Chapter OnePreface for Teachers
THE NEED FOR A NEW APPROACH
If you are looking for a tool to use in teaching upper-level Greek that combines the study of syntax
and diagramming with a comprehensive exegetical method, we invite you to consider Biblical Greek
Exegesis. Using traditional methodology, many teachers move chapter by chapter through an upper-level
grammar and have students do the exercises at the end of each chapter. The exercises normally
require students to identify the syntactical function of elements within single verses pulled from different
parts of the New Testament. Some teachers go a step further and supplement the grammar lesson
with translation and syntax assignments from a single book of the New Testament, such as 1 John
or Philippians. We are deeply grateful for such traditional approaches, and they certainly have much
to commend them, but we have encountered serious pedagogical problems that limit their effectiveness
with today's students. Before introducing our approach, we want to clarify what we mean when
we speak of the "pedagogical problems" associated with many traditional methods.
First, traditional approaches often fail to motivate students, who tend to be more interested in
understanding and applying the New Testament than in memorizing syntax categories. It usually takes
several months just to cover the descriptions of the syntax possibilities, and by the end of this process
students are overwhelmed with endless lists and their motivation is waning. They are disillusioned
that they have yet to engage meaningfully larger portions of the New Testament in Greek-the reason
they had taken the course in the first place.
Second, most traditional approaches are not "real world" in the sense of how students will engage
New Testament Greek once course work is finished. Very few people who use the Greek New Testament
in Christian ministry move from lists of syntax categories to the text. Rather, they begin with the
text and use grammars and other reference works as tools to elucidate the text.
Third, the traditional approach risks divorcing the study of syntax from the overall process of
understanding and applying the message of the New Testament. Students who labor through first-year
Greek are eager to see firsthand the relevance of Greek for teaching and preaching. When the
study of syntax is, for all practical purposes, isolated from the larger process of exegesis, students find
it difficult to make the connection, and their desire to continue the rigors of Greek language study
Finally, restricting students to a micro-level analysis-focusing on words, phrases, clauses, and
even sentences to the neglect of paragraphs and entire discourses-is perhaps the greatest single linguistic
weakness of most contemporary approaches to teaching intermediate and advanced Greek.
Even the few problems mentioned above are pedagogically paralyzing for many of today's students.
Most students are willing to invest the time necessary to learn the language if (and usually only
if) they can see how the study of biblical Greek connects to life and ministry. In the next section we will
survey a way of teaching intermediate and advanced Greek that builds on the strengths of traditional
approaches and has worked well with our students. They are learning to integrate the study of Greek
syntax into the larger enterprise of New Testament exegesis and they love it! At this point you might
enjoy taking a look at the Preface for Students (see pp. 14-19).
THE APPROACH USED IN BIBLICAL GREEK EXEGESIS
Our enthusiasm about teaching biblical Greek runs high because we have had success in the classroom.
We are quick to acknowledge, however, that our success is due largely to the strength of our
teaching method. Our students are willing and eager to pay the price in hours of study since they are
convinced that a knowledge of Greek will help them in real-world ministry. We believe it takes more
than an occasional pep talk about the relevance of Greek to convince students. As helpful as these
might be (and we deliver our share of them), students need more. They need to see how the parts (such
as identifying a certain kind of genitive) integrate into the larger task of moving from the ancient text
to the modern audience. Our approach is intended to integrate the study of Greek into an overall
exegetical method right from the beginning of intermediate Greek. We see our approach challenging
and energizing our students, and we believe it will be equally motivating to students at other schools.
The title, Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach to Learning Intermediate and Advanced Greek,
draws attention to the two main parts of the work:
Section One focuses primarily on learning intermediate (or second-year) Greek syntax along
with grammatical and semantic diagramming.
Section Two takes the student to the level of advanced (or third-year) Greek, incorporating their
knowledge of syntax and diagramming into a comprehensive method of exegesis and exposition.
Let's look first at how we approach intermediate Greek.
You could label our approach a graded, modified-inductive approach. Here's how it works. In the
first-year course we both use Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek. At the beginning of the second-year
course, following a few class periods of orientation, students begin working in Section One of Biblical
Greek Exegesis. Here we provide syntax and diagramming exercises for the following New Testament
texts: 1 John 1:1-2:2; 2:28-3:10; John 15:1-27; Mark 1:1-28; Mark 8:27-9:8; Colossians 1:1-23; Matthew
6:5-34; Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-11; 8:1-17; James 1:1-21; and Philippians 1:27-2:13. These are the first
nine passages in another book by Bill Mounce, A Graded Reader of Biblical Greek.
We have divided these larger blocks of text into smaller units that can be covered in a week's time
(usually about four to seven verses). We give students the assignment of translating the text, identifying
the syntax of key terms, and diagramming a portion of the text. (A typical syntax assignment
will include a mix of noun and verb forms.) We tell the students, "In addition to translating the passage
and diagramming a portion of it, you are responsible for identifying the syntax of these terms
(usually about eight to ten). After parsing each term, go to the summary sheet of syntax categories,
see the possibilities, then come back and tell the class how you think each term functions syntactically
in its context." The strategy here is to get students to work inductively from the New Testament back
to a consideration of syntax categories, the way they will approach the text in the real world.
During the class period for which the assignment is performed, the students share their answers
to the exercises. Our task as teachers is to clarify the syntax categories in question and guide the students
through the interpretive process. Over the course of their second year of study, students also
build their own summary of syntax categories, all the while focusing on the text of the New Testament.
Periodically we review the syntax categories learned thus far and fill in the gaps by introducing the few
categories not covered in the assigned passages. For this reason we describe the approach as amodified-inductive method.
Throughout the year the assignments get progressively longer and more difficult. Thus the
approach is graded. In addition to translation and syntax, weekly assignments include diagramming
and vocabulary exercises. Initially the students only do grammatical diagramming, but as time goes
by they are taught to do semantic diagramming. Together, grammatical and semantic diagramming
offer students a valuable tool for understanding the structure and meaning of paragraphs and entire
discourses. Do not be overwhelmed by our diagramming methods. They may look complex at first
glance, but consider this: Our sophomore-level college students consistently catch on to grammatical
diagramming after just three to four weeks of practice. The move to semantic diagramming comes
after students are accomplished at grammatical diagramming. Our students have found diagramming
to be among the most productive aspects of the entire exegetical process.
In a typical week in second-year Greek, we give assignments ahead of time and students come to
class ready to discuss their conclusions. For a three-hour course that meets three times a week, we use
Monday and Wednesday to parse and translate the assigned text and to identify the syntax of the
assigned terms. On Friday we have our weekly vocabulary quiz, discuss the students' diagrams of the
passage, and wrap up our discussion of that particular text.
At the advanced level (typically the third year), students are introduced to a twelve-step method
of exegesis and exposition that takes them from the biblical text to personal application, then on to a
teaching or preaching outline. You may want to introduce students to the exegetical method sometime
during their second year.
6-Semantic Diagram and Provisional Outline
7-Word and Concept Analysis
8-Broader Biblical and Theological Contexts
9-Commentaries and Special Studies
10-Polished Translation and Extended Paraphrase
Students take approximately fifteen verses through the entire method every two weeks. You could
continue with the remaining passages in Mounce's Graded Reader or work in another part of the New
Testament. It's entirely up to you. A typical two-week period in advanced Greek might follow this
Week 1: Week 2:
Monday -Steps 1-4 Monday -Step 6
Wednesday -Steps 1-4 Wednesday -Steps 7-10
Friday -Step 5 Friday -Steps 11-12
SOME ADVANTAGES OF THIS APPROACH
We see at least five pedagogical advantages to the approach developed in Biblical Greek Exegesis.
(1) Students move from the New Testament to the Greek grammars, a direction that keeps interest high
and offers a contextual check on the learning process. (2) The graded approach introduces students to the
easier passages first. This builds their confidence and equips them to do the more difficult passages that
follow. (3) Students learn to do grammatical and semantic diagramming in order to understand the larger
units. Recent advances in applying linguistic theory to the study of the New Testament have shown that
meaning is governed more by the larger units or discourses than by isolated words or phrases. Our
approach gives students tools for working effectively in analyzing larger units of material. (4) The
approach is holistic in that it integrates the study of Greek with the larger process of understanding and
applying the message of the New Testament. (5) Students learn how to use the various exegetical tools
by watching their teachers move (and sometimes struggle) through the process themselves.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK IN TEACHING
In Intermediate and Advanced Greek Courses
Biblical Greek Exegesis may be used in upper-level Greek courses in a variety of ways. Our plan looks
something like this. As we mentioned earlier, our first-year students use Mounce's Basics of Biblical
Greek (textbook and workbook). We require that our second-year students use Biblical Greek Exegesis in
combination with Mounce's Graded Reader and a vocabulary guide. Again, since the exercises in Section One
of Biblical Greek Exegesis are based on the passages in the first half of Mounce's Graded Reader,
teachers have syntax and diagramming exercises for nine major sections of the New Testament, plenty for most
intermediate Greek courses. About midway through the second year we recommend that students who
have not already done so purchase a standard lexicon and reference grammar. Our third-year students
advance to Section Two of our workbook, where they begin to take different texts through the entire
exegetical process. You can also introduce students to the exegetical method in Section Two during their
second year of study. In addition to the above resources we encourage our students to work through a
primer on textual criticism.
Our hope is that Biblical Greek Exegesis will prove to be a useful tool for helping students make the
difficult transition from the end of first-year Greek to more advanced studies. To make this happen
we see great value in working with larger blocks of text, but we also believe we should introduce students
to a variety of writing styles and literary types. Biblical Greek Exegesis does both. Intermediate
Greek students learn to work with paragraphs, but they also experience a variety of texts over the
course of the year. Furthermore, the texts are graded so that students progress in their study from the
easier to the more difficult material. Advanced Greek students are not just repeating what they learned
in their second year, they are moving on to integrate the study of syntax into the larger enterprise of
New Testament exegesis. This helps them make strong connections between the study of Greek and
their life and ministry.
In Upper-Level New Testament Exegesis Courses
Along with using Biblical Greek Exegesis for intermediate or advanced Greek, there is a completely
different scenario where our workbook might prove useful. When teaching an upper-level exegesis
course on a book of the New Testament, teachers often call for a supplementary text to guide the student
through the exegetical process. Section Two of our workbook presents a comprehensive exegetical
method that can be applied to any book of New Testament. Students are given clear, step-by-step
instructions along with examples from the New Testament and a select bibliography of resources.
Preface for Students
WELCOME TO BIBLICAL GREEK EXEGESIS
Congratulations on completing your first year of Greek study! You have made it through what
many consider to be the most difficult and least gratifying year. No one said that memorizing paradigms
and parsing participles would be loads of fun. And now you know why. It's not! As teachers
we realize how much time you have invested and how hard you have worked to finish the first year.