[B-Greek] Learning Attic Greek (a journey)

Louis Sorenson llsorenson at hotmail.com
Mon Jul 16 20:31:40 EDT 2007

I learned Koine/NT Greek in 1976 from Sumner's Grammar and got a minor in NT 
Greek from a Baptist Bible College.  In 1980, I started studies at the 
University of Minnesota toward a major in Classical Greek.  I skipped the 
first year courses. (I think this was a mistake on some level - I did not 
want to pay for it.)  My first University class was reading The Oddysey, 
Greek poetry (nothing like that in NT studies) with William MacDonald (he 
smoked a pipe in the classroom - not PC in todays world!  I loved the smell 
of flavored pipe tobacco.).  Later on, I took courses in Euripides (2x), 
Aristophanes (2x) and Herodotus.  At the time, I felt I was a fish out of 

Looking back, I am absolutely happy that I started reading Homeric Greek 
first (after Koine). Homeric Greek seems to be much closer to the 
'philological' approach. One runs up against uncontracted endings -oio, etc. 
  I was taught all the philology in Sumner, but never really dealt with it.  
Homeric Greek let me 'see the philology in  action.' Uncontracted noun case 
endings.  Objects of prepositions before prepositions.  Prepositions joined 
to verbs, but separated from the verb by their objects.  Meanings of words 
were not the same.  But what I held on to was the Homeric Greek is an early 
form of Ionic -- some similarities to the NT Koine.  (Doric Greek to NT 
Students is way out there - an enigma.)

MY BIG REGRET. I as a frugal student, was unwilling to pay to have to learn 
beginning Greek (Attic)  all over again. I never took a college-level 
beginning Attic Greek Course.  Looking back at it all, I regret that 
decision (30 years later).  Aristophanes and Euripides are Attic.

What happens to a NT student when they start reading Attic Greek?  First, 
many lot of the fine distinctions of Attic are leveled in Koine. You were 
never taught the distinctions, so when you run up against syntax (which 
occurs in the NT), you 'assume' and read them the same way as NT Greek.    
So when a NT student starts reading Attic Greek, they do not pick up on the 
variations of the language. (If a NT student would go through a good Attic  
First Year Grammar, this could be avoided.)  I am an avid student of Smyth's 
Grammar.  If you are a student of NT Greek and do not own this work, BUY IT. 
(I think one of the most significant aids to NT students would be if a good 
Attic/Koine classisist would update Smyth's Grammar to include NT/Koine 
features and examples.)

For the NT-learned-it-first student, the best thing is to buy Smyth's 
Grammar ('Which is chiefly Attic')  and READ THE EXAMPLES.  Smyth not only 
includes the Greek text, but includes English glosses for the Greek text 
to question everything you learned as a NT student (in regard to syntax).

After a hiatus of 20 years, I again started reading ancient Greek.  I never 
felt I could get a handle on  the NT unless I kept reading 'non-biblical' 
Greek.  So currently my time is spent reading 1/3 NT and 2/3 other authors.  
I feel I am balanced by that approach. I am blessed by the desire I have to 
read non-biblical Greek.  Not all students of the NT are given that gift.

The best help I have found when reading non-NT Greek, is to get your hands 
on a good commentary for the selection you are reading. I went through 
Benner's 'Selections from Homer's Iliad with vocabulary' commentary.  It 
helped me more than most other books on getting a handle on the differences 
between the Greek dialects.  The second most important thing to do is to 
read LSJ when looking up lemmas and READ THE EXAMPLES.

Greek literature that most NT students are interested in ranges over 1500 
years (800 B.C. to 700 A.D).  There are many dialectical differences, which 
really don't matter that much, but which I think one needs a 'go-to' book to 
understand the changes.  (Smyth is not that book.)  I am still looking for 
that book - It is the next item on my to-do list.

There is a Greek Study Group which is not NT based.    The website address 
for one group is http://www.quasillum.com.  So you are not left alone with a 
Greek Attic textbook, lexicon and yourself.  There are others out there (not 
all NT buffs) who can help you learn Attic.

Hope this rambling helps someone point in the right direction.
Louis Sorenson

>From: b-greek-request at lists.ibiblio.org
>Reply-To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
>To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
>Subject: B-Greek Digest, Vol 55, Issue 17
>Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2007 12:00:02 -0400
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>Today's Topics:

>    9. How to Self-Study Attic Greek? (John M. Linebarger)


>Message: 9
>Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2007 15:20:37 +0000
>From: jmlineb at comcast.net (John M. Linebarger)
>Subject: [B-Greek] How to Self-Study Attic Greek?
>To: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
>	<071620071520.9805.469B8CC5000B7DF70000264D22007354460D0A0207040306 at comcast.net>
>Like many on this list, I received the advice (in the posting about how 
>*not* to learn Koine Greek) with mixed emotions.  On the one hand, I agree 
>with the recommendation conceptually.  On the other hand, I have absolutely 
>no idea how to go about implementing it, since all of my training is in 
>Koine Greek, and I don't think a course on Attic Greek is even offered by 
>any of the colleges in my area.  (Ironically, our local state university 
>does teach a course in Koine Greek.)
>So my question to the purists and paedogogs out there is this.  How would 
>one go about self-studying Attic Greek?  And how extensive should that 
>study be (number of years; books read at the end; etc.)
>Please be extremely detailed in your response, and lay out things like 
>textbooks and grammars to use for each year, workbooks and assignments, and 
>crucial readings.  And if you can recommend texts and editions, that would 
>be great.  Even better, if you have course syllabi to pass on, please do 
>One other thing.  Why Attic Greek?  Why not Homeric Greek, then Attic 
>John M. Linebarger


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