The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

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email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works as gregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
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Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

How To Study New Testament Greek - No Flash Cards - Few Grammar Rules - No English Crutch



I tutored Little Ichabod in Greek, a bit later than this photo. First I tutored him in Latin using the Gospel of John. As a result, he tutored the football team in Latin at Michigan Lutheran Seminary (WELS). I tutored him in Greek next, using the Gospel of John. He tutored students for pay at Northwestern College (WELS). They asked him to teach students Greek because they were not getting it from the NWC Greek classes. That ended up being his connection to Walmart, but that is another story.

WELS spread the story that I did not know Greek. That grapevine slander is pretty hilarious, given that history and Thy Strong Word using Hebrew and Greek exegesis to make the case for the efficacy of the Word. That was the original edition in 2000. WELS could not get students to pass Latin or Greek, but LI could help them through both languages. So where did he learn those teaching methods that worked so well? He had the distinct advantage of his mother's photographic memory and knack for foreign languages. My input was not repeating the mistakes imposed on me by language teachers.

The traditional American classroom approach is dead wrong, and language teachers have proven it by killing off Latin in public high schools, once a given for college bound students.

  • Vocabulary lists - wrong.
  • Flash cards - wrong, wrong, wrong.
  • Grammatical rules memorized - wrong.
  • Writing words above the text - wrong.
  • Using an interlinear text, English plus the other language - wrong.
The US government uses immersion, and that is the best way. That is how we teach our children English, now with grammar rules and flash cards, but by immersing them in the language, night and day.

My late Latin teacher was against having English near the original text because we are all lazy. He was a priest with multiple advanced degrees in languages, plus a PhD. He said, "Keep reading the Latin and one day your brain will switch over and you will no longer be translating but reading it as you would English." That happened to me in Medieval Latin, after some time.

Bainton learned a new language, 20 in all, by having that new language in the Gospel of John and the Greek text. 

The Fourth Gospel is ideal because of its simple grammar and repeating words and phrases. 

Assuming the individual can understand the Greek letters and read the words in Greek.
  1. Read John 1:1 out loud. Translate to English, by translating the obvious words and guessing the rest. Stuck? Open up an English translation, kept some distance, close it, and try it again.
  2. Read John 1:2 out loud. Translate the obvious words and phrases, guess the rest. Check out the sticking points later. No cheating during. No writing in words.
  3. Read John 1:3 out loud. Repeat the above.
  4. Now read John 1:1-3 out loud and translate the entire passage. Everything starts to make sense with repetition.
  5. Keep this up with entire paragraphs. Some tutoring can help but that is not completely necessary. I would go back to John 1 after going through John 1-4. Always read the text out loud and learn to spot the endings and what they mean. That is hard for someone learning Greek without Latin first, but not that hard. 
  6. Saying it is difficult is no different from all those who say, "Roses are hard to grow." They never try. Greek is easy to get started.


We do not learn one new word out of context, but we can learn many new words in context. That can only come from repeated use of the Greek text and continued study.



I think of learning the words and phases from reading as similar to quotations plus graphics. When I had only texts, I had trouble finding them, even with my handy Megatron database. Once I put famous quotes with graphics, using Photoshop, I could find my own favorites easily. I asssociated Luther's MBO quotation with Dahli's melting clock painting.


One reader wrote and said, "Post Luther on roses again." I could find that easily because I remembered the roses graphic. Ditto with Luther, the stone tossed in a pond. I am repeating here because the three rules of learning are:

  1. Repetition
  2. Repetition
  3. Repetition.

I am not against learning Greek or Latin grammar. I have taught English grammar, but that is very difficult with people who never read. Their eyes glaze over.

Grammar follows literature. Grammar never creates literature. The best way to learn Greek grammar is to read the Greek New Testament, starting with the easiest texts:

  • John
  • 1 John, 2 John, 3 John
  • The Gospel of Mark
  • Revelation
  • Luke and Matthew
  • Galatians before Romans
  • James and Hebrews

If the student has a good reading knowledge of Greek, the grammatical fine points will stick. And he will laugh at some rules, which seem like ways to keep Greek NT professors employed.

The wreckage is from the Joplin tornado,
50 miles from us.