Greek with Dr. Jakob Heckert at Concordia College, Ann Arbor, was an honor,
privilege and life changing. We did not start with the Koine Greek but rather Attic Greek. The book series we used was Reading Greek published by the Joint Association of Classical Teachings at Cambridge University. The texts were adapted from ancient Greek texts rather than being made up texts. The first day of class was learning the Greek alphabet (alpha-beta). By the second or third day of class we were "reading" Greek. The grammar and vocabulary were learned as you went through the text and the forms were encountered, a rather inductive process. Of course, the focus, as the text book title indicates, was "reading Greek" not writing it, not speaking it, not comprehending it spoken. (More on this later and how it relates to the post.)
The other day I was remember a line or two that we always repeated in the dorms. In the first year of Greek, we read account of two men who were partners in the corn-shipping business who were sailing from Byzantium to Athens. The story is set at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War. Here is a memorable section from the first year Greek class:
Cap: (And the captain looks toward the island)
O Zeus. You don't see a torch but the fire-signal.
Sailor: What did you say? You say, 'the fire-signal'? O Zeus. Come then, O Captain, hurry, hurry and keep us safe in the harbor.
Cap: Do not be afraid: For I am hurrying and the boat already turned around to the harbor.
For some reason, the phrase ὧ κυβερνήτης (O kubernetes) -- "O Captain" -- was what we called out in the dorms. The other phrase well-known and spoken often in the dorms was βάλλε εἰς κόρακας (balle eis korakas), which literally meant "go to the crows". If you know where crows live in Greek mythology, you'll understand what was intended. Besides these phrases and the class' halting reading in class, we didn't really learn how to speak or read Greek. We were a far cry from the humanists of the 16th century.
Ever since then, I wanted to be able to understand Greek read. I had heard of pastors reading passages from the Greek New Testament into a tape recorder (what are those?) and playing it back in the car while commuting. To do this without causing pain to the ear, one has to pronounce Greek fairly well. To pronounce Greek one has to decide what pronunciation system to use. There are three basic choices: some sort of reconstructed system, the Erasmian Greek Pronunciation, or Modern Greek Pronunciation. The Erasmian system and other reconstructed systems have an advantage over Modern Greek
Pronunciation in that it articulates the rough breathing marks. Of course, the Modern Greek Pronunciation has the advantage of actually existing in the real world. Entire books have been written on the subject how to properly pronounce Greek, such as W. Sidney Allen's Vox Graeca: The Pronunciation of Classical Greek (a distant part of my Greek education). Entire books have been written on how to properly pronounce the proper names in Greek, Latin, and the Scripture. (Check out at Google Books: A Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek, Latin, and Scripture Proper Names) Considering how some people pronounce the names mentioned in the Scripture Readings on Sunday morning, perhaps this classic from the 19th century should be resurrected. Basically, a person should pick a pronunciation of Greek and stick with it.
For quite a while, I have wanted to have the Greek New Testament in an audio format. I figured there were a few advantages to this: 1) help keep Greek fresh, 2) Might memorize parts of the Greek New Testament, 3) Might learn how to understand spoken Greek (at least portions of the Greek New Testament), 4) A Distraction from the every day annoyances of life. Over the past couple of years, a number of audio versions of the Greek New Testament have become available. Considering that there is not a common consensus on how to pronounce New Testament Greek, the available recordings all use different methods to varying degrees of success -- aesthetics, consistency, correctness, etc. Some of the recordings are free and available over the Internet, others cost money. The free recordings of the Greek New Testament do not use the standard Nestle-aland: Greek New Testament W/concise Dictionary text due to copyright issues. Unless you are going to make your own recordings of the Greek New Testament, you are stuck with the pronunciation system and the text used by the narrator.
So as a New Years' Resolution, I decided to listen to the Greek New Testament read. In light of the foregoing, I opted to use a free audio recording using Modern Greek Pronunciation based on the Westcott-hort Greek New Testament: with Dictionary (English and Greek Edition). The recording I used is from the GreekLatinAudio.Com project.
If you need a refresher on New Testament Greek grammar, check out Dr. Jim Voelz's Fundamental Greek Grammar or watch him on iTunes University.
In honor of Epiphany here is Luke 2 read with the Modern Greek pronunciation and the Westcott Hort Text below to follow along. Enjoy!
Greek Text from The Online Greek Bible.