The Bible Truths Online Greek Course

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Lesson Eight - Greek Syntax and Reference Works

(Study text then scroll down to questions)



     In this lesson, I shall endeavor to merge and apply what you have learned in Lesson One through Seven. I introduced you to Koiné Greek in Lesson One. In Lesson Two, you were exposed to the Bible as a book, the Hebrew and Greek texts, and the translation work relative to the texts of the Bible. In Lesson Three we considered and examined the twenty-four letters comprising the Koiné Greek alphabet. We devoted our attention in Lesson Four to matters involving the alphabet such as vowels, diphthongs, and other particulars you needed to know to begin to approach and apply Greek as a language and grammar. We considered the important Greek verb in Lesson Five and the also important Greek noun, also noticing pronouns and conjunctions in Lesson Six. In Lesson Seven, we examined the definite article and prepositions. All the foregoing linguistic particulars are considered to be the essential components of the original language of the New Testament. From the very beginning, I have attempted to stress utility or applying your new acquired language skills in arriving at biblical truths. I have also endeavored to impress upon you why the Holy Spirit selected Koiné Greek as the language to convey and preserve God's precious and final truths to man.

     At this point, I again want to deviate and re-emphasize the need of practice and repetition. Learning any language is a challenge; however, without serious practice, one will be very limited in the desired language skills. Each one of you will have learned on different levels and to different degrees. The urgent matter is to have grasped a correct concept of Greek and the basic mechanisms. The concept and mechanisms constitute the foundation. Without the proper concept and working components, you will be very limited in correctly and advantageously using some of the fine Greek reference works I shall mention to you in the second half of this final lesson. Practice, practice, and more practice; repeat, repeat, and more repetition are the key words. As you seriously study the scriptures, you will be applying and repeating the grammar skills you have experienced in this course.

     The matter of Greek syntax. Syntax is simply the study of the structure of grammatical sentences in a language. Syntax involves the pattern or structure of the word order in a sentence. Greek is considered to be free and loose in the matter of syntax, as we shall see. One reason for the syntactical freedom is the word formation and identification in Greek, which we will consider more in a moment. We have thus far focused on word formation, which is called accidence. In this vein, we have also emphasized the prefixes and suffixes of verbs (conjugation), nouns (declension) and other applicable words making up Greek sentences. Syntax involves the arrangement of words and their relation to one another to convey meaning in a sentence. Many Greek sentences are simple statements with only a subject (noun) and a verb. For instance, edakrusen (o) IhsouV ("Jesus wept," Jn. 11: 35). I might mention that the definite article is not usually translated into English in such verses as John 11: 35 because of the idiomatic awkwardness. Our main focus regarding John 11: 35 and syntax is "wept Jesus," or understanding the verb wept as aorist ingressive, burst into tears Jesus. Notice that in Greek the word order or flow is not what we experience in English. By looking at the original, you immediately see the noun (Jesus) and the verb (wept); hence, you translate it into English as Jesus wept (inverted). From the extremely simple Greek sentence, we progress to a sentence that contains a predicate nominative or a linking verb. An example would be qeoV agaph estin (God love is). We would translate this "God is love." "Is" is the linking verb and constitutes a more "complex" sentence in Greek than "Jesus wept." The next progression toward complexity and away from simplicity would be a sentence such as qeoV hn o logoV (God was the word). Some Greek sentences have a direct object and/or an indirect object. An example would be o uioV didaskei ton agaqon nomon toiV ocloiV (the son teaches the good law to the crowds). Involved in reading and translating Greek is the process of finding the subject of the sentence (simply stated, look for the stem endings that identify the noun), find the main verb, look for any direct object (usually the accusative case, as you have studied) and/or any indirect object (dative case endings). You search for the phrases or clauses that add meaning to the sentence, noticing form verbs (present tense, etc.), and notice the main words as used by the author within the considered sentence and immediate context. Please do not become discouraged, I know what I have just mentioned can be intimidating. Perhaps such language work is more advanced than what you want to do. However, I mention this to explain and illustrate the matter of syntax involving sentences in Greek.

     Having the foregoing in mind, please consider the statement made by the inspired apostle John in I John 2: 12. Try to recognize some of the words (vocabulary words): Grafw umin, teknia, oti afewntai umin ai amartiai dia to onoma auton. Transliterated, the sentence reads: Grápho (I write) umîn (to you) teknía (children) óti (because) aphéontai (have been forgiven) umîn (to you) ai (the or your) hamartíai (sins) dià (on account of) tò (the) ónoma (name) autoû (of him). If you have applied yourself in this course, you know more than you think you do. It will just take time for it to all come together and begin to work in unison.

     The use of Greek reference works (be sure to focus on the last type). As I mentioned earlier in this course, it matters not how much Greek grammar skills you acquire, you will still be dependant to a large degree on the established Greek reference works for your authority. These reference works range from the very simple and easy to use (requiring no real Greek knowledge) to the complex and necessitating Greek knowledge. All of these works compliment each other and have their own special place in your library. As you would expect, these works also span a great spectrum, price wise. I have some works in my library that cost less than $20. 00. I have one work that retails for $750. 00. However, you do not have to invest much money to have the basic reference works that you need.

     Greek dictionary reference works (I am not attempting to provide ordering information and I am only mentioning a sampling.) You should already have one of the most universal and easy to use dictionaries, the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine. This work was first published in 1940 in four volumes. This work requires no knowledge of Greek. The work is in English except for the original word referenced. To briefly illustrate the work, take the word "baptism." Vine list three nouns and one verb that are translated baptism and baptize in the New Testament. He first lists the transliterated form of the Greek word (baptisma) and then the Greek word with its markings (baptisma). He engages in definition and in a treatment of the terms. He says "baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence (from bapto, to dip)…." Vine provides a good sample of how the nouns and verb are used in various verses in which they occur. There are many other one volume, inexpensive New Testament dictionaries but I recommend Vine's over most of them.

     From the one volume dictionary, we come to larger dictionaries, usually in several volumes. There is Smith's Dictionary of the Bible edited by H. B. Hackett. This four-volume work appeared in 1868. William Smith (1813-1893) was an English classical and biblical lexicographer who was (is) highly recognized. Among the many works that are similar to Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, there is The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, by Colin Brown. As a matter of fact, there are so many works of this type that it would be entirely too cumbersome to mention them all. They all have strengths and weakness and varying degrees of scholastic accomplishment and recognition, all the way to the ten volume set the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by G. Kittel. Many of them, though, I would avoid. Stay with the tried and proven ones, usually the older ones. From this type dictionary, you can advance to the lexicons. Lexicons are usually more advanced than what we think of as a dictionary. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Henry Joseph Thayer is a good choice. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature by Arndt and Gingrich is another worth while Lexicon. The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament by Moulton and Milligan can be a useful work at times, especially from the standpoint of the treatment of Greek words exterior to the New Testament. These works present the Greek word, its etymology and usage in the New Testament. If I were limited to one lexicon out of all those in print, I would choose Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.

     Works that assist in textual word study. Again, there are many such works but I shall only mention a few of the better ones. Of course, concordances come under the heading of works that assist in textual word study. Two of the best concordances are Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, by Robert Young and Strong's Concordance. Between these two concordances, you have the best works ever produced. You will have to examine these works to discover their full potential, they serve more than just a source to find words.

     Good critical Bible commentaries are an excellent source of studying words in their settings. Works such as The Pulpit Commentary, Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, and New Testament Commentary by William Hendriksen are a few of the good commentaries that are available to assist the serious Greek student.

    Word study works such as Word Pictures of the New Testament by A. T. Robertson, Alford's Greek New Testament, The Expositor's Greek Testament by W. Robertson Nicoll, and Word Studies in the New Testament by Marvin Vincent are some of the better ones.

    Works to assist you in doing your own research and in developing your own proficiency in Greek. There are, of course, a number of good Greek grammars mentioned in the introduction to this course. Such as A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, in Light of Historical Research, by A. T. Robertson. Other Greek grammars are New Testament Greek for Beginners, by Machen; A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey; Beginner's Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by William David, and Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers, to name some.

    The Word Study New Testament by Ralph and Roberta Winter is an excellent Greek concordance. This two-volume set is keyed to Word Study Concordance, Arndt and Gingrich Greek Lexicon, Moulton and Geden Greek Concordance, and Kittle's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Having made this recommendation, allow me to begin to illustrate how to use some of these Greek reference works. Let us say you wanted to do a word study of one of the main words in the vocabulary of I John, the word menw (méno). You would see that this word is translated "abide" about ten times in I John (King James). Along with the other numbers (mentioned codes to other works), you see that the word méno is used a total of 120 times in the Greek New Testament. The beauty of this work is that it tells you how the word is variously translated in the 120 occurrences. For instance, in I John méno is rendered "continued," "remaineth," and "dwelleth" (I Jn. 2: 24; 3: 9; 4: 12). Other interesting renderings outside of I John are "tarry" and "endureth" (Matt. 26: 38; John 6: 27). These different renderings of méno help provide you with a greater understanding of the range of meaning méno has.

     Some of the most valuable resource material, now that you have taken this course, is the Greek interlinear and The Analytical Greek Lexicon. I shall bring this course to a close by noticing in more detail these valuable reference works. I have recommended you purchase the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle and Marshall at the outset of the course. Another good interlinear to have is The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Berry. Nestle's interlinear presents the Westcott and Hort text. The interlinear by Berry uses the Received Text (discussed in Lesson Two). By combining these two works, you have the best of both worlds of research. The Greek interlinear can be used in concert with the classic work The Analytical Greek Lexicon by Harold Moulton. This work is a classic and definitive work and necessary to any serious Greek study.  (Some of these classic Greek reference works can be purchased used at a considerable savings. Kregel's new and used, and hard to find books (click on to visit) is a good Web site to check.  Enter "Alfred Marshall" into their search ("Used books") to locate Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle.  (Also try Alibris) 

       Allow me now to simply illustrate how the novice Greek student may effectively use these works. In our study of Greek verbs (Lesson Five), I illustrated the present tense by treating several words. We looked at the verb moicaw (moi-chá-o, Matt. 19: 9). You can find this word examined in Vine's under "adulterer, adulterous, adultery." You know which word it is, in this case, because Vine mentions it as the second addressed verb (he refers to Matt. 19: 9). However, this does not help you to be able to establish the five important facets of the Greek verb (tense, voice, mood, person, and number). Even if you have really applied yourself in this course and have already committed to memory some of the common verb conjugations, you still will need to verify your study and present a reference source. The first thing to do is to look up the word adultery in the interlinear. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Nestle/Marshall (Marshall produced the excellent translation found in the interlinear) has the word moicatai (moi-câ-tai) as the inflected verb used in the latter part of Matthew 19: 9. We then look up this exact verb form in The Analytical Greek Lexicon, we find the verb information: "3 pers., sing., pres., indi. (pg. 272). Hence, the verb form of moicaw (moi-chá-o) in Matthew. 19: 9 is third person, singular in number, present tense, and indicative mood. Remember that I addressed the inflected amartanwn (ha-mar-tá-non, sin) as found in I John 3: 6. I provided you with the following information: nominative case, singular in number, masculine in gender, participle, and present tense. I also explained to you that John is describing a life of sin or the practice of sin as opposed to a single "accidental sin," based on the grammatical information. You can verify this information by looking up the exact word form in The Analytical Greek Lexicon, pg. 17.

     Keep in mind throughout your studies the science of semantics. Just because a particular word is used in a certain way in one verse does not necessarily mean the same word is universally used. Each word must be also considered in its setting or context. In other words, you can not just look up a word and say the provided meaning is the exact meaning in every occurrence. In this view, it must be remembered that just as in English, Greek words can have many nuances or shades of meanings that must be studied and learned in usage. Another note is that it always helps to know of any predisposition or actual prejudice possessed by the author of the reference works. While the rare exception, prejudices are seen in the treatment of some words. You might also find some useful reference works online that are accessed from my "Online Bible Study Aids," accessed from the Site Map page.

     While the Bible Truths Greek Online Course has not been designed to be exhaustive or advanced, it has the capability of offering you the basic abilities you need to seriously practice Greek. With additional practice and time, you will procure gradations of skill. It is my desire that you have greatly benefited from this course and that you will tell others. It is also my aim that you have acquired various biblical truths in the process of studying this course. You may now want to take the Bible Truths Online Bible Study Course (accessed from the Site Map page).

     With the completion of the subsequent questions, you will have officially completed the course. You should be shortly receiving our final correspondence. I trust you will find Bible Truths to be a source of rich Bible material. New material is constantly being published.

     To assist you with additional online sources for biblical Greek studies, I shall provide the following links.  Just as in all external links, I have not checked out all the link material and, therefore, I can not provide a blanket recommendation.  To check out additional Greek study sites, try Learn Greek (there is a charge for registration but you can do certain exercises without a fee).  To go to other sites that teach Greek, simply click on  More Greek Sites  (please inform me as to any invalid links, contact Don Martin). Remember to use the "Archives Search" component to quickly locate material. 

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Questions for Lesson Eight


     Please fill in the answers referring back to the above study material.  Be sure to supply your name and e-mail in the provided form.  Remember to click on the submit button and allow a day or two, normal circumstances, for the reviewing of your answers and return of your grade.


1.  If you desire to retain and perfect your new Greek skills, what must you do?

2.  What is Greek syntax?

3.  Regarding syntax, does biblical Greek rigidly adhere (explain your answer)?  

4.  What is accidence?

5.  Provide a sample in Greek of a simple sentence

6.  Type in Greek a more advanced sentence

7.  In establishing the order of words in translation, for what do you look in the Greek sentence?

8.  Type the statement in Greek "God is love."

9.  Regardless of your Greek grammar skills, you must still use what as a means of authority?

10. Why is not the definite article not always translated?

11. Write in Greek "I write to you, little Children." 

12. Write in Greek "the son teaches the good law to the crowds."

13. Why is the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words so valuable?

14. What are some examples of more advanced dictionaries than Vine's?

15. What is the simple difference between a dictionary and a lexicon?

16. What are some works to assist in textual word study?

17. What is a Greek interlinear and how can you use it in your Greek studies?

18. What is the essential difference between Nestles and Berry's Greek interlinear?

19. Why is the Analytical Greek Lexicon such a valuable reference work?

20. What is the grammar information for moicatai and how can we prove it?

Lesson Number (type in "Lesson Eight"):

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