Toys for Greek Geeks

People are often surprised to find out I don’t have a degree in Education. (For some, they are not surprised at all!) I actually have a degree in theology. (M.Div, SWBTS) with an emphasis in Greek. From the time I changed my major half-way through college from music to Religion (Bible) I took every Greek class I could take. Greek was by far and away my favorite subject.

In recent weeks I have gotten into a review the Greek craze and would like to share with you a few tools I have found that could help you keep up with your Greek. There are some amazing tools available today. I am not sure you could learn Greek without taking a class, but it sure is a lot easier than it used to be to get up to speed on the Greek.

There is an app for that

My Greek experience and my Hebrew experience were very different. My Hebrew professor had the idea that sense we only had one year in Hebrew we didn't have time to do a lot of vocabulary; we would just work on understand how the language worked. At the end of a year I could look at a Hebrew verse and say, "This is a noun, it is the subject. This is the verb. The verb is in X tense. This is a preposition."  I have not idea what any of these words actually mean or what this sentence is about. Not so helpful.

The key to understanding a language is knowing what the words mean. It is a whole lot easier to understand a language when you know what the words mean.

In Greek I took several classes where the whole emphasis was on vocabulary. I took a class on John, for example. The whole goal was to learn the vocabulary of the gospel of John. There were two tests--a mid term and a final. At each test you would go in and sit down with Dr. Munn personally in his office. He would flop open an unmarked Greek New Testament, somewhere between John 1 - 10. You would be responsible to be able to translate anywhere in that section. You learned a lot of vocabulary.

I think this second approach was better. Language is a whole lot easier to understand when you know what the words mean. Happily, there is an app for that.

Several apps, actually. The first one I got was the A+ Koine Greek Study Tool. Cost: $.99. (Less than a dollar.)  I think this is where it all started for me. I thought, “For a buck, let’s freshen up on some Greek.” Just like before, I got totally addicted. The app divides the top 1000 or so most commonly used Greek words into sections according to how often they are used. So, I started in with words used more than 50 times. There are quite a few of those, so that took a while. Even if you never took a day of Greek in your life, you will recognize some of these words. Words like koinonia and agape ought to be familiar to any Bible student. It provides a Greek words with four multiple choices answers. I always get the answer right within four tries!  Once you have gotten it right a certain number of times, it passes you. When you have gotten all the words in that section right, it passes you on the section. It makes a game of learning Greek. I have currently passed 100% on all words  and am working my way through the second time. After that, there will only be 4000 words or so in the Greek New Testament that I don’t know. Good news is, each of these words are used less than ten times. 3000 something words in the Greek New Testament are used only once.

Quckmem Greek. $.99. I bought this, but never really “got it.” What is daily weekly, monthly about? What is the difference between set range and word occurring? Who knows? Waste of money for me, but then, hey, only a dollar.

GreekGrams. $.99.  This won’t help you with vocabulary but is a good short review of how to conjugate words in Greek. Very helpful and worth the dollar I paid for it.

A+ Greek New Testament Study Aid. $19.99. Somebody hire a marching band for this baby; this is one cool app. There are actually three apps here, although, one of them I couldn’t work out how to use.

  • There is a lexicon. It says “For best results, use a Greek keyboard.” I had to actually read the directions to work out how to do this. I hate reading the directions.

  • Bible. Way cool. Greek text of the Bible with a translation (verse by verse) underneath. (Byzantine majority text) Here is the really cool part. When you click on a Greek work, the definition pops up from Strong’s. It is really designed to use on an IPAD.  With the bigger screen you could keep the Greek text on the screen and more the Strong’s definition off to the side. With my little ITouch there isn’t room for all that, but it is still way coo.

  • Study. This is similar to the multiple choice in the program above, but with a whole lot more intelligence. For one thing, the testing goes both ways. It gives you a Greek word and ask which of these English words is the correct definition. Then, it gives you an English word and you have to know which Greek word matches it. It tests in such a way to teach you the words. You have to get a word right 10 times more than you get it wrong. (Every time you get it wrong it subtracts a point; when you get it right, it adds one.)  It keeps you reviewing around ten words at a time. When you pass one it adds a new one in. It starts with words that are used the most often. When it first adds a word in, you see it several times right up front to get it lock in your brain. Then, it works in with the rest of the group. It seems to let it go dormant for a while before it tests you the last time. (I am not exactly sure how the programing works, but it seems to know what you need to be tested on.) I am up to 275 words in this system.

Update. OK, kill the band. At about 400 words it seems to spaz out. It has done this twice.

Greek and Hebrew Study Bible. $19.99. This app has everything the above app has, plus the Hebrew Old Testament. They study section works more like the  A+ Koine Greek Study Tool.

If you want to refresh you’re Greek and you have an IPhone or ITouch this is the app of choice.

Logos. FREE. If you have an IPhone or ITouch, you need this app. It is free, has a million resources that are also free and is way, way, cool. I think there are 20 or so Free Max Lucado books, a bunch of free translation of the Bible. . . can you tell I am a fan? (Be warned: this cool free app has cost me about $1500 so far. It is so cool I ended up buying the $1379 Scholar’s Library Gold as well as some other odds and ends.)  Here is the really cool Greek part of Logos. Click and hold on any word in the ESV (and a few other translations including KJV, NASB and NLT). That word will be selected. A little box will come up; one of the choices is Look Up. From there a choice is Bible Word Study. Click on that. A new window pops up with a graph showing every way that word is translated.. Another click and you have definition from one of several lexicons. In my case, I have the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT; also known as Kittel). This is the big-daddy, 10 volume Greek dictionary alphabetized in the Greek. I used to have the printed version. It took my so long to find words I didn’t use if all that often. Oh, and by the way, this doesn’t come on the free version.

One of the best ways of shedding light on an English word is to see where that Greek word is used in other contexts. One example I share recently has to do with the first word in the phrase “pursue hospitality.” If you missed that, here it is: http://www.joshhunt.com/mail440.htm I am including some of the charts in Good Questions Have Groups Talking.

Get the Logos app. But be forewarned: it can suck you in!

Reverse interlinear

I am reading my quiet time these days from a reverse interlinear. (In my case, Logos; WordSearch has one as well.) Here is how it works.

A regular interlinear looks like this:

We have a Greek word, underneath that the root form (lemma), under that a simple definition of the word. In this case, you can make sense of what is being said. In some case, the Greek word order is so different than ours that you can know all the words and still have no idea what it is saying.

A reverse interlinear works the other way. It takes the ESV text (others available as well) and gives you the Greek word that underlies that word. It looks like this:

Read along the top line and you notice it is a very readable ESV text. But, you want to know what the Greek word is, it is right there. I estimate that if I read a couple of chapters a day this way in ten years I will know a little Greek. Because this is in Logos, you have the full power of Logos at your disposal. You are only a few clicks away from all the information you would ever want on these words.

Warning: this is quite addicting and you might end up spending more time than you have on this.

Listen to Greek

While we talking about Logos, let me mention one more resource available with Logos: the Greek Audio New Testament. With this ad-on the program will actually read to you out loud in Greek. There is even a karaoke style bouncing ball that helps you follow along. It is cool, except, for me, I am actually not advanced enough to keep up. I may repurchase this again in a year, but it wasn’t helpful to me at this stage in the game. It is like trying to learn Spanish by simply watching Spanish TV. You might get it eventually but there are more efficient ways to learn a language. And, it can be a pretty frustrating process.

I do think the idea of listening to Greek as well as looking at Greek letters and translating is important. If you are really going to learn a language you need to be able to translate and hear it. (Ideally speak it to, but I won’t get there in this lifetime.) Here are a couple of tools that help you listen to the Greek

Youtube. Check out this video on www.youtube.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lb2HPeO00I it is a slow reading of John chapter 1 in the Greek with the Greek words flowing in front of you. Very nice. There are a number of similar videos out there.

Are you a member of www.audible.com? You can find audio books in downloadable format. With a membership of around $20 a month, you get 2 books a month. I have been a member for years. This month, I got the New Testament Greek Vocabulary: Learn on the Go. It has the same top 1000 or so most commonly used Greek words arranged in descending order according to frequency of usage. It was shocking (and humbling) to me to find how difficult it was to remember the definitions of words—even words I know—from listening to them without the visual cue of looking at them. I have gone through part one of this several times and still need to go through it quite a few more times before I move on to part 2. They also have parts of the Greek New Testament that you can listen to, but I am not sure I am ready for that.

I love Greek. With the tools that are available to today, it is easier than ever to keep up. With apps that go on your IPhone or ITouch, you can review Greek in your spare time. What a time to be alive!