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Greek for the Rest of Us

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I do not know too many serious students of the Bible who do not wish, at one time or another, that they were proficient at Greek (or more proficient at Greek). But few of us have had time or opportunity to study the language in a formal, academic setting. Basic Greek and Exegesis by Richard B. Ramsay and published by P&R Publishing is a newly-published attempt to increase the accessibility of the Greek language. It is “A practical manual that teaches the fundamentals of Greek and exegesis, including the use of linguistic software.” For those who are not familiar with the word, exegesis simply refers to the work of drawing out the meaning of a text. It is indispensable for a pastor or Bible study leader or serious student of the Bible who wishes to be faithful to what the Bible teaches (and stands in contrast to eisegesis, in which a person inserts his or her own meaning into a text—a practice that is far too common). Because some meaning is always and inevitably lost in translation, exegesis can best be done by looking to and understanding the original language. This book attempts to span the gap between the desire to do serious exegesis and the necessity of having some knowledge of the Greek language.

“This practical workbook fills a void in biblical and theological studies, because it prepares the student to do New Testament exegesis, using Greek, but without an extensive knowledge of the language. It integrates the study of Greek with every aspect of exegesis. As the student learns a new step, he also learns the corresponding fundamentals of Greek that enable him to do the exegesis properly. He becomes aware of the importance of using Greek to do serious Bible study, and learns how to use linguistic tools, including recent software. The student studies a biblical text of his or her own choice and prepares a written report on it. He will be surprised at the results of his own research!”

Ramsay offers three goals for the book and its fifteen lessons:

  1. The student will learn the steps of New Testament exegesis.
  2. The student will learn enough fundamentals of New Testament Greek to be able to use linguistic tools and do a serious exegesis.
  3. The student will gain confidence in doing exegesis in the Greek New Testament, and will grow in his or her desire to do serious exegetical study in the preparation of sermons or Bible studies.

The course has two objectives:

  1. The student will demonstrate he or she has reached these goals by writing a report of his or her own exegesis of a brief text selected from the New Testament and…
  2. …pass an exam on the fundamentals of New Testament Greek, writing the meaning of a list of vocabulary, explaining the meaning of important grammatical terms, identifying noun and verb forms, identifying the function of certain works within their sentences, and translating some Greek sentences into English.

While I have not had opportunity to make my way through the book’s lessons, I’ll definitely be giving it a good look. With the book retailing for only $22, the only real expense would be your time. If learning some Greek is on your list of things to do, or on the list of things you wish you could do, you might like to give it a try. Don’t expect to be able to begin a career in Bible translation, but do expect that it will give you tools you need to do better and more sound exegesis.


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