Greek or Latin

Discussion in 'Languages' started by irresistible_grace, Dec 31, 2012.

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  1. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    My husband and I would like to learn another language.
    We are really interested in Greek (Koine) but others say that we should learn Latin instead.

    Which language would you rather learn, Greek or Latin?
    Any suggestions on where to start?
    (Suggestions of resources for children as well would be nice!)
  2. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    It's helpful to have Latin before Greek.
  3. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

  4. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Why do you want to learn another language? What are your goals? That should help you make the correct decision. I know both, but use them for somewhat different purposes.
  5. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Charlie's question is an important one. What is your purpose in learning another language?

    I, too, am a student of classical and ecclesiatical Latin, as well as the Koine. I use these for purposes of scholarship, including biblical exegesis. But neither Koine Greek nor Latin is a spoken language and are not generally studied except for purposes of scholarship.

    Having said that, Spanish, French, and German are commonly studied European languages. Most people, when they say they're wanting to learn a language have some purpose in mind: Japanese for business purposes, Spanish for conversing with many who speak that language now in North America, French because you wish to study in Paris, etc.

    If you're just wanting a bit of Koine so that you can navigate New Testament Studies, you need not take on the onerous task of first learning Latin. I do agree with Philip, all things being equal, that if one desires to undertake the study of both Latin and Greek (whether Attic or Koine), it would be preferable to start with Latin, particularly for grammatical purposes.

    But if you've never studied any of these languages and simply want to study a foreign language, I would begin with a spoken language, not with Koine Greek or Latin.

  6. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    They are similar in structure and grammar (and Latin borrows heavily from Greek) but with Latin, one doesn't have to get used to a new alphabet on top of everything else.
  7. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

  8. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    I don't feel like there are enough hours in the day for us to learn BOTH Greek & Latin so my question is which one. I want to learn Greek so I can read the New Testament. I want to know Greek so I can dig deeper and wrestle with God's Word in the original language. At the same time, we are reading a lot of the older Reformed literature that is being translated & reprinted. So, our friend advised us to learn Latin because he thinks we should be reading the original works rather than be limited to what publishers want to include in the reprints...

    If it is about reading the originals, I figure it would be more important to read God's Word in the original language rather than the scholastics but then I am pretty much limiting myself to the New Treatment (which isn't a bad thing). Whereas, learning Latin opens up a world of scholastic works to be read. I am leaning heavily toward Greek but was curious if you could only learn one of the two which would it be and Why?
  9. housta

    housta Puritan Board Freshman

    If I had to chose I would learn greek (which is what I'm doing now), ultimately, no matter how valuable Reformed literature is, and believe me, I read lots of it, digging deeper into the Word in the original languages is much more valuable.
  10. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

  11. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    I think you'll find Latin a lot easier. Also, a lot of the early bible scholars wrote in Latin. We have been learning Latin for a few years now and it helps with all of the language related subjects in school. If you want your children to do well in school and on the SAT for college entrance, then Latin is usually recommended. It isn't impossible to learn both though. We started with Latin for a few years and are now starting Greek. We learned the alphabet last year and now we are moving forward with both languages.

    We use Memoria Press(Latina Christiana1 &2) for Latin currently, but we will be switching next year to Latin in the Christian Trivium. For Greek we are using Teach Yourself New Testament Greek. Harvey Bluedorn also has a book called A Greek Alphabaterion, which we found useful for getting started and learning the basic pronunciations and breathings.

    As a note, Latina Christiana has a bit of a Catholic slant with some of the memory work that is suggested, but there is easily enough memory work without including the less beneficial passages. I didn't really want my kids memorizing Ave Maria, for example. Also, the dvds are not necessary, or really very helpful In my humble opinion.
  12. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks! I have a lot the think about.
    I sincerely appreciate you're input!
  13. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks for clarifying your purposes in learning these languages.

    I think that if you wish to investigate the NT in Koine, it's perfectly reasonable to begin studying Greek. It is the case, historically, at least for the last few hundred years, that students would start with Latin and progress to Greek. Before the Renaissance, Greek was largely forgotten in the Western (or Latin, as it was called) Church; since then both Attic and Koine have been widely studied by academics and theologians.

    I will say this: it will be a lot of work, particularly to attain any degree of proficiency. And the payoff may not be what you think or what you've been told. Let me clarify. I am not suggesting that there's not a payoff (studying the NT in the Koine)--there certainly is and I regard it as what those who preach it should ordinarily do. However, you may have heard some, whether they've studied Greek or not, champion studying the language as giving you something that you cannot get in English. There is a richness sometimes in the Greek that provides a challenge for English translation (true, if not more so, of the Hebrew, which is also less specific than the Greek in places). However, many available resources will help you work through this knowing a minimum of Greek (and without knowing any if you can follow linguistic discussions). If you study Greek on your own there is also the challenge of knowing what to choose to assist in this.

    But beyond all this, there are those who cite Greek, either on their radio broadcasts or in their publications, who routinely mislead. This is how--they are teaching through a passage and then refer to the Greek in some way (perhaps just giving English derivatives, not necessarily helpful or to the point) and then proclaim, "the Greek says so and so and thus this means such and such." Oftentimes this happens in a context in which there is a theological difference, say between Calvinism and Arminianism and the Greek is cited in some fashion to prove that the Calvinists are right and the Arminians are wrong. However, this assumes that if only the Arminian interpreters of this passage "knew their Greek" (I've heard it claimed) then they wouldn't be Arminians and would get their theology straightened out.

    However, Arminians are not Arminians because they don't know Greek. There are plenty of able Arminian Greek scholars. As there are plenty of able Roman Catholic Greek scholars. The point that I am making is this: no significant theological differences are settled by some people knowing Greek, or knowing it better than others. Language study is helpful but to think that if we could only "read the Greek," all of our theological problems and conundrums would be solved is simply naive. I am not for a moment suggesting that you think this or have remotely suggested it. I am simply reflecting on the nature of the case. Language study may prove useful to you but let no false advertising lead you to think that it will yield dividends that some claim it will, who use the language to bully people into doctrinal or exegetical agreement.

    Part of my concern here, too, is what I've heard some ministers or scholars say: "You can't really understand the Bible unless you read it in the original language." Nonsense. We have fine English translations. And people should never for a minute hesitate to call an accurate translation in their vulgar tongue (going beyond the English) the Word of God. I've also heard some say you can only call the autographa "the Word of God." This is wrong and dangerous. A good translation in your language is the Word of God. And lastly, the Bible is not meant to be read and understood simply singly but in the communion of the saints. This is why it is important for the preacher to have such a skill but no one in the church should think that he or she doesn't "really read the Bible" unless they read it in Hebrew or Greek.

    I am not seeking in any measure to discourage you from studying Greek, if you are so inclined. I simply wish to relativize the value of such for the average man or woman in the pew who might have heard that they are not really studying the Bible if they are not studying it in Greek or Hebrew.

  14. DeniseM

    DeniseM Puritan Board Freshman

    It's been awhile since I've read Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn, but I believe their recommendation was that if you only had time for one language then learn Greek, two Latin and Greek(starting with Latin), and three Latin, Greek and Hebrew. They made a pretty compelling case, in my opinion. Since we were already pretty invested in Latin, when I read the book, we simply started to add Greek slowly to our curriculum. I will leave Hebrew up to the children to take up on their own, if they are so inclined.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  15. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    I think an additional benefit in learning Greek would be to follow the reasoning of scholars when they are careful to define their terms based upon the original. I know I missed a lot in G. Vos' Biblical Theology and several of his works on eschatology.
  16. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    Latin before Ancient Greek, Ancient Greek before Koine. Latin grammar will give you a good starting point before moving on to Ancient Greek (avoid Homeric for now). And Ancient Greek will give you a solid foundation from which to learn Koine. A useful online resource for both Latin & Greek is Textkit. They provide free e-books under their Library tab and a forum in which to ask questions.

    I would start with Latin For Beginners, & Latin for Beginner’s Key, Benjamin L. D’Ooge. After finishing these I would move on to the following:
    A New Latin Prose Composition, Charles E. Bennett and Latin Prose Composition, North and Hillard. After finishing D'Ooge you should also begin New Latin Grammar, Allen & Greenough. These will give you a solid foundation in Latin and will cover a period of two to four years of learning.

    For Ancient Greek I would start with First Greek Book, John Williams White & his key First Greek Book Key. Follow these up with Greek Grammar, William W. Goodwin & Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb, William W. Goodwin.

    For Koine I'd start with A Brief Introduction to New Testament Greek & A Brief Introduction to New Testament Greek Key, Samuel G. Green.

    Both the Latin & Greek sections have reading selections. You will also find reading lists and standards which you can modify to your own needs here: Doctor of Philosophy Don't be intimidated by the the title. It's a good reference of material and skill tests.

    The reasons for learning Latin prior to Greek can be multiplied, but simply put:

    1. You already know a lot of the Latin vocabulary.
    2. You won't have to learn a new alphabet at first.
    3. Similarities between Greek & Latin grammar.
    4. Learning Latin will also help your Greek vocab.

    Though Greek influenced Latin and Latin English, it is generally easier for the English speaker to go from English to Latin to Greek. It should be noted that point 3 is only in reference to generalities. Once you get more involved in both languages you will notice differences in such areas as the cases for one.

    If you want to learn Hebrew after these two, I'd recommend Elementary Hebrew Grammar by William Henry Green available online for free at either Google Books or Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine to begin with.

    Hope these help. You should also check out the Latinum channel on Youtube.
  17. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

  18. irresistible_grace

    irresistible_grace Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you SO much!
  19. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    Glad I could help. You might also look up the Dominic Memory method to help with vocab and verbs. I find it useful.
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