True language comprehension only comes about through holistic learning. This has been borne out by our Latin classes for years: the more students write, speak, and think in Latin, the more they retain what they’ve learned. We at the Davenant Language Institute are thrilled to be implementing this holistic method in this year’s Greek courses!
What is it?
Greek unlocks the language of the ancient church. However, for students of theology, for pastors, seminarians and scholars, this fact seems often to have been forgotten in practice. We all know their names – Eusebius, Athanasius, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom – but if we glance into various Greek reading curricula, we would be forgiven in thinking that the corpus of “Koine Greek” was made up of the Gospel of Mark, Galatians, and, for the very adventurous, Romans. For the seminarian caught in contemporary pedagogical practice, Koine Greek is often nothing more than “Biblical Greek,” a problematic category on its own. Yet, languages are not sectioned off to write a handful of books; books have always been written within the rich grammatical and cultural context of a language.
At Davenant Language Institute, we want to take off the blinders and equip students to read Greek from the whole corpus of the ancient church and the ancient world. A seminary student should feel comfortable reading the Septuagint, Greek biblical commentaries, and the Greek fathers, not just the first chapter of John’s Gospel. This is our goal at the Davenant Language Institute.
There is an additional difficulty for the student of Greek; not only is the script alien to our eyes, making reading and writing a feat, but to read aloud or listen to spoken Koine Greek, one must wade through a dizzying array of pronunciation paradigms! In this respect, Greek stands alone among ecclesial languages. Latin boasts an unbroken chain of fluent speakers. With some help from his teacher, a 10-year-old student in Israel can read aloud and understand the Torah without much difficulty. The Syriac Church has preserved the Syriac of Ephrem and the ancient church fathers such that Mor Aphrem II will speak Suroyo in TV interviews. In each case, the solidified grammar enjoyed a community of speakers throughout the centuries, or the changes in grammar were offset by a tradition of readers using a particular pronunciation with the older texts.
In other words, unlike Hebrew, Syriac, or Latin, there is no large vibrant community of fluent Koine or Ancient Greek speakers who all agree to use the same pronunciation.
The classics community has approached the problem from the wrong direction. Everyone has an opinion on the right way to pronounce Ancient Greek, and with so many courses and teachers trying to teach Greek in a spoken manner, it seems that yet another way to pronounce Greek crops up. One method attempts to reconstruct how ancient Greek would have sounded to Plato; others make a variant of modern Greek pronunciation. This is all well and good as an academic pursuit, but it does not fit with the goal of the Davenant Language Institute. A community of speakers using the same pronunciation is more important to the student than any specific pronunciation. Every new, exciting, and supposedly ‘easy-to-learn’ pronunciation only hinders the growth of such a community.
Instead of introducing another method, we have been looking for a community. Such a community is growing quickly at the Polis Institute in Jerusalem. The students of Christophe Rico and Michael Kopf have developed into the strongest community of Koine Greek speakers there is (it so happens that they also use the most easily comprehensible pronunciation there is).
We are thrilled to offer courses in Greek to our growing community of Davenant students, pastors, scholars, and friends!
Calling all Koine Greek Students!
We are excited to be offering an intermediate course this fall, a Greek reading course, Acts of the Apostles, and so much more! This is for all students who have had a year of Greek (either Ancient or Koine). In this year-long reading course, we will read the Acts of the Apostles along with selections from the Septuagint and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History in tandem with the narrative. We want to give our students an introduction into the wider world of the Greek of the apostles and the early church. In addition, our classes will include a speaking portion to familiarize students with listening to and speaking simple Koine Greek, using the pronunciation of the Polis Institute.
Do I need to be a graduate student or seminarian to participate?
No, in fact, you do not need to currently belong to an academic institution at all. Pastors, teachers, and independent scholars are welcome as well, although most of our students are currently enrolled at graduate students or seminaries.
I'm not sure which level my current Greek ability is at. Which course should I enroll in?
No problem. We have placement exams, which can help us and you determine which courses you are prepared for. If you’re interested in enrolling but aren’t sure, make your best guess in selecting the course, and then we’ll invite you to take the appropriate placement exam, after which we can re-assess if necessary.
Is there a drop/add date?
We will not normally be allowing students to join one of the classes after the registration deadlines for each course. Students needing to drop a class will be eligible to receive a 60% refund if they drop within the first three weeks of a semester-long course or first week of an intensive course. Students dropping out of a tutorial course may do so at any time and will be refunded $25 for each tutorial unit not yet completed.
How do the live classes work?
All of our live classes use the state-of-the-art videoconferencing software, WebEx, which should work reliably for you as long as you have access to an average-speed internet connection. Recordings of each class, and any “whiteboards” used, will be saved for students who were unable to make a particular class meeting.
Does it matter what time zone I am in?
It is important that you be in a position to participate in most of the live classes in order to discuss the lessons and your work with your professor and classmate. It is our goal to schedule live class times that will fit within normal waking hours for all enrolled students, wherever they live on the globe, though obviously the times will be more convenient for some than others. We will determine the scheduled class times around the registration deadline for each course, depending on the available times indicated by all enrolling students. If the resulting time does not work for you, you will have the option of switching to a self-paced or tutorial approach.
Will I receive credit toward my degree?
Yes, you can. The decision about exactly what credit to award rests with your particular degree-granting institution, however, we currently have credit-recognition agreements in place with three institutions:
- Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (graduate-level)
- The Greystone Institute (graduate-level)
- New Saint Andrews College (undergraduate-level)
You can enroll as a part-time student at any of these institutions to receive credit which you can then transfer back to your home institution. We are in the process of hammering out similar agreements with other institutions. Also, you may request case-by-case credit recognition from your own institution and we would be happy to correspond with your academic officer to help make this possible. We have designed these courses so as to meet accreditation standards for graduate-level theological education, but we are not ourselves a degree-granting institution, and each institution makes its own decisions about if and when to award credits for courses offered by third parties.
What can I do to best prepare in advance for the classes?
Draft syllabi, along with recommendations from our instructors, will be sent out well in advance to all enrolled students.
How Does it All Fit Together?
We have three basic levels of courses—Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced. The Intro and Intermediate levels are designed to take two semesters each. After completing the Intro courses, you can expect to have a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary, though you will still be a bit unsteady on your feet when encountering actual texts in the wild. After completing two full semesters of Intermediate courses, where you are exposed to extended readings from a wide range of theological texts, you will feel comfortable reading and translating most texts—albeit slowly. At this point we offer a range of one-semester Advanced courses, depending on demand, which give you an opportunity to really dig into more difficult texts from a given period in different genres, mastering the thought-world and style of the period so you can translate faithfully.