Kuyper Greek professor Lisa Hoogeboom jokes that if she had a dollar for every time someone said to her, “It’s all Greek to me,” she’d be rich.
But really it is all Greek to her.
“I love teaching Greek,” she said. “It is and always will be my favorite thing to teach. I can do it in my sleep.”
That’s why she’s so excited about a new approach at Kuyper to teaching the language of the New Testament. Starting this fall, the first Kuyper Greek course that is part of the Greek minor will be offered online.
And Hoogeboom also is introducing a brand-new textbook called “Greek for the Rest of Us.” Authored by William Mounce, it is intended to give students the essentials of the language so they can study the New Testament more deeply.
The new approach for Hoogeboom is partly pragmatic.
After almost two decades as a fulltime professor of intercultural and Biblical studies at Kuyper, Hoogeboom is transitioning to adjunct status, having moved from West Michigan to the east side of the state as a result of her husband Michael’s new role as pastor at Ann Arbor Christian Reformed Church.
But the new approach is also philosophical, Hoogeboom added, the result of a shift in the way she believes Greek is best taught at the introductory level.
“This approach is less about memorizing all those little endings and things,” Hoogeboom said. “Instead, it’s about learning how to use the amazing and free online tools that we now have to study the Bible in general, but for me especially the New Testament.”
A lot of software existed in the past, Hoogeboom added, for the sort of work she plans to introduce this fall in Greek 103. But it was expensive.
“It’s only been in the last few years that the free online tools have really made such advances,” she added. “Because of that, it‘s a really smart idea to focus the class on using those tools to help us rather than doing a lot of memorization.”
What Kuyper students now will have access to, Hoogeboom said, is a 21st century approach to teaching a language that goes back several centuries before the birth of Christ.
This fall, students in Greek 103 will access lessons that Hoogeboom has already recorded and will do so at their own pace. She also will be available to her students via Zoom on a regular basis and will make trips back to Grand Rapids periodically for intensive, in-person study sessions. All told, she feels the approach will serve Kuyper’s students well.
And she is hopeful that not just current Kuyper students, but also perhaps alumni will be intrigued by what is in store for those who sign up for her course.
She suspects, for example, that there are people in ministry who took Greek in the past but could use a refresher, and especially could benefit from a guided exploration of the new online tools that are available.
“I’ve gotten to know all the best tools,” Hoogeboom said. “But I have also gotten to know the tools that I would steer people away from based on my many years of teaching Greek and my deep love
for the language and for the Greek New Testament.”
Hoogeboom said the new approach also means students will explore deep assignments in their first course.
“In Greek 103 already, students will have done a word study using an online tool and will have reached back into the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, to see how the word was used in the Old Testament,” she said. “We do that already in the first semester, whereas in the old system that was generally the final project in the fourth semester of Greek.”
Hoogeboom said that many of the students who take Greek at Kuyper are thinking of seminary and a career in ministry, but others are majoring in things like social work and business and take Greek because they love the Bible and want to explore the language of the New Testament. She is hopeful that the new online offerings will allow more of the latter students to dig into Greek.
“Over the years a lot of students have said they wish they could take classes, but their schedules are so tight, it makes it very difficult,” she said. “So, I’m hoping that with this new format, I might get more of those students.”
She and her husband were those students some 35 years ago when they both graduated from Calvin University (then Calvin College) and decided they needed to learn more about the Bible.
Someone recommended Kuyper (then Reformed Bible College), and they spent a year on campus, a year that Lisa Hoogeboom said was life-changing for them.
After Kuyper they spent time overseas before a return to the U.S. Both then pursued further degrees at Calvin Seminary which led to Lisa’s work as a professor and Michael’s work in church ministry.
Kuyper also launched Lisa into her lifelong love of Greek and her passion for teaching the language, especially to students unsure about their abilities.
“I love to teach a student who doesn’t think that they can do it,” she said. “I will work and work and work to help them.”
Before that work begins though, she waits. Registration for the fall semester is ongoing, and she’s hopeful.
“I have set up the first semester course so that a student could just take that one class and still get some basic understanding of things that could be helpful for Bible study,” Hoogeboom said. “I’m really excited to teach the class and really excited to see my students.”
Greek for the rest of us, she added, really means Greek for all of us.
“I’m a firm lover of Bible translations,” she said. “But when you read the gospels in the original Greek, the things that Jesus says come alive. That is so powerful, for me certainly and also for the students. What could be better.”