The Ezra Project
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.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Word Study - Stage One: Borrowing from Others
1:50 pm est
Every Greek word has multiple meanings.
But every Greek word has one meaning in a particular context.
why a Greek word study involves two steps: (1) Discovering all the possible shades of meaning; and (2) Discerning
the meaning used in a specific verse.
Today, let's focus on the first stage: surveying the whole
range of meaning for a particular word. You could slog through the process yourself, scrutinizing every place where
a word is used. But most of us seldom have time for such a thorough study. And you may not feel confident about
No problem! You can borrow someone else's word study. Find a Greek lexicon (dictionary)
or some other word study book and look at the results of their research.
Sources in Print:
some of the standard reference books that provide information about Greek words, starting with the simplest and
moving to the more advanced.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of
the New Testament
Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon
of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged in One Volume)
New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (3 volumes)
A typical entry in Vine's
might be two or three inches long. The same word in Brown's work might receive five pages of attention!
There are also a number of electronic sources for information on words, and that will be a survey for another day.
1. Remember that your goal in this stage is the longest possible list of meanings.
attention to the difference between common meanings and rare meanings.
3. Notice that many words have a literal
meaning, which then serves as the springboard for a figurative meaning.
Once you have completed this step, you're
ready to turn the microscope toward a specific verse.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Greek Urban Myths: Aorist = Once for All, Never to be Repeated
4:07 pm est
It's not uncommon for Bible teachers to arrive at a passage like Romans 5:6 and announce, "When this verse says
that Christ died, it uses the aorist tense. The use of the aorist shows that Christ died once for all, and his death
never has to be repeated!"
A similar argument sometimes shows up in discussions about sanctification.
For example, one Web site uses this grammatical principle as the foundation for a full-blown doctrinal treatise, arguing for
a one-time "second work of grace" that moves a believer to a whole new level of spiritual life (lcoggt.org/Bible%20Proofs/bp22.htm).
Unfortunately, these statements leap beyond the realities of Greek grammar.
It is true that the aorist
tense would be a natural choice for a New Testament writer who did want to describe an action that would settle some issue
once and for all. After all, many Greek grammar books use the word punctiliar to describe the aorist tense.
Such a description easiliy leads you to visualize an action that happens at a point in time, a one-shot incident.
But that's not the whole story.
1. The aorist tense is not always used that way. Examples:
Matthew 15:32 -- At the feeding of the 5000, they all "ate and
were filled" (aorist).
If this is never to be repeated, the crowd is enjoying their last meal!
Romans 3:23 -- "All have sinned" (aorist).
Is this verse really talking about sin that is never to be repeated?
2. The aorist tense is better described
as simple action. It tells you that an action has (or has not) happened, without any extra details about how
long it took or whether it is still in process.
3. The aorist tense does describe action that happens
once for all, never to be repeated when there are clues in the context to support that idea.
In Romans 6:10, for instance, we read that "He died to sin, once for all." The verb died is in the
aorist tense, but that alone does not prove the point. In this verse, however, Paul adds the word ephepax,
which means "once for all." There are other good clues in the context of Romans 5 and other passages to show
that Christ's death really was a one-time-only act that paid for our sins so completely that He will never need to die
But we cannot prove it on the basis of the aorist tense.
We can demonstrate it because of the aorist tense plus the clues in the
You can find fuller discussions of this point in:
A. Carson. Exegetical Fallacies. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, pp. 68-73.
Daniel Wallace. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing
House, 1996, pp. 554/557.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Where Do I Start?
2:48 pm est
Let's assume that you buy into the idea that the 80/20 principle applies to Greek: you don't have to master
every detail of the language before you start functioning. Pour your energy into a slice of the most crucial pieces
of Greek, and you will soon find that those funny squiggles are beginning to form themselves into words.
is, "How do I know which parts of Greek are part of that crucial slice?"
The short answer: You
don't! That's why the Ezra Project site exists. I plan to gradually gather all the information you will
need for a fast launch toward competency in New Testament Greek.
Here are the kinds of items you should learn first:
1. The most common things -- items that appear hundreds of times, not just 11 or 12 times.
-- the present tense, not the pluperfect
the indicative mood, not the optative
"the" in Greek (19,734 times), not milion, a Roman "mile," used only in Matt. 5:41
The things we know for sure
You can know some
things with complete certainty because of the way that a word is spelled. For instance, whenever the letter epsilon
is added to the beginning of a verb, and the letter sigma is added between the base and the ending, you can know
without dispute that the verb is in the aorist tense.
A commentary might give a more detailed description like constative aorist or ingressive aorist. That extra tag might
very well be true, but you can't determine it by looking at the spelling; it's a matter of interpretation based on
context and common sense. There's room for disagreement.
So start with the things you know for sure!
3. The rules, not the exceptions
The rules of Greek are relatively simple. But Greek was spoken by real people who often had to communicate complex
ideas that didn't fit neatly into the "rules." For that reason, any time you read about a rule of
grammer, you can assume that there is more to the story. You can find all the intricacies in the standard grammar texts,
but it will take forever to master all of those variations.
Start with the rules, then get acquainted with the exceptions.
you have learned the first 20% of the Greek language, you will be amazed at how much you know! But don't forget
that there is another 80% that you don't know yet. Even if you earn a Ph.D. in New Testament Greek, you'll just
be scratching the surface.
Therefore, be humble. Acknowledge your limitations and be willing to learn
from those who have gone before you. What you'll learn will be clear, but that clarity comes with the risk
of oversimplification. Remember that what you read here will be accurate (at least that's what we're aiming
for) but it won't necessarily be complete.
You will have the rest of your life to fill in the details
. . . and all of eternity to fill in the gaps!
WHAT'S ON THIS SITE?
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
To understand the meaning of a Greek word.
for Word Study" - Basic steps in Greek word study
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
"Grammar Basics" – an overview of Greek grammar
of Grammar Terms" [in development]
3 – Translating the Greek Text
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.
WORD STUDY BASICS (Level 1)
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
Ezra Project * 9825 River Oak Lane N * Fishers * IN * 46038