Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Resources for Learning to Read the Greek New Testament
There are many wonderful resources available for learning Greek that provide an alternative to attending a Bible college or seminary. Here are some reasons why I do not recommend learning Greek at a university:
- high cost
- outdated Erasmian pronunciation
- use of corrupt Greek texts
- non-KJV translation philosophy
The methods that I am recommending for learning Greek are easier, cheaper, make a lot more sense, and will strengthen your faith in the English King James Bible instead of seeking to tear it down.
The first thing I recommend is that you start by learning the basics of modern Greek before jumping into Biblical κοινη Greek. Starting with modern Greek will help you get the correct pronunciation from native speakers, not the ugly, awkward pronunciation taught in seminaries that features a heavy American accent and will have native Greeks face-palming and shaking their heads. Also, learning modern Greek first will help you see Greek as a real-life, living language, not a dead language from the past. Here are some programs that I have completed in modern Greek that I highly recommend:
- Rosetta Stone
...but the greatest of these is Pimsleur.
Once you've learned the basics of modern Greek by completing one or all of the above courses, the transition into Biblical Greek will not be difficult. The first thing you will need is a Greek New Testament which can be purchased from the Trinitarian Bible Society. Another thing that is very helpful is having audio of the Greek New Testament, which is available on the Faithful Word app for Android or iPhone. The audio is a reading of the Textus Receptus by a native modern Greek speaker.
One of the best strategies for learning any language is to start by learning a lot of vocabulary. Flash cards can be very helpful, and there is a set of flash cards available for Biblical Greek that teach you the 1,000 most common words in the New Testament. The New Testament uses about 5,420 vocabulary words, but thousands of them are used only once or just a couple of times. You would rather focus on learning the common vocabulary words first. For example, the 320 most commonly used words represent 80% of the New Testament text. The 882 most commonly used words represent 90% of the New Testament text. Therefore if you learn the 1,000 most commonly used words, you will know over 90% of the Greek words that appear on a typical page of your Greek New Testament. Studies show that if you know 95-98% of the words in a text, you will be able to understand the remaining 2-5% from the context. Not only that, but if you know the Bible very well in English, you will easily understand the unknown words from the context, and over time, you will learn them all.
Lastly, you should work on learning the grammar. Do yourself a favor and learn this last. Why? Because the grammar is difficult and discouraging, but if you have already completed the above steps, it will be much easier. Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Pimsleur will have already painlessly taught you a lot of grammar. Then you will intuitively pick up a lot of grammar through reading the New Testament as you learn the vocabulary from the flash cards. By the time you get to serious study of grammar, you will just be filling in gaps and learning forms that are already somewhat familiar. The Bible college classes will throw you into heavy grammar right away which is a mistake. Following the above approach will make learning Greek much more enjoyable and less of a chore.
One book you could use for learning the grammar is "Beginning Greek: a Functional Approach" by Stephen W. Paine (WARNING: wrong Greek text of the Bible. Be sure to replace the reading selections with readings from your TBS Greek Textus Receptus). The first half of the book teaches the κοινη Greek of the Bible (1st century A.D.), and the second half of the book teaches Attic Greek (classical Greek from the 4th century B.C.) with readings from Xenophon. I am currently studying the Homeric Greek of the Iliad (8th century B.C.) using the book "Homeric Greek: a Book for Beginners" by Clyde Pharr. Both of these books contain difficult grammar, and I highly recommend finishing all the above steps first before moving on to these types of books.
Over 5 years ago, I did a series of 27 Greek lessons on YouTube, which you may also find helpful at some point in your studies:
Let me know in the comments if you've had any success using these methods or if you have any other tips!