The study of biblical Greek seems to be particularly popular at present, if the flood of recent publications is any indication. I, for one, am delighted to observe this trend. I am deeply grateful for both the obligation and the opportunity to learn biblical Greek. These days, fewer people are obliged to learn Greek, even as part of a theological degree, but perhaps more and more people have the opportunity, partly through excellent resources that have been made available in recent years.
In this post, I will introduce a number of resources that should prove very helpful to those who wish to improve their Koine Greek skills. (‘Koine Greek’ is the Greek of the New Testament, but also of the Greek Old Testament – the ‘Septuagint’ – and many early Christian writings.) I make no claim that this post will be exhaustive, but I hope it will encourage anyone who is looking for assistance to read Greek well and with enjoyment.
Before I consider some resources, let me address a very basic question:
Who should learn Biblical Greek?
Learning Koine Greek has typically been seen as the task of someone training for ‘ordained ministry’. My answer to this question, however, would be ‘Anyone who wants to learn Greek!’ and ‘As many people as possible!’
I have written in a previous post about my experience teaching Greek to an informal class on Saturday mornings. I would love to see more informal classes develop. I find it very exciting to sit in church listening to a passage from the New Testament being read and to know that several of my Saturday class students will probably be following the reading in their Greek New Testaments! I hope our minister finds that exciting too!
There will be many people who have studied Greek in the past but now feel that their knowledge has deteriorated beyond retrieval. I would like to encourage anyone in that position that all is not lost! There are wonderful resources available to help people in just this position. I will now introduce you to several.
Anyone who wishes to begin to learn biblical Greek will need a textbook. There are several excellent textbooks available. For many years, I have taught classes using the Grammar and Workbook by Bill Mounce. These are great resources and anyone who cares about reading Greek owes a huge debt of gratitude to Bill Mounce for his work in this area (as they do to John Wenham , who wrote an earlier classic textbook from which I learned Greek, and others before them). You can also access video lectures to accompany the book on Bill Mounce’s web page.
With my Saturday class, I have been using the new textbook, Reading Koine Greek, by the late Rodney Decker. (See my review here.) I have, in general been very pleased with this book. There are a few things I might change (the print is very small and chapters can feel rather dense), but Decker is aware of recent work in linguistics and provides frequent examples from the Septuagint and non-canonical writings to broaden the reading experience of the student. I would suggest that someone who has studied Greek in the past and now wishes to revive it would find Decker’s book a good resource.
The forthcoming book (with accompanying resources), Reading Biblical Greek, by Constantine Campbell and Richard Gibson looks interesting and will be worth considering as an introductory textbook when it is published.
Greek New Testament
The standard academic publications of the Greek New Testament are known as ‘Nestle-Aland’ (after the editors, abbreviated ‘NA’) and ‘UBS’ (for ‘United Bible Societies’). The main text of these volumes is virtually identical in both cases. Both forms have gone through numerous revisions. We are now at NA28 and UBS5. These are published by the German Bible Society and distributed by Hendrickson Publishers in the USA. There are many editions available and the final choice will be personal. For readers who want to build up their comfort with Greek, I would recommend the UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition. This edition has the standard Greek text in the top part of the page. In the bottom part, there is a list of less-common words that have appeared on that page along with a basic definition (or ‘gloss’) of the word and a short description of its form. This volume is currently [17 May 2017] available at an excellent price (almost half the retail price) here.
A similar volume is available from Zondervan. While this is also an excellent resource, it does not provide so much information about words in the notes.
Intermediate Grammars and Readers
During the past semester, I have taught an intermediate Greek Texts class using the recently published volume, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek. This volume provides clear, well-informed instruction, exercises and substantial readings from the Greek New Testament (with detailed annotations). I enjoyed using it and initial feedback from students has been very positive.
A similar volume by David Mathewson and Elodie Emig, entitled Intermediate Greek Grammar, would also be a good read for pastors seeking to build up Greek competence.
Several new volumes have recently been added to the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series (also published by B&H Academic). These volumes lead the reader through the Greek text of a particular document, highlighting features of the language. One of these volumes could provide an excellent companion for preparation of a sermon series, or for personal study. Ministers might also consider reading one of these volumes together with a group of colleagues.
Similar to the EGGNT series, though discussion in the volumes is more concise, is the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament. There are some outstanding volumes in this series. You can read my review of the volume on Revelation by David Mathewson here.
Daily Dose of Greek
I cannot close this post without reference to the excellent ‘Daily Dose of Greek‘ videos, produced by Rob Plummer. This is a wonderful idea and has been a great help to me and, I am sure, to many others. These short videos are emailed daily, free of charge, to subscribers. They combine reading and translation of a single verse in Greek, brief grammatical explanations, along with Rob Plummer’s unique combination of encouragement, theological and pastoral reflection, and sense of humour. Anyone who wishes to improve their Greek should subscribe to these videos! (A similar site is available for Hebrew.)
I will add further resources to this post as time allows. For now, I hope that these resources will provide help and encouragement to many as they seek to read and understand the Greek New Testament.