Keep Your Greek: Strageies for Busy People

Keep Your Greek: Strageies for Busy People

by Constantine R. Campbell


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Seminarians spend countless hours mastering biblical languages and learning how the knowledge of them illuminates the reading, understanding, and application of Scripture. But while excellent language acquisition resources abound, few really teach students how to maintain their use of Greek for the long term. Consequently, pastors and other former Greek students find that under the pressures of work, ministry, preaching, and life, their hard-earned Greek skills begins to disappear.Con Campbell has been counseling one-time Greek students for years, teaching them how to keep their language facility for the benefit of those to whom they minister and teach. He shows how following the right principles makes it possible for many to retain—and in some cases regain—their Greek language skills.Pastors will find Keep Your Greek an encouraging and practical guide to strengthening their Greek abilities so that they can make linguistic insights a regular part of their study and teaching. Current students will learn how to build skills that will serve them well once they complete their formal language instruction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310329077
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 12/23/2010
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Constantine R. Campbell (Ph D, Macquarie University) is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. He is the author of several books, including Advances in the Study of Greek, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek, Keep Your Greek, Paul and Union with Christ, Outreach and the Artist, and 1, 2 & 3 John in The Story of God Bible Commentary series. Con is a scholar, public speaker, musician, and author, and lives in Lake Zurich, IL with his wife and three children.

Read an Excerpt

Keep your Greek

Strategies for busy people
By Constantine R. Campbell


Copyright © 2010 Constantine R. Campbell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-32907-7

Chapter One

Read Every Day

Reading reminds, refreshes, and reinforces.

When the fresh seminary graduate begins pastoring, when the demands of counseling and planning meetings and checking off items on the to-do list threaten to undo you, it is more than a little difficult to sustain one's facility in Greek. Long ago I learned a trick that can help the pastor-on four or five days a week spend ten to fifteen minutes in the Greek text just reading. Open up your Greek New Testament, have a translation to its side and a lexicon to consult, use a parsing guide for words you can't parse, and just read the text itself.

One more piece of advice, and it may be the most important: never feel guilty or stupid for what you have forgotten, and banish from your mind what your demanding seminary professors would think of what you have now forgotten. The fast pace you used to learn Greek in seminary gives way to a decade of consistent reading and, like family love and growth in wisdom, your facility in Greek will not only develop, but you will become more and more confident that you've (only then) finally got a good handle on Greek. Scot McKnight

Practicing Music

From my background in music, I am convinced that a little time practicing every day is much more beneficial than large chunks of practice interspersed by large chunks of inactivity. When I first started learning to play the saxophone, I found that regular practice every day sped up my development on the instrument in a way that couldn't be matched by a less regular approach. More than twenty years later, I still find this to be true. If I want to step it up a bit for an important concert or recording, or if I just want to get my saxophone playing to the next level, a little bit each day is the way.

For most musicians, that's a no-brainer. Of course it's better to practice every day. But my point is that a little bit of practice every day is better than longer periods at less frequent intervals. Even if you end up doing the same amount of practice in a week through either approach, a little bit each day works out better than the spread-out approach.

Why is that? Well, I'm no expert on brain development, and I don't know the neurological and physiological reasons why a daily approach is better than a more sporadic approach, but here are a few thoughts. I know that I feel more confident when I practice every day. Everything is that much more familiar and fresh in my mind. It's more comfortable so I'm more confident. I also think that the neurological connections that are made in the brain are reinforced and strengthened by daily practice.

Moreover, I believe that a lot of development occurs in the subconscious mind, away from the instrument. But this is triggered after a practice session. After I practice, my brain continues to work on improving my skills-just ticking away in the background of my subconscious mind. I suppose that sounds a bit Zen, but lots of good musicians know it to be true. Thus, by practicing a while each day, my brain is regularly triggered to keep working at developing those skills.

Reading Greek

In the same way, a little bit of reading Greek every day keeps it all ticking along. 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.

It's reading Greek every day that really counts, rather than other (often good) habits. Learning Greek vocabulary, practicing paradigms, and other such things have their place, and I'll discuss them later in this book. But they are no substitute for reading Greek, and for busy people who can only afford to do one thing related to Greek each day, it must be this.

There are several reasons for this.

First, reading Greek is our goal. It's why we've learned Greek in the first place: to read and understand the Greek New Testament. There's nothing like practicing to achieve your goal.

Second, reading Greek brings all the other skills into play: vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are all required for reading, and the reading reminds, refreshes, and reinforces all those things.

Third, there is no substitute for getting the vibe of Greek besides reading it. As with all languages, there is an X-factor to Greek-a vibe, an inner coherence-that is impossible to catch without reading a lot of Greek. Verb tables alone won't do it. Vocab alone won't do it. Reading grammars and monographs about Greek won't do it either. Only reading actual Greek text will do it. It is far and away the most important thing to be doing in order to keep your Greek, and indeed to advance your Greek.

And it only has to be a small amount of reading. Half an hour reading Greek each day would be terrific, but even ten minutes is great. I know some guys who just aim to read one sentence of Greek a day. It doesn't have to involve a big-time commitment-just do a little each day. You'd be surprised at how much difference ten minutes of reading Greek each day makes over the long term. It doesn't feel like much at the time, but it will do wonders for your knowledge and ability. So, don't despise "the day of small things"; a little bit is what you want. A little bit is the key.

In fact, I would recommend starting smaller rather than bigger, especially if your Greek is rusty. Half an hour of reading Greek could do you more damage than good to begin with because the confidence factor is really important here. If you read for half an hour and end up deeply discouraged, or if you despair at how much you don't know, you'll be less likely to stay the course. Start small. Read for ten minutes a day and don't worry about how much you don't know or how little text you cover in that time. You will gradually find yourself wanting to read for longer. If you have the time in the day to increase to fifteen or twenty minutes, or eventually thirty minutes, that's great. Just don't bite off more than you can chew to begin with.

Here's another tip: begin with "easy" Greek, like John's gospel. The vocabulary is limited and the syntax is straightforward (while the theology is profound!). This will help your confidence and get you into the swing of things. If you've been away from Greek for quite a while, starting off with 1 Peter or Hebrews would be a big mistake. Even Paul might be too much for now. That's OK; we'll get there in time.

Your Habit

The key here is to develop a habit. As with all good habits, it may take some motivation and energy to get started. But once the pattern is established and you are reading some Greek each day, the habit will take care of itself. It will become as routine as brushing your teeth.

It's worth noting, too, however, that reading every day need not become a type of legalism that leaves you feeling guilty or inadequate if you miss a day here or there. It's OK to miss an occasional day during a particularly busy time. In fact, you may decide you want to read five days a week and take weekends off. That's perfectly fine. The important thing is that a habit is formed in which you are reading some Greek at least several times a week. If you can develop this habit, you will be well on your way to keeping your Greek.

Summary: Reading Greek is not only effective for maintaining and developing your Greek skills; it can also be done regularly without a huge time commitment.

Blog Responses

Shane Thanks Con. Helpful hint, though I sometimes feel I never really learnt Greek well enough in the first place to keep it up-I just satisfied my examiners then moved on, with the odd reference to the language every now and then. What would you recommend for the person who needs serious review?

Con Campbell Thanks, Shane, that's an important issue, and I think I'll address it in a future post. Stay tuned!

Mark Stevens Thank you for this very encouraging post. As a minister with little spare time to spend hours reviewing it is nice to know my "little bit" every day helps. I personally try to read a bit in my morning Bible reading. I would be interested to know what you think of using software such as Logos to help the process of reading Greek.

Gazman Hey, Con, my problem is that the first thing that has gone from my grey matter is the vocab, especially reading books we didn't cover at College (and even those we did, to be honest). This is one of my problems with trying to read every day, apart from my random nature that despises routine. I try and structurally chart the flow of each passage I preach on, as verb forms, prepositions, clause markers, etc. are still easily recognisable. Then I can just look up the words I don't recognise much more easily (although preparing a series on 2 Peter has got my brain to bursting point). Do you reckon this might be helpful for others as well?

Con Campbell Hi Gazman, thanks for your comments. I'll address the issue of vocab down the track, but I think flowcharting is enormously helpful in its own right, and I think if it helps you to keep your Greek ticking over, then all the better. Mark, I'll comment about software soon ... (promises, promises).

Laura "A little bit every day keeps it all ticking along. And it really only has to be a little. Half an hour reading Greek each day would be terrific, but even ten minutes would be great." ... Hence the Greek NT in my parents' bathroom at home.

Con Campbell lol!

Wayne Connor Thanks Con. Would a word a day work?


Excerpted from Keep your Greek by Constantine R. Campbell Copyright © 2010 by Constantine R. Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Greek Makes a Difference 7

1 Read Every Day 13

2 Burn Your Interlinear 19

3 Use Software Tools Wisely 26

4 Make Vocabulary Your Friend 36

5 Practice Your Parsing 49

6 Read Fast 55

7 Read Slow 62

8 Use Your Senses 66

9 Get Your Greek Back 70

10 Putting It All Together 76

Appendix: Get It Right the First Time 81

Resources 87

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Rightly does Campbell insist that Christian teachers and preachers need to keep their Greek going, and shrewdly does he spell out ways and means of doing that.” — J.I. Packer

“Why hasn’t anybody ever written a little book like this before? First-year Greek students should read it. Exegesis students should read it. Preachers who have had a year or two of Greek should read it. And it’s so short and straightforward, the same person should read it in all three capacities. Do what Con Campbell says and you will keep your Greek. But don’t just believe him; read the exchanges from his blogsite which he includes that prove it!” — Craig L. Blomberg, Ph D

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Keep Your Greek: Strageies for Busy People 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
jclemence on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sure, I spent many semesters and countless hours learning and studying Koine Greek while in college and seminary. But what have I done with it since then? Truth be told, the thing I've done the most is to let my skills atrophy. Lately I have been wanting to regain those skills, but I wasn't sure of the best way to go about it. With extremely limited time at my disposal and many responsibilities to manage, I could use some advice. Luckily, I managed to get a copy of Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People. (Thank you, Zondervan!) Author Con Campbell provides a number of quick and easy ways to keep up on and even get better at Greek* in only a few minutes each day. I appreciated that he specifically states in the introduction that this is not a formulaic, "10-step" program, nor is it a magic bullet, but rather a list of habits and/or exercises that he has found helpful over the years. Ultimately, this is a pragmatic book: It's about getting back into the Greek NT by taking one, two or three of the ideas Campbell espouses and incorporating them into your daily routine--or even springboarding off of his ideas and creating your own.This book is an easy and quick read, full of good ideas and resources for Greek. As this book was originally a series of blog posts, Campbell includes the comments he received at the end of each chapter, which (surprisingly to me) added a fresh, new element of interacting with the material. As a bonus, he also takes a look at pros and cons of interlinears, software tools, and other resources commonly used by students. I share his dislike for interlinears and so did not learn much new here, but I did appreciate his comments about software tools, since that is one area I have never investigated using in my own study. Finally, I appreciated the last chapter, wherein Campbell articulates how he uses the techniques mentioned previously in his own personal study. It lends much credence to the author to know that and how he uses his own advice. The only thing I disliked about the book is that some of the tips and tricks mentioned, to my mind, seem like they would take a bit longer than advertised, at least initially.Overall, this book came just at the right time for me, as one who is seeking to regain his Greek (and Hebrew) skills. Now comes the hard part: Putting it into practice. But I don't think Dr. Campbell or anyone else can help me with that!*And, of course, the ideas presented apply equally to biblical Hebrew, as well.