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

Eric Inman eric.inman at wescorpflex.com
Tue Jul 17 12:52:25 EDT 2007

It's wonderful to hear of Bill MacDonald again after all these years. I had 
him as a freshman for accelerated Greek in '75/76 at Minnesota. Everyone 
else in the class was a graduate student except for two juniors. He 
emphasized reading aloud and discouraged memorization of paradigms. There 
were no written assignments or exams, just an oral exam at the end. The text 
book was "The First Year of Greek" by James Turney Allen. Each morning we 
would sit at his table and try to weather his blistering commentary about 
the quality of our understanding of the day's text. Those of us who survived 
felt like we had really experienced something. One of my fondest memories of 

Eric Inman

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Louis Sorenson" <llsorenson at hotmail.com>
To: <b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org>
Cc: <jmlineb at comcast.net>
Sent: Monday, July 16, 2007 7:31 PM
Subject: [B-Greek] Learning Attic Greek (a journey)

> 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
> water.
> 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
> have
> 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 
>>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, 
>>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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