Many of us studied Greek back in our college days. some of us were proficient Greek students, once upon a time. Sadly, over time, the Greek vocabulary cards have lain untouched, paradigms become unfamiliar, and new Bible software tools provide the only real interaction with Greek that we continue to have.
Losing our Greek is troubling because we know that we learned Greek for a reason. Understanding the language of the New Testament allows us to "teach God's Word with depth of understanding, observing its subtleties and nuances, many of which cannot be conveyed in translation" (pg. 83). Ultimately, Greek study is all about knowing God's Word better so we can teach and preach it better.
Seeing so many Greek students slowly lose their Greek due to the business of pastoral ministry, Constantine R. Campbell started blogging about how to "Keep Your Greek". The tips and strategies he shared on his blog were widely appreciated and Campbell was encouraged to turn his helpful suggestions into a book. The result is "Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People" a handy little book published by Zondervan.
Dr. Campbell, a senior lecturer in Greek and New Testament at Moore Theological College in Syndey, arranges his strategies in order of importance. Number one on his list is the importance of 10 minutes spent reading Greek every day.
"Reading every day increases your confidence. Vocabulary, grammar, and syntax all feel more familiar with everyday exposure. Your subconscious mind is triggered regularly to reinforce your learning and knowledge." (pg. 15)
There is no substitute for reading Greek, he insists. Next he encourages us to burn our interlinears. He later allows a prudent use of Bible software, and even the use of a Reader's Greek New Testament (like this one). But having the English translation of each Greek word immediately visible below prevents the actual learning of Greek. Too much dependence on software too, can cripple us -- making us dependent on the tools and never proficient in the world of NT Greek.
Campbell offers encouragement when it comes to learning vocabulary and mastering those verb paradigms. Various tools, both online and in book form, are described as well. The most useful tool for Campbell is Burer and Miller's A New Reader's Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, which lists the unfamiliar Greek words and definitions in order, chapter by chapter throughout the New Testament. He advocates referencing this tool when reading the Greek for yourself.
Some will still wonder if relearning Greek is really worth it. They may have preached for years without much use of biblical languages. I thought Dr. Campbell's words on this point were quite helpful:
"I've never met a Bible teacher who wished they had not learned Greek. It's only the guys who have let it slip and no longer use it for their sermon preparation who try to tell me that Greek doesn't enhance their teaching.... Of course it won't enhance your teaching if you don't use it!"
"...My own experience is that Greek always enhances my teaching of the Bible in some way. It may not always make a dramatic difference to my understanding of the text, though it sometimes does. But it always gives me a deeper appreciation of the text and insight into its nuances. This is the testimony of all those who have talked to me about their experiences of teaching the New Testament with a knowledge of Greek. It makes a difference." (pg. 10)
By the end of the book, after reading through all the tips and helps that Campbell offers, you find yourself agreeing with Campbell that yes, I can keep my Greek. "It's easier to remember the Greek you've forgotten than it was to learn it in the first place," he reminds us (pg. 73). An appendix applies the book to the first time learner, encouraging them to take care how they learn the language the first time. "Get it right the first time", that section is entitled.
Having began as a series of blog posts, this book is casual and accessible rather than formal and technical. After each chapter, Campbell even includes some of the blog reactions (comments) from his original readers. This feature of the book makes it both more interesting and more helpful. The insights, questions and feedback of the bloggers will mirror what's going through your mind as the reader. And many of the tips the bloggers share are worthwhile in their own right.
This little book, and it is little -- only 90 pages long -- will prove to be an encouragement to many, like me, who have let their Greek slide. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Zondervan for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
I found this book disappointing. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it certainly left me unsatisfied. The basic premise of this book is what all Greek Introductions tell you: 1) learn and refresh your vocabulary; and 2) keep reading Greek. One of the elements of the book that turned me off from it was the blog responses within the book. He honestly published blog responses in his book? There was nothing in this book that I didn't know before reading it.
This book includes a Table of Contents, but no index (not that you need one for a 90 page book!).
Practical tips for regaining your NT Greek skills.
March 18, 2011
Cottage Grove, MN
Of all the publisher's I follow, Zondervan Academic continues to stand out based on the number of useful original languages resources they continue to release year after year. The latest addition to their lineup of language resources is Constantine Campbell's Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People (Zondervan, 2010).
As a blogger and social media enthusiast I appreciated the background story behind the book. In a sense, it all began when Dr. Campbell decided to take the tips he had been sharing in the classroom about how to keep your Greek going after college / seminary and turned them into a series of posts called "Keep Your Greek" on his now retired read better, preach better blog. The nine posts in that series actually served as the outline for this book. I especially liked that Dr. Campbell chose to share some of the comments dialog from his original blog posts at the end of each chapter. It was useful to see the types of questions posed by the original readers of the content and Dr. Campbell's responses. Maybe it is because I spend far too much time using social media, but the blog responses section at the close of each chapter drew me in and made me feel a part of the conversation.
Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People is quite short at only ninety pages. The content is divided amongst ten chapters and the book closes with an appendix and a list of recommended resources. Each chapter introduces a new concept about how to enhance your ongoing study of Greek. You can get a good idea of each chapter's content from its heading and subheading. If you are a very serious and stodgy language student, try not to take offense as some of them are a bit tongue in cheek. They are as follows:
* Chapter 1: Read Every Day: Reading reminds, refreshes, and reinforces.
* Chapter 2: Burn Your Interlinear: The interlinear is a tool of the devil, designed to make preachers stupid.
* Chapter 3: Use Software Tools Wisely: Bible software can be a blessing or a curse-it's up to you.
* Chapter 4: Make Vocabulary Your Friend: You remember the names of your friends, right?
* Chapter 5: Practice Your Parsing: Practice makes perfect. Or aorist. Or present. Or ... What is that verb?
* Chapter 6: Read Fast: It's the vibe of the thing.
* Chapter 7: Read Slow: Slow and steady wins the race.
* Chapter 8: Use Your Senses: Greek is a language, not just words on a page.
* Chapter 9: Get Your Greek Back: If you did it once, you can do it again. And it will be easier this time.
* Chapter 10: Putting It All Together: Make it a part of life.
When it's all said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There was a light-hearted tone that ran throughout the entire book, making what is sometimes a very mundane topic, enjoyable to read. Each chapter offers extremely practical advice, much of which I intend to put in place as I continue my quest to keep up my own Greek skills. And if you are more of a Hebrew or Aramaic guy, don't despair, these strategies will enhance for your ongoing language study as well. I would highly recommend this book for any Bible college / seminary student, pastor, or layperson who is interested in or who has ever studied Greek. Even if your interest in keeping up with your Greek studies is limited, you will find something of use here. Readers who enjoy this book should also consider picking up a copy of Dr. Campbell's Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Zondervan, 2008).
Constantine R. Campbell (PhD, Macquarie University) is a senior lecturer in Greek and new Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of numerous books, including Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. Dr. Campbell is a public speaker, musician, and author, and lives in Sydney with his wife and three children.
This book was provided by Zondervan for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Seminary and religious studies students are notorious for focusing intensely on the biblical languages for a few years and then gradually losing that mastery over time. In an attempt to remedy this problem, Constantine Campbell has written _Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People_, a helpful little book intended to help readers ... well, to help them keep their Greek. Campbell teaches Greek and New Testament at Moore Theological College in Australia and is author of several books, including _Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek _, which is a useful introduction to contemporary developments in understanding Greek verbs. All this to say, he's more than qualified to write a book on Greek. Additionally, he is a musician, and it is this area that ends up providing a significant contribution to the book.
As Campbell remarks early in the book, he's not offering a foolproof 10 Easy Steps kind of plan, but rather an exhortation to fundamentals and discipline. The underlying theme is that consistently reading Greek is the best strategy for keeping proficiency. He draws a parallel to playing a musical instrument, where the gains achieved by disciplined daily practice far exceed intermittent concentrated effort. In music, as with many other skills, the repetition and reinforcement that come from regular practice work in intangible ways. Thus, the foundation of Campbell's approach is developing a habit of reading Greek regularly, preferably daily. The key is to actually read the Greek text, without the aid of an interlinear Bible or software. Though appropriate at time, these tools can also serve as unhelpful shortcuts that prevents true mastery. As Campbell notes, regularly reading Greek will go a long way to helping keep your skills; however, true proficiency will also require periodic reinforcement of things like vocabulary and verb parsings. These can be studied separately or better yet integrated into daily reading. Campbell gives tips for each of these.
The book is a quick read, due both to its short length and Campbell's engaging and humorous style (see Chapter 2, entitled "Burn Your Interlinear," which declares "The interlinear is a tool of the devil, designed to make preachers stupid"). Some may find it repetitive, since it is largely a series of variations on the underlying theme of "read daily!" But it really isn't long enough to get tiresome. Campbell includes several decent lists of various kinds of Greek resources, from vocabulary builders to parsing guides to Greek readers. I almost wished he would have included more details on a Greek-keeping regimen (he gives some examples of his own practices), but as he rightly observes, different people have different learning styles, and one size does not fit all. My only real complaint about the book is on the format: the book is an expansion of material that Campbell originally published on his blog, and the end of each chapter includes reader comments from the original blog posts. While there are a few useful tidbits here and there, in general I didn't think the format enhanced the book. But this is a minor criticism.
Overall, this was a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to regain or maintain their Greek language skills.
(Disclaimer: Zondervan provided me with a copy of the book, but I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.)
In "Keep Your Greek," Campbell gives practical advice and tips on things you can do so that your Greek doesn't die. Some of the tips are obvious. A couple may surprise you, but the logic behind it is undeniable.
I am not a seminary student. I was encouraged to study Greek on my own after frequently watching a pastor on television who uses several different languages in many of her sermons to point out context, tense, etc. I wanted to be able to do this in my own personal studies. Unfortunately, as Bill Mounce says, I got "lost in the fog." I got discouraged and began to study less and less, until it was not-at-all. I want to change that, so I knew I had to read "Keep You Greek." It is so encouraging, especially since I am doing this on my own, to see that others struggle the same as I do. The tips in this book will no doubt help me learn and keep my Greek.