At a guest house in the modern town of Migdal, overlooking ancient Migdal on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, about twenty individuals have come together for ten days of intensive Koine Greek. We are attempting to do something that has rarely, if ever, been done in modern times: speak only Koine Greek from sun-up to sun-down. BLC has been running “Koine Greek only” evenings for the past few years, with the result that several here already have varying degrees of “fluency” in the language, and their job is to pull the rest of us along. Participants are a mix of professors and PhD students, but also individuals who are simply interested in acquiring a higher proficiency in the language.
BLC’s “Jesus in the Galilee”
The typical day begins with prayers shortly after sunrise. The liturgy we are using is a collection of biblical texts from the Septuagint and the New Testament, some which are read in unison and others by designated readers, with a brief moment for extemporaneous prayers. A page in our workbook gives us some helpful suggestions of different sentences we can string together or use to begin a sentence or a thought.
For meal times, our workbook includes a short lexicon with the various foods and utensils we may wish to use in our conversation with one another. Conversation at this point (three days in) is still very simple: “give me the juice,” “what is this?” etc. Those sitting near the leaders may have more involved conversations about their life, studies, or some other topic still.
The day is spent doing a variety of “activities” that keep us in Koine Greek. A usual first activity in the day is learning or reviewing less known vocabulary that we will encounter in the readings assigned for the day. In keeping in line with the time of the year (Passover and Easter) they are all dealing or relating in some way to Jesus’ last week. The vocabulary is taught using the technique of Total Physical Response (TPR): no English is used, but with the help of props and actions (by both the instructor and the participants) as well as repetition, we discover and internalize the meaning of the words being reviewed. We then read the assigned texts for the day in small groups, for the purpose of discussing together – in Koine Greek – matters of exegesis.
Another activity is called “verb practice.” By focusing on only a few verbs, and using a lot of actions and repetition, we seek to internalize the various forms. Being able to recognize the form in writing is one matter, but being able to come up with it in speech is a much more difficult challenge. Still, the benefit of this drill is already being felt in our other conversations. To help us out, BLC has prepared a book of verb charts, so that if an instructor is not at hand, we can turn to the page and find the proper form and use it.
These ten days are not all spent inside the classroom. First of all, spring weather at the Sea of Galilee is as gorgeous as our surroundings, so that we spend as much time outside in the guest house’s gardens as in the classroom. But there are also field trips: on day two we went to Cana to read and discuss John 2 and to the Yiftahel winery. Today it will be to Capernaum.
Today is Easter Morning. Jet lag as me up well before dawn; early, like the women who went to visit the tomb. As a write, it is beginning to be light, and shortly we will be meeting for a sunrise service. A couple nights ago we “re-enacted” a passover meal (all in Koine Greek). This morning, we will celebrate the Resurrection together, with readings and songs – all in the Greek of the New Testament.
I don’t know when the BLC will do this again, but the experience so far has been most amazing.