Thursday, June 30, 2016

Going deeper with New Testament Greek

I decided to make 2016 the year I would try to pick up my biblical Greek again after a lapse in practicing for a couple years. One of the most helpful resources I’ve found is the 2-4 minute video clips on the Daily Dose of Greek website Robert Plummer, my seminary professor, created a little while ago. He works through a verse or a part of a verse in each video, translating, parsing verbs, and commenting on the grammar. Because the videos are so short, I’m able to refresh my memory and learn new concepts all with a minimal time investment.

I discovered that he had worked on an intermediate Greek grammar that was due to come out in June, so I contacted the publisher and requested a copy of it to review. After carefully working through quite a few chapters, I have to say Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is just the kind of book I needed to help me pick up my Greek and keep using it going forward.

Plummer didn’t write the book by himself. It’s a collaboration of other Greek teachers including Andreas K√∂stenberger and Benjamin Merkle. Together they’ve produced something that not only teaches, but allows readers to practice what they’re learning as they go. Each chapter is laid out the same way, so by highlighting each chapter’s features, I’ll show you just how useful this book is:

Going Deeper
The authors introduce each chapter with a practical example demonstrating how the subject of the chapter applies to reading and understanding the New Testament. Most of these examples correct errors that I’ve heard (and quite likely propagated at one time or another). Even before I started reading this book I made a commitment to myself not to use the phrase, “In the original Greek this means…” when preaching unless absolutely necessary. Rabbit trail aside, the examples serve as strong reminders that studying these grammatical concepts are important. I particularly liked the discussion about whether the Lord’s Prayer directs us to pray that God would deliver us “from evil” or “from the evil one” and the matter of whether “go” in Matthew 28:19 should be “going” instead.

Chapter Objectives
This gives a brief outline of the chapter.

The bulk of the chapter is dedicated to discussion of its subject matter. The material is broken up into various headings and subheadings for easy navigation. The authors also provide multiple examples to show how these concepts play out in the New Testament. They also interact with other Greek grammars, allowing the reader to understand how these grammatical concepts are addressed by other scholars.

Readers already familiar with a given concept may benefit from skipping to the Summary at the end of the chapter, which consists of charts and tables condensing the chapter’s material into a handy reference table. I would have liked to see all these tables reprinted at the end of the book as an easy access reference guide, but this is only a minor complaint.

Practice Exercises
Ten exercises are included at the end of each chapter to reinforce the lesson, and most if not all of the verses used come right from the chapter itself. This feature is quite unique, as most grammars either sell a separate workbook or fail to include any exercises whatsoever. I found that if the answer wasn’t forthcoming the Summary charts usually helped me figure it out in no time.

Even after a couple years of not practicing my Greek, I was still able to recognize by sight or by context most of the words in the sentences that I should have memorized in my beginning Greek classes. Words that appear 50 or more times in the New Testament are included in the back of the book. The vocabulary section at the end of the chapter for the reader to memorize includes words that appear between 15 and 49 times. There are also words appearing less frequently than 15 times to recognize, which comes in handy in the next section.

Reading the New Testament
This was my favorite section. The reader is given a passage of Scripture to read in Greek. The passage has numerous examples of the chapter’s grammatical concept(s), and the uncommon words in the “to recognize” vocabulary section come from the passage, so you don’t need a lexicon to find a definition if you get stuck. After reading the passage, the authors include a verse-by-verse commentary on the grammar and vocabulary of the passage.

I should also point out that the last few chapters provide even more helps for the aspiring Greek student, including resources for continued study, sentence diagramming (a lot more fun than you might think), word studies, and more.

This has been the most helpful resource I’ve worked with so far in picking up my Greek, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to stay current with their language skills.

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