What Say You About Learning Greek

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ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
What path did you take in Greek studies? The recommendation here is to learn koine before other strands of ancient Greek. I had three semesters of classical Greek in college and I've messed around with it off and on the past 15-20 years. How would I best guide a newby to the language in her youth?
 
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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm not sure what "youth" means. Are you talking about a pre-teen or teenager?

I personally found Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek to be very accessible but I also have much more education under my belt and I'm not a good judge. If you search Mounce you can also find a bunch of free resources. If you're looking to learn Koine yourself you could start with Mounce's book and move on to Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The latter work especially has a lot of discussion about how Koine differs from classical Greek in many of its syntactical uses.
 

Timobe

Puritan Board Freshman
Certainly, you have to learn koine first and then, if you want, learn ancient greek or others.

A good, totally new and fresh method to learn greek koine is the one invented by Dr. Rico (Phd in greek linguistics) of Jerusalem.

Here is the link to his institute/method (he sell a book of his method with a CD to be able to learn alone) : Polis Koine » Home

And here is a video of his method : Polis - Koine Greek Class - YouTube

It's really fun to learn that way. And everyone can learn in the same class because the method is entirely in greek since the first course (and the book is too entirely in greek). So i'm learning with an Indian, an American, a German, a French... for example. After, when you read the NT, you read greek like if it was a living language !

EDIT : Like "jambo" said, the Gordon Wenham's "Elements of New Testament Greek" is the classical method for learning greek koine (and it's good too).
 
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jambo

Puritan Board Senior
Gordon Wenham's "Elements of New Testament Greek" is very good. I also did a correspondence course through a local bible college which was of great benefit.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure what "youth" means. Are you talking about a pre-teen or teenager?

I personally found Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek to be very accessible but I also have much more education under my belt and I'm not a good judge. If you search Mounce you can also find a bunch of free resources. If you're looking to learn Koine yourself you could start with Mounce's book and move on to Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. The latter work especially has a lot of discussion about how Koine differs from classical Greek in many of its syntactical uses.

Thanks Rich. Mrs F. and I are strongly leaning towards home-schooling. We have years to get this figured out but I enjoy thinking about it. Since I have a daughter only, so far anyway, we are not as sure what her third language will be. After she is eight or so we plan on starting her on Spanish. I will be confident in my own abilities in Spanish by then to teach the first two or three years. From then on I'll find a tutor and well spoken Mexican natives. We have some at our church. We want any child we have to be conversational in Spanish by his teen years and fully fluent by adulthood. Greek is different. I don't know how strongly we are going to promote that. There is a difference, I think, to be made between children on this. A son with a seemly strong call to the things of God including ministry and a daughter who grows in faith quite well with her English Bible.

I have Mounce's text and the workbook. I just need to get as committed with it as I am with learning Spanish. However, I think you and others have convinced me on the Koine vs. Attic issue.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I'm not sure I would teach a child Koine Greek so much as to ground a child in grammar and syntax. I used to wonder why people who learned Greek would always talk about how much they learned about language in general and that is because it forces you to really start to wrestle with the way language is used in general. While learning the basics of Greek and the ability to parse words is useful, what you find is that you really start to get into the consequential aspects of language in general when you start wrestling with the ways that language is used. There are literally dozens of uses of the Genitive case in the Greek and each use has consequences for how a sentence might be interpreted. I've found myself reflecting less about Greek itself and thinking more deeply about how language itself is used and how the different words are not only used technically but idiomatically.

I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think Koine Greek would be a good language to teach a kid because a lot of the texts are not really designed to build up from a Primer level.to understand the use of language itself.

We have our kids in a curriculum that really stresses understanding grammar and building to syntax so kids learn how to analyze words and sentences and paragraphs. I think that skill is useful an applicable to any language where the specific nuances of Greek and how Koine itself will be more easily grasped if a person has a category for thinking about language in general.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
How much difference is there between Classical Greek and Koine Greek anyway?
Here is an answer in part.
When primitive tribes of Indo-Europeans moved into Greece, presumably they spoke a single language. Geography and politics caused it to fracture into a score of dialects, only to be united once again on the battlefield. Thus, ironically, the first military campaign in the third millennium BCE brought confusion of tongues, while the last campaign not only restored linguistic unity, but forged a new language which was destined to become a Weltsprache (world language).

The Koine was born out of the conquests of Alexander the Great. First, his troops, which came from Athens as well as other Greek cities and regions, had to speak to one another. This close contact produced a melting-pot Greek that inevitably softened the rough edges of some dialects and abandoned the subtleties of others. Second, the conquered cities and colonies learned Greek as a second language. By the first century CE, Greek was the lingua franca of the whole Mediterranean region and beyond. Since the majority of Greek-speakers learned it as a second language, this further increased its loss of subtleties and moved it toward greater explicitness (e.g., the repetition of a preposition with a second noun where Attic Greek was usually comfortable with a single preposition).


Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (p. 15). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
D. Changes from Classical Greek

In a word, Greek became simpler. In terms of morphology, the language lost certain aspects, decreased its use of others, and assimilated difficult forms into more frequently seen patterns. The language tended toward shorter, simpler sentences. Some of the syntactical subtleties were lost or at least declined. The language replaced the precision and refinement of classical Greek with greater explicitness.


1. Morphology

Since Hellenistic Greek is an amalgam of other dialects, we should be wary of inventing prescriptive rules for morphology, only to call most verb forms “exceptions” to the rules. Many of the so-called exceptions are traceable to an unsystematic borrowing from the various dialects (e.g., the Aeolic third singular first aorist optative ending -αι for the Attic ending -ειε[ν]); still others are due to the Koine shaping itself into familiar or analogous patterns (such as putting first aorist endings on second aorist verbs -εἶπαν for εἶπον). The sometimes multiple forms of a particular principal part (e.g., fourth and fifth principal parts of ἀνοίγω) that occur in the NT are to be explained along these same lines.

In sum, not all irregular forms in the NT have pat linguistic solutions, as if the mere memorizing of rules is all that is needed to recognize them. Many of these irregularities are simply due to historical accident, not linguistic principle.


2. Sentence Structure

a. Shorter, simpler sentences replaced the often complex sentences of classical Greek.
b. Fewer particles and conjunctions were used, several of which were pressed into service to accomplish many different tasks.
c. Parataxis (coordinated clauses) increased; hypotaxis (complex sentences in which a subordinate clause is used) decreased.
d. Direct discourse was favored over indirect discourse.


3. Style/Syntax of the Noun and Verb

Since Hellenistic Greek is both a melting pot of previous dialects and a second language to conquered peoples, three predictable features occur: (1) subtleties drop out; (2) refinements blur; (3) the language tends toward greater explicitness. Some examples:

a. Prepositions:

1) repeated before nouns where Attic Greek would have used one preposition.
2) preference for compound verbs with prepositions where either the compound or the preposition is all that is necessary.
3) the use of prepositions where Attic Greek often used a mere noun in the proper case.
4) confusion/overlapping of prepositions (e.g., εἰς/ἐν, ὑπέρ/περί).

b. Pronouns: more frequently used (more explicit).

c. Personal Pronouns:used as subjects of verbs where Attic usually left them out.

d. Number: dual drops out.

e. Tenses: use of present tense for future (vivid futuristic present).


Wallace, D. B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (pp. 18–20). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
I home educate my children and will be using Basics of Biblical Greek (Mounce) primarily. (I’ve spent hours searching for the best grammar for our use and always ended up coming back to this one. So I got the first edition cheap on ebay and am so far pretty content with it. I’m working through it myself to keep one step ahead......such is the plan at any rate.) I think a child of 12 (home educated) could easily work through ‘Basics of Biblical Greek’ alone. Especially if they have had Latin instruction or at least a very solid instruction in English grammar. I am concentrating on teaching my eldest Latin at the moment with the goal of adding in Greek by age 11/12.

Harvey Bluedorn has produced some curriculum specifically for home educated families. I have two books and haven’t personally found them too helpful, but others have. What suits one doesn’t suit another.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
Anyone who is just starting to read Greek would be best served by learning Attic Greek first, then moving to Koine. The adjustment is not too difficult, and that will position you well to read many Greek documents. On the other hand, Koine will let you read only a few documents, and it is much more difficult to adjust to Attic. Plus, in my experience, the Attic Greek grammars are better. Athenaze is a fantastic primer. The JACT reading course is quite fun, but a bit trickier to use, since you use several books in tandem. Both curricula should be bought in the newest edition; they've made serious strides since their first installments.

Anyone learning Greek should find a way to practice it actively. Writing and (if possible) speaking are important components of language learning. Many college courses in ancient languages neglect them, with the predictable result that students sit through 2 or 4 semesters and promptly forget the little they learned.

I've been tutoring Greek for about 8 years now; if you have detailed questions, PM me.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gordon Wenham's "Elements of New Testament Greek" is very good. I also did a correspondence course through a local bible college which was of great benefit.
Just a note on 'Wenham' it has been replaced to all intents and purposes by Duff's 'Elements of NT Greek' - it is basically an updated Wenham. I found it very good.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
with the predictable result that students sit through 2 or 4 semesters and promptly forget the little they learned.
That seems to be par for the course on any language. Finding anyone with high school or college Spanish that's worth a darn five years later is like finding a needle in a haystack.

You are in the minority here with the Classical Greek first but I'll keep it in mind.
 

Supersillymanable

Puritan Board Freshman
Gordon Wenham's "Elements of New Testament Greek" is very good. I also did a correspondence course through a local bible college which was of great benefit.
Just a note on 'Wenham' it has been replaced to all intents and purposes by Duff's 'Elements of NT Greek' - it is basically an updated Wenham. I found it very good.
I second this. I'm currently using it. It's really good and it covers Basic, Intermediate and some Advanced Greek also. It's heavy on learning vocab also, which I've found helpful
 

KevinInReno

Puritan Board Freshman
What path did you take in Greek studies? The recommendation here is to learn koine before other strands of ancient Greek. I had three semesters of classical Greek in college and I've messed around with it off and on the past 15-20 years. How would I best guide a newby to the language in her youth?
Thanks for asking this question.

Let me add one really quickly, to those who have learned greek. I have wanted to incorporate it into my homeschool curriculum with my children. I don't know it. Should I learn it first, or is it something I could both teach and learn at the same time effectively enough?
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
What path did you take in Greek studies? The recommendation here is to learn koine before other strands of ancient Greek. I had three semesters of classical Greek in college and I've messed around with it off and on the past 15-20 years. How would I best guide a newby to the language in her youth?
Thanks for asking this question.

Let me add one really quickly, to those who have learned greek. I have wanted to incorporate it into my homeschool curriculum with my children. I don't know it. Should I learn it first, or is it something I could both teach and learn at the same time effectively enough?
I certainly will not "learn it" at the Fred Greco (or other men of expertise here) level ever, let alone before my child(ren) start learning it. If this thread is any indication guided self-study can get a child a ways but I want to be able to help early and so I plan on having usable sight reading Greek knowledge. Right now at my time faded three semester level I can only just fiddle with it at best.
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
I want to point out to those interested in "classical" Christian schooling that until the latter 19th century, there was no question as to what kind of Greek one should learn. Universities required a reading knowledge of Attic Greek for *entrance* into their Bachelor programs. No one ever learned Koine as a separate subject; they learned Greek, then made appropriate adjustments for dialect. This whole idea of teaching Koine was a makeshift response by seminaries to the new reality that they could no longer take proficiency in Greek for granted. Thus, the Koine curricula were based on giving these remedial students the minimum they would need to know to read the New Testament. But no one ever thought that was optimal. No one thought that it was better, in an absolute sense, to teach Koine.

The Role of Greek in Theological Education | Sacra Pagina
 

Hemustincrease

Puritan Board Freshman
I want to point out to those interested in "classical" Christian schooling that until the latter 19th century, there was no question as to what kind of Greek one should learn. Universities required a reading knowledge of Attic Greek for *entrance* into their Bachelor programs. No one ever learned Koine as a separate subject; they learned Greek, then made appropriate adjustments for dialect. This whole idea of teaching Koine was a makeshift response by seminaries to the new reality that they could no longer take proficiency in Greek for granted. Thus, the Koine curricula were based on giving these remedial students the minimum they would need to know to read the New Testament. But no one ever thought that was optimal. No one thought that it was better, in an absolute sense, to teach Koine.
This is very useful information. Thank you. I may set Mounce aside and begin with a regular ancient Greek grammar instead (and do likewise for my children when the time comes). I certainly came across plenty of them when searching for the best grammar. This info opens up my options significantly.
 
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