!! Theology Segment !! Learning Greek in Logos – Better than a Reader’s Edition !
This morning I settled into working on learning Greek again. Not sure why. Reading the Greek NT and the LXX as comfortably as I do the NKJV is just something I’ve always wanted to do. But, I’ve struggled over the years. I’ve managed to learn the alphabet and I’ve been able to memorize a handful of words, but that’s about it. I can sound out any Greek word presented (for the most part). Not sure if my pronunciation is anywhere close to accurate (not that anyone actually agrees on what is accurate anyway), but I really have no intention of ever going to Greece nor do I intend to strike up a conversation with a seminary graduate who majored in biblical languages. Really, I’m learning Koine Greek so I can “read” the Bible devotionally.
So, let’s talk about what I’m doing now with Logos and how it actually seems to be working out quite well…
Language Failures in the Past
Learning biblical Greek is really just for me. To be honest, every attempt in the past to learn a different languages other than my native American English has failed. I guess I’m the quintessential lazy American. Then again, I’ve never been one to commit to something if there wasn’t a significant return on my investment.
When I landed in Europe I tried to learn German. I found a book, even had a few German friends I met out in the community that tried to help me. But, it was no use. I really never adopted the German culture while I was there and the real issue preventing me was there was no genuine or practical need to learn the language. I lived on base. I shopped on base. When I traveled around I rarely struck up conversations with Germany people and when I did, they spoke English.
Fast forward to the early 2000’s and I was working at a car wash. There was a driver of a cargo truck that would come in regularly who was hispanic. He noticed my collection of Bibles and concordances and Bible dictionaries in my duffle back that I always brought to work with me and we quickly befriended each other. Later I would discover that he was a Jehovah’s Witness (so theologically we were worlds apart), but he did come in one night with a little black Bible as a gift – it was a Spanish translation. Over the course of several months he would try to help me learn Spanish whenever he came in. I even remember calling a local Spanish speaking church to find out if they would allow me to attend to help learn.
I never did.
Again, the major reason was a lack of need. There was no real motivation. I do not have Spanish speaking friends (I don’t have friends of any nationality, really). I do not have family members that speak Spanish. I don’t find learning languages enjoyable. I certainly had no call or interest in traveling to or being a missionary or Bible teacher in a foreign country where the people spoke Spanish.
Needless to say, I never learned the language.
Why Learn Greek?
I really don’t know why I want to learn Greek. Part of it, I think, is just trying to succeed at something. Anything. But, really, it’s enjoyable. Especially now with Logos and Anki. It’s been a long time goal to learn Greek so I can devotionally read both the NT and LXX instead of relying on English translations.
I will say, at least at this point, it does seem rather an impossible feat. I’m reading through Jude now and the sentence structure and the word order is just so foreign and so strange. I look at the Greek sentence and then at the NKJV translation and I have no idea how they got the Greek to say that in English!
But, I keep thinking about how I learned English. Of course, it took years. But, really, I was fluent by the time I was 5 or 6, right? Much more so by 10-11. In my teenage years I was writing short stories with English and receiving high praise from my teachers about my writing. I didn’t know how English grammar worked. I still don’t. But I knew the patterns. I knew what “sounded right.”
It’s my hope that I can do the same thing with Greek. One challenge is I’m not learning it immersively like I did English. Plus, I’m also learning Greek in a vacuum, whereas my English acquisition was in the community of my family and my peers at school and also television.
I’ve tried my hand at watching Greek television or television that’s translated into Greek and I really don’t care all that much for it, though I just discovered my Elmedia player will take subtitle files and there is a Greek subtitles site online for the shows I regularly watch (just found it). This is promising. Also I’ve discovered it seems quite easy to switch between English and Greek on my Mac. Pair that with a side-by-side of Google translate and I can see some interesting translations.
How I’m Using Logos
So, over the years, I’ve tried several diferent iterations to learn Greek. I learned the alphabet a long time ago. Played around a little during the 2000’s, but it wasn’t until the rise of the modern internet that I really became invested.
Back when I was trying to get a PhD in Biblical Studies at a now defunct online university, I did an independent study course that outlined how I was learning the language. I basically would use a word processor and print out the Greek text, double spaced, and would then attempt to translate the pages by hand, looking up words as I went in the lexicons. It was painstaking and provided little results.
Later I would try the various services available online. Duolingo, etc. They were okay, but they did not really provide results either.
About a year or two ago I stumbled onto a video by Mastering New Testament Greek. This guy teaches a specific program where you order the books of the Bible according to the least amount of new Greek words you have to learn to “read” each book. Then you learn the vocabulary for that book so you can start reading quickly. Repeat with each new book until you can fluently read the NT. That’s great, but I have really no interest in paying money for a course and spend the next year interacting with other people. Plus, the definition in this program of “read” is closer to “translate” or “interpret” than actually reading the Greek words themselves. I think avoiding this has a lot to do with the debate over pronunciation, but I could care less about this anyway. But I don’t want to be able to “read” through the Greek NT/LXX translating in my head into English on the fly. I want to read in the Greek and understand in the Greek (if that’s really even possible). I definitely have no interest in learning Greek grammar, at least not any differently than I learned English grammar (I don’t really understand grammar, I just know how to write and read).
But, I got onto Logos and quickly found that I can easily create a wordlist for a particular book or chapter (or verse or even the whole Bible) that is organized by frequency. It even provides in the wordlist a button for each word to hear the word sounded out. This list can be exported to csv format. I dump this into Anki and it auto produces flash cards for whatever book, chapter, or section I’m wanting to be able to read.
After several sessions of using the flash cards, I can then go to my text in Logos and read through the text. I’ve got it set up with a NKJV on the right and corresponding word selected so if I come across a word in the Greek I don’t remember or don’t know, I click on it once in the Greek and the word is highlighted in blue in the Greek text AND also in the NKJV on the right.
Previously I was using the Reader’s Edition to the interlinear, but I’ve found it’s better at this point to use the previously described process. English definitions are not immediately available without a click, but are close enough that I don’t have to struggle to find them. This is actually very similar to LingQ or Biblingo but without the associated cost.
Goal Going Forward
In all honestly, I think using just the Greek text with the NKJV English in parallel with quick corresponding highlighting would be the only tools I needed to learn Greek. Memorizing the words as well as the practical nature of the grammar (patterns) would all be learned in context as I was working through the text. After all, this is primarily how I learned English and expanded my native language vocabulary. I would read a lot of books and whenever I came across a word I didn’t know I would look it up in the dictionary. With logos this is automatic with a single click.
But, I think just reading the text every day will take a long time to really get a fluent handle on the Greek, so I decided to include daily review of vocabulary for each particular chapter, plus I’m organizing the order of books I’m working through based on the number of words I need to learn for each book. I want to maximize my progress, so I’m ordering books by several factors:
1. Low number of new words to learn.
2. Low number of 1x words.
3. Short books.
4. Interesting books.
By striking a balance between these 4 items I think I will be able to keep both production, acquisition, and interest high enough to keep going. My goal is to be fluent in both NT and LXX Greek as well as be able to easily read subtitles on tv shows and maybe even carry on a conversation in Greek (that last one I’m not certain about).
In the end, I’m really excited for the next few months in hopes that I will not only be able to stick with this process but that I will see actual results. I listen to the Bible every day 3 x a day, 3 chapters each time as my devotional. I would love to eventually replace the NKJV with the Greek NT and LXX and also replace the audio reading of the NKJV with an audio of the NT/LXX and be able to both read the text and understand the audio.
Until my next post….
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Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:
There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.
“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.
He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.
Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.
“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”
He chuckled at himself.
“So – ”
Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.
“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”
Mr. Eckey nodded.
“How long have you been a novitiate here?”
“Going on seven months now.”
He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.
“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”
“It has been – ”
Christopher thought about the question for a moment.
“ – wonderful.”
“I would assume it much different than – ”
Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.
“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”
“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”
“Not really. I guess. I just – ”
Unwanted images flashed through his mind.
Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.
“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”
He tapped his pen on the tablet.
“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”
“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”
“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”
Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.
“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”
“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.
“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”
The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.
“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”
Mr. Eckey stopped writing.
“Your military career.”
“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”
Mr. Eckey put his pen down.
“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”
He shifted his weight on the hard bench.
“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”
“Are you talking about another monastery?”
“Actually – ”
Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.
“It’s an entirely different Order.”
Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.
“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”
Mr. Eckey waited a moment.
“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”
“What about it?”
“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”
Christopher shot him a quizzical look.
“How do you know that?”
“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”
Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.
“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”
“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”
Christopher tried to relax.
He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.
A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.
He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.
Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.
“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”
“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey shook his head.
“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”
“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”
“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”
“I’m – I don’t – ”
“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”
Mr. Eckey interrupted.
“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”
“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.
Mr. Eckey smiled.
“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”
“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”
“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”
“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.
“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.
Christopher said nothing.
“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”
The man shrugged.
“May I – ”
Christopher pondered his words.
“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”
Christopher shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”
“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”
He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.
“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”
“But, how – ”
Mr. Eckey put up a hand.
“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”
He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”
Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.
“What kind of need, exactly?”
The man just smiled.
“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”
Christopher looked back at the card.
“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”
He briefly looked around the grounds.
“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”
He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.
Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.
The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.
He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.
Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?
Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!
But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!