Greek and Spanish Simultaneously: Is It Possible?

Around April in 2006, I started learning Greek, because I wanted to be able to read the source materials of the New Testament (notice I didn’t say the “original” Greek). I worked on this pretty steadily until late 2007. At that point, I put Greek on hold in order to study Spanish with my son. I have continued to take my Greek bibles to church, but my skills have already begun to fade. I’m having to look up way too many things as I read, which makes it less than fun.

So, I need to go back and refresh the Greek, but I don’t want to abandon the Spanish. I’ve made really good progress in Spanish, and I’d hate to lose that progress. What I’m wondering, then, is if it’s possible for me to study both Greek and Spanish, at the same time? I think I can do it. I already spend around an hour at my computer every morning before I start work, so I could easily replace part of that time with Greek practice. I could then work on my Spanish in the afternoon, and in the car (I’m a subscriber to Coffee Break Spanish). Has anyone else attempted to learn two languages at the same time? Do seminary students learn Greek and Hebrew at the same time, or do they learn them sequentially?

I’m going to give it a go.

Wish me luck.

Incorrect Greek on TV

I was watching TV this morning, it being the first day of my end-of-year vacation, and noticed that “The Price is Right” was on. Since I hadn’t seen it since Drew Carey took over as host, I decided to watch. After a while, they went to commercial, and I saw a spot for a book by Franklin Graham called The Name that really annoyed me.

The spot features a sombre voice over a series of graphics showing the name of Jesus in various languages. I have no idea if most of them were correct or not, but I am certain that the Greek was wrong. Below is a photo of my TV screen showing what they put up as the Greek version of Jesus

It’s sort of hard to see, but what they have is Ιησούςν which is incorrect in a few ways. First, the iota Ι at the beginning of the word should have a smooth breathing mark, thus making it look like this . Strictly speaking if you write the Greek without accents, then you would also not have the breathing mark, but since they do include the accent over the upsilon, they should have included it. That accent is the next error. It should have been an upsilon with a circumflex instead of with an acute accent ύ. The next two errors are at the end of the word where you see a sigma followed by a nu, ςν. In Greek the sigma has two forms: σ for when it occurs inside a word, and ς when it occurs at the end of a word. Since they have the sigma here as the next-to-last letter, it should have been written σ. But Jesus name is not spelled this way in Greek. In the nominative case (as a subject), which is what it should have been based on how it was being used, it is written Ἰησοῦς. In the accusative case (as a direct object), it would be written Ἰησοῦν. It looks like the people who made the ad combined the two forms, resulting in a nonsense word: Ιησούςν.

Would it have killed them to get someone to proof their text before sending it out? Granted, 99% of the people who see the ad won’t know the difference; I wouldn’t have 2 years ago. To me, it just shows sloppy work. I have to wonder how many of the other names were misspelled. Plus the whole ad looked like it was hawking one of those awful “Left Behind” books.

Translating Jude for Lent

This post got me to thinking about Lent. In it, the author says that this year for Lent, he’s translating “Apophthegmata Patrum, the Sayings of the Fathers,” from Greek into English. I’ve never really done anything for Lent, because I’m really not one for asceticism. Personal failing, I know. Anyway, while most people think of Lent as a time for reflection by denying yourself something you like, according to this, “Many modern Protestants and Anglicans… may instead decide to take on a Lenten discipline such as devotions, volunteering for charity work, and so forth.” Armed with that knowledge, and the aforementioned blog posting, I’ve decided to do some translating of my own.

My Lenten project for this year is to translate the book of Jude from Greek into English. Yes, it’s one of the shortest books in the NT, but since this is my first real translational project, I thought it best to start small. If I breeze through it and have time to spare before Easter, I’ll take up another NT text. I also selected Jude because I can’t recall every having read any of it. I don’t have any idea what is in this book, so I won’t be remembering translations from previous readings. All the translation work will be new.

For my text, I will be using the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament, 4th Revised Edition (UBS4). I will also be referring to A Reader’s Greek New Testament, The New Testament in the Original Greek, a 1961 edition of Westcott & Hort‘s Greek text and Dr. Metzger’s A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament for variant readings.

My plan of attack is to fully translate the UBS4 text, and then set about the variants. I don’t know that the other editions of the Greek that I have even have any variants, but if they do, I plan to include those as notes in my translation.

What do I hope to accomplish with this exercise? Well, I’ve been studying Greek since April, in a very academic sense. I have Basics of Biblical Greek that I work through almost daily. I have Dr. Mounce’s lectures plus the workbook and flashcards and I’m a member of the B-Greek mailing list. But almost all of my Greek work has been within the boundaries of textbooks. I want to really see what “live” translation is like, and this seemed like a good time to have a go at it.

I haven’t yet decided if I will post work-in-progress or if I will wait until the work is complete. All I know for sure is that sometime before Easter, I will have finished, and the full translation will be posted here.

Greek Translation Success

Some of you know that I’ve been learning Koine Greek since around April. It’s been fun and frustrating, all at the same time. Most days, during lunch, I spend time with Bill Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, his audio lectures and/or his workbook. There are days when I’m translating that things go OK. Then there are days where I just can’t seem to get in the swing of things. My translations (so far) haven’t been really wrong, but there are times when they just aren’t quite correct. Maybe I got sloppy and confused a plural pronoun for a singular, or perhaps the pronouns for “us” with “them.” I’ve had more of those type days lately than not.

But on Friday, I had one of those “Oh, yeah, BABY!” moments. I was working in the workbook when I hit this sentence:

I thought for a few seconds, and then came up with this translation:

Therefore, Jesus spoke to them again saying, “I am the light of the world.”

I then thought some more, and being confident that I had translated it properly, went to check the answer key. Boo-ya! Spot on, dead-on-balls accurate. Now, this was not a difficult passage, by any stretch, but it was a nice reminder that I really am making progress in my studies.

And I’m really struck by how pretty Greek is to look at. English is quite boring by comparison.