Five Things to Do Until You Master Greek
So youíre studying New Testament Greek and finding it a bit of a challenge. A lot of people donít stick with it. ďI tried learning Greek and it didnít work for me.Ē The problem with these people may just be that they never learned persistence. Do you want to master the Greek language and be able to use it in your walk with God and in your service for Him? If you do, you will have to put forth some effort. How can we ďstick with itĒ in a practical sense?
One aspect of persistence is spending time in your Greek New Testament every day. Notice, I said spend time. Itís an investment, a conscious choice on your part. Donít wait for it to just happen. Make time in the Greek text an indispensable part of your day. I do, and I never fail to benefit from it. If you need to, use any help that is out there, including interlinears. Yes, I said interlinears Ė which are usually considered anathema to Greek teachers. But if an interlinear can get you into the text, itís worth the effort. As one preacher put it, ďHalitosis is better than no breath at all.Ē Amen!
Second, take time to pray. Ask God to help you. For many Greek students, things go well for a few weeks. But as soon as a little difficulty comes their way they say, ďForget it. This is impossible.Ē Thatís when you need to go to God in prayer. John wrote, ďThis is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will we know that we have the petitions we have asked of HimĒ (1 John 5:14-15). Prayer is your lifeline to God and your only source of strength. Take advantage of it.
Third, those who want to master the Greek language must grow constantly in their knowledge of grammar. If youíve already had a year of Greek but are floundering, why not pick up a good intermediate textbook and begin reviewing your paradigms and syntax? Dan Wallaceís Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is excellent for this purpose. Others find my Itís Still Greek to Me helpful. If youíre going to master Greek youíre going to have become a perpetual student of the language. Iím sorry, but there arenít any shortcuts, no easy solutions. We canít skip a grade or two.
Fourth, to master Greek means to be patient with yourself. You put one foot in front of the other. Itís a steady gait, not a foot race. As I said above, the only way to get the job done is to stick with it.
Finally, let me suggest that you teach others what youíre learning. Itís often been said that the best way to learn something is by teaching it. This can make all the difference. Itís interesting that my best students tend to be those who are teaching Greek to others, whether in their small group fellowships or to their children at home or in their Sunday School classes. Last year I taught beginning Greek in my local church every Monday night for a year. We started out with 55 students and finished with six. At times I almost decided to give up. Itís at times like these that I have to ask myself, ďWho am I serving? Am I doing this for God or for me?Ē The Bible says, ďLet us not grow weary while doing what is good, because at the right time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heartĒ (Gal. 6:9). Iím so proud of those six students who finished the course, who ran the race to the end. Iím also deeply appreciative of the efforts of those who had to drop out along the way, some for serious medical problems. (My wife Becky, one of my very best students, had to leave the course because of her surgery and chemotherapy).
I know that Greek can be tough. If anyone ever experienced a sinking feeling while studying this language, it was me. I dropped out of my beginning Greek class at Biola after only three weeks! Thankfully I went on to take Moody Bible Instituteís correspondence course and, by Godís grace, aced it. Remember what Peterís problem was when he was walking on the water? He took his eyes off the Lord. And that just about says it all.
October 20, 2010
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.