3 easy things to do every day to master biblical Greek

The difficulty of learning Greek is not the tasks, but the consistency. After finishing seminary and learning the languages, all students begin to lose their ability with the languages. All that is, except those graduates who put in place very specific actions that will take their Greek to the next level. In this article, I'm going to share the three easy things to do every day to master biblical Greek. As we go, I'll also provide some pointers to the easiest way to do these things.

3 easy things to do every day to master biblical Greek

1. Master biblical Greek by practicing your parsing

I remember parsing quizzes. Perhaps you do too. These had the effect of making me work on my parsing, which in turn helped me learn the language (and pass the tests). It's tempting to think that because all that is behind us. But if you want to grow your ability with the language, you're going to have to continue to get faster and more accurate with your parsing.

One simple and almost effortless way to do this is to use a parsing app to quiz you each day. These apps are a modern-day gift to those of us who are working to become more proficient at the languages. For the most part, these apps give you a word and its conjugation and ask you to identify the correct parsing for it. Normally, each word can be parsed by simply tapping some buttons or options and you get instant feedback, allowing you to figure out why you got it wrong and work on improving.

With these tools, it doesn't long to brush up your parsing. In fact just 10 words each day will make a difference, or spend 5-10 minutes if that doesn't seem like enough to make a difference.

Recommended apps for parsing practice

There are a few apps available for parsing practice. If you don't like spending money, start with mastergreek.com, (not this site, masterntgreek.com). This is a web based app, which works well, though it requires an internet connection, and also asks you to pick out deponent verbs even though scholars are settling on deponents simply being middle verbs.

If you want something that doesn't require online access, then I recommend ParseGreek by Danny Zacharias. This works on most mobile devices, though I recommend it on a tablet (it works on Amazon's Fire tablets) as it tends to get fairly cramped on a phone.

If you're on an Android device and want something a little less expensive, you might like to try Greek verb parsing by Andrew Steinmann. I haven't tried it, but it looks good. On iOS, you might like to try GreekKit, which also looks like a good alternative.

2. Master biblical Greek by reviewing vocabulary

If you really want to master biblical Greek, not only should you brush up on your parsing, but you should also continue to review vocabulary. There are several reasons for this. First, and probably most importantly, you want to increase the amount of text you can read, which means you need to increase the number of words you know. Second, you'll forget words that you don't see regularly. Some words only occur in certain books, even though they occur relatively often. If you're not reading the words, you'll probably forget them. Reviewing vocabulary helps retain what you worked hard to learn.

Just like with parsing, this doesn't have to take a long time, but the more words you know, the longer it will take – at least until you master each word. Also, you'll want to memorize words the smart way, which is why I created Master New Testament Greek in the first place. Learn a word once, and just review it as needed.

Apps to review vocabulary

Perhaps the most common form of app for Greek is the flashcards app. Many of these are very good and I've used a number of them. Memrise (Android | Apple) is good because it gives you different (and fun) ways to learn words. Quizlet (Android | Apple) is great because it gives you access to lots of words. However, each of these has a problem, and that is that they aren't really designed to learn lots of words. They're great for learning common words, but ultimately they will not scale if you're serious about memorizing vocabulary.

This is why I always recommend Flashcards Deluxe. Now Flashcards Deluxe has one major drawback: it's not as easy to use as the above mentioned apps. But long term it offers flexibility to make vocabulary review a daily practice which will scale to the every word in the Greek New Testament. However, if you buy Master New Testament Greek, I'll give you full video based tutorials for setting it up free of charge.

3. Master biblical Greek by reading Greek every day

While parsing and vocabulary will get you identifying words and how they are presented and function, nothing will help you master biblical Greek like reading the text itself. If you've taken some Greek, but haven't got to the point of translating on the fly, take your time here. Start with just a few verses a day (5 perhaps) and work out the translation either by writing it down, or by working it out in your head as you read. Once you've got a little bit of confidence, increase the amount of reading until you can read longer stretches.

Dependent on tools

Funny thing is, many people simply think that they can do this without the first two. They think that they can learn to read Greek by osmosis. As if having words and grammar in front of you that you don't know will help you learn it. They think that an effective way of learning is to look up every word they don't know (or use a readers bible) and check parsing on software will help them learn to read. However, in my experience any dependency you have will become a larger dependency. Does that mean you can't look up words or check your parsing? No, of course there are time when you need to do this. However, these should be rare so that you don't become dependent on them for reading.

Too many people who know a little Greek become dependent on software. They think they know Greek because they can move a cursor over a word and get the parsing. But if you're dependent on software, you don't know the language. This sort of dependency means you'll miss out on the richness of the language, and you'll be stuck in the English echo-chamber.

Tips for reading Greek

First, use a paper Bible. Your brain engages the text differently based on the way you interact with it. If your experience of the text is only electronic, you won't engage your senses the same way. The more you can engage your senses, the more you'll be able to learn. Use that to your advantage and have a paper Bible. If this seems dull, make it worth your while. Get your Greek New Testament rebound in a nice leather so that you enjoy the experience more.

Second, start by reading easy and short texts. The obvious reason for reading easy texts is that you'll feel more competent, but you'll also find it easier to work your way up to harder books. Shorter books are also great because you can get through them fairly quickly without becoming bogged down. You can also re-read shorter books which helps you retain what you read. Start with the epistles of John (1-3 John) and then move on to 2 Thessalonians.

Third, learn vocabulary (see #1) based on the books you're reading. If you want a shortcut, I created Master New Testament Greek to provide you with all the vocabulary for every book of the Greek New Testament ordered by by lexical and syntactical difficulty. Give it a try.

Conclusion

These 3 practices are easy and will enable you to master biblical Greek. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen. None of these need take more than 15 minutes, and vocabulary and parsing work will only take a few minutes each day. If you're already spending time in the Bible, why not spend that time in Greek rather than English?

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