Syntax, Exegesis, or Both?

I want to begin this post by saying that I would like feedback, and lots of it!

Over the past number of years I have taught Greek and Hebrew in the context of the local church. Here is a brief look at those classes:

  • Fall 2009- Greek Grammar I: We started with about 15 and finished with 6. (Those numbers may seem impressive, but once you subtract familial ties [my mom, my fiancee, and one of the other students significant other], the numbers look something more like 12 to 2.) We worked through the first half of Croy’s Greek Grammar.
  • Spring 2009- Greek Grammar II: Only one student continued on to Greek Grammar II. We finished Croy’s Greek Grammar textbook.
  • Summer 2009-Hebrew Grammar I & II: The same student that stuck with me through Greek Grammar I & II picked up Hebrew as I tutored him through Pratico and Van Pelt’s Hebrew Grammar.
  • Exegesis? Syntax?: I offered no exegesis or syntax to this student, as he decided to go to seminary to study “officially.”
  • Spring 2011- Hebrew Grammar I: Started with 9 students and ended with 3 using Ross’ Hebrew Grammar. (I switched to Ross from Pratico and Van Pelt because it was cost prohibitive to ask students to purchase the grammar and workbook.)
  • Fall 2011- Hebrew Grammar II: Finished Hebrew Grammar II with 2 students.
  • Spring 2012- Hebrew Syntax: Read through Arnold and Choi’s work on Hebrew Syntax, made progress in Mitchell’s vocabulary guide, and translated through Jonah.
  • Fall 2012- More Hebrew: Translated through Ruth, Psalms 1-2, Genesis 24, and we worked through more of Mitchell.
  • Spring 2013- Greek Grammar I: Started with 15 and ended with 5 using Black’s Greek Grammar.
  • Fall 2013- Greek Grammar II: Started with 5. We are currently finishing Black’s textbook.

If you have made it this far in the post, you have probably noticed that I’ve done no exegetical work in these classes. This is due to a number of factors:

  • Time: I listed the numbers of students that started and finished to illustrate the fact that few stick with it. Those that do stick with the language sacrifice a great amount of time. Sticking with it for two years straight is a lot to ask.
  • Emphasis: What does a teacher emphasize in a context like this? Syntax? Time translating the text? Exegesis? In the past, I have opted for translation and syntax. I fear this has left students without the ability to dig deeper into a specific passage.
  • Resources: Outside a theological context, exegesis is cost prohibitive for some/most students. Why? A book on the exegetical method=$20-$50, BDAG=$150, GNT=~$50, Metzger’s Textual Commentary=$25, NIDNT=$50, 1-2 commentaries on the biblical book being researched=$80, not to mention the theological/exegetical/historical dictionaries needed to do contextual research.

Despite these factors, never reaching the exegetical method leaves students with a year of language study and no application. I view this as a failure on my part.

My question to you, reader, is how to make this work within the context of the local church? Where should I go with the Greek Grammar II class I am teaching after we conclude the textbook? Do I go to Wallace’s Beyond the Basics and Metzger’s Lexical Aids? Do I go just to Metzger’s Lexical Aids to build vocabulary while translating as much of the biblical text as possible? Do I encourage them to start building their library in order to do exegesis together?

I have been researching a number of Greek resources and there is no end to the number of approaches and methods: syntax focus (inductive [Bateman’s workbook for 1-3 John)] deductive [Wallace]), exegetical focus, translation focus, just to name a few. Is there a way to incorporate all three within one class? Would that even be wise?

I am beginning to think that I should do away with syntax. Maybe ask students to read It’s Still Greek to Me, but not spend class time discussing it in order to free up more time for translation and exegesis.

What have you done? What approach(es) have you found to work best? Let me hear your thoughts.

This entry was posted in Biblical Studies, Greek, Greek Resources, Hebrew, Teaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Syntax, Exegesis, or Both?

  1. Dave Black says:

    I would try and complete first year grammar then perhaps walk them through Philippians — four short and fairly easy chapters — teaching them how to exegete an entire discourse.

  2. I only have experience with Wallace’s grammar, besides Robertson’s. Bateman’s book is good for the inductive approach. What I would do is teach them a diagramming method and diagram together in your sessions while giving them syntactical analysis at the same time. Probably after 2-3 times of doing this they will be able to pick up on it and can start on their own. Cost wise that’s probably the cheapest since the Greek text is available online and Wallace runs 31 on Amazon for a new copy.

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