Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Classical Education

I picked up my older sister's biography last night to see how she experienced growing up.

"It was an intense and demanding programme, reputed to be similar in its curricular structure to the "Greats" in Classics at Oxford. Every year we read major texts in the original, both Greek and Latin: the Iliad of Homer, several complete tragedies including the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, Antigone and the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, the whole of Plato's Republic as well as the Apology of Socrates, the Poetics and other works of Aristotle, large chunks of both Herodotus and Thucydides, the Greek historians, Pindar and other poets in the later years; for Latin we read the poetry of Horace and Catullus, the whole of the Aeneid of Virgil, Cicero, the comedies of the Hellenic era, ad the Histories of Tacitus. These were all required reading..."

I don't know why she wrote out such a list but there it is in her biography and easier for me to copy than remember it all. I covered most of this Greek curriculum but read Euripides instead of the poets. I had had enough Latin by the end of high school so I studied German instead.

When I decided to switch to studying Greek in the Near Eastern Studies Dept. I soon learned that we had to take Hebrew as a prerequisite so I signed up and bought my Hebrew Lexicon at the age of 19. German too I learned by spending the summer with the family of a Pentecostal preacher near Tubingen.

Reading Hellenistic Greek we were seldom allowed to read anything for which we had previously seen the English. We read the 4 books of Maccabees. That was not particularly edifying but it was considered good training for Septuagint studies. The didache and gnostic gospels were a little odd too. Then an essay on comparing Hebrew and Greek grammatical structure in the gospel of Matthew and commentary on the Aramaic primacy.

This had to be done by taking courses in linguistics which I took in French mostly to make sure that I had a French major. This way I could get a job when I graduated because I could become a French teacher and that was an acceptable thing to do for a woman.

My best friend studied Syriac and Aramaic as well as Greek and Hebrew. She was really brilliant and when she finished her MA in Near Eastern Studies, her father signed her up for law school so she could get a good job. She has practiced law ever since.

My older sister whose biography I am reading, moved away when she was 21 and I was 12. She later received a diploma in theology in the Anglican Church, and then she took a vow never to discuss theology again. (That is a painful story - one that we both share.) She became a professor in another field and is now a successful educator. But I have never heard her discuss theology. I too am reluctant. The only problem with this is that it gives people the impression that you don't know theology. However, that is usually a good thing.

Shortly after I graduated from university the term "Biblical Womanhood" turned up.

Around that time my husband and I were living in a small town. A woman came to me and told me that she had told the leaders of our church that she had been beaten and raped by her husband. But the leaders said that she should be more nurturing. The medical doctor took the case to court. We were able to make sure that the case didn't go before the provincial court judge who was also an elder in our church. The husband was convicted and we moved out of town. Before we left someone took my spiritual health under consideration and gave me the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. That would help me to understand that women must fill the nurturing role. Pies is what they said. The elders told her to bake pies.

I had almost forgotten about all this until recently someone loaned me The TNIV and the Gender Neutral Controversy by Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem.

All us girls put down our Greek, Latin and Hebrew at the age of 21 and entered the adult world. But it is never gone for good. I can still read my way through the Colorado Springs Guidelines and figure out pretty quickly that the authors, Vern Poythress and Wayne Grudem, don't know one end of a Greek Lexicon from the other.


This post is in response to this, a post about a book by Wayne Grudem.
    Speaking of which, everyone ought to know about Wayne Grudem's recent book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions. (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah, and Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press). It is a tour de force. In it, Wayne pours in much of what he has learned from over twenty-five years of close involvement in the controversies over men's and women's roles in the home and church. CBMW hosts an on-line site that allows you to access some of this material, and where Dr. Grudem will answer any "new" evangelical feminist arguments for "egalitarianism." You can find it here.
Now some might say, ahh but you are a feminist. How so, my mother studied Greek, my grandmother studied Greek, and my great aunt taught Greek at university. Their mother was a governess and a member of the Swiss Darby Brethren. I still have their lexicons untainted by modernism and feminism.

I commented on this post today and someone might come and say, "You are a school-teacher, you cannot teach an adult male." I don't really want to "teach" these men anything. It strikes me that they are not ready to learn anything.

My husband leaned over the screen and read enough of this to give me his blessing. Thank you, dear.


Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, I trust you are aware that the Together for the Gospel blog is in fact "an ongoing public conversation" between the Chairman of CBMW (Ligon Duncan), its Vice-Chairman (C.J. Mahaney), a CBMW council member (Albert Moehler), and the author of a recent post Thank God for CBMW (Mark Dever). So it is not surprising that their joint blog (which is not "public" in that it does not allow critical comments) promotes the CBMW line. Similarly you would expect a Maoist blog to promote Maoist publications, and a Nazi blog to promote Nazi publications. The best response from those of us who are not Maoists, Nazis, or CBMW supporters is to ignore such material, rather than give it the oxygen of publicity, and hope and pray that most people's common sense will keep them away from it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the powerful personal story. It sounds like you could write a memoir or autobiography yourself. Any info on your sister's biography that can be made public? It also sounds interesting. It is good to have your ideas in this arena.

Kevin Knox said...

Powerful, powerful testimony, Suzanne. I am quite stirred by it. The tremendous learning you have received, the courage to help that abused young woman, and the appropriate reaction you had toward Grudem's tour de force are all weighty and good.

I must be the hundredth person to urge you to consider repenting your vow against theology, but I do anyway. May the Lord continue to guide and bless you.

Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne, I too, would like to know if your sister's biography is available for sale to the public?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for sharing that, Suzanne.

Keep up the fabulous work.