Surprised by Greek. Well not really.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I bought a copy of the  Learn to Read New-testament Greek, Work Book. It’s  different to another work book I have used in the past. Perhaps a lot of those differences can be explained by the structural differences between the two texts they are keyed to.
Getting beyond the structural differences of where the authors differ: One starts with verbs, the other with nouns; both start with the alphabet and the structure of how that works. I am enjoying the format of this work book in how it asks questions. It asks plenty of them.

It forces me as a student to go back and re-read the subject and digest the information in a way I previously wasn’t forced to do. The questions give me an interpretive tool in how to understand the text book and to understand the information that I am meant to learn. And why I am mean’t to learn it.

I have had a long term love / hate relationship with Greek. I totally get the “WHY” of learning it, and its importance. My brain isn’t naturally wired to learn other languages. Honestly, I struggle reading, writing and speaking my own language properly. I find it easy to ask questions about the Scriptures, and I want to find out if the Scriptures actually say what we think it says.

Last year we suffered death and injury in our family: our family dog, granddad. A number of friends passed away. I injured my feet. And I took a 12 months sabbatical from study. Actually the truth be told – I did very little reading at all. I enjoyed the break and it was much needed. But, now, I’m ramping up to continue study once again. And Greek is on my personal study agenda.

I have 3 subjects to finish my Bmin. One is a compulsory subject on Ethics, the others are electives of my choosing. One of those choices will be an intensive on Islam which starts in Feb. Which leaves me with one more. It’s only this week I have been thinking about doing Greek 2 as a subject. These thoughts are somewhat surprising to myself; as in the past I have avoided that subject like the plague. But, perhaps, my thinking has been, if I can get my level of understanding Greek up to a level beyond those starting Greek 2; I will be in with a chance to finish that subject and finish it well.

It’s all Greek. Always double check your resources.


I translated the following passage on Friday night while in the motel on my birthday adventure using the traditional method of pen, paper,  Greek New Testament and a grammar; having left the computer at home. I was really chuffed as I did the translation fairly easily, though admittedly leaving the verb out of the equation.  I translated it as follows.

Mar 1:13 και ην TSBεκει εν τη ερημω Aτεσσερακοντα ημερας TSBτεσσαρακοντα πειραζομενος υπο του σατανα και ην μετα των θηριων και οι αγγελοι διηκονουν αυτω

And he was cast into the desert by the spirit where he was 40 days tempted at the hands of the satan, and the wild beasts; and then the Angels ministered to him.

When I came home home I decided to continue my translation work on Mark 14, only this time I decided to use the computer program. Because of tiredness and more than a little sunburn, I copied the following which is Westcott and Horts with Strong’s. One of the things I like about this version is that it parses the sentence for you.  Take the following passage from Mark 1:14 as an example. It begins by telling you the first word is a conjunction, followed by two prepositions, which is followed by the definite article and a verb. The computer program also links to the word meaning when you hover over the Strong’s number.

Mar 1:14 | και G2532 CONJ / μεταG3326 PREP | μεταG3326 PREP δεG1161 CONJ | τοG3588 T-ASN παραδοθηναιG3860 V-APN τονG3588 T-ASM ιωαννηνG2491 N-ASM ηλθενG2064 V-2AAI-3S οG3588 T-NSM ιησουςG2424 N-NSM ειςG1519 PREP τηνG3588 T-ASF γαλιλαιανG1056 N-ASF κηρυσσωνG2784 V-PAP-NSM τοG3588 T-ASN ευαγγελιονG2098 N-ASN τουG3588 T-GSM θεουG2316 N-GSM

However I came to a dead end as I started to work through the version on my computer without referring to my hard copy. Can anyone else notice the problem I faced. I started to search through my grammar as to why there would be two same prepositions together in the one sentence. Basically the word Meta in this sense means hereafter / afterwards. But what did it mean to have them together.. my mind boggled. Anyway I fruitlessly searched and discovered nothing. But, suddenly I had an  ‘Aha’ moment. I compared it with my hard copy and discovered that, meta didn’t repeat its self.  I then did a comparison with my other Greek NTs on the computer, which also showed the one word.

Now the reality is that I could have avoided some mindless anxiety if I had double checked to begin with. I don’t know if the original version causing me difficulty actually shows the double word, or its a typo from the publishers. But with the proper version decided on, in a reasonably short time I translated the passage as saying.

Mar 1:14 μετα δε το παραδοθηναι τον ιωαννην ηλθεν ο ιησους εις την γαλιλαιαν κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον TSB της TSB βασιλειας του θεου

After John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God.  

He made the Worlds.

Last week I decided to resume my Greek studies as college and other ministry commitments were finished for the year and I had the time to spare. Because I hadn’t read the book of Hebrews for a while, I decided to look at that book. Now granted its possibly one of the hardest books I could look at in the original languages. There are many verbs of which I have no skills for the moment in deciphering and so I may be throwing myself into the bottomless pit of no return.

However. In Hebrews 1:2 I was a little thrown at first with this word order. εροισεν τόυς αιωνας

Ι knew that τόυς was a Masculine Genitive Plural Article.  But I couldn’t find the corresponding noun at first which it went with. Suddenly it hit me that αιωνας is one of those horrible 3rd declension nouns which could be either masculine or feminine in nature. With the help of the dictionary I was able to work out that it says … He made the ages / he made the worlds. Which the NIV translates as “He made the universe.”

Now some questions for my friends who are fluent in Greek regarding the use of the article and the 3rd declension noun. Does the verb set the usage of the article and therefore decides the translation of the noun. Or does the usage of the masculine article cause the setting for the translation of the noun which could be either masculine or feminine.

My difficulty with this is that up to now I have been taught that a words gender isn’t that important in deciphering its meaning. The Greek word for sin for example is a feminine noun – but this doesn’t infer that only females sin. So this now leads to my curious mind asking further inane questions. Within the context of 3rd declension nouns which can be either masculine or feminine, does it really matter which article is used alongside it? Could the author of Hebrew’s used τασ (which is a feminine article ) instead of τόυς.

Flash cards.

I found my Greek flash cards today. Well truth be told, my boys discovered them for me and I found them on their bedroom floor. Smile I have another shelf to put up in the study, which will enable us to make it a usable room. And I will be able to once again start to resume my slow slog in Greek.

While I took some photos of the study and posted them the other day, what you don’t see in those pics are the other side of the room, in which the desk and floor is covered in books and paraphernalia.

Unusual construct… it pays to double check.

I’m slowly gaining some confidence in understanding Greek and have been working through the book of Ephesians. Up till now I have been writing out a verse each day and working through the words that I recognise, without really trying to parse and translate it properly… today I decided go back and attempt to parse / translate each sentence properly, and so this afternoon began on Chapter 1:1

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ διὰ θελήματος θεοῦ τοῖς ἁγίοις τοῖς οὖσιν [ἐνἘφέσῳ] καὶ πιστοῖς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ:

Paul Apostle / Christ Jesus / through the will of God /(to)the saints they being [ in Ephesus] the faithful ( in, on, among) Christ (of) Jesus.

It’s an interesting construct in that its not Christ Jesus or commonly translated as Jesus Christ..rather it clearly says that its Christ (of) Jesus.

Then I struck a few issues in checking out Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ with some sources when working through the difficulty of  Χριστῷ being a dative singular (indirect object) and Ἰησοῦ being a genitive singular (showing possession)  I double checked my grammars and then looked at some online sources, recommended by Dave Black to his students as some resources for their term paper on Philippians –  here and here which actually parses Ἰησοῦ as being dative and not genitive. 

While I’m not sure what the actual construct means in the variety of nuances within the translation and am happy to go with Christ Jesus for now – it does pay to do the hard yards yourself and don’t take it for granted that other resources have it right and that I have got it wrong… Actually I’m feeling a little chuffed right now Smile

τὸν λόγον τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς σωτηρίας

Ephesians is one of my favourite NT books and as part of my devotional and private studies I have been working through the Greek of Ephesians. (I am glad to report that its slowly coming togetherSmile ) I was struck by the above quote from Ephesians 1:13 – translated means “…The word, the true message of salvation…”

Love / Hate relationship with Greek.

I have this love / hate relationship with Greek. I feel continually drawn back to it, struggling to memorise its various formats. I have mentioned before, how some years ago I suffered some amnesia through viral encephalitis, which wiped out a lot of my working knowledge of grammar.

It’s also caused difficulties in my remembering facts and figures – such as dates, times, lists etc – and so I have tried flash cards and writing lists over and over again, but have really struggled in remembering the various structures of Greek. yet I have no problems in understanding concepts. This week I remembered a technique I learnt when I was involved as a salesman in 95/96 and used it successfully to train other sales people during that time.

It’s to take a sentence and reduce it to the first letter of each word from that sentence. Therefore the previous sentence would be reduced to - i t t a s a r i t t f l o e w f t s and we would practice memorising the sentence through reading the redacted sentence.

This week I discarded all of my previous flash cards and have started to rewrite them. And for the cards relating to grammar, I have written at the bottom of each card the redacted sentence. One of the basics I have struggled with is in regards to remembering what the Nominative and Accusative  case endings means.. and so for those two cards I wrote…

  1. A Nominative noun is the subject of the verb and the subject uses nominative case endings. A n n i t s o t v & t s u n c e
  2. A Accusative noun is the object of the verb and the object uses accusative case endings. A a n i t o o t v & t o u a c e 
I have found that this has greatly helped my ability to remember.. and this week have had a breakthrough in remembering those two structures…now I can imagine for some people – your eyes have glazed over with thinking – how mundane and easy is that to remember – which is pretty much the reaction I had when some years ago in hospital, when I had some visitors whose eyes glazed over when I excitedly told them that I was taught that morning how to get out of a chair… It’s always mundane till you find you can’t do it!
See if you can read these two sentences
  1. A n n i t s o t v & t s u n c e
  2.  A a n i t o o t v & t o u a c e
It works hey! Well at least it does for me :) Time will tell how I get along over the next few weeks. I’ll let you know.


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