Its all Greek to me


This semester I am starting to learn Koine Greek. As we progress through the class I will add an entry on what we have learned and upload practice sheets to share with anyone interested. If you already know Greek and have a tip to share or see something wrong let me know in the comments section.

The Greek language has a long history and has undergone variations over time. The Bible (as well as the LXX and the patristic writings) was written in κοινέ Greek (common), which was derived from the Attic-Ionic dialect made popular world-wide through the conquests of Alexander the Great. This form of the language was in use from approximately 300 BC to 300 AD.

I am using the 2nd edition of Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. In class we have moved through the first 7 chapters in three weeks. The focus has been on the alphabet – because you can’t do much without that – and the definite article (24 ways to say “the”) and the cases for nouns.

Here is a link to a chart on the Greek alphabet (with pronunciation helps).

Since Greek is an inflected language, word order in the sentence does not matter. What matters are the endings of the word. So we have spent a lot of time working on recognizing these endings. For the non-grammar people like me another important thing to remember is that there are 4 cases for nouns and what they mean in the sentence structure.

Here is a sample sentence in English that uses the four cases:

He sent Paul’s message to them.

The four cases of the noun are as follows:

  • nominative – the subject of the sentence (He)
  • genitive – used to show possession. The key word is “of”. (Paul)
  • dative – the indirect object of the sentence. The key word is “to”. (them)
  • accusative – the direct object of the sentence (message)

and here is that sentence (I think) in Greek (minus the verb, which we have not covered yet):

ὁ αὐτός  (sent) τὸν λόγον τοῦ Παῦλου τοῖς αὐτοις

and here is that sentence in a different word order (this time emphasizing the message rather than the sender  since this word appears at the front):

τὸν λόγον τοῦ Παῦλου ὁ αὐτός  (sent) τοῖς αὐτοις

There are two charts which I have created to practice what we have covered in class so far – learning the noun endings and the definite article.

If you want to type Greek characters a free Greek font is available for download from the Society of Biblical Literature and instructions on how to setup and type in Greek using the keyboard is available here.

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