Exploring New Testament Greek Exploring New Testament Greek
A Way In

Peter Kevern and Paula Gooder
ISBN 0334029422 (9780334029427)
SCM-Canterbury Press, 2004
£10.99

Category: Language & Reference

This interesting book, written by two lecturers at the Queen's Foundation, Birmingham (an ecumenical theological college), attempts to introduce Greek to Theology students at college/university level — so what makes it different from the many other similar books of this kind? In brief, four features mark it out.

First, it focuses on teaching students enough Greek to be able to use reference books and (especially) computer and internet resources to gain further understanding. It does not attempt the relatively comprehensive study of basic grammar and syntax covered by John Wenham's classic textbook (and its successor by Jeremy Duff, recently published). Thus there is no emphasis at all on memorisation of forms or vocabulary, and ideas are introduced (such as voice or tense) without full explanation. This has strengths for students who will not be able, because of the constraints of their overall course, to study Greek in depth, for it could provide them with enough knowledge and understanding to make use of the better commentaries which are based on the Greek of the NT.

Second, it is very accessible and user-friendly. The material is well organised and presented, with appropriate lengths for chapters, clear explanations of new ideas (usually with reference to English equivalents, for most British students need teaching English grammar in order to learn Greek these days!), good summaries at the ends of chapters, very clear and helpful reference to other study resources, and 'Notes' at the end of each chapter which provide answers for the exercises within the body of the chapter — an important feature in my view, for this allows students to check their learning as they go.

Third, it makes regular reference to examples from the NT itself with a word-for-word English translation underneath the Greek (in common with, for example Ian Macnair's excellent textbook), thus enabling students to engage with the target texts very quickly. This is vitally important in times when students need the motivation of seeing the benefits of their study to keep them going with Greek.

Fourth, further material for teachers and students is made available on a web site linked to the book — a valuable boon for teachers in particular.

So will I be using it with my beginning Greek students? No, for three main reasons. First, this book is clearly designed for a course setting where time for teaching Greek is under considerable pressure, as is the case in almost all British colleges and universities — and this has the detrimental effect that students usually learn just enough Greek to abuse it badly, not least in their preaching.

Second, the speed of coverage is rather too quick in places. For example, all the verb tenses are introduced in one chapter of 25 pages — yes, all six tenses! — with all the changes they make to beginnings, middles and ends of verbs. This is too much information at once and a recipe for confusion. This is, of course, a side-effect of the brevity of introductory Greek teaching in many colleges and universities.

Finally, while I like many of the features of the book and think they will be helpful to students, there are other books which combine being more comprehensive in their coverage of Greek grammar, vocabulary and syntax, notably Ian Macnair's excellent book (which is my textbook of choice for students at LST).
So this is a book for teachers to consult, to learn from (and steal!) many of the good ideas it offers — but not one to put into the hands of students, in my view, for fear of confusing. If we are going to teach Greek, let's do it properly!

(Ian MacNair's Teach Yourself New Testament Greek is available from Eden.co.uk or LST)

Exploring New Testament Greek

SCM-Canterbury Press | Order Exploring New Testament Greek from Eden.co.uk

Steve Walton, March 2005

Steve Walton is Senior Lecturer in Greek & New Testament Studies at London School of Theology

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