Greek for the Rest of Us: The Essentials of Biblical Greek
William D. Mounce is a former preaching pastor, Greek professor, and Bible translator. Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) is found in English-speaking classrooms in colleges and seminaries around the world as the standard first-year introduction to the language. In this new guide designed “for the rest of us,” Mounce has attempted to bring his bestselling language acquisition training program into the hands of those who “are not able to spend the years required to learn Greek properly” (p. viii). Though those with language training might agree with Alexander Pope’s familiar adage that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” Mounce replies that it is actually “a little bit of arrogance that is dangerous” (p. viii). Greek for the Rest of Us aims to equip readers with a functional knowledge of Greek so that they can effectively use tools such as Mounce’s own The Interlinear for the Rest of Us: The Reverse Interlinear for New Testament Word Studies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013), Bible software, and in-depth Bible commentaries.
The book is separated into three levels of proficiency: Foundational Greek, Church Greek, and Functional Greek. Each section builds on the previous one, and is intended to increase the reader’s understanding of the Greek language. The chapters are paired with video lectures (currently in development, available for purchase) accessible at Mounce’s Teknia.com website. Readers will need to have access to the Internet as they use this book, since Mounce frequently directs users to download material (vocabulary lists and exercises) available only online. This enables him to continually update his material and provide it easily.
Since the book focuses on using morphological tags present in interlinears and Bible software instead of manual parsing, Mounce is able to bypass most discussions concerning morphology, and he therefore addresses primarily issues of syntax and introductory exegesis. Foundational Greek provides a “bird’s eye view” of the language by introducing the reader to the alphabet, syllabification, different parts of speech, and a method of performing word studies. This first level seeks to enable readers to utilize Bible software or a Strong’s Bible (p. 1). Church Greek provides another pass through the language, and offers a more in-depth discussion of the syntax of Greek cases, verbs (including verbal aspect), and prepares the reader to employ Mounce’s exegetical method, called “phrasing” (p. 69). Mounce hopes that this will allow readers to utilize a reverse interlinear text and engage with Bible commentaries (p. viii). Finally, Functional Greek provides some of the nuts and bolts of Greek by discussing issues related to the article, adjectives, types of phrases and conditional sentences, and select concepts related to verbs and nouns. Functional Greek also continues the discussion of “phrasing,” explains why translational differences exist, and provides an introduction to the concept of textual criticism. Mounce intends this section to help readers use a traditional interlinear text, and engage with more in-depth commentaries (p. viii).
Greek for the Rest of Us continues Mounce’s language acquisition method by explaining the features of the Greek language in relation to parallels found in English, successfully building a bridge between the two languages. Such a discussion takes place in his introduction to inflection in the Greek case system, by way of English noun inflection (pp. 13–21), and his explanation of Greek verbs (pp. 24–40). The entire work is well-written, easy to read, and will successfully engage the target audience. Mounce begins each chapter with a short statement of purpose or overview, helping students see how the topic currently under investigation fits into the acquisition of Biblical Greek. He keeps grammatical jargon to a minimum, and defines all potentially unfamiliar terms. Mounce also provides recommendations of lexica and commentaries that he deems especially helpful. Mounce’s chapter on why Bible translations differ (pp. 264–78) is a good introduction to the topic for anyone unfamiliar with the issues associated with Bible translation.
The student who diligently works through the contents of this book will be rewarded with increased exegetical skill, founded on the original language of the New Testament. Such skill will not replace the language training programs typically provided through Bible colleges and seminaries. The ability to perform a basic synchronic word study and recognize the significance of some major syntactical categories will help readers uncover new depths of meaning in the New Testament, but the interested student should not stop with this book. As Mounce recommends, those interested in deeper study of the Greek language should continue on to Wallace’s The Basics of New Testament Syntax (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) or Greek Grammar beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) (p. ix). That task may prove daunting for those without the morphology and vocabulary provided by a typical first year Greek class. It would be interesting to see how those who move directly from Greek for the Rest of Us to Wallace’s grammar fare. Furthermore, the ability to be immersed in a text (sight reading) as made possible via extensive vocabulary and morphology memorization can never be replaced by Bible software. Although the reader will need to rely heavily on resources and tools, the work is well worth the payoff, and it will be of great assistance in personal devotional reading, Bible study, and teaching.
This work is ideal for use in a class of interested people who do not need to master Biblical Greek, but would love to acquire some facility in the language in order to access more resources such as interlinears, lexicons, Bible software, and critical commentaries. Most likely, a group of interested lay people could approach the topic of Biblical Greek using this book as a guide under the instruction of a well-trained pastor or church leader.
The book may also be of interest to individuals whose facility in the original languages has fallen into disrepair since graduating from Bible college or seminary. Mounce’s work will provide a gateway back into the essentials of Biblical Greek and will be a necessary refresher for those who would like to return to utilizing original language resources in sermon and teaching preparation.
About the Contributors
Joseph D. Fantin
Dr. Fantin believes an accurate understanding of God’s Word will enable the believer to grow in his or her relationship with Christ, to love God and others, to bring Christ’s love to a lost world, to build up the church, and most importantly, to glorify God. He is committed to teaching exegetical method in order to help students understand, apply, and teach the Bible in order to achieve these goals. Dr. Fantin’s research interests include the first-century world, Greek language and linguistics, exegetical method, and exegesis of the prison epistles. He and his wife, Robin, have two children: Jillian and David.