I didn’t expect to be thinking about kleptomaniacs and cardiac arrest when I embarked on reading St.Matthew’s gospel in Greek, but think about them I did. I now find myself thinking increasingly about the extent to which Greek has been woven into the English language and I am enjoying the realisation that I actually know a bit more about Greek than I thought I did, and that I am not a complete novice after all.
I’m sure that many people already know that ‘kardia’ is the Greek word for ‘heart’ and that the ‘klepto-‘ in ‘kleptomania’ comes from the Greek root ‘kelptes’ (to steal)… but I didn’t know this, until recently. Another ‘aha’ moment for me came when I was reading the passage about ‘treasures on earth’ (Matthew 6:19) and I realised that ‘thesaurus’ comes from the Greek word for ‘treasure, store’ (thesauros). After all those years as an owner of a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus, how could I not know the etymology of the title of the book? My answer to that question is the same as my answer to many other similar questions – because I had other things on my mind, other things which took up my time and energy.
I’m really enjoying learning Greek. I made a slow start because it took me a while just to learn the alphabet. I was already, as no doubt many of us are, familiar with alpha, beta , gamma and delta (from grades at uni) and with pi ( from maths at school). I came unstuck at first with letters which I think of as ‘false friends’, for instance the ‘r’ that looks like a ‘p’, the ‘n’ that looks like a ‘v’ , and the ‘s’ which looks like an ‘o’ with a tiny flick at the top on the right-hand-side. I’m gradually becoming more familiar with it all.
The other NT Greek group members have considerable knowledge of Greek, and they have made we very welcome and I am learning a lot from them. I think that the fact that I grew up in a bilingual community ( in Wales) may also have stood me in good stead, because I was aware at a young age of people speaking a language I did not understand, but I was not daunted by it – I was just intrigued and wanted to know what they saying!
My own specialism was German, so I am not daunted by the intricacies of grammar, word order and so on, though I do need to brush up on some things, such as the passive subjunctive!
My next step its to try to work out how I can post words in Greek script on this blog – my laptop can do that, but unfortunately I can’t …yet.
So far, everyone I know who has studied Greek is very enthusiastic about it, and I have been given a lot of encouragement and help with my new venture.
My last word… well, for now… is that I think that the Greek script is very elegant. I really enjoy writing it and trying to make my handwritten version as lovely as the printed script in my Greek copy of the New Testament.