Monday, February 19, 2007

Learning Greek: part one

I started reading Greek within months of my conversion. When the Lord saved me (which you can read about here and here), my career plans were in shambles. A pastor told me he felt I was gifted to be a pastor myself, and he invited me to start studying in the school he was about to start.

This answered to the deepest desires of my heart—but there was a problem. Greek.

I had never been a disciplined student. The teachers had always told my parents I had great potential, but it was unrealized. The reason for that was simple: I just really didn't care. I didn't care about my grades, I didn't care about the subjects in school. School didn't so much bore me as appall me, as a terrible interruption of my activities.

So I had developed no discipline, none whatever. I could read with fascination if interested, but could not make myself stick to anything.

Now everything changed with my conversion. Here was something I desperately wanted to learn—the Bible. But really studying it would take concentration, focus, discipline. And particularly, I knew that to be a pastor, I had to learn Greek.

Aside: I had no idea that so many pastors shrugged off Greek and Hebrew studies, felt them unnecessary and irrelevant, felt they could authoritatively teach a book that they were completely unable to read except in translation. Thank GOD for that ignorance. Would that more shared it.

So here was me, and there was the object of my desire, and in between was an obstacle: total lack of focus and discipline. What to do?

More, later.


Family Blogs said...

First comment on a new's like walking on freshly fallen snow!!

I'm looking forward to this blog. I'm just beginning to learn Greek for a course I'm doing part time at Bible College, and so this is pretty timely for me.

Can you recommend any useful starter courses? I'm using Duff, who I'm told is the updated version of Wenham.

Every blessing for your new blog venture!

Neil said...

Looking forward to this. I took two terms of koine while at school. Greek gave me the best marks of my entire postsecondary career. It's all gone pretty dim however.

Daniel said...

I am presently teaching my two eldest children Koiné (ages 6 and 9). We spend about 90 minutes each day for five days a week on it (we homeschool - so this seems normative to them).

Nothing helps me to retain Greek better than trying to teach it to my six year old daughter. My son gets it easily enough, but my daughter is still six, and even her English reading isn't overly developed.

Each morning, before I teach, I have to generate a work sheet for them. My "teknia" font skills are becoming almost native. ;-) Mounce would be proud.

I look forward to seeing where this blog goes.

Great idea DJP, by now you have probably decided upon which font methodology you are going to use (unicode, embeded fonts, etc.), may I enquire what you have decided upon?


Tom Gee said...

Unicode! Unicode! (Just my humble input.)

This sounds great! I'm just finishing my formal Greek education, and my greatest concern is letting it lapse. I love the language because I love the Word, but I know how easy it is to let this particular tool become dull.

I praise God that the school I attend (part-time) is committed to all pastoral students being reasonably skilled in Greek and Hebrew. That expectation should help maintain this excellent (and hard won) privilege of that language.

Thanks for this great idea, DJP!

If the languages had not made me positive as to the true meaning of the word, I might have still remained a chained monk, engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister; the pope, the sophists, and their anti-Christian empire would have remained unshaken.
-- Martin Luther

DJP said...

What worked best was to get BibleWorks 7 to do its exporting in Unicode, then copy and paste that into Blogger. It won't work right (like the blurb says) in IE6 or its spinoffs, but it works with IE7 or anything else I've tested.

Tom Gee said...

BW 7! I'm jealous.

I'm currently using the Zhubert and Greek Bible web sites, which are terrific resources and free, but which don't have the full power of BibleWorks.

As a thought, Dan, would you be interested in doing a post on the most useful Greek resources -- printed, electronic or online -- that you have found? I would love to know what you and others have found the most helpful.

DJP said...

Yes, Tom, I reviewed BW7 both at Pyro and my blog. It's really terrific.

Sure, that's a good idea. E ven tu al ly.


Daniel said...


I use:

Exegetical Fallacies (D.A. Carson)*

A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (Bruce M. Metzger)*

Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (William Mounce)

The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament (Warren Trenchard)

Greek New Testament: With English Introduction including Greek/English dictionary/flexible (Aland et. al.)

A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek (William Mounce)

Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Daniel B. Wallace)

* indicates a resource that isn't "essential" to the mechanics of translation but is nevertheless essential to anyone who is serious about biblical Greek.

Online or other resources:
Interlinear scripture Analyzer (a free downloadable searchable interlinear thingy!)

Gramcord lite for my palm - a searcheable electronic Greek NT with UBS dictionary.

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Little Kittel) for the Palm - though this resource would be just as good in a printed format.

Little Greek New Testament resources

Olivetree Online Bibles you can search the various Greek flavors, with or without Grammar tags.

Parallel Greek New Testament a handy (high level) tool for comparing discrepencies between greek manuscripts.

That is all I can think of off the top of my head.


Daniel said...

Oh and for teaching the kids I am using the following (recommended by Kim Shay!)

Elementary Greek

Tom Gee said...

Great input, Daniel.

I use several of the resources that you use, but in addition to the two web sites I previously noted, my printed material includes:

"Biblical Greek Exegesis" by Guthrie and Duvall (sort of the follow-on to the Graded Reader).

And, of course, Bauer (BDAG .. BAGD .. BAG, depending on the edition ... Danker keeps creeping upward).

I just received a copy of TDNT (the 10 volume one) for $100 from Christian Book Distributors (yippee!), but haven't had much chance to use it yet.

Daniel said...

Oh man - I am swallowing the desire to covet right now - I have "admired" the 10 volume TDNT for some years now, but haven't picked one up. If it is one tenth as good as little kittel, you will be very pleased.

I have yet to get a DGAB, er, I mean GADB or whatever. In time, in time.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Ewing said...

Wow, you started this blog the same day I discovered Tominthebox, which led me to Team Pyro, which led me to this. Speaking as a born again Jewish Anabaptist, I have to say you Calvinists are so interesting!

Anyhow, praise God that I finally have an excuse to dust off the GNT that I never try reading! Unlike Daniel, I only have one lowly book, the UBS GNT itself, but with the Greek-English lexicon at the back. (I look at that book longingly sometimes, and think, if only there were a scholarly English New Testament of that compact size, with commentary in place of the textual apparatus, and a theological dictionary in place of the G-E lexicon—it would be the Bible to trounce all Bibles.)

The StogiEvangelist said...

Looking forward to your posts Dan. I'm guiding my 17 year old daughter through 3rd year Greek. For this we're using textbooks on NT exegetical method and translating The Sermon on the Mount. I thought this would be a good time to bring some hermeneutical discipline into play so that she drives her Greek like an adult and not like a teenager. Still more fun for me than for her.

Unknown said...

Hi Dan,

This is such a great idea. When I studied Biblical Greek back in the 80s I was the college's best student with an average of 96% across Gr 1-3. However, life has sped along, and before long I found that I have let my Greek fall by the wayside.

Just recently I have decided to pick it up again and purchased Bill Mounce's "Basics of Biblical Greek." It comes with the textbook and a CD. I also bought the workbook, a reader and a box of 300 flashcards to use with Mounce's book.

So, your venture is at the right time.