Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why I am learning Ancient Greek



I've actually had the desire to learn Ancient Greek for a long time, but I didn't think I'd ever have the time or the opportunity to do it. I took an ethics class from NAU's philosophy department in May 2009 where we talked about the Greek philosopher Plato, and I posted on the 28th of that month that I "want[ed] to learn Ancient Greek."


Plato

But I never thought I'd actually have the opportunity to do it. I thought: "I don't think I'll ever live near someplace where they offer a class in it. Only one university in Arizona has a Classics department, and that's U of A (which is 3 ½ hours away)."

But I recently realized that with a dead language, taking a class in the subject isn't as important, since I won't be needing to speak or listen to the language. If reading it is enough, I can learn it from a book. So it recently occurred to me to get a textbook about it, and start teaching myself Ancient Greek.



So why do I want to do this? Basically, I have two main reasons for wanting to learn Ancient Greek. One is that English has borrowed a lot of words from the language, and learning Ancient Greek will thus help me to understand a lot of English words ... and their origins. I already speak some French (a descendant of Latin), and so I already know a fair amount about English word origins; but this will add to my knowledge more.

The only language family that would help me more is the Germanic languages (the family English is a part of). Thus I would also like to eventually learn German, and learn something about the origins of our most common English words.

The other main reason for wanting to learn Ancient Greek is that the New Testament was originally written in this language. In the time of Christ, Greek was the international language (much like English is today) - rather than the Latin spoken by the Romans, who dominated much of the world (including Judea) at that time. As in centuries past, the international language was Greek, and so publishing the New Testament in this language was a way of reaching a wider audience.

Thus, learning the language will help me to understand one of the two most influential books in human history (the other being the Old Testament).


My introductory textbook about Ancient Greek

I knew when ordering this textbook about the language that its focus was on Attic Greek, the language spoken in the Attica region of Greece (which includes Athens) during the classical era (about 500-300 BC). This was the prestige dialect of its time, comparable to the Queen's English in our language today; and it is the standard language taught in classes called "Ancient Greek."


My favorite painting of Jesus Christ

After this, I will focus on a later form of the language called Koine Greek, which was spoken around the time of Christ. (This is the language in which the New Testament was originally written.) I'd like to learn the Attic Greek stuff, too, since I think that's where most English words of Greek origin come from. (Not sure on that, but that's what I'm assuming.) Plus, I'm interested in the classical age of the country.

But my eventual goal will be to learn Koine Greek, so I can start studying important parts of the Bible in the original. This is the literature in the language that I am most interested in reading.

There will be some other benefits, too. This will help me to understand a lot about classical history, especially Ancient Greece, and give me some insight into the founders of Western Civilization. But my main two reasons are that I want to learn the origins of English words, and read the New Testament in the original.

So these are my reasons for wanting to learn Ancient Greek. I hope this has been helpful to those curious about my goals.

My search for the Greek New Testament

The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization (PBS Empires)

Reflections on learning about history of Ancient Greece

Learning the basics of Ancient Greek from a book


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