Interview with Dr. Dana M. Harris

10.13.2020  |  Season 2  |  Episode 4



SHOW NOTES

In this episode, Dr. Michelle Knight and Dr. Josh Jipp interview Dr. Dana M. Harris, Associate Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Josh and Michelle ask Dana about her passion for racial reconciliation, her passion for the books of Hebrews and Revelation, biblical languages, and teaching.

They also interview her about her brand new Greek grammar, An Introduction to Biblical Greek Grammar, out now with Zondervan Academic.

Tune in to hear Dana’s contagious love for Scripture and its communication.

And before the interview, we learn a little more about another beloved Foreword pet the Knight’s cat, Kilo.

Transcript

Intro
[00:00:00] You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

Josh Jipp
Welcome to Foreword! I’m Josh Jipp.

Michelle Knight
And I’m Michelle Knight.

Jipp
Michelle, it’s so good to see you!

Knight
Thanks.

Jipp
I think the last time we were hosting a podcast together, um, everyone saw you eating some tuna casserole, isn’t that right?

Knight
Uh, no, well—

Jipp
Or did we do one—

Knight
—we had, uh, the one with Dr. Pierce was in there too.

Jipp
Oh yes, that’s right.

Knight
Madison.

Jipp
Okay.

Knight
Uh, but you are right. One of the most famed encounters we’ve had together on this podcast is the tuna casserole experience.

Jipp
Yes. Yeah.

Knight
Yeah. “TM”

Jipp
It’s emblazoned in my memory—the picture…the picture, so.

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Yeah. Michelle, I thought it might be kind of fun to talk today about cats and animals—

Knight
[LAUGHS] Okay.

Jipp
—because over the summer, James—Dr. Arcadi—got a dog, I got a dog—

Knight
Mmhmm. Sure.

Jipp
—Madison’s been, you know, giving some love to our dogs—

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
—and throwing up some pictures of her own dog—

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Knight
Who’s so sweet.

Jipp
—um, and there’s been a lot of dog love from the Foreword podcast team.

Knight
Mmmhmm. That’s true.

Jipp
And sometimes I feel a little bit like I don’t want you to be left out, [KNIGHT LAUGHS] because I don’t think you have a dog—

Knight
I don’t.

Jipp
—but you have a cat, is that true?

Knight
I do!

Jipp
Okay.

Knight
I have a really sweet cat. He’s sleeping behind me in the chair. Um, I would drag him out here, but that won’t really help our listeners very much. Um, he is a farm cat, as all good cats are. His name is—

Jipp
That means he…he grew up on a farm, or he was born—

Knight
—Yes, and is some random mix of who knows what.

Jipp
Okay.

Knight
Um, but they tend to be like, just like, really healthy cats. They’re…they do their thing. They tend to be really good natured.

Jipp
You…you know what—

Knight
—See, now I’m sounding like a crazy cat lady who knows things about cats.

Jipp
No! No, that’s what I’m going for! I’m trying to…[LAUGHS]

Knight
Mmhmm…to make me sound like a crazy cat lady? It was good. I walked right into it. [JIPP LAUGHS] I couldn’t help it. Um—

Jipp
[LAUGHS] I think, if… I grew up on a farm, and if a cat survives on a farm—

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
—It’s probably going to be a solid cat—

Knight
That’s what I’m saying. I mean, obviously—

Jipp
—because cat survival rate is low on a farm.

Knight
[LAUGHS] Yeah. Whenever I talk to the person who gave me that cat, she’s all like, “Man, he’s the only one still living.”

Jipp
Yep. Exactly.

Knight
And so, I really do feel like when I adopt a farm cat, I give them a life they would not have had. [LAUGHS] But no, he’s a good cat—

Jipp
Yep. Did you say his name?

Knight
Kilo is his name.

Jipp
Kilo. Okay, very cool.

Knight
Mmhmm. Mmhmm.

Jipp
Um, what…what do you love about cats? What do you love about your cat?

Knight
That he is entirely low maintenance. Um, he, I mean, he’s also kind of my spirit animal. He does everything I’d love to do. He lays around in the sun 90% of the day, and occasionally graces us with his presence, kind of says “hello” and then he goes back to bed, and some days I just think, “I wouldn’t hate that life.”—

Jipp
That’s a good life. That’s a good life.

Knight
—Uh, obviously that’s not true. We all have things to do and we find great joy in our work, but in our busiest of days, I think his presence calms me. There’s somebody just, like—

Jipp
Yep.

Knight
—kind of snoring off to the side of my desk and it reminds me that the world is going on as normal, and, so—

Jipp
Totally.

Knight
—and he’s pretty snuggly. He’s also very loud. He’s part Siamese, and so he talks quite a bit. Um, talks… uh, it’s not like a standard little…cute little “meow,” it’s like [MAKES CAT NOISE]… all the time.—

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
—Yeah, that’s going to be a soundbite. That’ll be great.

Jipp
—It’s pretty…it’s…it’s unique to Kilo—other cats don’t do it.

Knight
No, Siamese cats do it.

Jipp
Okay. Alright.

Knight
It’s a thing.

Jipp
Well, I wish…if he…you know, if he wasn’t—I mean, are you sure we can’t wake him up? He would…he would be pretty upset—

Knight
I mean, I can wake him up, but again, our listeners won’t really be graced with anything. Let me get him…I guess this is a charmed encounter for the YouTube crowd…This is Kilo—

Jipp
Yeah, he’s so cute!

Knight
Thank you! He is a white kitty with, um, some pretty great patches, and at this point is just really annoyed that he’s awake [JIPP LAUGHS], so there he is.

Jipp
[LAUGHS] Well, you know what he can do? He can go back to sleep, so everything will be okay.—

Knight
[LAUGHS] He can! It’s the life we all wish we had. Or, maybe he’ll stop and eat, and if it’s not to his liking—

Jipp
Yep, then he’ll go to sleep.

Knight
—he’ll yell at me and I’ll replenish it, so it’s a…it’s a life.

Jipp
Yep, yep. Awesome.

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Well thanks…thanks for sharing a little of your cat love with us. [LAUGHS]

Knight
Yeah. Why is it that when people know a lot about dogs, it’s not weird, but when people know a lot about cats, it’s like socially unacceptable?—

Jipp
No. I don’t think it’s at all—

Knight
—Can we just be clear about that?

Jipp
I…I’m going to be 100%, like, not joking around, sarcastic, or anything—I don’t think anything about you and that cat is weird. I think it’s weird—

Knight
[LAUGHS] That’s very sweet.

Jipp
—when people get, like, a lot of cats in their house—

Knight
Sure.

Jipp
—and I don’t…maybe…[LAUGHS] I’m sorry if some of you listening, like, [KNIGHT LAUGHS] out there have more than four cats in your house. If you do—

Knight
That’s the number, huh? That’s the threshold?

Jipp
—you…you just do what you do. I think it’s a little weird, but like, if you’ve got a cat—maybe two cats—I don’t think there’s anything weird about that.

Knight
Oh, that…thank goodness. Thank goodness. I guess somebody with six dogs would kind of alarm me too.

Jipp
That’s real. You just don’t see…I don’t think you see that as often as you see, you know, a house that might be overrun by cats—

Knight
That’s fair.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Jipp
—but anyway, Michelle, thanks for sharing with us [KNIGHT LAUGHS] about, uh, Kilo. We are excited you’re here with us today. Today on the show we have Associate Professor of New Testament, Dr. Dana Harris. Hey, Michelle, guess who taught me Greek when I was an MDiv student at TEDS!

Knight
Was it Dr. Dana Harris?

Jipp
It was Dr. Dana Harris!

Knight
No wonder your Greek’s so good.

Jipp
That’s…she…yep. I’m one of…one of her disciples. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] She trained me. Uh, Dr. Harris, among other things, is the recent author of An Introduction to Biblical Greek Grammar: Elementary Syntax and Linguistics with Zondervan Academic. It’s brand new and we can’t wait to talk to her.

Knight
Yeah, absolutely.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Jipp
[00:06:15] Welcome to Foreword! We are so glad you’re with us today, and today we have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dana Harris. Dr. Harris, thank you so much for being with us today!

Dana Harris
My pleasure!

Jipp
Well, before we get into some of your writing projects and your research, I’d love to hear—and I know our listeners would as well—love to hear a little bit more about your sense of calling. Um, can you tell us a little bit about…how did you end up at TEDS, and how did you end up in the vocation of theological education?

Harris
Okay! Well, I like to tell my students all the time that I took the least direct path to get here. [KNIGHT LAUGHS] So, if you had asked me at one point in my time…in my life if I would be going to a seminary, let alone teaching at a seminary, I would have laughed. So, um, let’s see. I…I’ve always loved Scripture. I became a believer when I was 15. And right away, I just really loved the Bible. Um, but when I was in university I double majored in International Relations and also French, and I was going to go into the State Department.

Jipp
Wow.

Harris
So my…my junior year, I was in Paris, and I got involved—I…I like to joke that this is kind of my “crash course” on denominationalism, because I grew up nominally Catholic, didn’t know anything about the Protestant world. So when I was in France, I went to a French speaking Pentacostal church, a French speaking Baptist church, and an English speaking Anglican church.

Knight
Okay! [LAUGHS]

Harris
[LAUGHS] Like, “Okay! Let’s just try them all!” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] But I…I also…I think then I had a strong sense of “calling” to mission, and I started realizing that if I were in the State Department, I wouldn’t have the freedom to share the Gospel. So when I graduated, I started looking at non-government organizations; started looking at mission organizations. Very wisely, my college pastor suggested that a little bit of training would go a long way. And so, I went into a church intern program for 2½ years, and that was my initial exposure to Greek. And I think during that time, I was really thinking that I would be teaching overseas. I had the opportunity to go to communist countries before the wall came down, and had a real sense of theological education for people who didn’t have access to it at all.

Knight
Interesting.

Harris
And so, um, that was kind of, you know…I…I’d always…early on, the Lord just kind of confirmed that I had teaching gifts. And I just felt this strong calling—I still feel a very passionate calling for theological education around the world. You guys know that in a non-pandemic time, I’m…I’m usually traveling quite a bit, and offering seminars and things like that—PhD, diss…uh, doctoral classes and…and all those things. But, I think, uh, at some point in time, kind of, specifically, how did I end up in a seminary? Because really, I just did not think that I was going to do this. I was at a major transition in my life for a whole bunch of other reasons, and I really just said, “Lord, I’ll go anywhere you want me to go and I’ll do anything you want me to do,” except—because we always have the exception clauses.

Knight
Absolutely. [LAUGHS]

Harris
You’ve got to have the exception clauses, ok? Anyway, for me, the exception clauses weren’t, you know, some far, foreign place. My exception clauses were, “I’ll go anywhere in the world, except Los Angeles or the Midwest.” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] And so, when I came here, my goal was to get in and out of Trinity as fast as possible. I was going to go to the UK and do a PhD in the UK and meet the man of my dreams and live in the UK or Europe. And I…it was such a good plan! I had it all scripted out, but the Lord had other plans. [LAUGHS] So, um, eventually when I was towards the end of my master’s-level work here, the New Testament department approached me and said, “Would you be interested in doing a PhD at Trinity and possibly teaching?” And I said, “No, thank you.” [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
Wow.

Harris
But, eventually the Lord worked on my heart and it became really clear that the Lord wanted me to be at Trinity.

Knight
That’s super cool.

Jipp
That’s really cool, Dana. Just one quick comment, do you—and question. The…the question is, um, your “never wanting to live in the Midwest” [HARRIS LAUGHS]—has it changed a little bit? Or is that…you’re…have you grown to love the Midwest, or…?

Harris
[00:10:25] No. Don’t…don’t push me. [LAUGHTER] Don’t push me that far, okay? Uh, 23 years—it…it’s grown on me. I live in Highwood, which is a wonderful neighborhood. I love living in Highwood. It’s very diverse, it’s a very fun neighborhood. Um, so that’s been really good. I like that, but you know, I miss mountains!

Jipp
Yeah.

Harris
I…I just miss mountains. I’m a “mountains person,” and I have spent significant time backpacking in the Sierra, and, you know, it’s just…it’s flat here. It’s just really flat. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
Yeah, yeah. Well, you could always be in Iowa. So, you know, it could be worse, right?

Knight
Good point. [JIPP LAUGHS]

Harris
I…I did not bring up Iowa. [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
[LAUGHS] I know.

Harris
You brought up Iowa first. That’s all I can say.

Knight
He doesn’t ever not bring up Iowa. [HARRIS LAUGHS] It’s kind of a recurrent thing around here. You know, I…even somebody on Twitter pointed out that we need to make sure and ask you about your preference for the mountains over the flat lands, so apparently you’ve instilled in your students that you are…you are here because you love us, but not because you love the flat lands.

Harris
Well you know, I always tell people—it’s a theological issue for me, really, because if you have faith as small as a mustard seed and you can pray to this mountain, “move,” and it will move—I’ve been doing that for 23 years and there are no mountains in Illinois. [LAUGHTER] So this is actually a theological issue for me.

Knight
[LAUGHS] That’s funny.

Jipp
At least we have the Trinity pond, though.

Harris
We do have the Trinity pond, and on good days when there’s clouds over Lake Michigan, I can pretend that they’re mountains.

Jipp
That’s true. Yeah.

Knight
Ooh, that’s good! That’s very inventive! Now, Dana, a huge part of your ministry here at Trinity is your involvement in Mosaic. So have you always been passionate about justice and issues of racial reconciliation, or is that something that at some point in your story became more prominent?

Harris
Yeah, thank you! Um, so I’d say it’s always been a part of my story, to be honest. I grew up in San Diego, and I went to very diverse schools. The high school I went to was one of the most diverse schools in San Diego. I know this could sound a little stereotypical, but my best friends…some of my best friends growing up—my close, close friends through college—a Jewish girl whose parents had lived through the Holocost and an African American boy. And we, um, I think that was just kind of the air that I was breathing. My parents were kind of social, liberal “do-gooders,” you know, you could say it that way, I’m not sure, but, um…so I…that was kind of always—the idea of helping other people; really caring about other people was something that was just very much in our world. And, you know, it was still fairly White in some respects, but I think I was exposed to a lot of things. The idea of justice, I think, was always a really big one for me. Even before I was a believer, I was really passionately motivated by, you know, environmental issues. I remember running a race, “Save the Seals,” and, you know, just very much involved in those kinds of things. So then, when I started putting that in a biblical framework, it just…I don’t know how else to think about what God is doing. I mean, God is a god of justice, and I don’t really know how else to think about it, but there was a pivot point for me. There was a time where I became a lot more focused in my thinking on this, and that was—I can’t remember what class it was, but some class. It was an exegesis class, I’m sure, because we were in the text. And I made some comments about, um, the implications—it was probably Colossians, maybe chapter 3—but some of the implications for ministries of racial reconciliation and how we can think about this, because I’ve tried really hard in my classes to contextualize, to bring in the current situation. And I remember afterwards, a student came up, and he was not offended, but he came up and politely just said, “Oh, you know, that was kind of interesting.” He goes, “I haven’t thought much about it,” he goes, “but I’m not called to a ministry of racial reconciliation.” And I just remember, like, something inside of me just exploded, and I’m thinking, “We’re called to be ambassadors for Christ. I mean, how…how is this a non…you know, non-essential part of the Gospel?” So, I think that was maybe 10 or 15 years ago, and since then, I’ve been a lot more intentional about my own education and really trying to educate myself on the issues, but also really, fully see it as really, at the core, that God is reconciling all back to Himself through Jesus, and that, of course, is vertical and horizontal.

Knight
Hmm. Excellent.

Jipp
Dana, what would you…I’d love to hear, what would you say to the person who kind of has some of that theological framework and biblical framework in place, but, um, but a practical tip. Maybe they’re…I mean they could be at any age, I don’t want to…but, you know, maybe they’re getting some of that framework, but they’re still at the early stages. Would you have any sort of, like, “Here’s one practical tip,” or “I’d really recommend..,” you know, “Press into this,” or “Try to get this experience,” or “Read these books,” or something like that?

Harris
Sure! I mean, the…we live in a great time right now. I actually think it’s a great time, because there are so many amazing books that are out. I am just about finishing up David Swanson’s Rediscipling the White Church; love The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby; I’m in the middle of Reading While Black, Esau McCaulley. So, I mean, those are all just tremendous resources, I think. But, I think what I would probably encourage somebody at the beginning, is—we can sometimes frame this question as a problem, and I think that’s unfortunate, because none of us gravitate towards wanting to deal with problems. But I like to look at it as an invitation, and the way that I usually think about it is, we have a tendency to read the Bible as being monocultural, so if we can understand that the context for both the Old and the New Testament is extremely diverse, and really get a sense of how it—particularly in Acts—how the people of God keeps getting redefined in more diverse ways—

Jipp
Yeah.

Harris
—then, what we’re actually looking at is an invitation to the richness of what God wants—

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and I have to talk to students about this, but spiritual formation is actually…my spiritual formation requires…requires—I will never grow the way that God wants me to grow if I’m not interacting with the diversity of the body of Christ, and so I look at it really as an invitation.

Knight
That’s helpful.

Jipp
Yeah, that’s really helpful. Um, what… Dana, we’ll transition a little bit into some of your writing and your passions as it pertains to the text. I think anybody that knows you, knows you love Hebrews. You’ve recently written an—was it just last year—published the…an exegetical commentary on Hebrews, which is rich in detail. I had a chance to use it in a couple of places just for my own research, and—really wonderful. Um, but, you also love the book of Revelation, and if I understand right, you are doing some writing on the book of Revelation right now, um, what would—

Harris
Two books. No pressure. [LAUGHS]

Jipp
Two books! Okay. Yeah, I just had “some” I knew— [LAUGHTER]

Knight
[LAUGHS] Writing “some things.”

Jipp
—[LAUGHS] multiple projects on Revelation. Um, what…why Revelation?

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
What do you love about the book? Why is it, you know, why is it important for the church? I’m sorry, I’m throwing three questions at you right there.—

Knight
All of them. [LAUGHS]

Harris
That’s okay. I can take it. I can take it.

Jipp
—but, give us a little taste of why you love the book. Alright.

Harris
Well, you know, I…I always joke with my students and joke with friends, that, you know, between Hebrews and Revelation, I just like to hang out at the back of the Bible—

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
Sure.

Harris
—in two parts of the New Testament that are not often given much attention. They’re both kind of overlooked.

Jipp
Mmhmm.Yeah.

Harris
Um, I…I love both for their richness, but to focus specifically on Revelation, I don’t want this to sound arrogant at all, but Revelation is so badly interpreted sometimes [LAUGHS]—

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Sure.

Harris
—that I…I feel almost compelled to help people to see a different perspective. Now thankfully, I…I was not kind of, uh, drinking deeply from the fundamentalist, dispensational, Left Behind approach to Revelation. I actually have had to go back and kind of read that and understand that perspective, but any time that I was exposed to that kind of “Bible code,” and, you know, “I’ve got a news source in one hand and Revelation in the other and I’m trying to map them all out,” I just knew in my heart that there…that was just a flattening out of the reading of it. And so, I don’t know when this started; when I started thinking this way, I wrote—I think the first thing I published on Revelation was in 2012, so that kind of got me thinking about it. But, one of the things people don’t think about in Revelation is that…really taking seriously that Revelation is a narrative.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
Um, I think personally, it should be classified as an epistle, because it really is an epistle that…that’s got that kind of opening. Call…calling it “an apocalypse” is a little bit confusing because it doesn’t exactly align with the other apocalypsis. But, it’s really a narrative, and it’s a narrative that I think is doing something extremely important. And so to get into that, I kind of have to back into a little bit of Roman history, but, the Roman Empire was the master of creating a narrative. And, one of the examples I always used is a little coin that Domitian issued after the death of his second son—very famous coin, people can imagine it I’m sure right now. It shows a globe, it shows a baby sitting on a globe, and it shows seven stars around it. Okay, so, coins are propaganda, right? And so what this is saying is that the Roman Empire is at the center of the universe, and now this little baby has become a god, so we’ve got the continuation of the governance of the universe, and the whole universe swirls around the Roman Empire. So what I think Revelation is doing is it is exposing the counterfeit narrative that the Roman Empire is putting up, and it is then juxtaposing and putting next to it the true narrative, because there is only one King of Kings. There is not “A Roman Empire,” there is not “A Caesar.” That’s false, and there are so many ways that Revelation is deconstructing the Roman narrative and then reconstructing the true narrative. And for me, I think that’s the primary application of Revelation, because—not to say anything exceptionally controversial—but we are living in the midst of all kinds of counterfeit narratives—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and so many ways as believers that we are hearing things that are appealing to us, as if they were the true narrative—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and they’re not. And so I really look very…uh, I…I love studying Revelation because it really is constantly exposing those…those false narratives.

Jipp
What…what would be one of those? So, to…to be controversial. I mean, like, what, you know, you can pick any of them. There’s a number, right, that you could look at.—

Harris
Yeah, I mean, right now there…[LAUGHS]—

Jipp
—What would be…what would be one we need to…we need to have exposed in terms of idolatries?

Harris
[00:21:05] Well, you know, 40 days out from an election, I guess I can say something about that. But I think…I think even as believers, there’s a tendency to think that the outcome of this election changes everything, and to look at, and to really put our emotional hope, our emotional energy, our uh, just, almost our well being on the outcome of the election.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And really, that’s a false narrative, because, I mean, yes, it’s important and I encourage everyone to vote who…who can, I mean absolutely. But, in…in a…on one sense, everything changes after the election. I…I get that. On the other hand, if you go to Revelation 1, you’ve got that opening vision of Jesus exalted, and all of the symbolic language is absolutely underscoring that there is nothing that can take away from His sovereignty, nothing that can take away from His control, that He holds…He holds the Church in His hands, and He is standing in the midst of the Church. When you have that perspective, it helps…at least it helps me—maybe I’m the only one—but it helps me to realize that I…I can buy in to what the world’s saying; that, how politics are playing out in the United States is really, really, really important—I mean, don’t mistake, I’m a news junkie. I keep up on all these things, you know, it is important. But, it’s a false narrative if I think it’s the most important thing. And if I invest all of my energy and I invest all of my emotional well being into that, that’s a false narrative.

Knight
Yeah.

Jipp
Yeah, that’s good. Yeah.

Knight
Yeah. Now, your passion for Revelation is matched, I think, by a lot of things, [HARRIS LAUGHS] but a lot of us would notice that you speak about as passionately—and well—about Greek grammar and teaching students to read the original text well, so we’d also love to hear about that. I mean, you recently have released a Grammar, and, uh, we are —

Harris
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
Congratulations!

Knight
[LAUGHS] After a long time. I mean, Dana’s been working on this thing for so long, and we are hearing rave reviews. We actually asked Twitter what they wanted to talk to you about and the responses we got were all about this grammar.

Jipp
All Greek grammar. [LAUGHS]

Knight
They’re all [LAUGHS]—

Jipp
I don’t know if that’s true.

Knight
I mean, not…not exactly Greek grammar. Josh is…no. But—

Jipp
I don’t pay atten…I have no idea.

Knight
—but, they were all students saying that they’ve benefited so much from your class and how much that meant to them. So we wanted to hear a little bit, kind of… what’s distinctive about the way that you teach Greek, or maybe, specifically, what’s distinctive about this grammar? What does it do differently than the gajillion other grammars that are on the market?

Harris
Yeah, yeah. Well, to your comment about passion, I…I just say quickly that my students quickly figure out there are very few things about which I do not have a strong opinion or feel passionately.

Knight
[LAUGHS] It’s just everything!

Harris
I just warn them. I just warn them upfront. It’s like, “Get ready, okay?” Um, I think…I think for me, Greek is a tool, and it’s a tool that gets us closer to God’s word.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
I always, you know, want to make it very, very clear in my classes that we’re actually not studying an object, we’re getting to know a “who.” So the goal of all of our object—of our study—is really worship. And, so Greek is a tool that can be used in that way, but it’s an important tool, and so one of the reasons why I get passionate about it is that it opens up things for…for students. I’m going to use a…kind of a funny example that just popped into my head, so I think it might be helpful, but one time I was in Romania, and I was teaching, and the Romanian translation at that point in time was really, really bad. And I was just hanging out with a…there was a young boy who was very, very interested, but he spoke…he read Greek. And so, it turns out that I had my Greek New Testament with me, and we were…he had all kinds of questions. And so we were answering those questions in English, and he would look at the Romanian Bible and say, “It says this,” and I’m like, “I know that it doesn’t say that.” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] “I mean, the Romanian Bible does, but the Bible doesn’t.” So here what was so fun is that I could pull out my Greek New Testament, and he could read it!

Knight
That is really cool.

Harris
And he was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s not what it says,” you know?

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
So, I think I use that experience because it…Greek is a tool that can open doors—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and I think that’s really important. So now it’s about my grammar. I mean, I’ve been teaching Greek for a long time. I’ve been teaching Greek for close to 30 years, and one of the things that is really important for me is I want things to be clear for students and I want them to know why they need to know what they need to know.

Knight
Okay.

Harris
So, I…I mean I’m taking a very, very basic linguistic approach—form and function. Okay, so, you know, some people—I love this. This is not original to me at all, but I love it. Form—who am I? Function—what do I do?

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And, when you can break things down like that for students, they start getting it. The other thing that I’m really driven by is, again, linguistics, but discourse approaches—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—where you’re not teaching students how to do things through translation. You’re teaching them how things function.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And that’s a very different approach. It’s not, “Here’s…here are these conjunctions and they ‘mean’ xyz,” it’s like, “What do they do?”

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
“What do they do?” And, you know, a lot of times in Greek where we teach students, you know, like a very good example is the little conjunction δε, and they learn that that’s “and” or “but.” And then if they’re tracking along in their English Bibles when they’re translating, they’ll notice that a lot of times in the narrative, δε is translated “next”—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—because it’s indicating sequence.

Knight
Mmhmm.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
[00:26:34] So if you teach through the functions and not just through translation, that really frees students up to put good categories in place.

Knight
Yeah. That is super helpful.

Harris
So, trying to make it really clear—it’s also…I…I spent a lot of time working on how the material is presented. And one of the things is when you’re teaching adults another language, they already have the categories in place. They don’t know them, so you have to help them learn how to identify some of those categories, but they’re competent language speakers. So if you can help them to understand how language functions, and then how Greek does that, it’s a lot easier I think for them to…to grasp.

Jipp
That’s really good.

Knight
That’s very helpful, and it…it gets to not only what’s distinctive about your grammar, but kind of for those of us who are teaching languages, just to remind us about what really communicates well and what draws students in. We did have a question from Twitter, Phillip Lowe wanted to hear from you, and he wanted to hear what advice you would have for people who are teaching Greek. If…if you could condense—I mean, you’ve already given us some of that—but if you could condense what you…some…one thing that you would want to make sure new Greek teachers were aware of and considering.

Jipp
That’s good.

Harris
Yeah, I mean, there’s a couple of things I would say, but I…I often joke that teaching Greek is 10% instruction and 90% encouragement.

Knight
[LAUGHS] That’s probably true.

Harris
And, it’s that… um, when students come in to class, a language class, particularly a language that’s—and, if you’re teaching modern pronunciation, then you can pull in modern examples—but, they’re very intimidated. It’s…it’s very intimidating to be speaking a language you’ve never heard. And so one of the things that I say, before you even get into the pedagogy, is, make sure you’re creating a context in which there’s not competition, in which people can laugh at each other, laugh at their mistakes. Just lessen the stress, because that actually improves the learning. The other thing I would say, too, is have fun, and one thing that I try to do is—students are always focusing on what they don’t know, so when I’m introducing a new concept, I will often put a verse on the board, and I’ve looked carefully for that verse—

Knight
Sure.

Harris
—but it will have one or two things that they don’t know, and what I do instead is just say, “Can anybody tell me one thing they do know about this verse?”

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And get them to start focusing on what they do know, and then teach them how to make really good educated guesses. So can look at it, and you can say, “Okay, you don’t know what this word is. Is this a noun or a verb?” Most students can figure that out. Now we can start asking certain kinds of questions. So that’s one thing that I try to do. The other thing that I do, both in the book and the workbook and stuff like that, is to help students to see the syntax. So I focus a lot on syntactic units—

Knight
Okay.

Harris
—because most students, when they open up their Greek New Testament, it’s a jumble of Greek words that are all vying for attention and they don’t know how to…they don’t know how to get in and they get frustrated and then it…it’s done. So what I’m trying to do is to help them see. You can see a prepositional phrase. You can see a dependent clause. And then all of a sudden, they start…it’s fun. So.

Jipp
Yeah.

Knight
Yeah. Absolutely. Well, Amanda from Twitter also wants us to ask if you had to pick a metaphor for yourself as a teacher, she would like to know about that. [HARRIS LAUGHS] Do you have one established that people know about, or is she just asking you to be creative?

Harris
Uh, this Amanda I know [KNIGHT LAUGHS] and I…she was in an internship with me when she was teaching Greek, and that’s a question that I use when I’m doing an internship with students—

Knight
Ah.

Harris
—so I will be like a mentor for the students who are teaching Greek.

Knight
Okay. So she’s turning the tables on you at this point, yeah—

Jipp
Flipping it back on you, yeah— [LAUGHTER]

Harris
Yeah. This is definitely a case of “what goes around, comes around.” [LAUGHTER]

Jipp
Good job, Amanda. That’s fun. I like it.—

Knight
Crushing it.—

Harris
[00:30:17] Yeah, so…yeah. I actually have two metaphors, and I think about them a lot. I really do. The one—and it depends kind of on what I’m teaching. This isn’t just for Greek, but it’s just for any kind of teaching, but one metaphor is “preparing a meal,” and really thinking about—I don’t know if anybody saw the movie “Babette’s Feast.” It’s an older movie—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—but it’s a fantastic movie, with a woman who gets an unexpected inheritance, and she lavishly spends it on a meal in this tiny, austere village in De…in Denmark, and most of the people there will never be able to appreciate what she’s done. But I love that imagery, because when you’re teaching, you do a lot of preparation. You’re in the kitchen for a long time, and you’re serving it as, you know, plated, as beautifully as possible. And some students are not going to…it’s just going to go over, and some students, it’s going to open their eyes. It’s going to be the richness that they were looking for. So one metaphor would be a chef. The other metaphor would be a tour guide.

Knight
Okay.

Harris
And I feel being a tour guide is much more how I feel when I’m teaching Revelation or Hebrews—

Knight
I bet.

Harris
—because I get to open the doors. I just get to keep opening up the doors—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and to watch students—I mean, I’m teaching right now a seminar on Hebrews, and to watch students just start getting the richness, and just the beauty, the absolute beauty of Scripture, so…

Knight
That’s…and what a privilege we have, right, as language professors? I really do love those moments.—

Harris
Yeah!

Knight
—I would resonate in particular with that metaphor, because it really does feel like you’re just showing them something they hadn’t seen before, and generally they find it really exciting.

Harris
And, one thing I also like about that metaphor is that I…I mean I have led student groups to Turkey and to Israel and things like that, but what’s really fun about that metaphor is that, just like on a tour, your students will see things that you haven’t seen.

Knight
Good point! Yes! [LAUGHS]

Harris
They’ll point something out, and you’re like, “I never thought of that!” And I love that. I love that, because again, I always tell my students in my classes, “The Holy Spirit speaks through all of us.”

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And that is really so rich for me, is when students are looking out the window of the bus, going, “Hey, did you see that?” I’m like, “No, I never saw that before!”

Knight
[LAUGHS] Cool. Very cool.

Jipp
Dana, you also sound a little bit like a coach, though, right [LAUGHTER], in terms of—I love the 90% encouragement, 10%… I mean I’m like, I’m thinking again of coaching, you know, coaching baseball right now, where it’s like, you’re trying to transmit a skill, but in order to get them to get that skill, it takes just as much, you know, commitment—

Knight
Encouragement.

Jipp
—to the encouragement.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
It does, it does.

Jipp
Maybe I just have to throw in my sports, you know—

Harris
I was waiting. I was waiting.—

Jipp
—metaphor here but so, yeah.—

Knight
Gotta get it in there.—

Harris
Yeah, I was waiting—

Knight
Gotta talk about baseball. Gotta get it in there.

Jipp
Dana, I haven’t had a chance to see the textbook yet, but I’m really excited to see it, and I’d love to hear you reflect maybe a little bit—

Knight
[LAUGHS] For those listening, Dana just like, “Vanna White-ed” her grammar for us. [HARRIS LAUGHS]

Jipp
Wait! Show us! Hold it—

Knight
[LAUGHS] She’s showing it to us, The Introduction to Biblical Greek Grammar.

Jipp
Alright. I…I can’t wait to see it—to hold a copy myself. Do you do anything different with “the verb”? I know, like, you know, “the verb” is really important [HARRIS LAUGHS] for Greek, and there’s been a lot of discussion with respect to aspect. Has that played a role in terms of what you’re trying to communicate in the textbook?

Harris
Absolutely. Absolutely. That was a real strong commitment of mine. I am firmly in the verbal aspect camp, and it’s—I kind of…I’ll say quickly, I always tell my students this, too—why it matters. So, English is time-based. There are very few things that we can do in English that are not time-based. If I say, “I’m going to the library,” that could be tomorrow if I add an adverb, or it could be today. And that’s, like, one of the only examples—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—you could come up with in English that’s not time-based. So part of the problem is that when students are doing translation, they’re going from a non-time-based, or an aspect-based, to a time-based. And so they’re going to translate an aorist like it’s a past time, and they’re going to go, “Well, you know, that doesn’t really gain anything.” So, I think what aspect does is, aspect is—I’ve used this example several times in…in teaching and it’s probably in the book somewhere, but we have a limited ability to do aspect in English. So if I say something like, “I was reading a book last night,” in English, we’re kind of like, “I was reading a book last night..,” you’re kind of waiting for me to say something else—“I was reading a book last night when you texted me.” Okay? If I say, “I read a book last night,” we’re kind of like, “Oh, okay!” We’re not wait…it’s not signaling that something else is coming. So that’s a difference in aspect that I, as a speaker, make, because I want…I am making a choice on how I want to communicate something. And traditional approaches to Greek grammar don’t really have a lot of room for that speaker’s choice. And the thing that aspect really does is, it helps us understand that Greek writers had the ability to communicate things in very precise ways based on the different tense forms that they could choose from. It doesn’t mean that Greeks didn’t have an understanding of time. They have a rich array of adverbs, they have all kinds of ways to signal time. It just means that it’s a different way of looking at the verb.

Knight
Okay.

Harris
[00:35:33] And I think, you know, the question that always comes up, “Why is this important, and why would you inflict that on first year grammar students?” [KNIGHT LAUGHS] Well, at some point in time, you pay your dues—

Jipp
Yeah.

Harris
—and what I mean by that is, you have a first year grammar book that is basically following English grammar and gives a traditional view of time, you’re not helping your students, because at some point in time, they’re going to either have to go to a new universe and undo a lot of thinking, and then when they learn aspect in advanced Greek grammar, it’s like, “Oh my gosh! This..,” you know, “I have to throw out everything I knew and start all over.” And so my thinking is, why do that? You could introduce aspect in a very easy way. I’ve…the first..the chapter where I discuss it is split, and it’s like, “If you’re at capacity, go to the next chapter, but if you want more, here—you can have more.”

Knight
Oh, that’s a good idea.

Harris
And I think what it does, is it helps students to begin to realize—I mean, I’m driven by aspect because I think that’s what the Greek language shows, and the more that we can bring linguistics into our language study, the more we’re going to be able to get into, “How would first century listeners hear this?” And that’s our goal. I mean, I wouldn’t want aspect just because, “Oh maybe it’s better than traditional,” but I want to hear the Greek New Testament the way that the original audience heard it. And if I’m importing something—either through English or German or Latin—onto that Greek verbal system, I’m not going to hear what’s going on. I think the thing—I’ll just make a really quick comment, because sometimes people say, “Well, you know, at the end of the exegetical day, we end up at the same place, with an aspectual or a traditional approach.” And I’ll just use this really quick example; we know about the historical present—that’s when a present tense verb is used in narrative. Narrative, by definition, is a past tense context. So if Greek were time-based, then it would be using something to indicate that this is a past-referring context, but no, we have historical…we have plenty of historical narrative…I mean, perfect, uh, presents. We’ll get it right—[KNIGHT LAUGHS] the historical present being used in narrative. If we’re thinking about it in an aspectual, we might be asking a different set of questions.

Knight
Sure.

Harris
So, instead of saying, “You know, Mark just didn’t know his Greek grammar very well and he just kind of got excited. He slipped in…he uses a present when he shouldn’t have, and it’s for vividness.” Instead, what we can see is that historical presents indicate the introduction of a new character, a new event; they…they signal dialogue; they’re doing something. And so an aspectual approach, I think, allows us to ask a different set of questions, and when we’re asking that different set of questions of the text, we’re going to see different things in the text.

Knight
That’s so…well, and you’re starting to get at the last question we have for you today. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wrap it up soon, even though, I think, I would love to talk about language all day long—

Harris
Amen!

Knight
—[LAUGHS] Um, but I’d love to hear you articulate why this is important. You’ve already started to do that, you’ve reminded us that you’re helping us read the New Testament the way the original hearers did. But, in a time when we’re kind of saying, “It’s really expensive to go to seminary,” like, “Let’s get these programs as short as we can,” and around Trinity, we’re like, “No, we’re really going to keep these languages in here.” Why prioritize it? Why do we think it’s important?

Harris
[00:38:55] Yeah! Um, I…I’ve thought about that a lot.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
I have to say it this way—not everyone in the body of Christ needs to have the original languages, but some people in the body of Christ must have the original languages, and I think that people are called to a ministry of the word, and that could be anything. That could be preaching; that could be teaching; that could be writing Bible studies; that could be writing curriculum—I mean, there’s all kinds of ways, but being called to a ministry of the word, I really think that there’s the necessity of having some facility with the Biblical languages. Not everyone’s going to be at the same level, and they don’t need to be. We need to have the facility for what God has called us to do—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—but the reason why I think that’s so important is that the languages are like a safeguard for the Church. And the more that you hang out in a particular translation and you become invested in that translation, you’re…you’re still going to be one step removed from the original languages.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
So if you’re a pastor, if you are preaching regularly, um, not everyone in your congregation needs to know Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic, and they probably won’t benefit a lot from you talking about that in a sermon—

Knight
Sure.

Harris
—but the fact that you know that is going to help you hear the text better, and therefore, the proclamation will be better. You know, we’re in a seminary and we’re teaching students, you know, PhD students, MA students—my heart, I think everybody here—I think I can speak for all of us—our heart is really the church.

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
And so I look at the Biblical languages as a safeguard, that it keeps us from—again, you know, translations are good, but they’re not going to get it perfectly—

Knight
Yeah.

Harris
—and so it…it kind of keeps us in a space where we really keep hearing the word of God fresh.

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Knight
Yeah. Yeah, that’s wonderful.

Jipp
Mmhmm.

Knight
Dana, this has been so fun. Thank you so much for joining us—

Harris
Yeah!

Knight
—thanks for letting us know about your grammar. Uh, we are so pleased to be able to be your colleagues and hear from you a little bit about your passions and your story. So thank you so much for being on the show today.

Jipp
Thanks, Dana!

Harris
Thank you! It’s really fun!

Knight
Well, everybody, that’s just the foreword. If you want to hear more from Dr. Harris, check out her brand new grammar with Zondervan Academic, Introduction to Biblical Greek Grammar: Elementary Syntax and Linguistics, but you can also check out her Hebrews commentary that we’ve referred to in our time together, in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series. Thank you to our guest for joining us today, and to my fellow co-hosts—especially Josh—and to our steadfast producer, Curtis Pierce, who always does brilliant things with the not-brilliant things we do, so thank you for that ministry to all of us, Curtis. And thank you to our listeners and our viewers. We are so pleased that you engaged in these conversations. You are always a welcome and exciting part of our lives. So I am Michelle Knight.

Jipp
I am Josh Jipp.

Knight
[LAUGHS] Have a great day.

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