Constantine Campbell has written a gem of a book called Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People. More than 20 years have passed since I studied Greek. I read this book with the intent of just telling others what I thought about it but without much hope that it might have something for me. Not only will I tell you what I think about but, more importantly, what it did for me.
The book is the publication (with new material added) of a series of blog posts that the author did. It even contains some of the comments made on the post. (I was surprised to see comments from the Rev. Mark Stevens. Way to go Mark!) There are three things that stand out and that I think are the strength of the book.
Realism, Flexibility, Hope
1) It’s realistic. True, it’s a book about how to keep your Greek but it doesn’t promise any magic formula. At the very outset he says “this book does not offer a guaranteed, foolproof, ten-step method to make it all happen overnight.” (11) And, he knows the despair many of us face at how much we’ve lost over the years. He acknowledges that it is “demoralizing” and can be “debilitating” (72) Campbell doesn’t promise an easy path but he does promise steps that can help bring back the language you once spent so much time learning. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on doing a little every day rather than thinking I have to spend hours and hours in order to make any difference. Don’t underestimate the power of persistence.
2) It’s flexible. These aren’t the 10 commandments but rather suggestions that will help and guide the reader into how to regain what they’ve lost. Right from the start he says, “Nor do I expect you to follow every suggestion I make. . . you may find one or two ideas that you won’t like or don’t find realistic. That’s OK.” (11)
3) It’s inspires hope. This was what I was not expecting. Hope! When I finished the book (which is a very short read) I went from thinking “It’ll never happen” to “I think I can. I think I can.” to “I can do this!” On the heels of talking about how demoralizing it can be to think about our loss and the temptation to just give up he exhorts us with this: “If that’s what you’re thinking . . . wait! Don’t give up yet. You can get your Greek back. Yes, it will take some work. Yes, it will be hard at times. But it will be worth it.” (72) And Campbell passes on this tidbit from Scot McKnight, “never feel guilty or stupid for what you have forgotten, and banish from your mind what your demanding seminary professors would think of what you have now forgotten.” (13) These words were like a breath of fresh air.
For ten short chapters Campbell becomes a coach for us with rusty Greek. Some things are really easy like “Burn your interlinear.” (Well, I’ll probably just sell mine and get the same result. I told you it was flexible.) There are cautions that come with using software which can too easily become a crutch and is the number one reason to get rid of that interlinear. Other suggestions include: read every day, learn to make memory hooks for vocabulary, practice your parsing and read fast and read slow (both have a purpose and function). Some things are just common sense like “start small” and start with “easy” Greek like John’s Gospel. (16) There are other things we wish we could avoid but come with the territory like learn the vocabulary and paradigms. Before you moan at the thought of learning all those paradigms again, consider this: “The Greek verb table is big, but it’s not infinite. While vocabulary does seem impossible to master, with over five thousand of those appearing once, the verb table is not nearly as intimidating. Sure, it may look difficult, but it does have an end. It can be mastered, if you want to take it that far. But even if you don’t do that, most people can achieve a good knowledge of the paradigms.” (50) There it is: realism, flexibility and hope all in a couple of sentences! You can’t ask for more than that.
Another plus is the wealth of resources that he recommends. These include print, software and internet resources (some of which are available for free). If there is even a spark within you that remains from the charred remains of your Greek studies you owe it to yourself to read this book. Let Campbell fan that spark and see if it won’t ignite into a flame that will remind why you took Greek in the first place. I not only think I can regain my Greek but I think it can be better than before. No, it won’t be easy but it will be worth it. Campbell concludes “Remember, the main difference between someone who keeps their Greek and someone who loses it is the commitment to give it a little time every day. Are you up for it?” (74) I don’t know about you, but I am.
Keep Your Greek is from Zondervan with 90 pages and sells for $9.99.