The Bible Truths Online Greek Course
Lesson One - Introduction to Biblical Greek
(Study text then scroll down to questions)
The object of Lesson One is to introduce you as simply and succinctly as possible to the original language of the New Testament from primarily a historical and developmental standpoint. The Greek is an ancient language, which began about 1500 B. C. Greek is also considered the most literary of all the ancient languages. "Foremost philologists have agreed in pronouncing Greek the most expressive and beautiful of all earthly languages," wrote B. W. Blackwelder in his acclaimed Light from the Greek New Testament, pg. 15. A. T. Robertson wrote, "The most perfect vehicle of human speech thus far devised by man is the Greek. English comes next, but Greek language is a language of precision and a knowledge of the original language of the New Testament is decidedly helpful and informative." Take a case in point: Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church " (Matt. 16: 18). Some maintain that Jesus is promising to build his church on Peter; hence, the papacy. A knowledge of Greek, however, shows such is not the case. "Peter" is from the masculine Greek noun PetroV, transliterated and pronounced Pétros in English (you will learn how to do this). "Rock" is the Greek petra, transliterated and pronounced pétra. Pétra is a noun of the feminine gender. Furthermore, the noun translated Peter (PetroV) "a detached stone" and "Rock" (petra) means "a mass of rock, as distinct from petros " (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine). Jesus did not say to Peter, "epi (on) sou (thee) PetroV (Peter)". Hence, from the Greek text you see two different nouns, two different meanings, and two different genders. It would have been grammatically improper to have referred to Peter by using the feminine noun petra. All of this will become more understood as you advance in this course, be patient.
The Greek language, generally viewed, has about five recognized periods. Failure to realize these periods can result in some serious problems. These periods are: (1) The Formative Period, from the origin of the race to about 900 B. C.; (2) the Classical Period, ca. 900 B. C. to ca. (about) 300 B. C.; (3) the Koiné Period, ca. 300 B. C. to about 300 A. D; (4) the Byzantine Period, ca. 300 A. D. to ca. 1453 A. D.; and (5) the Modern Period, ca. 1453 A. D. to the present. We shall primarily concern ourselves with the third period, Koiné Period, since the New Testament was written in the Koiné Greek.
The term Koiné is transliterated from the Greek koinh and means common. It was "common" in that it pertained to the public at large, the language commonly spoken everywhere. Some mistakenly believe the language of the New Testament was the language of the uneducated and ignorant. "The New Testament is written in the vernacular Koiné, which was the language of the common people as well as of the cultured in the first century A. D.," wrote Professor A. T. Robertson (The Minister and His Greek New Testament, pg. 16). Robertson in his introduction to one recognized Greek grammar (Beginner's Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by W. H. Davis, pg. 9) wrote thus: "The Koiné means the language common to people everywhere, not merely the language of the common people .The New Testament is mainly in the vernacular Koiné, but it is the vernacular of men of great ability and some of them have a decided literary flavor, as we see in the writings of Luke, the Epistles of Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews."
To offer further proof of the type language used by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2: 13), I again quote the esteemed A. T. Robertson as he wrote regarding the great papyri contributions to understanding the Greek of the New Testament: "Although the New Testament writers were not Atticists, neither were they mere purveyors of slang .The New Testament used the language of the people, but with a dignity, restraint and pathos far beyond the trivial nonentities in much of the papyri remains" (A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pg. 83, 84, 88). I am belaboring this point in view of the number who have misrepresented the Greek of the Holy Spirit as being vulgar and illiterate. Such a charge is false and highly bias.
The Koiné Greek or Cosmopolitan Greek evolved from the Ionic. The Attic (the dialect chiefly spoken in Athens), the dialect of literature (Plato used), served as the foundation for the Koiné, according to Professor J. Gresham Machen (New Testament Greek for Beginners, pg. 1-5). The Modern Greek (spoken even today in Athens) is now believed to have developed from Koiné instead of Classical or Attic Greek. However, Koiné is different from the Classical and the Modern Greek (for more, see A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey, pg. 5-10). The alphabet (introduced in Lesson Three) for the Koiné is believed by many Greek scholars to have originally been derived from the Phoenecian, with a number of modifications (Ibid.).
I believe you will find the study of New Testament Greek rewarding and enhancing (to the extent you apply yourself). As we notice different words the Holy Spirit used and especially verb tenses (introduced later), I believe you will have profoundly more appreciation and knowledge of the New Testament in general and a greater ability to go deeper into a serious study of God's word.
We will have impressed upon you the fact that the Koiné of the New Testament is not some "unintelligible Holy Ghost garble." You will learn grammar that will impress you with the precision of the language and the often truths taught in the syntax of the language of choice of the Holy Spirit. No doubt, you will agree that the Koiné offered to the Holy Spirit a perfect language to express and preserve the final revelation from God to man (Jude 3; Heb. 1: 1, 2)."Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3, the Greek word rendered "once" is apax. It is transliterated (English equivalent letters) hapax, explained later. Vine says the following of hapax: "(b) once for all, of what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition, Heb. 6: 4; 9: 28; 10: 2; I Pet. 3: 18; Jude 3, R.V., 'once for all ,'" Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
From hapax we learn that Jesus' sacrifice was so sufficient only one offering was required (Heb. 9: 28). Also hapax is strong evidence that one can be saved and fall away (Heb. 6: 4, 5-9). Not only were those mentioned in the text of Hebrews 6 saved (some argue they were not really saved), but they were so "enlightened" to not require additional enlightenment. One small Greek word proves all of this, the word hapax, "once for all." (Just a small example of how powerful the language of the New Testament is and how effectively the Holy Spirit used it to graphically teach and emphasize truths).In conclusion, in view of the beauty, precision, and advanced nature of the Koiné Greek, we understand why the Holy Spirit selected this language to communicate to man the eternal truths found in the Bible. The Koiné is basically a restored grammar, but one that lends itself to intelligent and systematic study. The more one knows about the grammar of the New Testament, the more established one should be in the faith.
Questions for Lesson One
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