Saturday, February 26, 2011

New Greek Grammar: Fundamentals of NT Greek

S.E. Porter, J.T. Reed, M.B. O'Donnell
Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (plus Work Book)
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.
Available at (with look inside feature)

"The great strengths of these books are their coherence, comprehensiveness, knowledge of contemporary linguistics, the wide-ranging use of Greek drawn from texts instead of artificially created snippets, and the fine integration of the workbook with the textbook. Highly recommended."
— D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

When I learned Greek in seminary we used a mixture of William Mounce and John Wenham. It was okay, Mounce was certainly easier than some grammars to use, I learned NT Greek as I was supposed to, and the job got done. Both grammars had some problems. You have to wait an awful long time before you get to verbs in Mounce and Wenham's exercise were rather annoying when he tests you on the exceptions.

Amidst the variety of Greek Grammars out there, one I have to highlight is that written by Stan Porter and friends that came out late last year. It has some good features:
  • Uses a verbal aspect approach (perfective, imperfective, stative).
  • Very detailed and includes good discussions on things like accents.
  • Good mix of noun and verb chapters as the grammar progresses.
  • No reference to the definite article since Greek has no indefinite article.
  • Liked the description of the middle voice as either reflexive, reciprocal, or proper.
  • Good little summary on why you shouldn't believe in deponency.
  • A short description of numerals signified in Greek (wish I had this when I was working on my 1 Esdras commentary).
  • Work book is written in nice big letters and the exercises aren't too long or onerous.
The only draw back I can think of is that you really need to learn the parsing abbreviations by rote in order to get the parsing. Sometimes you have to think twice in remembering stuff. For instance, Imperfect tense-form is "Im" and the Imperative mood is "Imp" (pp. xviii). Yet in the general abbreviations they are simplified as "Impf." and Imperative "Impv.". This could create confusion as to when and where and which Im(f/v) is being cited. But that's admittedly a minor criticism in a fine grammar.


Randy McRoberts said...

I was happy to see that both the textbook and the workbook are available in Kindle format. Perfect for the iPad.

Danny Zacharias said...

I dislike the separate workbook approach, it is such a money grab. Just include a PDF on a CD with the textbook.

If I was teaching just MA students or D.Min. students I think I may use this textbook, but it is dense. The amount of vocabulary introduced is too much as well.

Paul D. Adams said...

Almost bought this at ETS this past year. Now I regret not doing so.

I've used Porter's Idioms of the Greek NT; another excellent resource.

Nathan said...

The grammar seems like a good updating of Mounce or Wenham, but doesn't really seem to move the ball much farther down the field than Machen. Ultimately, they are all good books in English about Greek.

As a current tutor in NT Greek, I have been reflecting on the goals of a Greek course. As most students will not be involved in new Bible translations or commentary writing, it seems to me that the goal should be the ability to continue reading NT Greek throughout a lifetime of preaching and teaching.

As I have been searching for texts that seem to support this goal, I have found two so far that seem particularly helpful: (1) John Dobson, Learn New Testament Greek . This text focuses primarily on reading skills and I have found helpful in converting what I learned at University into an ability to read NT Greek (we used Clayton Croy for 1st year and Daniel Wallace for 2nd year).

Recently, I have come across the Biblical Language Center's Greek books that make the astounding claim that a student will be able to think in Greek by the end of the first year. Cf.

Both of these works seem in line with some of the recent presentations in the Applied Linguistics for Biblical Languages group at SBL. I would be quite interested in hearing what the course goals of other Greek instructors in their courses.

As I mentioned above, I have found it somewhat difficult to make the jump from parsing to reading. Additionally, I have been worrying that focusing on paradigms means that the mental affiliations students make ( lueis hangs together with luw and luei not phoneuw , apollumi , etc.) This may hamper students ability to catch the rhetoric of NT even if they accurately translate the literal meaning.

Thanks for any thoughts,
Nathan Chambers

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