Greek to Me: a book review

When I was in seminary  I focused on learning Hebrew because I wanted to make sure I knew one biblical  language  reasonably well. I didn’t actually take Greek, though I had to demonstrate some understanding of the Greek to finish some exegesis assignments, make judgments about variant readings from the Septuagint (Old Testament) and understand key New Testament passages. Which brings me to this grand confession: Greek to me is really hard. I know enough Greek to not quote a lexicon in a sermon. Grammar and syntax (and the linguistic and literary context) reveal shades of meaning and help determine which ‘sense’ of a word is best and preaching the dictionary rarely does any of that justice.  But I don’t know enough Greek to speak with confidence about  what a ‘phrase really means’ (just enough Greek to be suspicious when you are too confident).

The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming by Douglas Huffman

The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax and Diagramming is the sort of resource I love to have on hand when working through a Greek translation.  This is, as the title implies, a handy guide not the definitive resource.  At just 112 pages, it can easily be kept with your Greek New Testament and consulted as you parse your way through the text.  Author Douglas Huffman says that this  book is intended for second year Greek students and beyond (oops), pastors, teachers and preachers. As an occasional preacher, and pastor-hopeful I plan to use this when I work through my next sermon on a New Testament passage.

As the subtitle suggests, the book focuses on grammar, syntax and (sentence) diagramming.  In the section on grammar, Huffman reviews the Greek alphabet, breath marks,  and the various parts of speech (nouns, Adjectives, adverbs, the article, prepositions, and verbs). The table of contents makes each of these accessible at a glance.  The section on syntax discusses in more technical language: case usage, the use of the article and verb use (i.e. tense, mood, voice, infinitives, participles, conditional sentences).  In the final  section gives a good introduction and overview of sentence diagramming. Diagramming is  a method of making clear the author’s flow of thought.  This is especially helpful for non-narrative texts and helps you understand what the Greek (words) means in context.

Despite having read this book without the proper Greek background, I find it  very helpful. If you have learned another language as an adult,  you should be able to wade through the sections on grammar and syntax and get some use out of it. Sentence (or phrase) diagramming is one of the most helpful tools for exegeting a New Testament text and this is the section of the book I will most consult.  I have grammars on which examine  Greek syntax and grammar in much more detail, but I am not taking a stack of  Greek books to Starbucks with me to work on a sermon. This guide is enough to open up the text in a new way for me

So I recommend this book to Greek students, Pastors needing a review, and those, like me who putz around with Greek because we think it is valuable to delve into biblical languages. This is a short, understandable quick reference and well worth it!

Thank you to Kregel Academic for providing me a copy of this book through the Kregel Academic & Ministry Blog Review Program  in exchange for my fair and honest review.

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