The First Steps into New Testament Greek summer school that we run each year at Newman University is always something a little bit special. Firstly, it is more than just an intensive learning crash-course in New Testament Greek. Initial language acquisition is an integral part of the week, but we also spend time looking at the world in which the language was used and that produced our early Christian writings. We also spend time working with the Greek text in a variety of forms and contexts that include; critical editions, online texts, manuscripts and inscriptions.
The aim of the course is as much about building confidence and understanding as it is about grammar. For many people, the idea of learning a ‘dead language’ particularly one with, what to some might appear, strangely shaped letters can be daunting. It is particularly thrilling to watch those attending grow in their confidence. It is surprising how much progress you can make in a week and it is great to see people who have never met the Greek alphabet before begin to read out sentences and phrases from the New Testament. One of the special characteristics of these weeks is the way everyone works together. I am always struck by their generosity and support for one another.
Another feature of the course is the way we engage with the texts. From our initial introduction to the Greek alphabet on day one, we encounter and work through some of the classic translation challenges that the New Testament offers us. For me teaching the course, one of the most important aspects about learning NT Greek is how it creates a deep appreciation that our Bibles are translated literature – and that the work of the translator is far from easy! As Robert Alter once said, “All translation consists of long roads of painful compromise.” This does not mean that we should all throw our English versions of the Bible away, just be much more aware of the types of ‘compromises’ and the grounds upon which translational decisions are made.
As this year’s Summer Greek comes to an end, it has, once more, been a really wonderful journey with a group of people who became friends and together we explored some incredible things, laughed, struggled, and most of all learnt such a lot together. Thank you.
If this sounds like the course for you, look out for announcements of Summer Greek 2020!