Exploring The Use of Mnemonic Devices

June 21, 2008 at 12:33 am Leave a comment

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

My pastor pointed something out to me in Matthew 7 earlier today. There are a couple words in the Greek text that are used very repetitively. I think he did this because he knew it would eat away at me until I studied it.

After he left I read it over a few times, and then a few more time out loud, and realized that the Greek text of Matthew 7 might provide an insight into the usage of mnemonic devices in teaching. The ancient Greek language often ‘sings’ much better than modern English, providing a good vehicle for transferable teaching. Imagine you hear the words of Jesus in the Greek text.

Greek

Μ κρίνετε, να μ κριθτε·, ν γρ κρίματι κρίνετε κριθήσεσθε, κα ν μέτρ μετρετε μετρηθήσεται μν.

Transliteration (How the Greek sounds in English)

Mh krinete, ina mh kriqhte:

en w gar krimati krinete kriqhsesqe,

kai en w metrw metreite metrhqhsetai,

umin!

Wooden Translation

Not judge, that (you) not be judged:

In what judgment you judge, you will be judged,

And in what measure you measure it will be measured,

to you!

Why does this matter? Well, I believe Jesus taught others in such a way that it could be put into practice. While Jesus might have spoken this in Aramaic, the (translated) Greek rendered here is very precise. In fact, one commentator argues that the didactic nature of Matthew’s writing style suggests that Matthew himself was an experienced teacher. In ancient teaching practices mnemonic devices were often used as a vehicle for ‘transferable teaching’. It’s one thing to learn an abstract idea, it’s another thing to put that idea into practice. When the teaching is easy to remember, its easier to recall in any given situation.

It’s possible that this passage was constructed this way for a reason. Read the transliteration again and try to place it into a tune, I know this sounds silly but make a song out of it. Now imagine that song becoming a ‘jingle’ that plays in your head every time you are about to pass a harsh unqualified condemnation on someone. Get the point? I am not saying that Jesus was singing the Sermon on the Mount. But there is something different about a teaching that ‘sings’! Have you ever noticed you capacity to remember songs?

Entry filed under: Religion.

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