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Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Are you learning New Testament Greek with Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek? Here's where you can meet other learners using this textbook. Use this board to ask questions and post your work for feedback. Use this forum too to discuss all things Koine, LXX & New Testament Greek including grammar, syntax, textbook talk and more.

Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby refe » Wed Apr 27, 2011 2:13 pm

Mounce's BBG is far and away the most popular textbook in seminaries today. And while I used it successfully in my independent studies of Greek, the deeper I go into my continuing studies of the language the more I realize that BBG is not able to adequately prepare students to really dig into Greek.

Obviously, as the title and the author's rationale statement clearly state, the textbook is not meant to give a student everything they need - just enough to get them reading. But for those students who are interested in developing real comprehension of the language - which in my opinion must include the ability to compose at least basic sentences and conversation - BBG is lacking some of the necessary elements to get there.

So what are the alternatives? I would think that the ideal textbook would need to cover more completely the various declensions and word forms, where BBG only give the bare minimum, and it would have to include English-Greek exercises.

I've heard from several members of the B-Greek mailing list that A Primer of Biblical Greek by N. Clayton Croy is very good, although I've never tried it myself. Is there any other introductory Greek textbooks that users here have studied that they would recommend?
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:41 pm

I can highly recommend Croy's book - although it is very much reading-focused, too. I used it for teaching an online Greek course, and I've left the materials online here.
http://www.mythfolklore.net/bibgreek/
I especially like the way Croy presents the Greek verb; it is very sensible, very schematic, and really helps people understand the verb as a system of MEANING rather than just as a big heap of forms.

I would guess, though, that for the kind of full-language experience you are looking for, it is more productive to look at the Attic textbooks that are available. When I taught Greek in the classroom, I used Athenaze, which I thought was truly fabulous - the characters in the little stories are perfect for composition, since students can write their own stories about the characters, turn the stories into little plays, all kinds of good stuff. Since most of the students in the classes I taught actually had as their goal reading the Bible, we would just Athenaze on M-Tu-W-Th and then on Friday we used Croy. The two books were not really in synch exactly, but that worked out fine, since the content of the two books reinforced each other nicely, and the different approaches of the two books combined were able to suit the range of different study skills and preferences of the students in the class.
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby refe » Wed Apr 27, 2011 3:57 pm

I really like the idea of using an Attic textbook like Athaenaze side by side with a Koine book like Croy. That would be confusing for independent learners such as myself trying to learn outside the classroom, but greatly helpful with the guidance of a good teacher. Kudos to you for attempting to create well-rounded Greek students! I am beginning to feel strongly that Koine should not be learned in a vacuum, but that at the very least Attic should be learned first or side-by-side. I think New Testament studies would be better off for it.
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby lauragibbs » Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:30 pm

Biblical Greek is a bit of a misnomer, too, in the sense that Septuagint Greek and New Testament Greek are rather different things. (BTW I like the way that Croy covers includes both; his reading sentences always include both LXX and NT material) Septuagint Greek is a very odd style of Greek because it tries so very hard to imitate the style of Biblical Hebrew, which is extremely paratactic with almost no subordination. I'm in a reading group where we are working our way through the Septuagint and one of the fascinating things is seeing how time and time again the Latin translator just cannot cope with the paratactic style: he feels like he has to subordinate things with cum clauses, for example. But Septuagint Greek just plows right alone with the "and... and... and..." that is characteristic of Biblical Hebrew! :-)
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby Lex » Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:12 am

"And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, 'O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou mayst blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.' And the Lord did grin. And the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats and large chu... "

Sorry, maybe not truly paratactic, but I couldn't resist.
I, Lex Llama, super genius, will one day rule this planet! And then you'll rue the day you messed with me, you damned dirty apes!
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby lauragibbs » Thu Apr 28, 2011 1:28 am

Ha ha. That's it exactly! I remember when I was taking Biblical Hebrew - on the first day of class we learned the Hebrew word for "and" whereupon our fun-loving teacher said, "Well, you have now learned 20% of the Hebrew Bible, and it's only the first day of class!'
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby Markos » Thu Apr 28, 2011 2:31 am

I wonder what it is that makes people get so excited about a given textbook. For me, Mounce is okay, but I know that some people really like him. I have my own list of textbooks which excite me, I could give you it sometime. But the only NT book to make the list would be Machen. He covers everything you need to know in a systematic, well-organized way. He covers it simply and he gives you lots of repetitive practice in the exercises. But many people I respect do not like Machen.

But as you and Laura have already noted, the best alternative to BBG are classical textbooks, even if your goal is to read the GNT.
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby jswilkmd » Sat Apr 30, 2011 1:48 pm

No single textbook will give you everything you need, but Mounce is a very good beginner text. But you'll have to supplement it with some other works.

If it's syntax you need, supplement with Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.
If morphology, supplement with Mounce's Morphology of Biblical Greek.
If vocabulary, supplement with Mark Wilson's Mastering New Testament Greek Vocabulary Through Semantic Domains, Metzger's Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek or Thomas Robinson's Mastering Greek Vocabulary.
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby Endeka » Sun May 29, 2011 4:07 am

Hi there,
long time no post, but Lord knows I haven't let up on my Greek studies, so I'm trying to dive back in.

I'm a Princeton grad, and we used N. Clayton Croy's "A Primer of Biblical Greek." I liked this text.

The Good:
Equal focus on translating the NT and the LXX.
Every section included about 5-6 "English-Greek" reverse translation sentences. Although these don't help the student capture the idiom, I think that any textbook that doesn't have students doing basic composition is fundamentally deficient.
Material is clearly presented and logically organized.
Not very expensive.
The Bad:
Sometimes, the translation sentences not taken from the bible (each chapter has exercises which include 10 NT, 10 LXX, 5-6 reverse translation sentences, and about 10 sentences the author wrote in Greek to be translated into English) are so strange that a student without an answer key may be left profoundly befuddled while having actually gotten the "right" answer. For example: "The children of that land do not find peace because the heart of the people is bad." (τὰ τέκνα τῆς γῆς ἐκείνης οὐχ εὑρίσκουσιν τὴν εἰρήνην ὅτι ἡ καρδία τοῦ λαοῦ ἐστι κακή)
Gender-inclusive focus results on more attention to parsing of feminine nouns and participles then, for better or worse, one is likely to see reading the Bible.

Overall, a decent book.
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Re: Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek

Postby refe » Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:37 pm

There is a brand-new entry into the 'Alternatives to Basics of Biblical Greek' category by Stanley Porter and a few others published late 2010. It is called Fundamentals of New Testament Greek and from the material I've read it seeks to be a much more comprehensive introduction than Mounce or any of the other intro textbooks currently on the market. There is also a companion workbook.

Porter has some very specific views on verbal aspect and tense, and he tries to explain them in this volume to 1st year students. Normally this topic isn't covered until the 3rd or 4th year of studies. I think it's important for the discussion to come earlier, although I don't always agree with Porter's views. He completely disregards the time element of tense in favor of a nearly 100% aspect view of the Greek verb. Still, his explanations of aspect are very helpful.

I'm hoping to have the chance to try this textbook out for myself soon, but if anyone picks it up in the meantime make sure to leave a review.
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