John H. Dobson and Hebrew

“Hebrew is in some ways very different from European languages. Do not try to confine it within the prison of English grammatical terms, or it may laugh and run away from you.” – John H. Dobson inĀ Learn Biblical Hebrew, 2nd Edition, pg. 39.

The picture of little Hebrew letters running away from prison with English grammar guards is now stuck in my mind.


An Autodidact’s Reflection on Learning Koine Greek

As mentioned in the title, I am currently learning Greek without the help of any professor. All I have is my brain, books, and the internet.

My journey began in December. For the last 4 months, I have been working my way through the 3rd edition of John Dobson’s “Learn New Testament Greek”. His approach book emphasizes use in a group setting or personal study. Rather than attempting to provide several paradigms of verbs, he slowly works through the material to fix the Greek into the long term memory. Much of this is driven by his desire for people to read and translate the New Testament without need to address lexicons.

Unlike the typical Greek grammar book, Dobson utilizes a method as one would teach a child. The focus is upon learning “the principles and pointers which enable you to recognize the meaning and function of words which are new to you”, not “to memorize long lists of words or grammatical forms” (xi).

Consequently, his approach initially helped me immensely. Although I may not have understood a certain idea in chapter 1, the following chapters built upon the previous. Thus there was always a simultaneous discovery of new ideas and solidifying of previously presented ideas. In effect I was able to become quite comfortable with the language. This lasted until about chapter 20. At chapter 20, I began to struggle with how to organize the information. Greek verbal forms began to be thrown at me and my mind had no way to catalog the information. I pushed through to chapter 37. Although a little cataloging was accomplished, it was not nearly enough to fully understand what was being taught. Much of this seems to have been a result of the lack of grammatical terms. Sure I could read the Greek fluently. The only issue was that I barely understood what I was reading because I did not know what to do with the verbal endings which lacked paradigms to help catalog them into my brain.

So I am now utilizing a different book. Dobson’s approach was beginning to be nothing more than random terms and endings/beginnings while providing, directly in the order of the chapters at least, no way to actually organize everything. Starting in the next week or so, I will begin to work through Rodney Decker’s “Reading Koine Greek”. And while I do, and have, appreciated the help of Dobson’s approach, I believe that I will learn the best from a more technical approach that assists in categorizing the information. Time shall tell.