Friday, October 26, 2007

An Anecdote About A Favorite Professor

Since I can't think of anything extremely substantive for today, I thought I'd tell you a little story about one of my favorite professors. His name is Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. He was my Intermediate Greek professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The story begins with me sneaking into Intermediate Greek. I say that I snuck in because I had never had Beginner's Greek. One summer, I simply bought Dr. David Black's Learning to Read New Testament Greek and I worked my way through it. (He's another favorite professor, by the way.) In the Fall, I registered for a class that I did not have the pre-requisites for, and fortunately, the registrar did not catch me. I was in.

I wanted to take Dr. Kostenberger's class for several reasons. For one, I was convinced that having a handle on the fundamentals of Greek was an essential tool for a man going into the pastorate. Secondly, I knew that Dr. Kostenberger was a first rate scholar. Thirdly, I also knew that he was serious about teaching the language. So I joined the class with minor anxiety that I might dive in over my head, but I was determined to do well.

Fortunately, my studies over the summer had not been in vain. I found myself able to keep up in the class and even be involved in the discussions. Dr. Kostenberger was quite serious about Greek and if you said something ignorant or pompous in class, he could let you know. So if you spoke, you needed to have a clue about what you were speaking about.

Things were going smoothly for me until a little before midway through the semester. One day, after class, Dr. Kostenberger asked me, "Did you take the first year of Greek?" It was a simple question to which I knew that he knew the answer. I don't know how he found out, but he did. I said, "No..not exactly." He replied, "This is not good. Meet me in my office tomorrow. Bring your Greek Bible."

I was frightened to say the least. At the time, Dr. Kostenberger had a pretty good beard going, and he speaks with a sort of Austrian/German accent. (Which is far cooler than my Sand Mountain/hick accent.) He was also sporting a pretty good limp at the time because he had recently broken his foot. I suddenly felt like he was a sort of Goldfinger character come to life. I wanted to say, "Dr. Kostenberger, do you expect me to parse verbs?" But I was afraid he would say, "No, Mr. Williams! I expect you to die!" So with great trepidation, I went to his office at the appointed time to meet my certain doom.

I came in and sat down. He instructed me to turn to 1 John and begin reading in a certain place. I forgot which. What you need to know, dear reader, is that this was a most gracious choice. 1 John is the easiest Greek. I was relieved.

Under the conditions, I did pretty well. I only missed one word, and I can only ascribe it to nervousness because the word was koinonia, which is Greek for fellowship. When I had read and translated enough to satisfy him he said, "You did well. You are up to speed." I left happy and bathed in nervous sweat. For that quiz I received a pass on my first year Greek work, which basically means I got credit for six hours without a grade.

I managed a B+ in Dr. Kostenberger's class that semester. I was agonizingly close to an A. I had done rather poorly on a gimmee vocabulary quiz early on in the semester. An emergency came up at home, and I had to take it before the others in the class, and under the circumstance I did not prepare as I should. Bummer! That was one of very few B's that I received in seminary, and it is the only one that I felt that I actually earned.

I appreciated Dr. Kostenberger's class because he held us to a high standard, and he made Greek feel important. His expertise in the field was evident, and I admired it greatly. Though he was serious about the subject, his grace was clear to those willing to learn, and it was manifest in the treatment I received when my secret came out. He could have put me straight out of the class because I had clearly violated the rules, and I am fairly certain that he would have if my Greek had not been up to par.

I am grateful to good for having had the opportunity to study under Dr. Kostenberger and others at Southeastern. Perhaps one day I will be able to return to such tutelage. In the mean time, I will endeavor to keep my Greek skills sharp, just in case I get called to the office again for interrogation.

"Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches" (Galatians 6:6).

1 comment:

Keith said...

Funny, cause about the only greek word I know is kwe no ne uh