Give Greek a “Go!” – an easy way to finally learn the language of Scripture

This upcoming school year I will be studying Christianity and Greco-Roman Religion at the University of Washington (in conjunction with our church plant). My goal, after getting some more religion/history/language classes under my belt, is to then move into Ph.D. studies in Roman History and New Testament. Essentially, I want to do what some scholars call “Empire Criticism,” defined: “…developing an eye and ear for the presence of Rome and the worship of the emperor in the lines and between the lines of New Testament writings” (See: Scot McKnight in Jesus is Lord and Caesar is Not [admittedly, I disagree with that book to some extent :-). I prefer the approach in this book]).

With that said, over the next few months, I plan to write about my journey in re-learning Koine Greek (New Testament Greek). I took three courses in Seminary, but as many pastors will tell you, didn’t build on my studies. Basically, outside of the basics, I’ve lost most of what I learned. To prepare for my upcoming academic aspirations, I’ve decided to start with enrolling in a course through the Conversational Koine Institute. I believe that language immersion is the BEST way to learn a language… even one that is considered “dead.” I will be in the Greek 1 course beginning on April 22nd and I want to invite you to join me.

If you have always wished you could learn how to read the New Testament in its original language, here’s an easy (low commitment – about an hour a week with no homework!) to give it a go!

Below, I took the time to interview Dr. T. Michael W. Halcomb about CKI. Read what he had to say and let’s give Greek a “go” together!

What is the Conversational Koine Institute?

Well Kurt, let me begin by saying, “Thanks for interviewing me about CKI.”  As I note on the website, the Conversational Koine Institute exists to help people “Get Greek!” Put differently, the goal of the CKI is to enable people to learn ancient Koine Greek through a variety of means, especially speaking and conversation. In fact, the cornerstone of each class is conversation (hence the name). When paired with hearing, reading, writing, etc., speaking is not just a quick tool to help you memorize a bunch of terms but rather, a tried and true approach to helping students really internalize a language.

Why did you start the Conversational Koine Institute?

There are a number of reasons related to why I started CKI.  One of those is that I myself struggled for a long time with learning the language; I had a sort of love-hate relationship with it.  I had been trying to develop a number of Greek study resources, especially web-related resources, to help with that…but it still wasn’t clicking like I wanted it to.  Once I learned that, like me, there were other folks who had an interest in trying to speak the language, I started developing lessons to fit within what I perceived to be the best pedagogical approach to learning/teaching.  The basis for that is conversation but CKI doesn’t stop there.

Another reason I started CKI was because of the doom-and-gloom message I kept hearing at conferences about the job market for biblical studies PhDs.  I kept hearing the refrain that there were no jobs, that the job market was terrible, and that I should maybe even reconsider getting a PhD altogether.  That didn’t sit well with me.  I wasn’t going to let the proverbial job market determine my employment fate.  So, I decided to start CKI.  So far things are going incredibly well.

Who is the Conversational Koine Institute for?

Part of the reason that CKI is doing well is because it is for everybody.  I have students who’ve never taken one class session of Greek and professors who’ve been teaching it for decades all in the same class.  At the beginning, learning to hear, respond to, and speak in the language sort of levels the playing field and everyone is on the same footing.  But I have teachers, professors, pastors, church planters, missionaries, atheists, a retired Mormon bishop, and laity in my classes.  They are from all over the place, which makes it really fun.

Where do CKI classes take place?

The majority of the Conversational Koine Institute’s classes take place online, live, and via webcam.  But I’ve also used my smartphone to teach class before (when my computer was down), and I’ve had numerous students, including some living in Nigeria and Canada, participate in the sessions via their phone cams too.  So, in some sense, CKI is truly doing “mobile” education.  I’d like to think we’re on the cutting-edge of some great stuff in this regard.  And we have some great things planned and coming in the near-future too.

How do CKI classes work?

The whole process is pretty easy.  You simply sign in, join the classroom, have your headphones and cam ready, and start participating.  99% of the class sessions are taught in Koine Greek.  The last 5 minutes are typically reserved for Q&A in English.  All one really has to do is register, fulfill the tuition requirement, and then they’re good to go.  One doesn’t have to know any Greek before coming into class; in fact, that may even give them a leg up on getting the language in some regards.  They just need to be ready to have fun!

What do CKI classes cover and hat is the time commitment?

There is a curriculum based around 5 core components of Greek.  Each component (or semester) consists of about 10 sessions, each of which is only an hour long.  This totals about 52-53 hours of Greek.  Students who want to earn the Greek Certificate can do one additional component (also around 10 hours total).  So, the time commitment is minimal and adds up to about 1-hour per week.  There is no required homework either.  So, it’s not really that demanding.  Of course, I won’t object if students want to study more outside of class.  In fact, my experience thus far has been that many students become so interested in the language that they do study additional materials outside of class time.  That said, one of the questions I often get is, “What will I be able to do if I go all the way through the CKI curriculum?”  I have a difficult time answering this because each student is different.  Some students learn more quickly than others, some are more eager than others, etc.  It really just depends on the student.  What I can say is that students who really apply themselves should be quite comfortable getting into the Greek New Testament.

What is the cost a CKI class?

One of the great things about CKI is that it is inexpensive.  Classes are usually something like the low cost of only $7 or $9 per class session.  That’s an incredible deal!

When do CKI’s classes start? 

A new round of CKI classes is about to start.  These will commence on April 22nd and run through June.  Classes are currently held on Tuesday afternoons/evenings and again, sessions are only 1 hour per week.  Students can get in touch with me by signing up HERE.

 Dr. T. Michael W. Halcomb (Ph.D.) is the founder and lead professor at the Conversational Koine Institute.  He has written a number of books including the following:

Halcomb is a frequent presenter at conferences, and a devoted churchman-scholar.  You can visit CKI at www.ConversationalKoine.com and Halcomb’s personal website at www.MichaelHalcomb.com.

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  • Matthew Bade

    Kudos to you, Kurt, for choosing to continue your studies in a doctoral program! The great and grand dream of my life was to pursue a PhD in one of my two college majors (History and English Literature). I spent years salivating over this prospect until fortune decreed that my feet follow the bad end of a fork in an otherwise splendid path. As I sit on the sidelines, I have made it a policy to encourage others who chase after my dead dream, and not least those who do so with an eye to education and enrichment as their own ends (rather than as a purely vocational maneuver). I wish you all the best!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      thanks for the encouragement!

  • AmyS

    That sounds like a ton of fun!

  • ortcutt

    I’m always surprised how few Christians learn Greek and Hebrew (and the bit of Aramaic for Daniel 2-7). If I thought that God had written or inspired a book, I would certainly want to read the text rather than a translation.

  • tee kay

    I’ve always wanted to learn more about the greek language and have dabbled in it a bit but could use deeper study, but there is prophesy that is being fulfilled as we speak are you on the right side of it? full coverage here –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=FOpzA3fjH2A

  • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

    Cool idea Kurt. I probably never told you, but when I was a kid my parents taught introductory bible study in Greek to church classes wherever we were. My Mom had done a minor in Greek and studied linguistics; my Dad took a course in classical Greek at a local university. Their main point was to demystify Greek enough for lay people to reality-check claims by “authorities” about what the original text actually did or didn’t say.

    Speaking of classical Greek, if you want to dig further you might investigate a course or two in that as well. Our pastor is trained in the classics rather than seminary, and he’s had some very interesting insights into what certain words or references might have meant to people growing up in the Greco-Roman culture and mythology. Understanding how words were used outside the church context brings an added layer of richness to the study sometimes.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      Thanks really cool Dan! I will be doing classical greek studies as well. This is a chance to get ahead of the game by refreshing my Konie. PS – Your pastor sounds cool :-)


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