Very early in my own experiences as a Greek student, however, I realized that things were a bit more complicated. I learned from D. A. Black's Learn to Read New Testament Greek (now available in a third edition, with an accompanying workbook), the same text I use ten years later in my own course. And as I learned that βαπτίζω means I baptize and ὁ ὄχλος means crowd, I realized that I was exchanging a translation committee's mediation of the texts' meaning(s) for Prof. Black's. Could I ever close the door to the rest of the world and sit—just me and the text—alone with God's Word?
The problem, of course, is that I never read any text alone, whether the New Testament in Greek or the newspaper in English. I've always learned how to interact with texts from others and with others, and even in the solitude of my office or at home I invoke them in my reading of those texts. I don't depend on Prof. Black to understand the nuances of Greek vocabulary, of course; my exposure to and experiences with a variety of Greek texts and lexica have broadened and deepened my knowledge base. And though I feel relatively free (not completely, though) of any of the popular translation committees, I'm more aware than ever that I read the texts as one part of a larger community, one which includes members of translation committees, compilers and editors of lexica, text critics, philologists, exegetes and expositors, homileticians, and a host of others.
Even so, I still long for—strive after, even—an unmediated experience of the text. I want to experience it first-hand, to read it "for myself," to know it face-to-face rather than dimly, through a glass. And I see my longing reflected in Moses' request to see God's glory (Exod 33). And as I finish up Barry Schwartz's book, Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era, I see it reflected, and partially realized, in Sigmund Freud's reaction to the Acropolis:
When, finally, on the afternoon after our arrival, I stood upon the Acropolis and cast my eyes around upon the landscape, a remarkable thought suddenly entered my mind: 'So all this really does exist, just as we learnt in school!' Or it would be possible to maintain that when I was a schoolboy I had thought I was convinced of the historic reality of the city of Athens and its history, but that the occurrence of this idea on the Acropolis had precisely shown that . . . I had not believed in it . . . ! (cited in Schwartz 2008: 250)
The challenge, it seems to me, is to stop teaching my students about the Acropolis and to bring them to it—to stop [merely] teaching them Greek so that they can read the Greek texts at some point in the future and to bring them in contact with the texts themselves.