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Author Topic: Understanding Greek and Latin  (Read 1189 times) Average Rating: 0
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Athanasios
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« on: December 13, 2008, 05:50:11 PM »

I have often heard it claimed from many Orthodox that such and such Western Father and/or theologian misrepresented such and such Eastern Father and/or theologian because said Western Father and/or theologian didn't understand Greek.

Do you think that all (or many or most) Western Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Greek or that in order to properly understand Orthodox theology one must be fluent in Greek?

If so, would you likewise think that all (or many or most) Eastern Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Latin or that in order to properly understand Catholic theology one must be fluent in Latin?
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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2008, 09:29:15 PM »

I have often heard it claimed from many Orthodox that such and such Western Father and/or theologian misrepresented such and such Eastern Father and/or theologian because said Western Father and/or theologian didn't understand Greek.

I recall Augustine stating explicitly that he didn't understand Greek well, if at all.  Quite a problem, when at the time most of Patristics were in Greek (or Syriac, which Augustinte didn't know either).

Quote
Do you think that all (or many or most) Western Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Greek or that in order to properly understand Orthodox theology one must be fluent in Greek?

Some demonstrate a knowledge of Greek.  But many were dependent on Latin translation.  As having to know Greek, St. Anthony knew Orthodoxy well enough, and he didn't know a word of Greek. Ditto I believe St. Ephraim.

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If so, would you likewise think that all (or many or most) Eastern Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Latin or that in order to properly understand Catholic theology one must be fluent in Latin?

On another forum  police Roll Eyes police we had a discussion on a silly article on the canon regarding jurisdiction at Nicea I. It revolved around the Greek, the ultramontanist critiquing the ancient Latin translation. So no, you don't need to know Latin.

Latin Romanian does quite well for Orthodox theology, e.g. distinguishing it from the filioque quite well.
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« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2008, 03:45:40 AM »

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Do you think that all (or many or most) Western Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Greek or that in order to properly understand Orthodox theology one must be fluent in Greek?

I don't think it's necessary to understand Greek to understand Orthodox theology, though I'm sure it helps to some extent. To what extext I don't know, since I don't know Greek Wink
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« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2008, 11:51:55 AM »

I think we should be careful that we don't think that real theology is a scholastic activity. This tends to lead to pridefulness in worldly knowledge doesn't it?
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« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 02:44:14 PM »

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Do you think that all (or many or most) Western Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Greek or that in order to properly understand Orthodox theology one must be fluent in Greek?

I don't think it's necessary to understand Greek to understand Orthodox theology, though I'm sure it helps to some extent. To what extext I don't know, since I don't know Greek Wink

Maybe not today, but during the early years of the Church, it was essential.  Though there were I'm sure some doctrinal issues that would have arisen despite the use of a common and understood tongue, many of the differences that arose were caused by the lack of knowledge of Greek.

However, I am not excusing later heresies that arose not from misinterpretation or misunderstanding of Greek, but from the will of the Pope or other individual bishops.
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Athanasios
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« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2008, 03:25:27 PM »

Maybe not today, but during the early years of the Church, it was essential.  Though there were I'm sure some doctrinal issues that would have arisen despite the use of a common and understood tongue, many of the differences that arose were caused by the lack of knowledge of Greek.

But, was it because those non-Greek speaking members misunderstood what the Greek was saying -- or because the Greek speaking members didn't recognize the new languages and nuances within them?
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« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2008, 03:30:20 PM »

I have often heard it claimed from many Orthodox that such and such Western Father and/or theologian misrepresented such and such Eastern Father and/or theologian because said Western Father and/or theologian didn't understand Greek.

Do you think that all (or many or most) Western Fathers and theologians didn't/don't understand Greek or that in order to properly understand Orthodox theology one must be fluent in Greek?


What I've been told is that the key is understanding "Greek thought" and not just understanding the linguistics of the language. Since I don't understand either really, I'm not sure what that means...LOL!

But it kind of makes sense when/if you've ever been around 2 people who both know the grammer, and yet the one who actually grasps "greek thought" seems to have a more Orthodox understanding of a particular text, while the one who merely comprehends the grammer might have an Orthodox interpretation, or a Catholic one, or even a Jesus Seminar interpretation of a text.

Don't know if that makes sense, but that's what I've been told, and have observed in the past.

And certainly you don't have to know Greek, hence maybe there is something to the idea of "Greek Patristic thought" which over the centuries became "Orthodox thought".
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Athanasios
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« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2008, 06:28:15 PM »

But it kind of makes sense when/if you've ever been around 2 people who both know the grammer, and yet the one who actually grasps "greek thought" seems to have a more Orthodox understanding of a particular text, while the one who merely comprehends the grammer might have an Orthodox interpretation, or a Catholic one, or even a Jesus Seminar interpretation of a text.

That seems to stink of an almost British imperialist attitude ("I thought British policy was to make the world England"). Christ commanded to preach the Gospel to all nations, but I don't get the sense that He meant -- make the world Greeks.
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Pray that we may be one, as Christ and His Father are one. (John 17:20ff)

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« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2008, 08:27:24 PM »

But it kind of makes sense when/if you've ever been around 2 people who both know the grammer, and yet the one who actually grasps "greek thought" seems to have a more Orthodox understanding of a particular text, while the one who merely comprehends the grammer might have an Orthodox interpretation, or a Catholic one, or even a Jesus Seminar interpretation of a text.

That seems to stink of an almost British imperialist attitude ("I thought British policy was to make the world England"). Christ commanded to preach the Gospel to all nations, but I don't get the sense that He meant -- make the world Greeks.

...or Latins.

The Fathers explicitly saw something in providence in the development and spread of Hellnistic (not Greek, btw, which is a different matter) culture: the spread of Koine, the translation of the LXX, the spread of the polis model within a pagan Roman empire already hellenized, etc.  Christianity could have been developed and spread in Latin.  It wasn't.  It could have been spread by Aramaic, and in part it was, but via Greek (the Peshitta is a translation of the LXX and the Greek NT).  It many ways, Hellenistic (again, not Greek) culture as become as much a part of the Church as the Hebrew culture.

Christianity remains an Eastern religion.
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Question a friend, perhaps he did not do it; but if he did anything so that he may do it no more.
A hasty quarrel kindles fire,
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If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
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