Faculty revitalize Greek program

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Faculty revitalize Greek program

Olinger writes an exercise in Koine Greek on a chalkboard in class. Photo: Robert Stuber

BJU faculty have worked hard to revamp the biblical Greek program for the entire student body, not just School of Religion students.

The program refresh includes a changing in scope and sequencing of the four semesters of Greek grammar, a new textbook and adding an affective outcome focusing on student reaction to the material. The new changes will be implemented in the Fall 2021 semester.

Dr. Dan Olinger, chair of the Division of Biblical and Theological Studies, which includes the biblical Greek program, said the short-term goal for the refresh is to see more students in the program due to higher retention rates, but hopes that in the long term, the revamp will lead to joyful facility with the tools of Greek exegesis.

Students work on an assignment in Olinger’s Elementary Greek I class. Photo: Robert Stuber

“In particular, we’re adding an affective outcome that focuses on the students’ enjoyment of and inclination to use the Greek tools they acquire here,” Olinger said. “We were seeing more students drop the program than we wanted, and those who stayed in often demonstrated confusion that we thought we could address by reworking the sequence and pace.” Olinger, who teaches Elementary Greek I and II, said the affective outcome should open opportunities for creativity in the classroom and student assessment.

Dr. Timothy Hughes, a faculty member in the Division of Graduate Studies and project coordinator for the program refresh, said the goal was to inspire students to take their study of biblical Greek beyond the classroom and continue to use it after college while still maintaining the cognitive excellence of the program. “At BJU we believe that students should walk away from classes not just understanding the subject more, but hopefully liking it,” Hughes said.

Dr. Greg Stiekes, a faculty member in the BJU seminary and biblical Greek program coordinator, was a research assistant for a Bible scholar, leading him to help create the textbook that the biblical Greek program will transition to.

“We had a good textbook that our own faculty had developed, and yet we realized we needed to revise it,” Hughes said, “and what we ended up doing was selecting a new textbook,” Hughes said part of the new textbook’s appeal is its focus on the value and use of biblical Greek, especially in Bible study.

The pacing of the courses will also shift from previous years, according to Hughes. “We want to give more supports for [students’] success,” Hughes said. “We want them to know how to use it, so building in more pieces like ‘here’s how you would study this passage.’”

Esdras Borges, a graduate assistant in the biblical Greek program, said he is excited for the opportunity to bring changes he felt were needed when he took the classes as a student. “My favorite idea is transitioning from viewing the teacher as more of a coach than the source of the student’s knowledge,” Borges said, “and that’s following the principle that languages are learned, they’re not taught.”

Olinger writes an exercise in Koine Greek on a chalkboard in class. Photo: Robert Stuber

Dr. Kevin Oberlin, dean of the School of Religion, said he has been excited to watch the faculty collaborate on the program refresh. “Our faculty have just come together and collaborated extremely well, and the synergy among the members of the Greek faculty is stronger than ever,” Oberlin said. “All the different faculty know what the other faculty think about the program…and we’ve done our best to address everything holistically,” Oberlin said his desire is for students grow to love the Word of God more through studying Greek.

“[Greek] is a valid option for people who are not even part of the School of Religion,” Oberlin said, “and all the more so if they really want to have a language that they can utilize every single day the rest of their life.”

The basic four-course sequence of biblical Greek classes will satisfy the foreign language requirements for a bachelor of arts. Hughes said he hopes more students will choose biblical Greek. “If you were just fulfilling your language requirements, you’d be taking four courses, 12 credits, and by the end you would be able to read Greek passages from the New Testament,” Hughes said.

“If you’re a believer, you have plenty of motivation to learn Greek because the New Testament was written in Greek,” Borges said. “The advantage is that you have a level of intimacy with the text that you lose in the translation.”