Review of the Koine Greek Reader: Selections from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers @KregelBooks

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Students of a foreign language need practice – and not just practice on the same author, but from different authors, different contexts, different texts. One has to mix it up a little to stretch and thereby learn more. Inside this book, you’ll find a wide range of reading related to the study of New Testament Greek which enable a student in Koine Greek to do just that. This book is an inductive learning tool, geared to the intermediate, or second year, student, and should serve to help her to stretch her linguistic skills.

The student is met first with a quote from Ulrich Zwingli on the personal study of Greek. The tone is thus set in that Decker is not merely concocting a book on the study of the New Testament in its original languages, but is building a book to enable the student to actually read the Sacred Writings, as Zwingli puts it. To do so, the author has selected writings from the New Testament, covering the Gospels, several of the Epistles, and the book of Revelation, in the first part. Part II focuses on the Septuagint, the Apostolic Fathers and the Early Creeds. The Septuagint includes readings from the Torah with several readings from the Psalms, Histories and Prophets. The Apostolic Fathers includes samples from Ignatius, the Didache, 1 Clement and Hermes. The Creeds include the Apostles’, Nicene and the Constantinoplitan, as well as the Chalcedonian. My only issue here, and it is a minute issue given the wide range of authors and (con)texts which Decker has made available to us, is that the Creeds do not include some of the pre-Nicene creeds, even as supplemental readings. Granted, this is only from someone interesting in the early theology of the Church, and not really as a critic overall. Along with these primary readings are, except with the Creeds, supplemental readings to test the student’s growth.

The book opens with a preface and an introduction. Abbreviations, including grammatical abbreviations, as well as Appendices which include short introductions to such things as Using BDAG, Parsing Lists and Septuagint Vocabulary. For those who are intermediate students, the Greek words and passages in the lists and readings are met with English renderings. Of note, Strong’s is not used, but the bibliography does note the outstanding sources which have been pooled for such a work. As far as translations, the ESV, HCSB, ISV, NASB, NET, NIV and the NRSV are used for the New Testament whereas the academic favorite, NETS, is used for the Septuagint. The second critique is, and again, not really a detracting issue, but while this book is geared to the intermediate student, it may have been made more accessible if a small section, which could have included the Greek alphabet and pronunciation help, was included. This would have allowed beginners and not-yet-intermediate students to make use of this outstanding work.

Now that I’ve given you the overview, I want to take you inside the chapter and to figure out how the book is supposed to work. In chapter 1, the reading is going to be from John 7.25-44. It begins with a Grammar Review on nouns and case usage, complete with recommended readings (see the Abbreviations list). Following this a Forms Review chart for the endings to the words which you are about to use. Connected to an appendix later in the book, the student then moves to the vocabulary notes and the new vocabulary which will greatly increase, by time the student has completed this book, her Greek knowledge. These lists are divided into words which appear over 100, 25-49, and less than 24 times. Following this, in chapter 1, is a reading of John 7.25-27 with what is essentially a commentary of sorts on the Greek. The Teacher’s voice is there with the Student, pointing out what to look for while, but after, reading. This continues until the end of the passage which is then followed by the supplemental reading, which in this case, is John 7.1-24 first in Greek and then accompanied by the rendering found in the NASB.

The book has already been helpful to me, in testing my beginning knowledge of Greek. It will push those with such a knowledge, and for the intermediate student, will expand them and help them on their way. Decker has provided a tool which can be used in the classroom as well as in private study, not just to learn Greek, but to refresh oneself in the Sacred Languages of the early Church.

Διὸ μελλήσω ἀεὶ ὑμᾶς ὑπομιμνῄσκειν περὶ τούτων καίπερ εἰδότας καὶ ἐστηριγμένους ἐν τῇ παρούσῃ ἀληθείᾳ.

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