I recently embarked on a quest to learn the Greek language. Or, as ESV translator Dr. William Mounce1 puts it in his lesson series “Greek tools for Bible Study“, I want to learn Greek in order to understand Scripture better. In other words, I set out to learn a “little Greek“.
Outside of a desire to know what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote, I didn’t think there would be much use for knowing a language that is no longer in use2 but as I have studied, I have found that there are quite a number of English words that come from Greek.
Learning Greek will help you understand (or at least remember) many theological terms like hamartia (gk: αμαρτια) which, when combined with the Greek word λογια, or “discourse”, turns into hamartiology or the study of sin. There’s also ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, etc. All of these theological terms have a root in a Greek word. Learning the Greek word will help you remember which area each area of study covers.
Learning Greek will also build your English vocabulary by helping you understand the etymologies of common (and not so common) words. The advantage of knowing the root Greek words behind English terms such as ‘adaiphoria‘ (gk: ἀδιάφορος) is that you also learn other words that are derived from the same Greek root word and, as a result, you learn new English terms at the same time you are learning new Greek terms.
Of course, as Dr. Mounce stated in one of his lectures, the single greatest reason for learning Greek is to put into practice what we say about the Bible being God’s inspired and inerrant Word. I was very convicted when I heard him ask the rhetorical question: “If it’s as important as we say it is, why don’t we take the time to learn the language it was originally written in so we can understand it better?” Ultimately this is the reason to continue slogging through first and second order declensions, case endings, etc. Consequently, this is also what Dr. Mounce writes in the beginning of his book, Basics of Biblical Greek to help motivate us to stick with it.
The best memory aids in learning the Greek alphabet I’ve seen so far is a combination of this popular song3 and this mnemonic (gk: μνημονικός) device taught to grade school children by a rather inventive teacher through a clever story. While they won’t help you memorize the symbols or the phonetics, they do help you remember the basic alphabet.
If anyone reading this knows of any other helpful resources, pneumatic devices, songs, etc. that you’ve found useful while learning Greek let me know!