#4–Greek Life: It means something different to us as seminarians now…

Xάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 

Grace to you and peace from God the father and the lord Jesus Christ. 

Hillary and I just recently wrapped up our first class as seminarians: Language of the Early Church (AKA: Summer Greek). This three week intensive brought us to the city of brotherly love–Philadelphia. Specifically, the second campus of our seminary located in the heart of Germantown. Hillary and I called a small, college style dorm room home for three weeks while we embarked into the language used to write much of the New Testament.

Our experience with Greek was wonderful, which has not been a common theme for many pastors or ministers who have taken it in the past. I want to point out, however, that our class was not so focused on the memorization of roots and declensions. Our professor, Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman (VH for short), has crafted an interactive, practical approach for clergy and lay people to make sense of biblical (Koine) Greek for study, interpretation, and reflection. This means some good and not as good things depending on your view. On one hand, if looking at what we cannot do after taking this class, we did not spend hours memorizing declension patterns, vocabulary, or learn how to create and write new Koine Greek text. On the other, more positive hand, we know the “24 ways to say the” in Greek, we can recognize those patterns to identify the cases of words, and we know how to understand the person, number, tense, voice, mood, or any mix of other information for various words (like indicatives, imperatives, infinitives, substantives, optatives, participles, pro/nouns, prepositions, and conditionals). VH begins the class outlining his goal for us to take this information and actually put it to use in our ministries in the future. We are constantly asked to “go back to the Greek” to discover first hand the interpreter bias which comes out in our English translations today, and to ask ourselves why does this translation read differently than the Greek–is it for the ease of reading, or does it communicate a different theological claim than the original author intended. And yes, we did memorize some words, specifically the 109 most common words in the new testament. As VH reminded us often, it helps save time if you don’t have to look up every single word when working with the scriptures–learning the common words is simply for efficiency.

Tied intricately with this class was the tool Accordance Bible Software. This phenomenal tool is a library at your fingertips. Literally, what used to take up shelves and shelves on in a theologian’s office is now compressed into a dropdown menu on the computer screen. Rather than dog-earing dozens of pages in the Greek New Testament and different translations of the bible, you can scroll through all the texts at once. Additionally, VH created a morphological highlighting system which helps the user identify the parts of speech of thousands of words. This helped tremendously with forming our own understanding and translation. (You can check out a video by Accordance featuring our Prof’s tools here.

In addition to learning Greek in the classroom for five to six hours each day, there was also a lot of time spent studying in small groups–which often devolved into trips to the convenience store, movies, or board games. In all honesty, Summer Greek truly serves dual purposes: one is clear, the teaching of Greek since it is fundamental to study church history and scripture for the rest of seminary; and two, to build community. Almost every night was some event focused on bringing our new class together. We did cookouts, watched Greek related movies (Disney Hercules and My Big Fat Greek Wedding), and, of course, played board games. Hillary and I brought a good selection of games, but one of our (mostly my) favorites was a favorite of others, too. We played Scythe probably a dozen times in the evenings after studying. We even knocked out a four player game in 40 minutes after our final! Other games were played, too. But in enjoyed getting to play Scythe so much I needed to share in the actually blog post (as always, other games will be posted later).

Finally, I want to share with you the adventures Hillary and I have coming up this semester. Classes begin Tuesday, August 28th. We are taking the following courses: Church History 1: Dynamic Faith of the Church, Systematic Theology 1: Creation, Sin, and New Creation, Reading and Telling the Story, and Worshipping Communities. We will meet once for each class during a three hour block each week (one per day, Tuesday – Friday, actually). We look forward to sharing what we learn with you in the future, but until then, thanks for reading!

Grace and Peace to you,

Evan Christensen

Board Game Update:

Recently Played:

Hope to Play Soon:

[Thank you to John Lowry for the photo from Facebook]

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