Yesterday evening I sat in on the Applied Linguistics for Biblical Languages Seminar. The Q&A panel addressed where to set the bar for biblical languages. I was thrilled to know a conversation was taking place advocating higher standards. But what the panel means by this is reorienting our pedagogical approach towards teaching the biblical languages. They must be taught as a living languages.
I am not entirely sure how I felt throughout the session. To some degree, I felt like I was being strong armed. At one point, Daniel Streett, as seen in the picture above, said, “I find it amazing that I have to convince Greek professors about the value of learning Greek.”
I agree with Daniel, et al. The bar should be set higher. Expecting second and third year students to read only 3 chapters of a biblical text within one semester is not enough. The bar is too low.
At one point during my seminar in Hermeneutics this semester, I asked Dr. Köstenberger why we aren’t reading and being taught the Greek of the Apostolic Fathers, Josephus, Philo, and others. The response I received was, “Frankly, Jacob, students are lazy.”
I claim no exception to this rule. My Greek is pathetic considering the number of semesters I have taken. But is the solution learning to hear, speak, and compose Greek? Is it our goal to revive a dead language. I understand that being able to think in a language is instrumental in understanding it. But the language is dead. There are no remaining speakers of koine Greek. The conversation has stopped. Anything that modern day “speakers” of koine compose will, by definition, be artificial.
When asked what the ultimate goal of this pedagogical approach serves, I was expecting something like “Fluency in the language allows us the greater ability to distinguish between connotation and denotation, to better grasp the semantic domains of certain words, and to comprehended the particularities of langue versus parole.”
Instead, Daniel Streett responded by saying that, like any other language, the ultimate goal is language acquisition. But why? Is it our goal to be able to speak to one another in koine Greek? Surely not. Is it our goal to be able to write our on epistle to the Corinthians? I would hope not.
The desire fueling this movement is the need to conceptualize the language instead of treating it like a decoding project. Admirable though the approach may be, I don’t believe it gets us any closer to the language. I think that reading more biblical and non-biblical Greek texts will get us closer to a greater “fluency” of koine Greek.
The bar should be raised. Why are we not reading more Greek? Why are we not building vocabulary? Will we not be able to better understand the structure of koine Greek by forcing ourselves to read koine literature widely?