Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Instant Greek?

There is a very interesting post at Better Bibles Blog about "Sunday School Greek."

The premise, put forward by Hank of Think Wink, and warmly received by the ESV Bible blog is that eve[r]yone in the church could learn Greek and Hebrew in Sunday School. And then people could decide for themselves all the sticky translation issues. The democratization of exegesis! We might wake up one day and find out that the world really is flat.

<idle musing>
Right! On the basis of how much Greek and Hebrew? I am all in favor of people learning the languages, after all, I was a Greek and Latin teacher, but let's be realistic about expectations here. One of the hardest things already about a language is managing expectations. A person outside of a consistent, almost daily, classroom setting has to be very highly motivated to learn a language, any language.

Furthermore, you can't do exegesis well with only 1-2 years of Greek or Hebrew, let alone judge translational issues. Not infrequently there are textual issues, as well as language issues. How many second year Greek or Hebrew students use the critical apparatus and understand what it means?

I have seen some of the translations that first and second year students come up with! Phooey, I remember some of my own!

By all means, learn the languages, at least enough to understand how to use the tools. But, don't assume that because you know a little of the language you can correct the translators. More accurately, you begin to understand the semantic domain of a word in the Greek/Hebrew and understand why the translations might disagree on the exact English word or phrase chosen.
</idle musing>

No comments: