Saturday, December 13, 2008

Things to consider when working with the Greek NT

I have studied Greek for long enough now that when I look at a NT text, I can usually pick up most of the 'interesting' aspects of the text or the ones that I recognize will need more investigation. My Greek students, however, are just finishing their required introduction to Greek grammar (two week intensive plus a semester). I have tried to establish a foundation of vocabulary and grammar, but I have also encouraged them to become proficient at using their Bible software to help out with parsing and vocab and such. Even with the software, however, it is not so obvious to my students what is noteworthy in the Greek text.
If one keeps in mind that these students have only had an introduction to Greek grammar for a little more than a semester, how would you go about helping them to 'see' the text and work with it productively? I have decided that the goal is NOT to "translate" the Greek. Committees of scholars who know way more about the Greek than I do have already given us plenty of translations. I have also decided that one of the best ways for my students to see the text is to work with the Greek in conjunction with a range of English versions. If there is something 'interesting' going on in the text, it usually shows up as one looks at a 'literal' translation as compared to a 'functionally equivalent' one or at a translation based on the NA27 as compared to one based on the Textus Receptus. (The little graphic clip above shows the kind of layout I encourage them to use.) Do note also that I am trying to keep things as simple as possible. As I have talked to pastors after some years in ministry, most of them have left their Greek behind because they had forgotten so much vocab and grammar. Bible software can address that problem, but they have also let their Greek go, because it took too much time to 'translate' the text. I want to establish some patterns of study that allow a person to get at the significant issues in a text quickly.
I am trying, therefore, to lay out some guidelines of things to consider when working with the Greek NT that reflect the kind of questions I am intuitively thinking about. Take a look at the PDF of a working guide I've attached, and let me know if you have other suggestions. Thanks!
BTW, if you see a little paper icon in front of that link, you should be able to hover over it and have the PDF pop up without clicking. Once the popup appears, you can enlarge the window.


  1. What type of curriculum/books do you use in your grammar + software approach? Do you start w a basic grammar (= learn the forms) and then move to reading the text in Bible software or something different?

  2. Hi, Michael. We use Croy's Primer of Biblical Greek, but I mainly use it as an outline of topics and for the exercises. I've developed a lot of my own stuff that I mainly present via PPT and handouts. (Here's my class web page: )
    They memorize vocab used 50+ times in the NT, the primary/secondary active/MidPassDep endings and verb coding, the 3 declension class endings, and that's about it other than recognizing syntax. Other than that stuff, most of the tests are open book/notes and open software as well at times.
    I have the class start using the software in October after the 2 week intensive plus a month of class. We are doing some Bible readings every class period, and I'm usually using the software to demonstrate how they should be thinking about it integrating it into their own work.

  3. IMHO there is no way to "keep up" on Greek and Hebrew without getting into it every day! The easiest way to do this is to read a small portion every single day. This is the way I've "kept" my language training and not wasted a lot of time and effort. Even a verse or two is sufficient over time, but if you don't keep at it, all you will be doing after a year or two is looking up definitions of Greek words in a lexicon and that will be about as deep as one knows the language.

  4. Thanks, the comparison study is an interesting tip!