The language field is full of grammarians and very, very few language teachers. Language students spend years in “language” classes, from high school to university, only to find in the end, they can’t use the language. Within days to months after classes everything they “learned” fades into a hazy blackness. What is wrong with this actual picture? Simple! GRAMMAR, that’s what.

Students in these so-called “language” classes are expected to learn “grammar” and THEN the language. From the first day, by default, the new student is thrown into a maze of confusion. And, yes, they find they must learn TWO new languages not one. The second language is the grammatical slang, lingo, required to understand what the grammar means before they learn what the words of the real language means.

Here’s the problem in a basic, but too true statement: “Grammar (aka ‘language’ teachering) is nothing but a jigsaw puzzle for word fanatics! And, they have formed an exclusive society that is enthralled with this particular puzzle, the language puzzle. They are constantly trying to find a way to FIT the words, phrases, etc. of a language into a puzzle that won’t accept the pieces. Why? Because it is a puzzle made by puzzle fanatics. This causes great harm and confusion on the neophyte language student.

Let me give you a quote to show you what I mean. This is from a 2010 book, not an old out-dated grammar, attempting to fill in the puzzle better.

“The goal of this project is to FILL IN [i.e. place the puzzle piece] this lacuna [read ‘puzzle’], providing practical solutions to grammatical problems with minimal jargon. [And, then proceeds throughout the work bringing forward new jargon to add to the old.]”

The writer goes on to expose the real problem, but doesn’t have a clue as to what causes it. He writes:

“I do not seek to reinvent Greek grammar by reviewing how the particular issue has been treated by NT grammarians. It quickly becomes apparent that MANY CONTRADICTORY CLAIMS have been made over the years, with little effort to reconcile them.”

Here is a clue to the whole problem of poor language teaching, in particular Biblical Greek. Although this author might not recognize this, he and his cohorts should. The “contradictory claims” are in THEIR grammars, and minds, and not at all in the language itself! For instance, let’s look at word meanings. [Instead of confusing you with the chaos of grammar language, I try to use ordinary everyday language to describe these problems for you, thus, “word meanings” versus “lexical definitions.”]

A simple Greek word like AND, has multiple meanings in the minds of the grammarians and translators. They never stop to think of this simple truth:

The word AND, or KAI in the Greek, meant one thing to the first century writer and reader of the New Testament. The word meant KAI.

Unlike our “scholars” and “puzzle fanatics” of today, the first century writers and readers did not turn KAI into DE, or tote, or eti, etc., as the pseudo-Greek language teachers today do when translating this word into English. Today, in order to appease the English reader they CLAIM KAI means: and, even, also, but, and then, and yet, namely, both, plus more when translated into English. However, the writer, reader and speaker of that day just thought KAI when they heard KAI. Just in the same way you hear and understand AND when you read or hear AND. You don’t think, THEN, when your read or hear AND, nor YET, nor BUT, etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseaum.Nope, just like the ancient person, you think the word you hear or read. The word puzzle experts today just can’t grasp that simplicity of language used daily by the masses.

One has to remember, we are talking about an EXCLUSIVE club of puzzle fanatics who must constantly reshape the pieces in order to make them fit the clubs exclusive puzzle picture, which they create, but for the most part is not in the language itself.

Here’s another clue to the CHAOS and CONFUSION in language teaching, especially one like Biblical Greek. The grammarians cannot go to, and quote as their authority, ancient Greek grammars written at the time the language was developed. Or, even later. No, they must quote some accepted man who has made consensus accepted guesses at the grammar of the language. For example:

“Stanley Porter, Stephen Levinsohn, and others have been working tirelessly to show New Testament students…with James Barr’s Semantics of Biblical Language. …the fascinating work of Ferdinand de Saussure’s Cours de linguistique generale (1916)…”

And, further:

“Dr. A. T. Robertson, the great Greek grammarian, counsels:”

“Dr. Robertson says, “

“Dr. Wallace teaches,”

“Again, Dr. Wallace observes,”

“Here’s how M. J. Harris, a well-respected expert on the Greek prepositions expresses his understanding”

“E. G. Selwyn finds a possible allusion,”

“F. F. Bruce comments,”

“Dr. James Montgomery Boice points out,”

“Dr. Hawthorne explains that SYN teaches,”

“Dr. Robertson comments on this verse…whereas Dr. Harris describes it as…”

“Dr. J. Gresham Machen, [who wrote New Testament Greek for Beginners], we will use his words to instruct us:”

I could go on with a full booklet quoting these kinds of statements. But, I think this final quote says it just right, and links us to the real problem:

“It is important for us to understand the prepositions in an ACADEMICALLY ACCURATE manner. [Not in the manner actually used by the average person writing and reading the Biblical Greek.] So pay close attention to what these excellent Greek professors have to teach us.” p. 45, Gospel Road Pictures.

And, how did those professors become “excellent Greek professors”? By quoting and learning and memorizing what the men who were guessing before them wrote.

Here’s how this works:

I write a book giving my guesses and opinions on a subject, like, well, NT Greek. Someone reads that book. He writes a book expressing his guesses and opinions and quotes me to support his guesses and opinions that I first agreed to. Let’s call him John. Well, Jill finds and reads his book, sees his quotes from me, and buys my book also. Then, she writes a book of her guesses and opinions, quoting John and me to support her thoughts. Then, along comes James, then George, then Sally, then Karen, then Richard, etc. They each write books of their guesses and opinions, quoting all of us who came before them, and finally, we have “excellent Greek professors” who are masters of what we said, but cannot simply teach NT Greek to the public. But, boy, do they know the Grammar Lingo language to describe their puzzle and the pieces they are trying to force into that puzzle. Meanwhile, we have some few folks who just learn the language, use it, and can read and teach the actual language to fluency. And, they teach the grammar AFTER enough language is learned, and IN that language. In other words, teach the grammar in NT Greek instead of English. This reinforces the LANGUAGE and not the Grammar Lingo.

Oh, have you ever seen the lingo? It turns new students off like crazy. Here’s a sampling:

Present Active Indicative, Movable n, The First Declension, Attributive and Predicate Positions, Substantive use of.., Enclitics, Genetive, Dative, Deponent, Imperfect Active Indicative, First Aorist Active and Middle Indicative; it gets worse from here. Let me give you a very simple quote that should show what the CHAOS and CONFUSION looks like when one finally knows it is there:

“The thematic/athematic principle can account for both the default deictic use of demonstratives and the various effects achieved by their marked usage. I also demonstrated in chapter 14, in the discussion of left-dislocations, that demonstratives are virtually the only option for referring to a complex proposition in position P1 or P2. This usage MAY explain claims of emphasis regarding a different portion of data. Whether because of information structure or thematicity, the demonstrative pronoun may be used to add prominence to the entity to which it refers.”

Got it? Explain it back to the average person sitting at service listening to a sermon and who wants to understand the Greek NT. Here’s another one:

“This section begins with examples in which demonstratives are added as adjectival modifiers in a context where they are not needed to identify the intended referent. Note that the decision to use a demonstrative also requires a choice of which to use, the near or the far. It is not just the presence of a demonstrative, but also a matter of which one. It is important to correlate the thematic value of the demonstrative’s referent and the demonstrative used. The demonstratives can be indicators of the participant’s thematic significance to the discourse when they are not used deictically.”

Got it? Now, explain it to the average person you know who wants to learn NT Greek.

What we have here is a diatribe written for the members of the exclusivelet’s make a puzzle out of languages” club. The whole thing, for the member and like minded is really fascinating and mind capturing. But, as to actually learning NT Greek, or any language, it just doesn’t make the course. More grammarians are developed from such material than actual language speakers. Oh, that’s another point. Most of these grammars tell the student that the grammar is only to teach them “to read” the NT. Not, speak it, write it, converse in it, just “read it.” But, here’s the problem. Most can’t even do that after such courses. And, within a few months the whole thing is gone, even for the minister, pastor, much less the layman.

Nice way to keep the layman in stupidity about what the language really says, don’t you think?

On the other hand, would YOU like to actually learn the language? Within minutes you can be reading the Greek New Testament text. You’ll be at a 5% level almost immediately. Within a two-week period, if you are a fast learner, you can read up to 75-80% of the text without a lexicon. For a slow learner, it might take four to eight weeks. From there, you can concentrate on adding vocabulary and then learn some grammar.

Language first, then grammar, IF needed.

I’d suggest you now begin to follow my blog on the Greek language. Click the tab “blogs” at the top of the page, then on the “Bob’s Notebook” link.

Happy learning. “Xaire.”

Author: Bob Petry

Student of the Bible since 1953. And am still learning.

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