New Testament Greek

Nearly thirty years on I still remember the sense of excitement I felt when I first read, even though didn’t understand them, the very words which the early Christian community in Corinth would have read, or heard, as a letter from Saint Paul.

The New Testament in Greek – for all the Greek is, on the whole, pretty simple and straightforward – is not easy to access, and I needed all the help I could get. Even with Wenham, Zerwick and Grosvenor, Bauer and an interlinear Greek-English New Testament I found the going tough on the journey of translating, never mind interpreting and understanding, the original text.

The Internet has given considerable help, though the friends mentioned above are still crucial. Having a responsive interlinear text has given me an essential first step along the way and here I’m sharing how you can use it, too.

Biblehub.com is the place to start. There you’ll see a range of abbreviations and words in two horizontal sections near the top, along with a range of near-indecipherable icons and – most important – navigation area right at the top of the page. That’s where to head first.

Use the drop-down selections to navigate to your chosen verse, and remember that the Greek on this site starts in the New Testament. (If you hanker after reading the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, that’s also available). Select the book first, then choose either a verse in the first chapter (which is displayed automatically) or choose another chapter, and then select the required verse once the page has reloaded. You should see a range of English translations of your chosen verse, and it all appears somewhat unassuming.

To make the magic happen, click ‘Interlinear’ on the light blue background of the second navigation row. You’re now into the world of New Testament Greek, with a guide by your side!

The Greek text is in black in the middle. I’d recommend learning the Greek alphabet – which you’ll find surprisingly familiar – so that you can enjoy saying the Greek to yourself. There’s even a song to help you learn it! But don’t worry – above each Greek word there’s an English equivalent vocalisation. It might not make you sound like a native of Corinth, but right from the start you can hear, even roughly, your own voice reading in Greek.

The English equivalent of each Greek word appears immediately below the Greek. You’ll see immediately where word order comes close to, and diverges greatly from, English. The translation is a somewhat generic and literalistic one – there is no attempt here to provide any dynamic equivalent, and rightly so.

Zerwick and Grosvenor is, then, still crucially important in assisting a deep understanding of the phrases as well as giving an almost word-by-word guide to each phrase. The Biblehub website gives the clues which Zerwick and Grosveonor omit for space reasons, and the combination of on-screen text and insight from the printed page is hard to beat.

But there is more: there is depth and breadth. First, the depth. The blue abbreviations below the English translation take you ‘under the bonnet’ (hood for American readers) to let you see the workings of Greek grammar. Every word is parsed into its grammatical constituents so that you can see what it is. You may find at this point that your difficulty is not with the Greek but with the English, particularly if (like me) your native learning of English did not include grammar in this technical style. Websites such as the grammar section of English Club provide valuable insight into the grammatical terms and concepts used, and can support your use of Wenham or equivalent to obtain a good grasp of key grammatical concepts. Some of these, such as verb tenses which are unique to Greek, require particular attention, but Wenham is, again, your friend here.

Then there’s the breadth. Bauer is an astonishingly useful resource to determine the uses of New Testament vocabulary in other literature, and the little numbers above each Greek word in BibleHub perform a similar function on a more limited scale. They link to Strong’s Greek Concordance where different translations of the same Greek word across the New Testament are catalogued, and other helpful material broadening your understanding of each word is provided. The [e] does a similar job to connect to the Englishman’s Concordance. They don’t replace Bauer, but they do get you started.

The indecipherable icons give much more: parallel versions of the Greek text; the ability to read sections in Greek with a hover-over facility to parse and translate each word; and a lexicon which tabulates each word and provides roots, too. It’s well worth exploring the site; using the features from the top of the page downwards is, though, an important technique.

Bible Hub is a product of the Online Parallel Bible Project, a privately-owned enterprise which has a statement of reasonably conservative (from a European standpoint) Christian theology. However its stated aim is to help anyone who’s interested to learn more about the Bible. If you’re particularly keen you can contact the site developers.

I’d encourage you to have a look and give this a try. At the beginning it might be particularly helpful to have someone who knows just a little New Testament Greek to guide and support you, and this sort of study is most likely best done by a small enthusiastic group who can keep each other motivated and help out. If you’d like more help or to start a group in south Glasgow or the surrounding area, get in touch and let’s see what we can organize!

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