Students in New Testament studies (and many other fields) are required to eventually learn German if they (against their better judgement) continue to pursue higher education. I’m not going to lie, and I realize that this video isn’t totally fair in its characterization of German and the way it compares to other languages, but this is definitely the impression I got when I first started down the Deutschstrasse.
While I’m home, my daily work schedule is being drastically cut back. Most of my time will be spent just reading the bible (novel idea). This is my process for reading Mark during my time back in the states. It would work for any book of the Bible. Each day I complete the following steps for each chapter:
1. Read the chapter in English. Simple and straightforward. Read it slowly and carefully. Try not to “think ahead” to what is in the rest of the chapter.
2. Go through Mark pericope flash cards. I made flashcards for the different pericopae in Mark. One side of the card is the verse reference (Mark 2:1-12) and on the other, what happens in that pericope (Jesus heals the paralytic).
3. Do Greek flash cards. I made a flash card for any word in the text that I had to look up. So, I go through these cards so I don’t have to use a lexicon while I’m working through the text.
4. Read the chapter in Greek. Again, pretty straightforward. I mark any sections that seem a little obscure, or where the Greek is more difficult to put together.
5. Read in English again.
If you don’t know the original language of the book you’re reading, just drop the original language steps. Maybe read the chapter three times instead of two in english and one in the original language.
Nearly every time I tell someone what I do, it gets awkward. When they discover that I study the New Testament full time, people of nontraditional religiosities feel the immediate need to defend how they view God, Christianity, and religion in general. It is a known (if not misguided) feature of modern etiquette that you don’t talk about politics, religion, or sex in public or with people you do not know very well. Unfortunately, whenever I’m on an airplane, on a bus, or in a waiting room and the stranger next to me asks what I do, social policy comes crashing down like a chandelier.
I can always tell that they wish they hadn’t asked and now do not know exactly what to do with the Gorilla in the room. Sometimes, they just ignore it by ending the conversation then and there. That’s always fun for me. It’s as if I offended them by my choice in careers. I might as well have said that I work for the IRS. They hate what I do are not well-adjusted enough to move past it. Thus awkward silence ensues.
But, more often, I hit one of their nerves so hard, that I can feel the pain. It is such a contentious area for them that they can’t sit silently, but instead feel the need to explain themselves. To best illustrate this, imagine that you are a math teacher and when you tell someone what you do they respond with statements like these:
“Oh, I respect math. I think it is really great for some people, just not for me.”
Or in a very intelligent and authoritative tone:
“I think that overall, math is probably a good thing, but when people get too specific about their personal mathematical views, then I think that’s wrong.”
Or in a self-defensive tone:
“I always did my math homework as a kid, but I can’t remember the last time I carried the one. But I still think that math is a good thing.”
Or in an already-offended tone:
“Math is a personal matter. It should be kept to oneself. I’m not saying Math is evil, I’m just saying it can do lead to terrible things.”
So, as I’m sure anyone else who studies the Bible or works at a church vocationally can attest, it gets a little tiring. But it does help to highlight some of the ways that our culture views religion and I think it can provide two opportunities for me (and anyone else in the same situation).
First, it can lead to constructive conversations about religion. Perhaps the person I’m with has had exclusively bad interaction with religious people and this is a chance for me to give them a good one. Second, it can be a time where I learn from those on the outside what the inside looks like from their perspective.
There is undoubted gain, if perhaps also loss, in finding ourselves in the present century sufficiently “postmodern” to understand that no-one interprets the past without both the help and the hindrance of inherited preconceptions. The historian has turned out to be not a camera but a darkroom.
Bockmuehl (The Remembered Peter)