Friday, August 22, 2014

Natural Method Greek, Chapter 2

For this Friday's fun, I offer you a second chapter of Classical Greek according to the Natural Method. This week includes some very complex numbers, but you should find it quite manageable apart from that.

Download here.

I will, at some point, provide a compiled version of the individual chapters.

In the meantime, if you want some help with very large Greek numbers, I found this page quite apt (scroll to the lower half for Ancient Greek).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

1 Peter 4:12-19 Exegetical Notes


12 Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ὡς ξένου ὑμῖν συμβαίνοντος, 13 ἀλλὰ καθὸ κοινωνεῖτε τοῖς τοῦ Χριστοῦ παθήμασιν χαίρετε, ἵνα καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀποκαλύψει τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ χαρῆτε ἀγαλλιώμενοι. 14 εἰ ὀνειδίζεσθε ἐν ὀνόματι Χριστοῦ, μακάριοι, ὅτι τὸ τῆς δόξης καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ πνεῦμα ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς ἀναπαύεται. 15 μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς κλέπτης κακοποιὸς ὡς ἀλλοτριεπίσκοπος· 16 εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός, μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω, δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι τούτῳ. 17 ὅτι καιρὸς τοῦ ἄρξασθαι τὸ κρίμα ἀπὸ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ θεοῦ· εἰ δὲ πρῶτον ἀφʼ ἡμῶν, τί τὸ τέλος τῶν ἀπειθούντων τῷ τοῦ θεοῦ εὐαγγελίῳ; 18 καὶ εἰ δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; 19 ὥστε καὶ οἱ πάσχοντες κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ πιστῷ κτίστῃ παρατιθέσθωσαν τὰς ψυχὰς αὐτῶν ἐν ἀγαθοποιΐᾳ.


v14 δόξης καὶ το τοῦ θεοῦ / δόξης καὶ δυνάμεως τοῦ θεοῦ ὄνομα καί / δόξης καὶ δυνάμεως καὶ τὸ τοῦ θεοῦ
The shorter reading to be preferred, being also in a range of important witnesses
v14 ἀναπαύεται / ἐπαναπαύεται / ἀναπέπαυται / ἐπαναπέπαυται
As per Metzger, the perfect and compound forms of the verb are likely developmens of ἀναπαύεται


Beloved ones, do not be surprised at the fiery-ordeal among you that occurs for testing you as if something strange happening to you, but insofar as you share in the sufferings of the Christ, rejoice, so that in the revelation of his glory you might exultingly rejoice. If you are reviled in the name of Christ, [you are] blessed, because the spirit of Glory and of God rests upon you. For let no one of you suffer as a murderer or thief or evil-doer or even as a busybody; but if as a Christian, let them not be ashamed, but let them gloriy God in this name. Because the time to begin judgement from the household of God [is here]; but if first from us, what will be the end for those disobeying the gospel of God? and if the righteous is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear? So let even those suffering according to the will of God entrust their souls, in doing good, to the faithful Creator.


I take it that the opening ἀγαπητοί signals the opening of the closing section of the letter, as Peter uses a vocative to address his readers. However the content of this section is still tied to the major themes of the letter, as he immediately tells the readers not to be surprised at suffering. The choice of πυρώσις in v12 echoes, though distantly, the mention of fire in 1:7. Peter has already laid out a case for why the righteous may anticipate suffering in this life, but the injunction not to be surprised at it marks a profoundly different note. For believers, suffering is ‘normalised’ in this life, though not ‘fatalised’. That is, suffering is not merely a distortion of the way things are, to which we will return to shortly. Rather, suffering is a profound distortion of the way things ought to be, but one which continually characterises this present age. For the believer, that suffering (ought to) occur as a consequence of righteous living, rather than unrighteous. While Peter writes in a socio-historical context of opposition to the Christian faith, we should not lose sight that such a context is directly applicable to parts of the world today, in ways that it may not be for one’s own context.

In verse 13 Peter gives a contrasting perspective on suffering – not as something to be (merely) lamented or avoided, but in its occurrence it is in fact an occasion for rejoicing. How so? Insofar as it is suffering for Christ, it is fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. This connects with 3:14, the statement that such suffering is a mark of blessedness. It is a mark of identification with Christ, of fidelity to God in the face of suffering, as an evidence or proof of the believer’s allegiance.

In this sense, the blessedness of suffering has a future, eschatological focus, as seen in the purpose clause in v13, with its “in the revelation of his glory”. Whatever joy believers have now, in suffering, is proleptic for the eschatological joy they will have in the vindication of that faith in the manifestation of the object and source of that faith.

Verse 14 more directly echoes 3:14, though ‘suffering’ is replaced more directly by “reviled in the name of Christ”. Suffering itself is not blessedness, Peter does not teach that suffering is some kind of moral or natural good. Rather, Peter provides a causal reason here for that blessedness, the presence of “The Spirit of Glory and of God”. This is probably an allusion to Isa 11:2 LXX (καὶ ἀναπαύσεται ἐπʼ αὐτὸν πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ, πνεῦμα σοφίας καὶ συνέσεως, πνεῦμα βουλῆς καὶ ἰσχύος, πνεῦμα γνώσεως καὶ εὐσεβείας). In light of Peter’s earlier teaching, the choice to suffer rather than sin testifies to the believer that God is not absent, but rather must indeed be present, since this is the word of the Spirit.
In verse 15 Peter clarifies what kind of suffering is in view. Not all suffering is a sign of blessedness or mark of glory. It should not be as a sinner, characterised by a list of four particular criminals, “murderer”, “thief”, “evildoer”, “busybody”. The last term is set off and has a much lesser “gravity” as compared to murdering. Why does Peter include it? Perhaps because Peter’s point is that even seemingly innocuous forms of immoral behaviour can lead to suffering, and are not negligible. Perhaps meddling is a problem among his audience. Elliott describes the kind of behaviour on view, “Censuring the behaviour of outsiders on the basis of claims to a higher morality, interfering with family relationships, fomenting domestic discontent and discord, or tactless attempts at conversion” (Elliott 2000, p788). Certainly plenty of that has been done in the name of piety, good cause, and ‘not to be nosy but….’

The contrast statement in verse 16 is simply “as a Christian”. The term appears only thrice in the NT (Acts 11:26, 26:28). Peter’s initial point is very simple, the only crime that Christians should be punished for is “being an adherent of Christ”. However that manifests, whether legally or socially, in behaviour or in identity, there should be no hint of immorality that leads to censure or punishment, that kind of behaviour does not bring glory to God or indicate his favour. Those who do suffer, on account of being Christians, ought themselves not be ashamed, but rather themselves offer glory to God. Against the prevailing society’s way of calculating honour, in which being a Christian is itself a source of shame, Peter presents an alternate honour-shame reality, in which that shame is inverted as a source of honour and glory.

Verse 17 provides a ground for the attitude believers should have, as described in verse 16. Peter states that it is now time for judgment to begin, and to being with “the house of God”. This language picks up the thought of chapter 2, especially vv4-5. This thought ought to be read, theologically against the broader NT canon, in which there is both the assurance of no condemnation (e.g. Romans 8:1) but rather salvation, alongside the reality of some kind of judgment that involves believers (e.g. Romans 14:10).

Schutter argues that Ezekiel 9:5-6 LXX is the primary background, whereas Johnson argues for Zech 13:9 and Mal 3:1-3. However each of these passages proclaims God’s judgment on his people for covenant violation. Peter’s point is not this, since he is writing in the context of assuring believers for their covenant faithfulness. Their suffering is a sign of righteousness and God’s presence, rather than their sin and God’s abandonment. Rather we should take τό κρίμα more as “the process of discrimination and judgment”, which is enacted in history through the opposition of outsiders to believers, as part of the testing and refining of “us” (ἀφἡμῶν). This testing and discrimination is part and parcel of the eschatological event of God’s judgment, and completes the thought that begins in 1:5, an articulation of the theology that not only explains suffering for Christ, but gives the resources and exhortation to endure and persevere under it, in light of (a) what Christ has done and (b) what God will do.

In contrast to this, Peter asks the genuinely rhetorical question, “What will be the outcome for those disobedient to the gospel of God?” For them, Peter leaves unspoken the judgment to come. Instead, in v18, Peter repeats the contrast, saying that the righteous is saved “with difficulty”. What kind of difficulty does Peter imagine? This is not a soteriological statement, but one related to Christian perseverance. In the face of sustained opposition from the world, faithful endurance is difficult. The verse is a quotation from Proverbs 11:31 LXX, 31 εἰ μὲν δίκαιος μόλις σῴζεται, ἀσεβὴς καὶ ἁμαρτωλὸς ποῦ φανεῖται; And so the second part of it again raises the question of the non-believer, without definite answer. Peter on the one hand contrasts believers’ present suffering with future vindication, and merely suggests that for unbelievers, the judgment to come will be worse by far than the believers’ present sufferings.

Finally in verse 19 Peter gives the result of all this: believers should entrust themselves to God. They should do so, even if suffering (taking the participle in a concessive manner). They should do so because such suffering is “according to God’s will”. They should do so as to the God who is the “faithful Creator”. This verse echoes again the paradigmatic nature of Christ’s suffering, seen in 2:21-23, especially verse 23.    I take “according to God’s will” here in the sense of “will of command” rather than “will of decree” (to use traditional categories), related to Peter’s teaching that such suffering is the consequence for obedience to God’s revealed will. Lastly, how is such trust expressed? The final phrase explains, “in doing good”. Perservering faith in the face of hostility expresses its ongoing fidelity to God by continuing to do what is good. It is the choice to continue to suffer rather than sin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Translating tongues

Let's just agree to stop it.

That is, it makes no sense that Bible translators continue to translate γλώσσαι as 'tongues'. The reason it makes no sense is that we simply do not speak English like that anymore.

Across a number of languages, the word for 'tongue' and the word for 'language' is the same. Greek in the Koine period is one of those. Mongolian is another. In some older forms of English, 'tongue' is readily understood to mean 'language', but in contemporary English this is not standard usage.

If I were to say, "I speak five tongues", I may well be understood, but I will sound archaic. But if in some kind of Christian context to say, "I speak in tongues", the meaning will be entirely different.

Here's my point: translating as "tongues" prejudices the interpretation of the passages in the NT that talk about gifts of languages. Without our peculiar post-Pentecostalism understanding of tongues as 'unintelligible sound-making', we would never have had much warrant for talking about 'tongues' as anything different than 'languages'.

Could this kind of activity be what the NT means by 'tongues'? It remains possible, but I'm beginning to wonder if the continued archaic translation of 'tongues' is blinding us to the obvious, that native speakers of Koine would simply, readily, and uncontroversially, understood it to mean "languages".

Monday, August 18, 2014

Interviews with Communicative Greek Teachers (4): Stephen Hill

Here’s part four of this interview series with Communicative Greek Teachers.
(Parts One, Two, Three)

Last week we spoke with Christophe Rico of the Polis Institute. This week we follow up with Stephen Hill. Stephen both studied, and now teaches, with the Polis method at the summer intensives. For this reason I thought it would be helpful to hear from Stephen, to get another perspective on the same ‘strand’ of the Communicative Greek world.

1. Stephen, I wonder if you'd share about your own academic background?

As an undergraduate, I majored in English literature with minors in philosophy and Spanish, and I also took two years of Greek the traditional way.  In May of this year, I finished an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) at the University of Illinois, where I wrote a thesis on the philosophy of second language acquisition (SLA), took some courses in the classics department, and taught writing to students of English as a second language.  I start an MA in Classics this month at the University of Kentucky, where I look forward to developing speaking and writing skills in Latin.  Since 2012, I’ve taught communicative Greek in the summer through the Polis Institute, which I talk about below.

2. Specifically with relation to Greek, what was your experience in learning the language?

I first learned Greek the “traditional” way, via grammar-translation: memorize and translate, usually from Greek to English.  After two years of this, my classmates and I were “reading” – that is, laboriously translating – more or less authentic Attic prose.  But I could do much more in Spanish, which I’d also studied for two years, and in French, which I’d studied for one.  So it didn’t take long for me to start questioning the methodology.

3. What first made you interested in communicative methods? Was there something that triggered you to shift over to them?

As I mentioned, the initial catalyst was the difference between my ability in Spanish and French and my ability in Greek.  After four semesters of college Spanish, I was able to read actual Spanish literature.  My comprehension wasn’t perfect, but I could do it, even though my classes focused much more on speaking, listening, and writing than they did on reading.  The same was true for French.  Even though I took only two semesters, the oral-aural foundation I got in class allowed me to study the rest of the grammar on my own and start reading French literature.  But after two years of memorizing paradigms and translating Greek, I found the easiest authentic Greek texts to be unassailable without a lot of hand-holding from dictionaries and commentaries.  To be fair, Spanish and French are both easier languages than Greek.  But I didn’t think that was enough to explain the dramatic difference in outcome. 

I think it was during my first year of Greek that I came across B-Greek, at that time still a mailing list, and its vigorous discussions of Greek pedagogy.  Participants like Randall Buth and Carl Conrad reinforced my doubts about traditional teaching methods.  Buth in particular convinced me that teaching Greek like a modern language wasn’t just a pipe dream, but instead was perfectly realistic and extremely useful.  I began to realize my failure to speak and write ancient Greek was a major reason why I couldn’t read it very well.  Eventually I heard about another teacher of living Greek – Christophe Rico, whom you’ve already interviewed – and I decided to go to Rome to take his intensive summer course in spoken Koine.  After four weeks of speaking, listening, reading, and writing Greek – and especially after studying second language acquisition – I was convinced that active use of any language, ancient or modern, is the most effective path to learning. 

4. What are some of the methods or resources you've utilised to equip yourself for learning and teaching in this way?

For me, the intensive course in Rome was essential.  It gave me an active vocabulary of useful words and reinforced grammar that’s essential for communication but sometimes given short shrift in traditional textbooks.  Even more importantly, it gave me four hours a day of comprehensible input.  It was Greek that I could understand without recourse to dictionaries or grammar; if I didn’t understand something, I could ask and have it explained in Greek.  In that way, even failure to understand Greek becomes an opportunity to acquire Greek more fully.  Second language acquisition research indicates that comprehensible input is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for acquisition, and it’s here that traditional instruction often fails.  Beginning students of Greek and Latin need to read lots and lots of easy texts, not a few sentences or paragraphs from harder ones, and (optimally) they need to speak and write.

5. You've had some involvement in teaching in connection to the Polis Institute, what have you been involved with?

I first came to the Polis Institute’s three-week intensive courses (at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross) as a student in 2011, and then returned in following years as an instructor.  As Dr. Rico mentioned, we offer three levels of Koine Greek, four of classical Latin, and two of biblical Hebrew, all taught exclusively in the target language.  In 2012 I co-taught the first level of Greek and in 2013 I co-taught the second level.  This year I taught the first level at Ave Maria University in Florida and last month I taught it in Rome.

6. Lastly, what sort of 'results' or outcomes are you seeing in students learning Greek through communicative methods?

Unfortunately I can offer only anecdotes; one thing that ancient language pedagogy sorely needs is empirical applied linguistic research.  But after three weeks in the first level, for example, students are able to comprehend very simple texts in Greek without recourse to dictionary or grammar (of course, vocabulary and grammar is presented in Greek anyway).  Many students return each summer to take the next level.  In my own case, after my first immersion experience, I noticed that reading Greek didn’t give me a headache anymore!  It was more like reading and less like puzzle-solving.  I had internalized the linguistic forms through constant use.  One problem with traditional textbooks is that they put off high-frequency forms considered “difficult” till very late in the course.  Δίδωμι may be a dreaded –μι verb, but it’s impossible to communicate in Greek without it.  So constant use of the language naturally eliminates some difficulty by forcing students to become comfortable with high-frequency irregular forms.

Friday, August 15, 2014

More (or Less) on a Natural Method Greek course (Friday Fun)

I spent some time this week looking over some of the other products that came out of the Nature Method Institute in the early 60s. I wrote up a Greek version of what would be a first chapter, which you can download in full here. It's similar to the Ørberg conversion I have done, but a little different.

It's more than a little difficult for me to find more information about what happened to the Nature Method Institute. Do they still exist? Did they cease at some point? What happened to the authors of these materials?

Not promising to do any more in this particular area at the moment, but I may well write more chapters. I am really loathe to promise to complete any of my so-many side projects. They get done if they get done. (Although the next Patristic text is coming along nicely, I can say). The next 3 months are going to get a little crazy, so we'll see.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

1 Peter 4:7-11 Exegetical Notes


7 Πάντων δὲ τὸ τέλος ἤγγικεν. σωφρονήσατε οὖν καὶ νήψατε εἰς προσευχάς· 8 πρὸ πάντων τὴν εἰς ἑαυτοὺς ἀγάπην ἐκτενῆ ἔχοντες, ὅτι ἀγάπη καλύπτει πλῆθος ἁμαρτιῶν· 9 φιλόξενοι εἰς ἀλλήλους ἄνευ γογγυσμοῦ· 10 ἕκαστος καθὼς ἔλαβεν χάρισμα, εἰς ἑαυτοὺς αὐτὸ διακονοῦντες ὡς καλοὶ οἰκονόμοι ποικίλης χάριτος θεοῦ· 11 εἴ τις λαλεῖ, ὡς λόγια θεοῦ· εἴ τις διακονεῖ, ὡς ἐξ ἰσχύος ἧς χορηγεῖ θεός· ἵνα ἐν πᾶσιν δοξάζηται θεὸς διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἐστιν δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων· ἀμήν.


No significant critical issues.


The end of all things draws near. Be wise therefore and sober-minded for prayers; before all, have constant love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins; [be] hospitable to one another without grumbling; each just as they have received grace, ministering the same for one another as good stewards of God’s diverse grace; if anyone speaks, as the speech of God; if anyone ministers, as from the strength which God supplies: so that in everything God might be praised through Jesus Christ, to whom is the glory and the power forever and even: Amen.


In terms of structure, the doxology that concludes verse 11, coupled with the vocative address in v12, indicates that this sub-unit completes a major unit; in Jobes’ view going back to 2:11, the body of the letter. Peter connects his thought here to the preceding words about judgment with the eschatological declaration that “the end of all things draws near.” It is this eschatological reality that informs the life of believers in the present. However, it is more than simply ‘end’ in a temporal sense, it is ‘goal’ in the sense of God’s purposes are drawing to their ultimate fulfilment. However, in light of 1 Peter 1:20 and 5:10, it is important to understand that Peter understands and portrays this in terms of a period, an ‘age’, rather than a point per se. It is in this sense that Peter’s statement remains true today – the end of all things draws near.

And so this thought provides the logical basis for Peter’s next exhortation, that they be ‘wise’ or ‘self-controlled’ or ‘right-minded’ as well as clear-minded in order to pray. In light of the reality of universal judgment (v6-7), and the end of all things (v8), believers should be conscious of that reality and so devoted to clear-minded prayer. The two verbs should probably be read as a kind of hendiadys, for clear-sober-mindedness. The later verb occurs elsewhere in 1:13 and 5:18. Prayer is not the activity of the day-dreamer, but the one who sees the cold light of reality.

A second injunction comes in verse 8, but again Peter uses a participle to express an imperatival concept. Although I have translated “before all”, a better English idiom would be “above all”, but the idea is the same, the action takes precedence over other actions. This love is intra-communal, “one another”, and earnest, constant, or persistent. However this injunction is coupled with a reason, “love covers a multitude of sins”. The phrase appears in a different form in James 5:20, and probably derives from Proverbs 10:12, though it seems more paraphrase than quotation. However we must ask what exactly “cover” means in this context. In Proverbs love is contrasted with hatred, which “stirs up dissension” in this context, love is act and attitude that dissipates and smooths-over dissension and quarrels. So Jobes rightly notes, Peter is not making a theological statement about God’s forgiveness of sins, nor an ecclesiastical counsel to conceal sin, but an ethical statement about how love contributes to peaceable community relations. This is consistent with Peter’s earlier injunctions to love, for example 1:22.

The third injunction, in verse 9, is to hospitality. This time the construction is an adjective with imperatival force. One wonders if Peter just didn’t like using too many imperative verbs. The primary question in this verse revolves around what ‘hospitality’ means in the context and to whom it is directed. It is typical to understand it as directed towards strangers, especially travelling Christians who would need a place to stay. While no doubt that is true, and having traveled recently in rural Mongolia I have a personal sense of what that may have been life, we ought to note that Peter once again says εἰς ἀλλήλους. Perhaps, rather, Peter is suggesting (again) intra-community acts of hospitality, a willingness to welcome other believers into one’s home for fellowship, for the common expression of worship. Furthermore, Peter says this should be done “without grumbling”. In a social context of hostility, even persecution, this is the building block activity of counter-cultural community and identity as people who love one another, as people chosen by God.

Verses 10-11a deal more generally with believers exercising “gifts of God’s grace”. Although Peter uses the word χάρισμα, he does not have on view here the same range of spiritual gifts that Paul has, but rather a broader conception of gifts that are manifestations of God’s grace in each believer. Neither does Peter provide anything like a ‘list’, since he only offers two items in v11! Rather Peter is concerned with how these gifts are employed. αὐτὸ is a complementary direct object to διακονοῦντες, so something like “employing that same gift in service”, and again we have a reciprocal subject, this time expressed as εἰς ἑαυτοὺς “for each other” (not “for oneself”). This is driven by the rationale that possessors of gifts (i.e. every believer) does so as a steward, responsible to God as the source of that grace.

Rather than enumerating a whole list of services or graces, Peter summarily treats them as two types, those of speaking and those of serving. In the former category fall those whose grace involves instruction/teaching/preaching/speaking about and on behalf of Christ. As they speak, they represent God’s words in the world and especially to the community. The second category simply includes all who serve, which may in fact include the first category. However it may be, Peter teaches that God is the one who supplies what strength is necessary. The resource of God is always at hand for the work of God. That said, this is an expression of faith, not presumption, of God’s gracious provision.
Especially this last point, the supply of God’s sufficient and gracious strength for service, is “so that God might be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.” This phrase may equally be read as the end of the whole sequence of ethical exhortation from 4:7 onwards, so that the community of believers, in prayer, in love, in hospitality, and in service, act and function together to bring glory to God, a glory that comes through Jesus Christ, who as we have already seen functions as the exemplar for God’s people even as he is first the saviour of them.

The final mention of Christ elicits a doxology that closes the body of the letter. Commentators are divided on whether the glory is ascribed to God or to Christ. Proximity favours the latter, while some understand διά to suggest that the antecedent be God; but then wouldn’t this be somewhat redundant? Does it matter? Peter, like most of the New Testament, has no problem with binitarian doxology patterns. For my opinion, the closest natural antecedent seems the best understanding. So, Peter rounds out the body of the letter by reminding his readers that all glory, and all power, belong to Christ. He is the one they have put their hope in, and he is their sustaining hope in the world.