Corinth1

κοινέ ελληνιστική (koine greek)

I have been studying koine greek for a few years now and still far from mastering that ancient language. My objective is to be able to read with reasonable facility all of the New Testament text as well as the Septuagint. I would also like to be able to navigate the writings of the 2nd-century Apostolic Fathers, Philo, Josephus and a few other extra-biblical writers of the period.

It has been a challenging task so far. This blog will be a journal of my efforts at learning koine greek in the hope that my continuing experience would somehow be useful to others undertaking the same.

χἀρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη

09 August 2020 – found another useful online resource

The Online Greek Textbook by Dr. Shirley J. Rollinson, Professor of Religion and Greek at Eastern New Mexico University.

Dr. Rollinson allows the free use of her textbook for non-commercial purposes. I find her material useful for students like me seeking to significantly improve reading fluency in κοινέ. Dr. Rollinson’s presentation is systematic and easy to follow. The exercises that conclude each of the 70 chapters are carefully chosen to illustrate and reinforce the concepts learned. The Appendices are helpful. Potentially useful is the English-to-Greek lexicon in addition to Greek-to-English.

I thought it amusing that Dr. Rollinson would have 3 chapters with the word “weirdos” in their titles. By “weirdo” she means verbs with different stems in their principal parts. In chapter 47, she names the very old and conserved verb forms such as ειμί as “dinosaurs.” Once again worth a chuckle, for these very verbs must be learned by heart if one hopes for fluency.

Dr. Rollinson presents the pluperfect tense in Chapter 57 and the optative mood in Chapter 60. Most beginning grammars in New Testament Greek brush these two off, or at most give them a casual explanatory line or two. The idea has always been that the pluperfect tense and the optative mood appear rarely in New Testament text, implying that they are not worth the effort. I disagree. When these two appear in the text however infrequently, they unfortunately become “stumbling blocks” for students who don’t recognize the forms. At worst, students may come up with an inexact translation.

Lastly, I appreciated chapter 70 which is dedicated to particles. When I was learning French I understood very quickly that the small words often make a big impact on meaning and nuance. Same thing in Greek. Those words may indeed be short compared to the long compounds, but mastered they must be for any hope of fluency.

06 July 2020 – spiritual, logical or reasonable? λογικός in 1Peter 2:2 and Romans 12:1

Λογικός occurs twice in the New Testament: 1Peter 2:2 and Romans 12:1.

The Liddell and Scott lexicon does not define λογικός as “spiritual” (e.g., see ESV translation of 1Peter 2:2) but rather as a word “belonging to speech… reason.” The word communicates that idea of “rational, fit for reasoning – literally, “logic.” Danker and Krug in The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament concur, further noting that: “[it is] frequently interpreted… as ‘spiritual’, in the sense of ‘metaphorical’, but such interpretation, suggesting as it does the obvious, is less likely to have occurred to recipients of the gospel as story.”

Other English translations that understand or propose “λογικός” as a metaphor for “spiritual” other than the ESV are: NRSV, NLT, NIV and NET. The translations that found another way of rendering λογικός are: YLT, KJV, NKJV and NASB (all four translations have chosen “word” to translate “λογικός”).

The English translations of Λογικός in Romans 12:1 are more varied and do not follow the pattern in 1Peter 2:2. The ESV, NASB and NRSV translate the word as “spiritual.” In contrast, the KJV, NKJV and NET chose the word “reasonable.” The NIV, “true and proper.” The NLT, “truly the way.” Lastly, the YLT, “intelligent.”

Given that the New Testament knows the specific koine greek word that technically meant “spiritual” (πνευματικός), appearing twenty-six times (Romans 1:11, 7:14, 15:27; 1Corinthians 2:13 [thrice in this verse], 3:1, 9:11, 10:3, 10:4 [twice in this verse], 12:1, 14:1, 14:37, 15:44 [twice in this verse], 15:46 [twice in this verse]; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 1:3, 5:19, 6:12; Colossians 1:9, 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5 [twice in this verse]) it seems more likely that the writer of 1Peter would have used πνευματικός in 1Peter 2:2 if he meant to communicate “spiritual.”

With this, it is possible to understand in a more precise manner what the phrase “pure milk” covers in 1Peter 2:2. I perceive in the writer’s choice to use λογικός as a nod to careful and reasoned thinking upon the fundamentals of the Christian faith that goes beyond and above abandoning “bad” behaviour (1Peter 2:1). Wrestling intelligently with the nature of God and faith in Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is like an infant craving for and thriving on pure, unadulterated milk. Without this, growth will be stunted.

03 July 2020 – the words less frequently seen

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday, a “new” approach to acquiring more facility in koine greek. In my previous years as a student in formal class settings, the instructors have always been positively inclined to have us memorize the words which most frequently appear in the New Testament text. This I have done fastidiously, but I have found that I have come up against a barrier that keeps me from my goal.

There are only 561 words that occur 550 to 19,867 times in the New Testament text. It’s an easy task to master those words. Then there are 2,126 words that appear with a frequency from 100 to 550. The number balloons to 6,859 words occurring from 10 to 100 times in the text. Lastly, there are 75 words that occur from 1 to 10 times.

After having studiously mastered the dictionary entries for the most frequently used words, I discovered belatedly that the more interesting and often critically essential vocabulary appear in the frequency range of 50 and below.

I’ve altered my strategy as of yesterday: I target those “rare” words and from them radiate to the surrounding text. I find this to be more productive, for me at this point anyway. It’s almost an essential approach to reading 1Peter, Hebrews and even Luke.

Try it!

Useful Resources

Dictionaries for use with New Testament text

  • Danker, Frederick William; Krug, Kathryn (2009). The Concise Greek-english Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Trenchard, Warren C. (2003). A Concise Dictionary of New Testament Greek. Cambridge University Press, UK.

Dictionaries – general use

  • Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (1909). Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, Abridged (The Little Liddell). Simon Wallenberg Press, USA.
  • Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; with Stuart Jones, Sir Henry; McKenzie Roderick (1996). A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. (1940) with Supplement (1996). Clarendon Press, Oxford, Logos Bible Software edition.

Grammars – beyond the basics

  • Brooks, James A.; Winbery, Carlton L. (1979). Syntax of New Testament Greek. University Press of America, Lanham MD.
  • Frick, P. (2007). A Handbook of New Testament Greek Grammar. Laodamia Press, Montreal Quebec Canada.
  • Trenchard, Warren C. (1998) Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.

Electronic

Apps
  • Zaccharias, Danny (2020): FlashGreek PRO HD Flashcards; ParseGreek- Greek Quizzing; iGreek (Pro version, for iOS). Apple App Store. (Comment: very useful for memorization; some bugs in the ParseGreek App for low-frequency words)
  • Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; with Stuart Jones, Sir Henry; McKenzie Roderick (1996). A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. (1940) with Supplement (1996). Clarendon Press, Oxford, Logos Bible Software edition (on Apple App Store)
Online

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