in the NT, which saves you having to look them up in a lexicon. The second resource is A Grammatical Analysis Greek of the Greek New Testament. This is a handbook that is a companion to your Greek NT. It goes verse by verse and provides glosses for vocabulary as well as help on unusual syntax. Having this next to you while you read from the NT will be very helpful and spare you from leafing through BDAG for glosses.

3. Review your vocabulary. While this is not the most exciting activity, the more vocabulary one remembers the less dependent you are on tools. Furthermore, your speed in reading and comprehending depends in large part on your vocabulary. For those who have Bibleworks, there is an easy way to review vocabulary. Under "Tools" you will see something called "Vocabulary Flashcard Module." With this tool you can load the vocabulary of the NT, sort it by frequency, and have it quiz you. You can even mark words as "learned" so you won't be quizzed again on them.

4. Work through Colossians . I suggest Colossians as a good book to work through by translating because it is not the simplest Greek, but it is not exceedingly difficult either. Plus, it provides exposure to a wide variety of grammar/syntax. A tool that I would highly recommend when doing this is Colossians and Philemon, by Murray Harris. This is a unique book in that Harris works through the text verse by verse but focuses on the grammar and syntax of the Greek. So, for example, for the genitive "Christou" at the end of Col 2:2 Harris lists three possibilities with a discussion of each. This tool is especially helpful for those who have finished a year of Greek but are just now beginning to work with grammar.

5. Check out the blog Hellenisti Ginoskeis: Do you Know Greek? This blog, run by Dan Philips, explores various Greek NT passages and comments on the Greek. Stop by, makes comments, ask questions. Dan would loves being harassed by Philhellenes.

6. Team up with someone else. Beyond providing accountability, it is more enjoyable for most people to work with at least one other person. When I was a Ph.D. student I met with my two pastors and another Ph.D. student to read Greek together most Friday mornings at a coffee shop. This was always one of the highlights of the week, and we often ended up having rich theological discussions based on what we were seeing in the Greek text. I was thrilled to find another group here in Winona Lake that meets every Thursday morning to read Greek one week and Hebrew the next. These times are an invaluable way to maintain and improve one's knowledge of the language.

Given how much time people in seminary spend learning the Biblical languages, it is poor stewardship to let them slip away to the point where one cannot use them.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Old Wine in New Wineskins: Can and Should We Read the OT the Way the NT Authors Did?

Two days ago I had the privilege of giving my "inaugural lecture" here at Grace Theological Seminary, the title of which is the heading for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening, as the audience asked good, thought-provoking questions. If you are interested, the audio can be found here.

The short answer to the question I posed was not only should we read the OT the way the NT authors did, but that we must if we are to be faithful to the way that Jesus expects us to read the OT. I then proceeded to look at three key passages: Luke 24:25-32, 44-49; Romans 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11. After examining these passages, I concluded by offering four key assumptions that the NT authors had when they read the OT. They are:

1. Because Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises in the OT, every part of the OT in some way points forward to Christ and the redemption he accomplished.

Within all its diversity the OT tells an overarching story of God’s plan to redeem a people for himself who proclaim his glory to the ends of the earth.

History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan of God such that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to latter points in history.

In light of the first three assumptions, our reading of the OT and our understanding of redemption in Christ must continually reshape each other.
I don't pretend to have made the definitive statement on the subject, and I am well aware that the issues surround the question are complex, but I am convinced that identifying these assumptions of the NT authors is a useful starting point.

I'd welcome any comments or questions you might have.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Jesus' Resurrection Matters - 1 Cor 15:1-28

This past weekend I had the privilege of preaching at our church (Christ's Covenant Church, Winona Lake IN) on the resurrection. The title of the message was "Why Jesus' Resurrection Matters," based on 1 Cor 15:1-28. For those interested, the audio can be found here.

Monday, April 09, 2007

366 Days and Counting ...

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of this blog. So after 366 days and over 70 posts, I thought I would mark the occasion with some brief reflections.

I'll begin by stressing how much I have enjoyed becoming acquainted with a wide variety of people from literally around the world. Although we have never met personally, commenters from all over the U.S. as well as folks in Europe, South America and Australia have made contributions along the way. Realistically, without this blog I would not have even made their acquaintance. It is always refreshing to connect with fellow believers around the world.

Second, I have been encouraged at the number of people who are passionate about biblical theology and its place within the church and the academy. In my estimation this is one of the most positive developments within evangelicalism in my (brief) lifetime. To think that this blog could even play a minuscule role in furthering that interest is mind boggling to me.

Third, the challenge to make regular posts has probably exceeded what I originally anticipated. This blog began as I neared the end of my Ph.D. studies and continues to this day as I wrap up my first year of full-time teaching at Grace. So much has happened during that time that I am sometimes in disbelief that all of it could happen in one year. At times this has meant missing my target of making 1-2 posts a week, something that I hope to be more successful at in the year to come.

Fourth, the challenge of writing a good post that is substantive, concise, and conducive to dialog is greater than I anticipated. But it is a good challenge, one that I believe will continue to stretch me in the months to come.

As a way of putting a final wrap on the first year and starting the second, I want to open this thread for your general comments and suggestions on how you would like to see this blog improve. I don't pretend to have all the answers, and I genuinely want this to be a forum for discussion, not merely my thoughts. So I open the floor to you and ask for your input on how I might improve the blog. I can't guarantee I'll be able to do everything you ask (e.g., suggesting that I post daily), but I will take all of your feedback seriously and implement those suggestions that I deem most helpful and realistic.

Thanks again for stopping by the blog; I do appreciate those who take the time to do so, and especially those who take the time to comment.