Instructions for a beginner....?

G. Ross gfross at
Mon Oct 1 06:26:56 EDT 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Faron Hopper" <fwhopper at>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at>
Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2001 5:33 AM
Subject: [b-greek] Instructions for a beginner....?

Hello all,
I have been following the list for short time, but most of it is over my
head.  Recently, I have purchased a book called "Basic Greek in 30 Minutes a
Day: New Testament Greek Workbook for Laymen" by Jim Found.  It has been
good so far in helping me to learn the alphabet, some vocabulary, etc.  What
would be the best thing to do next?
Hello, Faron,

I saw the above and decided to throw in my two cents, for what they're
worth.  :-)

If you want a good foundation in learning to read NT Greek and you don't
mind taking the long way 'round, I would recommend studying classical Greek
first.  For self-study, there are two texts that I think are the best:

1.  _Reading Greek_ (three necessary volumes: TEXT; GVE [grammar,
vocabulary, exercises]; and the _Independent Study Guide_; two optional
volumes: _The World of Athens_ and _Greek Vocabulary_; an optional
morphology chart; and optional tapes of classical Greek pronunciation).
There are also two additional volumes if you want to go on to an
intermediate level of reading.  This series is published by Cambridge
University Press in paperback form.  I like it primarily because it gives
you a LOT of Greek to read and because the study guide provides you with all
you need for self-study.

2. _Athenaze: An Introduction to Ancient Greek_ by Maurice Balme and Gilbert
Lawall, published by Oxford University Press, in two volumes for the student
and two volumes for the teacher.  The teacher's handbooks give the English
translation of all the Greek text in the student volumes and answers to all
the exercises.  So you need those for self-study.  I like this text less
than _Reading Greek_ because there is less Greek to read.  However, it is a
good text because, like the Cambridge series above, it focuses on developing
reading skills rather than translation or grammar skills.

I have found helpful for comparative prices and places to
buy these texts online.

I like these texts better than Mounce's Biblical Greek because Mounce's
grammar is primarily that:  grammar (and the presentation of basic
vocabulary words).  There is, of course, a workbook to accompany Mounce's
grammar, but, unlike the Cambridge and Oxford texts, it does not have a
continuous narrative (story) but only isolated sentences taken from the NT.
I find it very boring, myself, to translate individual sentences from Greek
into English.  I enjoy reading a rousing story much more, and the continuous
narratives in the Cambridge and Oxford editions mentioned above do hold the
reader's attention.  Also, Mounce focuses not on teaching students the skill
of reading, but rather on grammar and the skill of translating from Greek
into English.  The Cambridge and Oxford texts focus on teaching the skill of
reading; that is why they contain much more Greek to read.  Translating is a
different skill from reading.  And talking ABOUT a language (i.e., grammar)
is NOT the same as teaching someone how to READ in that language.

Unfortunately, it appears that most Greek grammars, whether classical or NT,
have been written by people who are interested in grammar and who have not
had university training in teaching people how to READ a foreign
anguage.  --  I say this based on the knowledge I have gained from teaching
English as a Foreign/Second Language for many years and from writing and
editing ESL/EFL textbooks.  (I now teach English at City College of San
Francisco.)  --  As a result, students find themselves slogging through
pages and pages of grammar, followed by a trickle of text!  And that gets
very discouraging, and is incredibly boring (at least to most students).  No
wonder so few students "run the good race."

After you have gone through either the Cambridge or the Oxford books, you
should be able to read the NT gospels in Greek with relatively little
difficulty, since the grammar and vocabulary of classical and Hellenistic
(NT) Greek are not that much different and since the gospels are among the
easiest books of the NT to read.

There are also parallel and interlinear NT Greek editions available.  The
Oxford _Precise Parallel New Testament_ gives NT Greek along with the KJV,
Rheims, Amplified, NIV, NRSV, NAB, and NAS.  And there are several
interlinear editions available.  After studying a little Greek, you might
find it enjoyable, as I have done, to use an interlinear version to read one
of the gospels.  After doing that for a while, you will come to recognize
the Greek words that are repeated over and over again.  It's a relatively
painless way for a beginner to learn the vocabulary of the NT -- far less
painful than the tedious task of flipping vocabulary cards.  Yech!
Eventually, you can wean yourself away from an interlinear edition and use a
parallel edition, which has the Greek in its own column but with various
translations into English nearby.  After that, well, there are many options
for improving your knowledge of NT Greek, which I won't discuss here.

Well, I hope that I have helped a little.  If you have any questions, please
drop me a line.

All the best --

Gordon Ross

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