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Mastering New Testament Greek Textbook Ted Hildebrandt Baker Academic

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Mastering New Testament Greek Textbook

Ted Hildebrandt

Baker Academic

© 2003 by Ted Hildebrandt version 1.4

Published by Baker Academic

a division of Baker Book House Company

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

All rights reserved. This publication is intended for the personal use of the licensee. It may be stored in a retrieval system and reproduced for personal use only. It may not be transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Verses from the New Testament selected for reading and translation are from The Greek New Testament, edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger, and Allen Wikgren, 4th revised edition, © 1966, 1968, 1975 by United Bible Societies, 1983, 1994 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart. Used by permission.

To my father,

Ted Hildebrandt,

who instilled in me the basics of life:

discipline, persistence, a love of God’s word,

and the blessed hope of Christ’s return.

May your entrance into

His glorious presence

be joyous!
Your grateful son,



Preface   6

Introduction   7

1. The Alphabet   13

2. Accents, Syllables, and English Grammar   17

3. Present Active Verbs   28

4. Second Declension Nouns   34

5. First Declension Nouns   41

6. Prepositions   45

7. Adjectives   53

8. Personal Pronouns   58

9. Present Middle/Passive Verbs   63

10. Future Verbs   68

11. Demonstrative, Relative, Reflexive, and Reciprocal Pronouns   72

12. Imperfect Verbs   77

13. Third Declension Nouns   82

14. Second Aorist Verbs   87

15. First Aorist Verbs   91

16. Aorist and Future Passive Verbs   96

17. Contract Verbs   101

18. Perfect Verbs   105

19. Present Participles   111

20. Aorist Participles   118

21. Perfect Participles   124

22. Infinitives   130

23. Subjunctive Verbs   134

24. Imperative Verbs   141

25. The -mi Verbs   145

26. Numbers and Interrogatives   150

27. Comparatives, Conjunctions, Adverbs, and Clause Types   154

28. Case Revisited   160

Commencement   165

Works Cited   169

Appendix 1: Vocabulary Lists by Chapter   170

Appendix 2: Paradigms   179

Appendix 3: Chapter Summaries   198

Appendix 4: Verb Principal Parts   262

Appendix 5: Total Review Quick Start Sheets 285

Appendix 6: Chants 294

Appendix 7: Lord’s Prayer 299

English-Greek Glossary   300

Greek-English Glossary   365

Vocabulary Builder down to 9 times 406

Greek-English Lexicon 449

Index 513


The potentials of the digital medium are just beginning to be realized. Recently there have been major upheavals in the music industry due to the MP3 format that allows the putting of hundreds of songs (rather than a dozen) on a single CD-ROM. Ebooks are beginning to appear on the web and elsewhere. Many of these technologies hold great promise for use by the Christian community.

This etextbook attempts to take what was formerly made available in my interactive Greek program and put it in an ebook format paralleling the interactive Greek program found on this disk. It can be universally viewed and/or printed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader (freely available at or as found on the CD-ROM). Mastering New Testament Greek is an interactive multimedia program that has proved quite effective in teaching first-year Koine Greek to thousands who have used it since it was published in the mid-1990s. I have seen a need in my own Greek classes at Gordon College for a hardcopy that the students can have at hand when away from the screen. The new ebook format makes this textbook option a possibility. In addition to the interactive multimedia program (which includes an interactive easy-reader with the full text of 1 John and John 1–5) and the textbook, the CD contains a workbook with exercises coordinated with the textbook, a vocabulary frequency list to aid in learning words that appear nine or more times in the New Testament, and a full Greek-English lexicon with definitions for every word in the Greek New Testament. These are printable in the Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format on any computer. The Greekth.ttf true-type font is provided for use in any Windows word processor. Additional learning resources are available free from including over three thousand pages of advanced grammars and a complete text of the Greek New Testament.

For instructors, an answer key to the workbook is available, as well as PowerPoint material for the presentation of the twenty-eight chapters.

I wish to thank Jim Kinney at Baker Book House for opening the door and shepherding this project through to completion. A great debt of gratitude is owed to Wells Turner and Dave Mathewson whose editorial suggestions, corrections, and oversight are evident on every page of these digital texts. Finally, I’d like to thank Dr. Roger Green and the rest of my colleagues at Gordon College for allowing me the pleasure of opening the door to Greek for students at Gordon, returning the favor that Dr. Robert Newman and Dr. Gary Cohen did for me in my own seminary training so many years ago.

The original goal was to give my students at Gordon College all the tools they need for first-year Greek in one disk. The goal now is to leverage the technology so that anyone who desires to can learn New Testament Greek.

Enjoy Greek!

Ted Hildebrandt


Why Study Greek?

The New Testament was written in Koine (koi-NAY) Greek. It provided a magnificent medium for proclaiming the gospel message because Greek was so widely known after Alexander’s conquests of the west and east. There are many challenges to mastering Greek: the difficulty of learning any language for those who are monolingual, differences in the alphabetic script, the highly structured grammatical nature of Greek, and the fact that Koine Greek is not spoken today. In order to conquer the difficulties of this journey, we need to know clearly why we are undertaking this awesome endeavor.

God used Greek to communicate. If aliens had come to this planet and left documents explaining how the universe functions and how humans can make a contribution to the galaxies and ultimately attain eternal life, with certain genetic modifications, of course, there would be tremendous interest in decoding this incredible message. Indeed, one has come from another world and has addressed all the major issues of life/death, meaning/meaninglessness, joy/sorrow, love/hate, presence/absence, right/wrong that provide the matrix of human existence. God has spoken in His son (Heb. 1:1–2; Jn. 1:14, 18) whose life was recorded in the stories of those who witnessed and experienced this divine encounter. The writer of John notes that he was an eyewitness of the life of Christ, saying “This is that disciple who saw these events and recorded them here. And we all know that his account of these things is accurate” (Jn. 21:24). The writer knew and witnessed that these divine truths were confirmed not only by a single witness, but by a community of witnesses he identified as “we.” The purpose of this recorded message was to provide a factual basis for belief and a guide to life: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” This is the good news, the gospel. It was recorded so that others, even denizens of the third millennium after Christ, may have the privilege of being able to hear its wonderful message. If our understanding of the message is cloudy, so will our thinking and belief on these matters of great import.

The prophets also recognized that they spoke messages from God (Amos 3:8). Jeremiah, when asked why he prophesied, clearly stated, “The Lord sent me to prophesy” (Jer. 26:12). He heralded warnings against those who “are prophets of deceit, inventing everything they say” (Jer. 23:25f.). Many, even in our day, like to project their own thoughts into the mouth of God, feeling compelled to bend the text to whatever ideology or agenda they are seeking to promote. Learning Greek will help us reverse that process.

These recorded messages from God may be carefully and passionately studied as one would read an email from one’s beloved. So the psalmist writes, “I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your principles” (Ps. 119:15f.). The New Testament writers also acknowledged that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophets themselves or because they wanted to prophesy. It was the Holy Spirit who moved the prophets to speak from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). Thus, because of the unique nature of this communication, we seek to carefully examine the message in its original form, stripping away the translations to hear the original message.

We desire to accurately unleash the meaning of God’s word. The unique nature of this communication did not stop when it was recorded as a static, culturally locked, historical text. No, the message came with the transforming power and presence of the One who gave it. So the writer of Hebrews observes, “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are” (Heb. 4:12). It is our goal to hear this message more carefully and unleash its transforming power within this postmodern context in a way that is consistent with the original intent of the divine and human authors. Learning Greek will allow us to move one step closer to the source.

We need guidance for our lives. Because the Bible offers divine guidance for our lives, we want to carefully hear its message, clearly separating it from the myriad of voices that are calling for our attention in this information and media-saturated age. Learning Greek will help slow and quiet us so that we may hear the voice of God amid the din of modern marketing schemes. It is from Scripture that we seek to find moral guidance, as the psalmist said, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). It is there that we will find wisdom from sages, by listening and retaining their instructions. They admonished, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; . . . Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words” (Prov. 4:4f.). It is in a close reading of the words of the biblical text that we will find wisdom.

The Scriptures open us up to a relationship with God. Jesus pointed out the connection of His words to life and relationship with God: “The very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (Jn. 6:63). “Faith comes by hearing the word of God,” Paul tells us (Rom. 10:17). It is through reading and obeying His word that we come to know him. Greek will be a tool in disciplining our minds in the pursuit of life from God.

We enjoy hands-on reading. Finally, we like to experience things firsthand. Being dependent on another’s point of view or passively accepting the interpretation or spin of another is contrary to our desire to know and experience for ourselves. Learning Greek allows us to shed layers of intermediary voices to listen more closely to what God has said. That is not to say we should ignore the voices of others; but we should be able to read and evaluate for ourselves. All language communication is at points ambiguous and vague. Learning Greek will not solve all linguistic problems. However, knowing Greek will assist us in weighing and evaluating the possibilities in order to select the most appropriate options.

As a residual benefit, learning Greek will help us better understand English. Greek is a highly structured language and lies behind much of Latin, which in turn connects with English. Many have claimed that learning Greek has taught them much that was elusive in their previous study of English grammar.

Why Not Just Use Good Translations?

One may ask why we should not save time and energy by letting the linguistic experts do the translation work for us. There are several limitations of translations that are overcome in reading Greek for ourselves. A personal reading of Greek allows for a closer reading of what the authors originally wrote. As one becomes aware of the writer’s style, observing structures and idiosyncrasies that are only seen in reading Greek, one is better able to render what the author originally meant. Oftentimes what may be ambiguous in English is cleared up by the Greek. Cultural issues and metaphors that may be critical to understanding a passage are again more visible in the Greek original and often smoothed over into modern idioms. Translators must make choices, and often a Greek word may have a broad area of meaning, but in translation one English word must be chosen. There is not a perfect word-for-word match between languages. One who reads Greek is more aware of the breadth, diversity, and possibilities of meanings. To the one who can read Greek, the choices made by the translator are no longer buried by the translation.

Many politically correct biases are currently being read into modern translations. Being able to read it in Greek for ourselves helps cut through those modern spins to hear the original voices more clearly. Thus, while translations are quite helpful, being able to read the original Greek has many benefits.

One final word should be voiced in terms of improper motivations for learning Greek. A person may want to learn Greek to get ahead of others or because it is impressive and authoritative to say, “In the Greek it means. . . .” Learning Greek must be coupled with humility or it will do more damage than good. It is also not good to learn Greek because we have some specific agenda we are pushing and desire to add a Greek cannon to blast out our theme. Listening to the voice of God needs to be the focus more than proving our particular point of view. Loving God and others is the goal, not putting ourselves up on an academic pedestal or putting others down because they do not share our “enlightened” perspective (Phil. 2:5ff.).

Why Do Many Say That Learning Greek Is Hard?

It’s amazing, when you think of it. You can learn Koine Greek now and for the rest of your life you will be able to read the New Testament for yourself. Having said that, we’ve got some work cut out for us.

First, learning any new language is difficult. It’s like learning to play basketball. Initially one stumbles while trying to dribble and run at the same time. Air-balls are shot, and how each position works is a mystery. One initially feels uncoordinated. With repetition, practice, and good coaching, a mastery is gained, and the game becomes a source of fun and refreshment while still retaining a sense of challenge. Greek will follow a similar pattern. There are certain fundamentals (passing, dribbling, footwork, positioning, etc.) that must be mastered in order to enjoy basketball. So also in Greek there are several foundational skills that must be mastered in order to have the enjoyment of reading Greek.

Here are some hints. “Inch by inch it’s a cinch, yard by yard it’s too hard.” Applied to Greek, what this means is, Greek is learned best by taking little steps because large ones (staying up all night cramming) may trip you up. “The turtle wins the race” in Greek. Consistent daily study is better than pressure-filled weekly cram sessions that lead to quick learning and quick forgetting. “Step by step you scale the mountain.” When you do not understand something, ask for help or go over it until you understand it. If you don’t “get it,” work on it, but continue on. Frequently the picture will become clearer further down the road. Repetition, persistence, and small bites are the three keys. Be careful about missing a step. In some ways it’s like math. If you miss a step, it catches up with you later on.

Your mastery of Greek will depend on learning three things: vocabulary, morphology, and syntax. In order to retain the vocabulary, it is suggested that you write the words on flash cards. Recently, we have provided flashcards with graphics on them to help you remember using images. These cards can be carried with you and reviewed frequently in the brief moments between the activities of your life. If you enjoy using the web for review, there is an online Vocabulary Builder available at all times with free mp3 downloads that have musical backgrounds to help make the process enjoyable and relaxing. There are 5,437 different Greek words in the New Testament (the elexicon has all of them listed). We will learn those that occur most frequently. By learning the words used more than 50 times, 313 words, you will be able to read about 80 percent of the New Testament (Mounce, Basics, 17). It will be important to say the words out loud. The mouth can teach the ear. The interactive program will allow you to hear how Greek is being pronounced and drill you with biblical examples. Seeing is one way of learning, but hearing adds another gateway into your memory. You may want to make associations or wordplays in English or mentally picture the object to which the word refers. Repetition is the best teacher. The program and the Vocabulary Builder will help reinforce your mastery of the vocabulary.

The morphology (how the words are formed; e.g., book/books; “s” indicates a plural) and syntax (the grammar of how words come together into sentences: subject/verb/ object/modifier) will require brain aerobics. Here is where the mental wrestling will take place. Some of the concepts will be difficult to grasp initially. We will try to start with explanations from English and then move to Greek, showing how Greek makes a similar move. The problem is that many do not understand English grammar. We will build the language from parts of speech—nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, and prepositions. Many of these will take different endings, depending on how they are used. These ending and forms will be mastered in a series of twenty-something memorable chants. Mastering these sets of endings will be a good part of the course early on. “Inch by inch it’s a ________.”

The parts of speech will work in sentences. The syntax, or relationships between words, will manifest roles for words, such as subjects, verbs, objects, and modifiers. These concepts will be illustrated in the context of the drills and exercises taken directly from Scripture. Some of these concepts may not come initially but continue on, and the eureka moments will come as you look back. It is of great benefit to work out examples. Frequent reviews are also critical for making the connections. Small, frequent breaks, dividing and repeating the material in short study sessions, help avoid an overwhelming sense of frustration and gives the needed space to regain the motivation needed to continue on.

Another factor that has shown itself to be critical, if one is taking Greek in a class, is staying plugged into the community of those learning Greek. It is not advisable to skip classes or assignments as that often leads to serious difficulty. If you miss a step you may end up on your face because learning Greek is sequential. Catching up becomes harder and harder. Being in class has proved itself important. Be there!

Studying with a “buddy” is also very helpful. Two heads are better than one in trying to understand sticky points. Teamwork is frequently necessary if you want to play in the game, and it makes the learning task a little more enjoyable. This will provide incremental accountability as we move chapter-by-chapter through the material.

Time and consistency on this task is the key to mastering Greek. Learning Greek is a good time to tone your mental muscles. At points, the urge will surge to quit and give up. At those points remember why you are tackling Greek in the first place. Remember the inch-by-inch principle. Take one small step at a time. Do not worry about the big picture. Take the next little step and review, review, and review. After you’ve climbed a while, you may be encouraged to look back and see how far you have come. Giving up is fatal. You learned English, which in many ways is harder than Greek. It just takes time and energy. Hopefully, we will make that time fun, and you will be able to see some of the rewards along the way.

Several learning resources are available to help you. First, you will have access to printed materials in the form of easily printed materials in Adobe Acrobat PDF file formats. The printed materials will include this etextbook and an eworkbook. For each chapter in the book, a one- or two-page summary has been developed, distilling the essence of the chapter (see appendix 3). The book will teach and structure the concepts, and the workbook will allow you to practice and reinforce what you have learned. The Mastering New Testament Greek interactive program will present the same material in a interactive multimedia format, with sound and immediate responses. The benefit of this is that after presenting the material, the computer will drill you over the material, giving you immediate feedback on how well you have done. In the future we will have streaming video and interactive materials available online. Thus there are four ways to approach this: in-class instruction, printed materials and workbook exercises, interactive multimedia, and online resources. The point is to use whatever combination works best for you. The font supplied with Mastering New Testament Greek is also available in your word processor. Learning to type in Greek can be a real time-saver and looks impressive in other classes and papers.

There are two resources beyond these that may be helpful: (1) a Greek New Testament, either the UBS 4th edition or Nestle-Aland 27th edition New Testament text (the Westcott/Hort/Robinson New Testament text available online at:, and (2) A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3d ed., by Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich (BDAG). William Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek or Gerald Stevens’s New Testament Greek are both good first-year grammar resources if you want to supplement the materials here. There are several advanced grammars and mp3 audio resources at our web site for free. 1 John is found there with Mozart in the background which actually helps make it more memorable.

What Is Koine or New Testament Greek?

Greek is one of the oldest members of the Indo-European family of languages. Other members of this family are Sanskrit, which is older, and Latin (the Romance languages: French, Spanish, etc.), which is younger. English is derived from the Teutonic branch and Russian from the Slavic branch of the Indo-European family. Hebrew is found in a totally different, Semitic family of Near Eastern languages, akin to Aramaic, Akkadian, Arabic, Ugaritic, and others.
The Greek language has developed through five stages:
1. Formative Period (pre–900 b.c.): This period extended from “Linear B” (ca. 1200 b.c.) down through the time of Homer (ca. 900 b.c.).

2. Classical Period (900–300 b.c.): The Classical Period was from the time of Homer down to Alexander the Great (330 b.c.). There were numerous dialects during this period (e.g. Doric, Aeolic, and Ionic). Attic, a branch of Ionic, became the predominant dialect at Athens and was used by most of the famous classical Greek authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon, Thucydides, and others.

3. The Koine Period (330 b.c.–a.d. 330): As Alexander unified Greece and needed a single Greek language for his army before he could begin to spread Hellenistic culture through the ancient world, many of the subtleties of classical Greek were lost. Greek was simplified and changed as it interfaced with, and was influenced by, other cultures. This common language came to be known as Koine (common) Greek. It was in this language that the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament), the New Testament, and the works of the early church fathers were written. The nature of Koine eluded modern scholars because of its simplicity when compared to Classical Greek. This led some scholars in the nineteenth century to explain it as a “Holy Ghost” language, created just for the Bible. In the early part of the twentieth century, Deissmann, Moulton and others found that the recently discovered Egyptian papyri, inscriptions, and ostraca were written in the same common everyday language used by the New Testament. God speaks in the language of the people. At points the New Testament will manifest Hebraisms, where the influence of Hebrew and/or Aramaic may be seen.

4. The Byzantine Period (a.d. 330–1453): During the Byzantine Period, Greek was spoken in the eastern half of the Roman empire, which was centered in Constantinople. In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Turks. That concluded this period. Tension between the Greeks and Turks persists until this day.

5. The Modern Period: The Modern Period dates from 1453 to the present. Modern Greek is closer to Koine than it is to Classical Greek. Modern pronunciation and grammatical structures, however, are quite different from the Greek that Jesus spoke. We will focus on Koine Greek. As recently as 1982, major changes have taken modern Greek further from its Koine roots. In the latest edition of Standard Modern Greek, established by the Center for Educational Studies in Greece, the number of accents has been reduced to one, the breathing marks dropped and the dative case, middle voice and optative mood are not present in modern Greek. The recent merging of katharevousa (hybrid of ancient and Modern used for official and academic purposes) has given way to the more populace oriented Demotic (ca. 1976) as Modern Standard Greek which is another step further away from Koine (vid. Holton, Mackridge and Philippaki-Warburton, Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (Routledge, 1997) or Greek Today: a Course in the Modern Language and Culture (Dartmouth College Press, 2004) by Peter Bien, Dimitri Gonicas, et al. Those looking for advanced grammars on Koine should pursue books by Stanley Porter, Daniel Wallace and David Black, as well as the articles by James Boyer and books by A. T. Robertson, Moulton and Burton freely available on the web-site and this disk.


The Alphabet

24 Letters, the Gateway into the Language


a / A

Alpha sounds like “a” in father.

b / B

Beta sounds like “b” in Bible.

g / G

Gamma sounds like “g” in gone.

d / D

Delta sounds like “d” in dog.

e / E

Epsilon sounds like “e” in met.

z / Z

Zeta sounds like “z” in daze when it begins a word, “dz” when it’s in the middle of a word.

h / H

Eta sounds like “e” in obey.

q / Q

Theta sounds like “th” in think.

i / I

Iota short sounds like the “i” in sit.

Iota long sounds like the “i” in machine. Modern Greek uses the long “i” as in machine. In initial positions, it is often found in Hebrew personal names, where it has a consonant “y” sound: ]Ihsou?j (Jesus/Yesus).

k / K

Kappa sounds like “k” in kitchen.

l / L

Lambda sounds like “l” in law.

m / M

Mu sounds like “m” in mother.

n / N

Nu sounds like “n” in new.

c / C

Xsi sounds like “x” in axe.

o / O

Omicron sounds like “o” in not or “o” in omelette. Some pronounce it like modern Greek, with a long “o” as in obey, others like Hansen and Quinn (Greek: An Intensive Course) use the “ou” sound in thought. Modern Greek uses a long “o” as in ocean.

p / P

Pi sounds like “p” in peach.

r / R

Rho sounds like “r” in rod.

s / S

Sigma sounds like “s” in set.

Sigma looks like j when it comes at the end of a word (final sigma)—sofo

t / T

Tau sounds like “t” in talk.

u / U

Upsilon sounds like “oo” in hoops. Modern Greek uses an “i”as in machine.

f / F

Phi sounds like “ph” in phone.

x / X

Chi sounds like “ch” in chemical.

y / Y

Psi sounds like “ps” in lips.

w / W

Omega sounds like “o” in tone.

We will focus on the lower-case letters, miniscules, although the early uncial (uppercase) manuscripts were written without punctuation or spaces between the words in all uppercase letters, majuscules (major writings). Be able to recognize the upper-case letters. Capital letters are used in proper names, to begin direct quotations, and at the beginning of paragraphs. You may want to use the Mastering New Testament Greek disk to work on the pronunciation of these letters and to drill yourself.

Easy English look alikes: a, b, e, i, k, o, j, t, u
Double consonants: q (th), c (xs), f (ph), x (ch), y (ps)
Easy to confuse letters:

h—eta (with n)

n—nu (with v)

r—rho (with p)

x—chi (with x)

w—omega (with w)

Here are some English-like examples to use for sounding things out. Pronounce the following, accenting the capitalized syllables:
anqrwpoj—pronounced “AN-thro-pos” (anthropology)

qeoj—pronounced “the-OS” (theology)

profhthj—pronounced “pro-FA-tas” (two long a’s) (prophets)

Xristoj—pronounced “Kri-STOS” (Christ)

kardia—pronounced “kar-DE-a” (i = ee) (heart; cf. cardiac)

amhn—pronounced “a-MEIN” (ei = long a sound) (amen)

Vowels: a, e, h, i, o, u, w







Can be either long or short: a, i, u

The iota will be pronounced three different ways:

1. Iota short sounds like “i” in “sit”

2. Iota long sounds like the “i” in “machine” (= modern Greek)

3. When it is initial in a Hebrew name, it sounds like a “y”— ]Ihsou?j (Jesus/Yesus)

Nasal gamma: The “g” sound of a gamma changes to a “n” sound when put before: g, k, x, c. a@ggeloj is pronounced: “angelos.” This is called a “nasal gamma.”
Final sigma: Sigma is always written s unless it comes at the end of a word, when it is written j. This form is called a final sigma. It is pronounced the same. Thus sofoEight diphthongs: 2 vowels with 1 sound. Diphthongs are combination vowels. Two vowels are written but result in only one sound. These are frequent in Greek, and so be aware of them. The final letter of a diphthong will always be an i or an u (closed vowel). The diphtongs in Modern Greek are the place of greatest phonetic divergence.


as in aisle

(ai$ma, blood)


as in eight

(ei]mi<, I am)


as in oil

(oi#koj, house)


as in suite



as in sauerkaut


eu, hu

as in feud

(pisteu<w, I believe)


as in boutique

( ]Ihsou?j, Jesus)

All are considered long except ai, and oi when at the end of a word, where they are short.

Iota subscripts (Improper diphthongs): There are 3 letter combinations that are formed by taking the vowels a, h, and w and subscripting an iota under them. It doesn’t affect pronunciation but may be significant in specifying grammatical features: %, ^, &
Diaeresis ( ]Hsai*aj–Isaiah: ]H-sa-i-aj)—cancels the diphthong effect (indicates the two vowels must be kept separate). The diaeresis shows that a vowel must be pronounced as a separate syllable. It will be found often on Old Testament names (Mwu*sh?j = Moses).



Isaiah (Jn. 1:23)



Moses (Jn. 1:45)



Achaia (Acts 18:12)

A phonetic chart is also a helpful way of grouping the letters:

Labials (lips)




Dentals (teeth)




Velars (palate)




Phonetic sigma addition:

Labial + s = y

Velar + s = c

Dental + s = s

(p + s = y)

(k + s = c)

(t + s = s)


At this point don’t worry about the accent marks over vowels except to stress that syllable (chapter 2 is on accents). The number following the word is the number of times the word is used in the New Testament. The word after the dash gives an English parallel.


angel (175)—angel


truly, verily (129)—amen


man, human (550)—anthropology


I (1,175)—ego


God (1,317)—theology


and, even, also (9,153)


heart (156)—cardiac


I say (2,354)


prophet (144)—prophet


Christ, Messiah, anointed one (529)—Christ

Things to Know and Do

1. Be able to chant through the alphabet, saying the name of each letter in order. Be able to do the Alpha-robics moves. See if you can say the Greek alphabet as fast as you can say the English alphabet. Can you see where the name “alphabet” comes from? Know what a final sigma looks like. What are diphthongs, and what sound does each make? Know which vowels are long and short and which can be either. What are the three iota subscripts? What role does the diaeresis play? Know the vocabulary items (recognize and write them).

2. Work on the drills and exercises in Mastering New Testament Greek, Interactive chapter 1.

3. Do the worksheets from the workbook.


Accents, Syllables, and English Grammar

You will be able to—

1. identify syllables for pronunciation;

2. identify the three Greek accents;

3. recognize the basic rules of Greek accents;

4. identify proclitics and enclitics;

5. identify rough/smooth breathings, apostrophes, and diaeresis markings;

6. identify four Greek punctuation marks;

7. remember English grammar (parts of speech, noun declension, and verb parsing), and

8. gain a mastery of ten more Greek vocabulary words.

Syllable Slicing

In order to correctly pronounce Greek words, we need to be able to identify how the syllables are combined to make words. Greek divides words into syllables in almost the same way as English. So if you don’t recognize a new word, just try to pronounce it as you would in English. Generally, start at the left and divide after the vowel.

Four Syllable Rules

1. A consonant or pronounceable consonant cluster (i.e., any consonant combination that can begin or end a Greek word) goes with the vowel that follows it.

2. Split two consonants if they are the same letter or if they create an unpronounceable combination (i.e., any consonant combination that cannot begin or end a Greek word).

3. Split two vowels (except for diphthongs), allowing only one vowel or diphthong per syllable.

4. Split compound words into their original parts before applying the rules of syllable division.

Check a Greek lexicon to determine whether or not a particular consonant cluster can begin or end a word. If you can find a word that begins with that cluster, it is safe to assume that it is a pronounceable cluster and should not be divided. The following examples illustrate the rules for word division. The four rules are briefly: 1) consonants go with following vowel, 2) split consonants (except clusters), 3) split vowels (except diphthongs), and 4) split words.

(1) A consonant or pronounceable consonant cluster goes with what follows:






truly, verily

m goes with following vowel




glory, fame

c goes with following vowel





g goes with following vowel




I say

g goes with following vowel




word, statement

g goes with following vowel



ri oj


r goes with following vowel





sm is a cluster vid. Smu





tr is a cluster vid. trei?j





st is a cluster vid. stolh<

(2) Split two consonants: Consonant clusters are divided if they are the same letter or if they create an unpronounceable combination:







angel, messenger (g/g)





brother (l/f)





man (qr is a pronounceable cluster)





heart (r/d)





he/she/it comes (r/x)




re< w

I testify (r/t)




I throw (l/l)

(3) Split two vowels (except for diphthongs), allowing only one vowel or diphthong per syllable:







I hear, obey (ou is a diphthong)




God (e/o)





heart (i/a)





lord, Lord (i/o)




son (ui is a diphthong) (ui/o)






Pharisee (ai is a diphthong) (ai/o)

(4) Split compound words into their original parts before applying the rules of syllable division:

Example: When the preposition su

Syllable Names

Traditionally, the last three syllables of a word have had specific names. The last syllable is called the “ultima,” the second from the last the “penult,” and the third from the last the “antepenult.” Penult means “almost last” in Latin. Antepenult means “before the almost last.”















Three Accents

1. Acute ( <) angles upward (left to right), originally indicating a rising pitch. Today we use the accents to specify syllable emphasis, not tone or pitch variation.


2. Grave ( >) angles downward, originally indicating a falling pitch.

a]delfo>j (brother)

3. Circumflex ( ?) angles upward then downward, originally indicating a rising then falling pitch.

au]tou? (his)

Potential Accent Placement

1. Acute may occur on any of the last three syllables (antepenult, penult, ultima).

Acute on Any of the Last Three Syllables






angel, messenger (antepenult acute)



glory, fame (penult acute)



I (ultima acute)

2. Circumflex may occur only on the last two syllables (but only if the vowel or diphthong is long).

Circumflex on Either of the Last Two Long Syllables







Pharisee (penult circumflex)



his (ultima circumflex)

Diphthongs are considered long except for oi or ai in a final syllable.

3. Grave may occur only on the last syllable.

Grave on the Last Syllable






brother (ultima grave)



truly, verily (ultima grave)

Potential Placement Chart













Six Accent Rules

Rule 1: Nouns Are Retentive

Nouns attempt to keep their accents on the same syllable as the base form you learn in the vocabulary lists or find in the lexicon.

man, human


antepenult acute


penult acute; long ultima causes change


penult acute; long ultima causes change


antepenult acute; short ultima, no change


antepenult acute; short ultima, no change

Rule 2: Verbs Are Recessive

The verb’s accent has a tendency to recede toward the first syllable as far as possible.


lu< w

I loose (penult acute)


lu< eij

you loose (penult acute)


lu< ei

he/she/it looses (penult acute)


lu< o men

we loose (antepenult acute)


lu< e te

you (pl.) loose (antepenult acute)


lu< ou si

they loose (antepenult acute)

Rule 3: Long Ultima, No Antepenult Accent

If the ultima is long, then the antepenult cannot be accented.


antepenult acute


penult acute; cannot accent antepenult because of ou


penult acute; cannot accent antepenult because of &

Rule 4: Long Ultima, Acute Penult

If the ultima is long and the penult is accented, then that accent must be an acute.


penult acute; long ultima ou causes change


penult acute; long ultima & causes change


I loose (penult acute)


you loose (penult acute)


he/she/it looses (penult acute)

Rule 5: Short Ultima, Long Penult Takes Circumflex

If the ultima is short and the penult is both long and accented, that accent must be a circumflex.


h#l qen

he went (short ultima; long penult) (Jn. 1:7)


e] kei? noj

that (short ultima; long penult) (Jn. 1:8)


prw? toj

first, earlier (short ultima; long penult) (Jn. 1:15)

Rule 6: Acute Ultima Changed to Grave

If an acute is on the ultima, it becomes a grave when followed by another word without intervening punctuation.

pro>j to>n qeo

two graves and an acute (Jn. 1:1)

kai> qeo>j h#n

two graves and a circumflex (Jn. 1:1)

Words with No Accents

There are several short Greek words that do not have an accent. These clitics are pronounced as if they were part of the word that accompanies them. A clitic is a word that “leans on” the preceding or the following word.
1. Proclitic comes before the word that carries the accent.
Proclitic (before the accented word)

o[ Xristo

the Christ (Jn. 1:20) (o[ has no accent; the [ is a breathing mark, not an accent—see below)

o[ lo

the word (Jn. 1:1) (o[ has no accent)

]En a]rx^?

in the beginning (Jn. 1:1) ( ]En has no accent)

ou] kate

it did not understand/overcome (Jn. 1:5) (ou] has no accent)

2. Enclitic comes after the word that carries the accent.

Enclitic (after the accented word)


before me (Jn. 1:15) (mou has no accent) Note the accent added to the ultima of prw?to

]Egw< ei]mi

I am (Jn. 6:35) (ei]mi has no accent)

Breathing Marks

There are two breathing marks that are placed on vowels and diphthongs when they begin words.
1. Smooth breathing ( ] ) does not affect pronunciation.
Smooth breathing ( ] )




angel, messenger


truly, verily





2. Rough breathing ( [ ) adds an “h” sound before the sound of the initial vowel.

Rough breathing ( [ )


six as in hexagon


son, descendant (note breathing goes on the second vowel of the diphthong initial word)


in behalf of, above


that, in order that (note the breathing mark beside the acute accent)

Note: an initial rho (r) always takes a rough breathing (r[h?ma word). It has no effect on the pronunciation, however. Initial u always takes a rough breathing, too.

Punctuation Marks

There are four punctuation marks in Greek. The comma and period are the same as in English. The colon and question mark are different.

1. Period ( . )


2. Comma ( , )


3. Colon ( : )


4. Question Mark ( ; )



In English, letters that drop out or are elided are marked with an apostrophe (e.g., it’s = it is). Greek also uses an apostrophe to mark the missing letter(s). The final letter of a preposition, if it is a vowel, is dropped when it precedes a word that begins with a vowel.
dia< + au]tou? becomes di ] au]tou?

(Note that the omitted alpha is replaced by an apostrophe; Jn. 1:3, 7; cf. Jn. 1:39)


Sometimes a word with a final vowel followed by a word with an initial vowel will be contracted together. This is called “Crasis.” A coronis ( ] ) is used to retain the breathing of the second word.

kai< [and] + e]gw< [I] becomes ka]gw< (“and I,” Jn. 1:31, 33)

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