Monday, September 18, 2006

Learning Greek.

Shortly after I arrived at Fordham, the director of the First Studies program here told me that I was going to have "a very Greek semester." He was right - all the courses I'm taking have something to do with Greece. I have classes on Plato and Aristotle, two Greeks whose work laid the foundation for much of the Western philosophical tradition. I'm also taking History of Christianity I, a theology course covering the Church's first fifteen-hundred years. (The Reformation and subsequent developments are treated in a separate semester-long course, appropriately entitled History of Christianity II.) In the early centuries of the Church much of the action was in the Greek-speaking East, so the course's readings incline heavily toward figures like Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor. Rounding out my course schedule, I'm also taking a tutorial in New Testament Greek. Somewhat to my surprise, my Greek tutorial is proving to be both the most challenging and the most rewarding course of the semester.

Like many of the best courses I had as an undergraduate, New Testament Greek is a class I chose on a lark. Not long after arriving at Fordham, I learned from word of mouth that an older Jesuit on campus was offering a tutorial in Greek to interested scholastics. Ciszek Hall residents who had taken the class before recommended it highly, so I decided to sign up. I was attracted not only by the prospect of reading the New Testament in its original language, but of building a foundation for further study - if I could read the Bible in Greek, perhaps with added effort I could make my way through the Church Fathers as well. As one who owes his vocation to the example of a few Jesuit professors of a certain age, I also relished the prospect of studying Greek with an old-school Jesuit classicist. So far, my experience of New Testament Greek has been positive. I've managed to get the alphabet down pat and have had little trouble memorizing the new vocabulary assigned for each class.

Even though I've learned the difference between epsilon and eta and omicron and omega, I'm still having my fair share of difficulties in Greek. Foremost among these has been learning the intricacies of Greek grammar - as is the case with other tongues, there's a myriad of rules that one must simply learn by rote or assimilate through practice and continued exposure to the language. Though I spend some time each day reviewing my Greek lessons, progress can be frustratingly slow at times. Discouraging as they may be, the challenges I've faced have deepened my commitment to learning Greek. At the same time, I hope I'm able to accept and appreciate the deeply humbling experiences of confusion and struggle that are an indispensable part of language learning. Mindful of the greater glory that is the aim and purpose of my studies, I pray that I am able to find God not only in the joy of new knowledge gained but also in the pain and toil that I encounter along the way. AMDG.


At 9/19/2006 3:45 PM, Blogger David Nowaczewski said...


Keep plugging away. I had the good fortune of learning Greek at the CUNY Latin-Greek Institute. Set aside time every day and be faithful, the benefits will far exceed the labor.



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