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The Ezra Project 
For the Serious Starter in New Testament Greek

Welcome to the Ezra Project!  Whether you're gearing up to take a seminary Greek course or looking for ways to go deeper in your personal Bible study, this site is your personal resource.  Our goal is simple:  to help you take your first steps in New Testament Greek - and do it right!
    I have been introducing students to New Testament Greek since 1972, and it's my delight to take the mystery out of the language for men and women who want to become serious students of Scripture.
                             -- Dr. John Bechtle 

The Ezra Project:  First Stop for Greek Beginners.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Does the 80/20 Principle Apply to Greek?

Studying Greek has a fearsome reputation.  Henry Wake, a seminary classmate of mine, became a military chaplain.  He once reminisced, "I can vividly remember flying in a helicopter in Vietnam, and we drew fire.  You could see the tracers coming up towards us.  And the one thought which kept running through my mind was, 'It's not as bad as taking a Greek exam.'"

What makes Greek more frightening than a fire fight?  For most students, it's the sheer size of the task.  In a typical Greek course, you have to memorize hundreds of vocabulary words, master endless charts of verb and noun forms, and decode long paragraphs of obscure symbols.  The mound of minutia looms ever higher.  And even when you've completed the course, you only know enough Greek to be dangerous! 

I believe you can take much of the terror out of Greek by applying the 80/20 Principle:  80% of the results are produced by 20% of the effort.  When you have limited time and energy, use it for the tasks that accomplish the biggest results.

How does this apply to Greek?

1.  You can't learn it all. 

Greek goes on forever!  There's always another shade of meaning in a word or a fresh nuance of grammar to discover.  The scholar who devotes his entire life to mastering the subtleties of the language never runs out of discoveries . . . and neither will you.

2.  You can learn something, and you can learn it correctly.

Choose limited objectives at first.  Decide what skills you want to develop, and learn how to wield them properly.  You might simply want to know how to explore the meaning of a Greek word, or understand what teachers mean when they use grammatical terms like aorist or pluperfect.  If you are more ambitious, you may want to develop the ability to translate passages of Scripture on your own.

3.  You can learn a lot if you start with the right things.

Begin with objectives that you can leverage for maximum impact. 
    Do you want to master all the noun endings in Greek?  Start by memorizing the forms of the
        word the -- one chart instead of a dozen.
    Do you want to understand verb tenses?  Begin by learning the most common uses of each
        tense, then move to the more exotic varieties.
Don't allow yourself to bog down on things like the Greek accent marks.  The accent marks are sometimes useful, but only crucial in a few situations.  Save that study for later.

The Ezra Project site is not intended to tell you 100% of the information you could learn about Greek.  It specializes in the 20 or 30% that will move you most directly to a place where you can do something significant in the original language of the New Testament.  You won't know everything, but you'll know that you don't know everything -- and that's a good thing!

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Multilevel Greek - How deep do you want to go?

When people say they want to study New Testament Greek, they don't all have the same picture in mind.  You can investigate Greek at several levels.  Some are relatively simple; others require a larger investment of time and effort.  Here are the most common choices:

Level 1 – Exploring Word Meanings

           Goal:  To understand the meaning of a Greek word.

Guidelines for Word Study" - Basic steps in Greek word study

              "Word Study Resources" - Links to online word study tools [in development]

Level 2 – Understanding Grammar Concepts

          Goal:  To learn how Greek grammar works, so you know what aorist or subjunctive really means.

Grammar Basics" – an overview of Greek grammar

   "Glossary of Grammar Terms" [in development]

Level 3 – Translating the Greek Text 

         Goal:  To sit down with a Greek New Testament and lexicon and translate a New Testament verse for yourself

Greek Behind the Prof’s Back – a self-instructional workbook

Level 4+ - Mastery and Beyond                   
You can continue to grow in your grasp of Greek for the rest of your life, going deeper and deeper into the Word of God.  Once you have mastered the basic content of the language, you can delve into the endless list of books and electronic resources available to you.  The Ezra Project provides you with a launching pad for a lifetime of study.


When you decide to dig a little deeper into the meaning of a Bible word, you should know that there are:

        Two facts about words

        Two stages to word study

        Two methods for doing each stage

Two facts about words

First, words have more than one meaning.  Take a simple English word such as run.  It can be a verb that means "to get from one place to another by moving your legs quickly."  Or it can mean "to keep the engine of your car operating" (even if it's just idling in the driveway).  When your watch runs, the hands go around.  When the lawnmower runs, it cuts grass.  When a stream runs, water flows over rocks.  When your nose runs, you grab a tissue.  Run can also be a noun, whether it refers to a point scored in a baseball game or a torn place in a stocking. 


Please get in touch to offer comments and ask questions about New Testament Greek!  You can e-mail us at:

Ezra Project * 9825 River Oak Lane N * Fishers * IN * 46038