Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Discussions About "Which" Greek Grammar To Use Are Not New

I was reading Paul Botley's Learning Greek in Western Europe, 1396–1529: Grammars, Lexica, and Classroom Texts (Philadelphia: APS, 2010). I couldn't help but chuckle when I read about Girolamo Aleandro's experience upon arriving in Paris to teach Greek in 1508. A Greek grammar by Manuel Chrysolaras was written in 1406. It became the single most important Greek grammar for the next hundred or so years. In fact, it was the first Greek grammar translated into French and printed in France. The year was 1507. When Girolamo Aleandro arrived to teach, Greek students were enamored with the grammar. Well, everyone except Aleandro. He wanted to use Constantine Lascaris' Greek grammar, which had been written in 1495. Botley lays out the reasons as follows:
"It was a much finer piece of printing, it had a Latin translation, and it was supplied with a collection of student texts. It was also an expensive book, even before the costs of getting it to Paris had been added. This last factor probably accounts for much of the loyalty of the Parisians to the unpolished products of their first Greek press" (10). 
Why did I smile? Because the same issues we wrestle with today in academia and publishing were those that have nearly always existed. There are champions for textbooks and then there are people who are champions of the actual language. The truth is everyone has a preference. I look at some Greek textbooks and just think they make little sense–as far as how they are laid out pedagogically, etc. I have my own preferences. Perhaps I'll get around to writing a task-based introduction to the Greek of the New Testament once I finish up this dissertation with the Complutense.

Why did I smile? Because price is always an issue. It doesn't matter if the print press was invented forty years ago or over five hundred years ago. Price has always been an issue. And for students it is a major consideration. And for people who live far away from the presses it is an issue. That's one of the reasons why we did Dave Black's Learn to Read New Testament Greek in such a unique way when took it into the Spanish language. It needed to be affordable or the tool that we hoped to put in the hands of our brothers and sisters abroad would never even be a reality. I think we've seen an amazing response to our translation of Dave's Greek grammar. The publisher sends us updates regularly and I continue to be amazed at how many people are getting a copy. By the way, the vast majority of sales is of digital editions of the book. You can't beat .99 cents, can you? I wonder what those Parisians would have thought about that!

We need to care about the biblical languages. We need to care about biblical language tools. We ought to have preferences about what tools we think are best, and those preferences ought to be well reasoned and informed on the best pedagogical principles and research. But we gotta remember one more thing. Any tool that gets people into the language of the New Testament, by God I'm thankful for it . . . shortcomings and all! In my classes we use a particular Greek grammar, but I'm always informing my students of others and even exposing them to discussions found within those grammars. I want those grammars to be tools they use, not preferences that they champion.

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