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Do Seminary Greek Professors Know Greek?

September 14, 2011

From Daniel Streett:

In November, 2008, I presented a paper at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on teaching Greek communicatively. As an experiment, I began my presentation by passing out a quiz for attendees to take….

Keep in mind that most of those who attend ETS are faculty at colleges or seminaries. There are also a large number of doctoral students, and a smattering of other graduate students. And, only people who currently teach Greek or hope to teach Greek would want to attend a paper on Greek pedagogy. So, my audience was made up of mostly Greek professors and doctoral-level students who had probably taken, on average, 4-7 years of Greek by now and some of whom had been teaching Greek for 20-30 years by now.

After the audience had finished, I collected their quizzes. The average “grade” was 0.4 out 10 correct. Most testees could not answer any of the questions correctly, although they tried. The highest grade was 2 out of 10. Now, this audience included many scholars who had written best selling Greek textbooks and grammars. Of course, I won’t name names!

HT:  James McGrath and James Davilla (James D. claims his score was 4/11 plus the bonus question.  He says “besides Jewish Hellenistic literature and some Septuagint, I’ve read a lot of Plato, Aristotle, and Neoplatonist texts. I don’t think I would have gotten [the Greek translation of the word] ‘nine’ if it hadn’t been for Plotinus.”)

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2011 10:04 am

    περὶ δὲ τῶν γελοίων, ἐπειδή τινα δοκεῖ χρῆσιν ἔχειν ἐν τοῖς ἀγῶσι, καὶ δεῖν ἔφη Γοργίας τὴν μὲν σπουδὴν διαφθείρειν τῶν ἐναντίων γέλωτι τὸν δὲ γέλωτα σπουδῇ, ὀρθῶς λέγων, εἴρηται πόσα εἴδη γελοίων ἔστιν ἐν τοῖς περὶ ποιητικῆς

    To which the right answer is (as some have translated):

    “Humour is the only test of gravity, as per the advice of Gorgias, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.”

    (Of course, we could grade that rendering of Aristotle’s Rhetorica Lib. III, c. 18 as poor or even incorrect. But what fun would that be?)

    Thanks for the re-post here! Hilarious!

  2. September 15, 2011 12:29 pm

    A certain reliable scholar told me he once witnessed a “name” scholar – he refused to tell me who – examine a DSS fragment. He carefully copied out the letters. Two words. He opened a concordance. He knitted his brow. He compared. Finally, he figured it out! חזון . . . ישעיה

  3. September 15, 2011 12:54 pm

    Too funny!

  4. September 15, 2011 3:28 pm

    The professor I first studied Hebrew with (who has been one of the translators for two big Bible translation committees, on Exodus for the one and Exodus and 1 Samuel for the other) confesses that, when he is in Israel (he’s American), children there reading the scriptures aloud and rather effortlessly put him to shame. He struggles more than publicly he cares to admit.


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