Why Study Greek? – an Excerpt from Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek

The following is an excerpt from Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek, by Rodney Whitacre.


A knowledge of the basics of Greek opens to you the greatest mental and spiritual adventure, the most edifying study. With Greek you have unique access to some of the world’s greatest literature and, most significantly, the power and beauty of God’s Scriptures, the very oracles of God (τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ, Rom. 3:2).

Cover ArtThe question “Why study Greek?” was raised some years ago in an internet discussion group devoted to Greek. The six reasons given by a woman who had studied Greek in a class at her church sum it up very nicely:

1. I love the language. I did not anticipate this when I started it. 2. I do get nuances out of the text that I don’t get in English. 3. Reading from the Greek slows me down and makes me think. 4. I now know enough to recognize faulty arguments made by other speakers. 5. I find reading from the Greek more moving. I was gripped by reading the Passion passages in the Gospels, something I don’t think I get from reading English. 6. I am a resource for the Bible study I am in. I don’t answer a question every week, but there’s an interpretation question I can answer, or get the answer to, with some frequency. Sometimes it’s as simple as whether “you” is in the singular or plural.

Would that all students of Greek had such an experience! I want to help you engage Greek texts in ways that will bring such benefits. In this introduction I will give you an overview of what I have in mind.

“Before we sip the Scriptures, we should guzzle them.” This is great advice for how all Christians should approach the Scriptures. Augustine spends most of his time in On Christian Doctrine explaining how to interpret Scripture, and his first step is to “read them all and become familiar with their contents” (II.12 [chap. 8]). He encourages believers “to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them” (II.14 [chap. 9]).

Such extensive reading is all the more important for teachers and preachers. I remember Harold John Ockenga, when he was president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, saying that before he began to preach through a book of the Bible he read it forty times. He guzzled the book before sipping individual passages and preaching them to others.

In this book I want to encourage you to guzzle and sip the text in Greek. The methods I share in this book for gaining an ability to engage the text in these ways are neither complex nor difficult. You can use these two approaches right from the outset in basic Greek and then continue them throughout your life. It certainly takes time to become fluent, but there are ways to move toward fluency that are very enjoyable and valuable. I will not focus on exegesis, though these approaches complement exegetical study of texts and can deepen your ability to do exegesis. As we will see, fluency and meditation have their own values.

©2015 by Rodney A. Whitacre. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


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  1. I took a year of Koine Greek almost 20 years ago, and it has helped me immensely. I’m able to use most technical commentaries and Greek lexicons and NT dictionaries, and I can diagram sentences.

    It has really helped me to study the New Testament on my own.