Tag Archive for 'Greek'

13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You

I like this part of a post by David Black at Dave Black Online. I think some of this information is good for everyone to know, even though most aren’t in a position to learn Greek. Although if you’d like to, there is some encouragement here. #5 is especially instructive, and shows us why words can’t just be matched up “literally”. Used with permission:

The Reader’s Digest once published an article entitled “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Well here are “13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You”:

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there.

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek did not have to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs.

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there.

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation,” it loses its power as the Word of God.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process.

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things!

I “Finished” Beginning Greek; Starting Colossians

Finished is in scare quotes because I don’t think I’ll ever really know the material well. But it only took me about four years. That’s how long it takes normal people, right? I did have a couple of breaks for surgeries, many weeks where I just wasn’t right, many restarts, and other bumps along the way. I started with Croy’s grammar, which is excellent, and got Mounce as a secondary source. Then I requested a review copy of David Black’s book, and they also gave me the workbook. I had to beg them for the document with the answers. I liked it and switched to it. I think I’ve gone through it about 2 1/2 times because I would go through several chapters and then feel like I wasn’t really learning it, and then start over.

At some point I wanted something really different, so I got Dobson’s book, which is what I needed. Then about 2/3rds of the way through I got kind of lost, as seems to happen with many grammars. I also took an online conversational Greek course where I wasn’t able to conversate much when I got done. Then I got really serious earlier this year and went back to Black and did everything in the workbook, which is a lot. I’m so glad they sent me that. I think it’s more expensive than the book, although it has so many mistakes, it’s hard to trust it. (It wasn’t put together by Prof. Black.)  So, I know just enough Greek to be dangerous. I don’t have to worry about being arrogant about my knowledge of Greek or delve into it on this blog, unless it’s quoting a scholar who knows it.

So now what? For now I’m going to spend less time on Greek than I have been. I miss memorizing Scripture, and I want more time to read. Not to harp on it, but with chronic fatigue, I only have so much mental in addition to physical energy. I’d love to study for hours a day. As far as Greek, I get to freelance. I’m going to keep up the vocabulary, but not work on it everyday. I’ll read some passages in the Greek NT that I have memorized in English. I may go back to the Dobson book and just casually go through it, and maybe Mounce later on. There is an online community where they communicate in Greek. I may lurk there.

I’m very eager to start studying Colossians. This is something I’ve been looking forward to for years. I don’t know when the idea first came up, but I did my Three Year Plan where I read a commentary on each book of the NT, which lasted four years. Then I did my Year of the Old Testament, which lasted two years. Then I did my Year of the Psalms, which lasted less than a year (as planned), along with reading most of the OT again and finally reading a great commentary on Job. It may have been before all of that when I got the idea, so it’s been a long time coming. (I don’t have any grand future plans at this time other than various books I want to read.)

It started when I listened to a sermon by John Piper on Colossians 1:9-20. He said, “Memorize this!” and I did. Since then I’ve had a special affection for the book. I’ve been reading it numerous times the last week, and have started reading it in different translations. Then I’ll read all of the introductions I can find, like the NLT and ESV Study Bibles, An Introduction to the New Testament, and other various sources. Then I’ll use various exegesis helps like Fee’s NT Exegesis, a new book I got called A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis by Craig L. Blomberg et. all, and Bibleworks. I have Moo’s commentary and Colossians and Philemon (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament) which I can hopefully understand and use. Also some great stuff at Epistle to the Colossians Resources Online » All Things Expounded. I plan on this being a years-long thing. I’d like to write a Bible study on it eventually.

There is a professor out there who has concentrated on Colossians for many years. I read about him once a long time ago and can’t find him. Let me know if you know who that is or if you have any other resources.

I will also have a couple of book reviews coming up. One on Thinking Rightly About Christ and another on What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About. Possibly at least one book giveaway and hopefully other things.

Don’t know what to do with Greek

I’ve been working on Greek for about three years now, with some breaks for surgeries and other low points for various reasons. I started with Croy’s grammar and switched to Black after I reviewed it and liked it better. I bought Mounce for good measure. After getting great help from Esteban with pronunciation (not the never-used-by-any-Greek-speaking-person Erasmian rules), I tried to spend about 20 minutes a day on the book and then some time on vocabulary. After starting over with Black’s book twice, and dabbling in Dobson, I’ve finished Black, but feel like I don’t know the material very well. I used the workbook for a while, but didn’t use it fully, because I’m a bad person. I’m now taking an online conversational Greek course, but I’m not sure if it’s getting me where I want to go.

So, I’ve spent three years on this and I can read some easier passages and pretty much know what they say, but I don’t understand the intricacies of the grammar or understand it in a way that’s more nuanced than English translations.

Sometimes I want to just leave it here and be satisfied with being able to understand what scholars are writing about in commentaries. I really miss memorizing new Scripture, even though I have my head full with reviewing what I have, and I could do more book reading if I’m not spending as much time on Greek. Or I could go back to the workbook and get to know the material better. But to really be able to read my Greek NT, I would need to spend another three years on this. I probably need another year reviewing Black’s material and going through Mounce for secondary material, and then maybe work on Black’s next book that’s an in-between before going on to Wallace. I think Wallace is asking too much. (Well not him, but you know.) I keep seeing things on why we should learn the Biblical languages, but those are mainly for pastors.

So what would you do? Should I be content with where I am and learn more here and there? Should I keep on spending more time on something I’m not sure I’ll be able to fully utilize, meaning NT exegesis?

I will continue with the conversational course through June or July, keep up with the vocabulary and possibly go back to the workbook for a while, but I just don’t know what my expectations should be, or how much more time I should or want to spend. If you have any opinions, I’d love to hear them.

Book Review: The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

the-handy-guide-to-new-testament-greekThe Handy Guide to New Testament Greek Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming by Douglas S. Huffman

I am a Greek student who is nearing the end of what would typically be a year of beginning Greek. This handbook is geared for “second-year Greek students (and beyond), pastors, teachers and preachers.” It’s a handbook of helpful tools as opposed to “explanatory tales”, and supplements the Greek grammars well. It does go more in-depth when it comes to diagramming however. The three large categories it covers are Greek Grammar Reminders, Greek Syntax Summaries and the previously mentioned Phrase Diagramming, in addition to a bibliography. There are many helpful tips along the way like the AAA rule. Adjective preceded by an Article is Attributive.

This is a quality handbook in every respect. The writing is clever at times but serious. The paper is thick, and although it’s paperback, it should hold up decently if well traveled. Color is used well throughout. You can see a PDF excerpt starting at page 13. Two small complaints I would have are sometimes medium/dark orange is used with a lighter orange background and is a little hard to read. This may be difficult for those who are color blind, so be sure to see the PDF file. There is also some text that’s very small, even for younger eyes. There is a quote on page 79 that’s sitting in the middle of a page with plenty of white space around it with text that’s much smaller than necessary.

From my level of learning, this looks like an excellent guide for all of the subjects mentioned. This small sized book is only 112 pages including the bibliography, but seems longer. Tables and text explanation are interspersed and are very easy to understand and decipher. The layout of the tables is excellent.

I especially like the phrase diagramming portion. They use 1 Peter 1:3-9, which I happened to do in English (PDF file) a few years ago. As mentioned, there is much more explanatory text here, although it’s somewhat between a guide/handbook and something that would be a section in a textbook on exegesis. I’m not sure if this guide is the place for it, but I especially like it because I like to look at as many methods and descriptions of diagramming as I can. Four methods are briefly explained, Technical, Phrase and Semantic Diagramming, with Arcing mentioned. “An adaptation of phrase diagramming that incorporates some of the broader concerns of semantic diagramming is favored here.” The reader is taken step by step through the passage, building on what needs to be identified, divided and connected.

There is also an extensive six page bibliography at the end for all sorts of Greek and New Testament Tools. The section on the dreaded Greek-English Interlinears has four entries. I would have added a fifth, being the Mounce/Mounce Greek and English Interlinear New Testament (NASB/NIV) which also has Mounce Sr.’s English translation along with the Greek. (Don’t worry, I never use it to cheat.)

I would highly recommend this handbook. I have a Greek grammar with a lot of Post-it® Flags in it for various tables and declensions, but this guide can replace that and would lighten up many peoples’ load on the go if they don’t need a grammar on paper just to look these types of things up. I’m certain I will be using it a lot in the coming years.

The author, Douglas S. Huffman, serves as Professor and Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California.

You can buy it at Amazon.com

I received this book at no charge as a review copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.

Also see:

Encouraging reason to learn Greek

8. You’ll have to slow down. Reading the New Testament in Greek makes the reader slow down. You have to think about every word, phrase, and sentence. To quote Robertson again, “The Greek compels one to pause over each word long enough for it to fertilize the mind with its rich and fructifying energy” (Robertson, The Minister and His Greek New Testament, 21).

–Channing Crisler, Theses Regarding the Need to Learn Biblical Greek

Since I’m not sure how far past beginning level I’ll be going, I’ll definitely be reading it slow.

See the link for other reasons.

Right now as I’m recovering from surgery, I’m in a lot of pain and taking medication for it. I’m nearing the end of a commentary on Luke, but can’t read it right now because I just can’t concentrate well enough to do it justice. But I must and really want to read the Bible, so I’m taking half chapters at a slow pace. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but at the same time, because I’m taking it so slowly, I’m noticing some details I don’t think I would normally have noticed. So there is something to going very slow–slower than normal slow. Like a forced slowness.

I’m also reading some photography magazines and listening to some interviews of preachers/theologians and roundtable discussions. Good times. (Not exactly)


David Black’s Greek Portal

From Dave Black Online:
“Got some great news. If you’ve been to our Greek Portal you’ve noted that it is pretty barebones. Well, all of that is about to change. Matthew Myers, my new assistant, is working on revamping and significantly expanding the Greek Portal to make it, we hope, one of the leading Greek sites on the web. My prayer is that it will become a major hub of information for what is going in Greek studies today and a great resource for all students of the language.

Now, there’s a way you can help us. If you know of a website that you feel just absolutely has to be included here, please let us know. It need not be the website of an accomplished scholar either. You see, one of the things I love to do is encourage younger scholars and students to contribute to the study of Greek. Our message is simple: Greek is for everybody. So if you think you have something to contribute to Greek studies today, please let me know. I am eager to hear from you at dblack@sebts.edu [e-mail obfuscated-click on it]. Thank you.

Matthew, by the way, blogs here. Check out what he has to say about More Light on the Path – an excellent tool to maintain your Greek and Hebrew.”

Greek: Back to the Basics – Again

Now and then I’ve been writing about how frustrated I am with Greek and that I’m not sure if I really want to do it. This last time around I did a lot of thinking and realized that part of it may be I just don’t know what I’ve ‘learned’ well enough. It’s like college where they go too fast (for me). I was never good in a classroom.

I enjoy everything more the better I am at it and the more I know whether it’s a hobby or profession. I usually treat hobbies almost like they’re a career. I’ve gone back and read through Black’s book, my main one, from the beginning a couple of times, but that’s not enough.

Someone, I can’t remember who, said to be sure to get out that workbook I have. So I decided to start over yet again and this time use the workbook. There are a lot of exercises. But I think that’s what I need. So now I’m starting Chapter 6 after having done it for a few weeks and I’m a little more positive about it, even though it will set me way back time-wise. I was originally about 4/5ths of the way through the book.

I also want to do a little learning by immersion by reading passages I have memorized in English in the Greek NT, unless some of you think that’s a bad idea for some reason.

So I hope by the time I get back to where I was, along with reading Mounce and Croy again along with it, that I’ll have a much better understanding and not feel lost because I wasn’t really learning the material like I should. There are no deadlines or semesters for me.


I’m not an expert in what I’m writing about in this post. Please forgive any mistakes in the details.

Most people seem to use Strong’s Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon if they want to look up some definitions in the original languages, which isn’t very helpful for definitions because the lexicon (dictionary), is very brief. The current lexicon that most modern commentators would use is the BDAG, which costs about $150, although there is an abridged version for about $80 which may be adequate for lay people.

But there are in-between resources, one of them called Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions for the Hebrew. As with Strong’s, these can be found to be used free in e-Sword and some other Bible software.

I rarely use these and find it much more helpful to look at 6-8 different translations and see what they did with it. If there are diversions, it can be helpful to try to find out why, or just to see which words or phrases the translation committees chose.

If one would want to look up some definitions and see the range of words that might be used, Thayer’s may be a better choice if you’re looking for a free resource.

Also see:
How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance
How NOT To Use Strong’s Concordance – Part 2
How To Properly Use Strong’s Concordance
Strong’s Concordance – A Good Example

Getting Discouraged With Learning Greek

I’m getting discouraged with learning Greek yet again. Instead of memorizing Scripture (which is always maintained), I’m memorizing ever more difficult Greek vocabulary. I don’t read as much material as I would like (an exposition of Genesis right now, which is great) because of the time spent with Greek, although I admit, it’s not a whole lot.

I keep reading posts about how valuable it is. I don’t doubt it. Not to sound like ‘woe is me’, but on days where I’m in more pain (lower back) or having other difficulties, it’s easier to just read. In English only.

I wonder if buying a Greek reader like A First John Reader or Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader to see what I might be missing out on would be a good idea. I wouldn’t think either would be a waste of money. Is there anything like this online?

I’m just learning it for my own reading edification. I don’t plan on going past beginning/intermediate, like Black’s second book. Right now I can pretty much understand what’s written in commentaries which was my original goal until I decided I wanted to ‘learn’ the language.

I’m not giving up at this point and I’m not usually one to stop what I started. I’m just wondering about time spent vs. benefit and time taken away from other stuff. I know that just like with Scripture memory review, I will need to keep reading it everyday to keep it up and just to use it for what it’s intended for.

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Men

This is part of the Exegetical Insight of Chapter 7, each written by a different author, from William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, this one written by Verlyn Verbrugge. I’m going to do a bit of explanation to make it more understandable to those who know nothing about Greek (which is practically me), to try to put it into my own words, which is very risky, and expand on it. So let me know where I get it wrong.

The typical Christmas card greeting is, “Peace on earth, good will toward men” taken from, Luke 2:14b KJV “on earth peace, good will toward men.” This is what the angels sing to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem.

Since the 1600s when the KJV was written and revised, many more older transcripts (closer to the originals, which isn’t necessarily better but in this case they are numerous) have been found. Because a letter was dropped in the manuscripts used to translate the King James/Authorized Version, the word for ‘good will’ or ‘favor’ changes from the nominative (subject), to the genitive (generally, possessive).

Verbrugge says, on pg. 43 of the 2nd Edition:

[T]he peace that the angels sang that belonged to the earth as a result of the birth of Christ is not a generic, worldwide peace for all humankind, but a peace limited to those who obtain favor with God by believing in his Son Jesus (see Romans 5:1). What a difference a single letter can make in the meaning of the text!

ESV “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

NIV “on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

NLT “peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

NRSV “on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

I thank God it’s not like computer programming where one wrong character will bring the whole thing down! I’ve had my share of those experiences. These improvements made in translations don’t change any major doctrine (teaching) of the Bible and in fact goes directly against the arguments of those think the Bible is handed down and changed by each generation. Scholars and archeologists are actually going the other way and getting closer to the original manuscripts. We can be confident that the Bible contains God’s Word which is comprised of accurate truth which brings salvation to those who hear or read it, believe what it says and trust Jesus Christ for their salvation as opposed to being a good enough person or whatever ideas of their own one may have.

2 Timothy 3:14-17 NLT
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

For more context of the original verse:

Matthew 10:34-42 NLT
“Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’ 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. 40 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

Matthew 24:6
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.

Jesus came to bring us peace with God.

Acts 10:36
This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel– that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Romans 2:9-11
There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil– for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good– for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 14:17-18
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. (emphasis added to keep you awake)

Looking it up in the Greek

Here is a great photo in a post titled In the Original Greek… Click on it to see a larger one.

(This one is spreading quickly.)

I wanted to add something to what Seth Ehorn said. One of the best exercises I’ve done in my limited amount of time I’ve spent so far on exegesis (serious in-depth study) is printing out a passage in 6-8 translations covering a variety of styles and comparing them, which is part of Gordon Fee’s protocol in his book New Testament Exegesis. If there’s is a question with a particular word or phrase, you’ll see how the various translations rendered it. This is more illuminating than just ‘looking it up in the Greek’, which for most people is usually the outdated Strong’s, which will usually just give you a wide semantic range of options that requires context anyway. The word in question doesn’t mean all of those things listed, just as in an English dictionary, which is where the multiple translations come in. If you haven’t tried it, I know you’ll like it.

HT: Brian Fulthorp via Facebook

Persistence Key To Learning Greek

One more post on Greek before I lose a lot of people. If you go to David Black’s web page, a professor, scholar, fence mender and the author of New Testament Greek, and scroll down to Wednesday, October 20 you’ll find a little article on how to “stick with it”.


  • Pray
  • Use an interlinear if you have to (considered anathema to many teachers)
  • He dropped out of his first Greek class!


Greek Pronunciation

Greek Language and Linguistics blog let’s us know about a paper in a post called Randall Buth on Hellenistic Pronunciation. This is out of my territory so feel free to comment on it. Esteban taught me pronunciation and I use some sort of a reconstruction, even though it’s a guess, along with one or two Spanish type rules. I can’t understand why the Erasmian way is taught in this day and age but I won’t go off on that again especially because it’s above my pay grade. The big disadvantage to this is how hard it is to use audio based tools where they use the now dorky sounding Erasmian pronunciation rules.

The interesting thing for me is nearly everything mentioned in this paper as far as pronunciation is what I do. Esteban taught me well and my little nuances happen to match this.

I thought I brought this up before on this blog but I didn’t find anything. I hope it’s of interest to somebody (and I don’t expect more than one or two) especially if just starting out.

Also see:
Greek/Latin Audio.comGreek Recordings

I’ve used Audacity to slow down these recordings so that it’s easier for me to follow along.

NT Greek Blog

Here is a blog called ἐξήγησις (ntexegesis.blogspot.com) written by Professor Ardel Caneday that goes through issues of exegesis in the Greek New Testament.

HT: Douglas Mangum

Greek Vocabulary

I find it rather disastrous to fall behind in vocabulary.

–David Black

I know this from experience! Print out flashcards right away. If you have a paper cutter that works great. If not, use a scissors and do them one chapter at a time. Over time divide them into piles. One for those you know well, one for new ones that you’re still learning and one for those that are in between. I just used the book but you can’t separate those that you know well from those you need to go over more often. And memorizing them in the same order all the time doesn’t help either.

There are many software options out there too. I’m one who would rather use technology and the computer than old fashioned stuff but for vocabulary, plain old paper flashcards seem to work the best for me.

Just do it.