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« O Worship the King | Main | Crown Him With Many Crowns »
Tuesday
Feb132018

How Koine Greek is teaching me to slow down

I am afraid that I have very fast reactions. That can be good when a kid has hurt himself or something needs to be done immediately. It means that even in my ten year old car, I am often the first one away when the red light changes. But it often has bad repercussions. When we react quickly, we may end up being careless.

Most of the errors I make on Greek quizzes are stupid things. Last week, for example, I got 22.5/25. Two of the mistakes were real mistakes; things I just didn't know well. But one arose from acting too quickly. Instead of translating "waters," I said "water." A half a mark because I was careless. I hate losing marks when I know it but reacted too quickly.

And now we meet participles. Our textbook, by Bill Mounce, has us quaking in fear about participles. They are weird things. They are part verb, part noun, part adjective. We have been pouring over verb endings and tense formatives to learn our verbs cold, and now we have to put noun endings on them. It feels strange. It looks like a verb, and it kind of acts like a verb, but it isn't a verb. It means paying attention.

The verb translated "I am loosing," λύω (lu-oh), in the third person singular ("he is loosing") looks like this: λύουσι (lu-oo-see). The dative, masculine, active, plural participle, translated "loosing," looks exactly the same. "Loosing," and "he is loosing" are not the same thing grammatically. This is where context becomes really important, because it will tell me if I'm translating an indicative verb or a participle. It means I have to slow down. And the kicker of course is that there are countless examples where words look the same but only context will differentiate them.

I could not help but think that the whole issue of learning to slow down is not only beneficial for studying Koine Greek, or any other subject for that matter. I still have nightmares about failing algebra tests because of something as small as a forgotten negative sign. We are a society full of distractions and lacking silence. When we start thinking that 500 words is long, it reveals a lot about how we read. We don't like details; we just want the basic facts. That isn't going to work in Greek, and for much of life, it won't work, either. When it comes to listening to others, it can be crucial to avoid miscommunication. Instead of mentally preparing our response while the other person is still speaking, we need to really listen to others. That means slowing down and paying attention. It may mean asking the person to clarify. Learning how to be thoughtful and measured is still a work in progress for me. But I'm thankful that I'm learning, however slowly.

I highly recommend Christians try their hand at Koine Greek. It's a lot of fun even when it's difficult. And the side benefits are an extra bonus.

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