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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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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Try Your Hand at a Sample Word Study
Here is the raw material you can use to try your hand at a "do-it-yourself" Stage 1 word study, using the word homologeo, most often translated "confess." 

I have written out the text of all the verses in the New Testament where the word homologeo occurs.  Instead of providing a translation, I have left the Greek word in its original spelling (transliterated into English to make it easier).  Your task:  look at each verse and decide what idea is represented by homologeo.  Try to think of a word or phrase that would describe it in more detail, then see if the verse makes sense when you insert your wording in place of homologeo.

Matthew 7:23  And then I will homologeo to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness."
Matthew 10:32  Everyone therefore who shall homologeo me before men, I will also homologeo him before my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 14:7  So he homologeo'd with an oath to give her whatever she asked.
Luke 12:8  And I say to you, everyone who homologeo's  in me before men, the Son of man shall homologeo in him also before the angels of God.
John 1:20  And he homologeo'd, and did not deny, and he homologeo'd, "I am not the Christ."
John 9:22  His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should hom,ologeo him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
John 12:42  Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not homologeo'ing him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.
Acts 23:8  For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, not an angel, nor a spirit, but the Pharisees homologeo them all.
Acts 24:14  But this I homologeo to you, that according to the way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in acordance with the Law, and that is written in the prophets.
Romans 10:9  That if you homologeo with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.
Romans 10:10  For with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he homologeo's resulting in salvation.
1 Timothy 6:12  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of eternal life to which you were called, and you homologeo'd the good confession (homologian) in the presence of many witnesses.
Titus 1:16  They homologeo to know God, but by their deeds they deny him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
Hebrews 11:13  All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and have homologeo'd that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
Hebrews 13:5  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that homologeo his name.
1 John 1:9  For if we homologeo our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 4:2-3  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that homologeo's that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not homologeo Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
1 John 4:15  Whosoever homologeo's that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
2 John 7  For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not homologeo Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.  This is the deceiver and antichrist.
Revelation 3:5  He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will homologeo his name before my Father and before His angels.

Bonus study:  
        Determine the subject and the direct object of homologeo in each passage.  This will tell you who carries out this action, as well as who or what a person can homologeo.  To do this, you will sometimes have to look up the verse in its context, because the answer will be found earlier in the chapter.

Do as much as you can on this project within the next few days, then look for my next posting with a summary of what I found when I did this project.

5:14 pm est

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Word Study - Stage Two (Do-It-Yourself Version)

Let’s assume that you have selected a Greek word for study.  You have managed to compile a masterful catalog of all the possible shades of meaning for that word.  In fact, you are ready to add another entry to your latest scholarly project, My Dictionary of the New Testament!Smile

But you are not done!

The reason we analyze Greek and Hebrew words is to understand the Bible better.  Therefore, a word study is incomplete until you use it to shine a brighter light on some portion of the Bible! 

You may know fourteen ways in which the Greek logos can be used, but you are not done until you can determine which meaning is in play in John 1:14.

How can I determine which meaning is being used in a specific verse of Scripture?

One method is COMMENTARY.  The fastest way to get help is simply to consult a good commentary (or two or five!).  Cracking open a commentary is your way of asking a scholarly Christian to tell you how the word is used in your verse.  We discussed this “borrow from others” method in an earlier blog, and it’s a thoroughly legitimate way to complete your word study.

However, there is another way:  CONTEXT and COMMON SENSE.  This is the do-it-yourself version of a word study.  You set aside the commentary and look directly at the Bible for yourself.  If you choose this approach, the results probably won’t be as scholarly.  You might even come up with the wrong answer!  But whatever you learn will be yours!  And the process itself will weld the Scripture passage into your mind like nothing else.

At the core, the process is ridiculously simple.  Just look at the verse in its context, then ask yourself, “Which meaning makes the most sense here?”

Of course, you can do this well or poorly.  Some people will just glance at the verse and grab the first meaning that comes to mind.  Others will widen their focus, use enough peripheral vision to take in a verse or two before and after the passage, and think carefully about each of the possible meanings they discovered in Stage One of their word study.  They’ll try each option in the passage to see if it fits the flow of thought. 

The more you gain experience in Bible study, the more skillfully you will look at the context.  You will realize that context spreads in ever-widening circles. 

We should look at the immediate context:  the whole paragraph in which the verse appears.

We should look at the whole book as a larger context:  the place where this verse appears in the overall argument of the book.

We should look at the whole Bible as an even wider context:  every verse is part of the Bible, and we can expect to find other passages peppered throughout the Book that can influence our understanding of our target verse.

The longer you study the Bible, the more your common sense will be stocked with facts that will help you think accurately.  You will learn to notice the writer of each book, the intended audience, the time period and the intended purpose of the book.  You will become familiar with the history of Bible times and the fascinating customs of each culture.

Even though you are a beginner, there is no reason why you cannot try to figure out for yourself the meaning of a word that applies in the verse you are studying.  It’s a skill that improves with practice.

Hint:  There is a valid place for commentaries, even if you adopt a do-it-yourself approach.  Instead of consulting a commentary in place of studying the verse yourself, check the commentaries after you have done your own study.  These godly commentators will feed you facts that you didn’t know, and they will point out features in the context that you might have overlooked.  Read it all, then go back to your own study.  Rework where necessary, and rejoice in the satisfaction of knowing that you have established a close relationship with a fresh passage of God’s Word.

2:06 pm est

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Word Study - Stage One (Do-It-Yourself Version)

When you want a loaf of bread, the easiest way to get it is to stop at Safeway or Panera to pick one up.  But if you've ever walked in your front door and found the house full of the aroma of freshly baked bread, you can appreciate the virtues of doing it yourself!  My wife used to run a small baking business at home, even grinding her own wheat (not by hand - she had a Bosch mixer).  And we found that there's something special about whole wheat rolls that come from your own oven.

Similar dynamics are at work in the task of Bible study.  When you want to know the meaning of a New Testament word, it's easiest to check with the experts.  Look it up in Zodhiates study Bible or Vine's Expository Dictionary.  There's nothing wrong with relying on reference books, because those scholars have spent their lives studying the Bible and the Greek or Hebrew language.  We would be foolish to ignore the information they have gathered.

But at the same time, we cheat ourselves of half the fun of Bible study if we leave everything to the experts! 

You can study a Greek word on your own, discovering intriguing insights about its meaning that you might never find in the dictionaries.  How can you do it yourself?

1.    Get a list of all the verses where the word is used.
            You can find this information in a concordance like Strong's Exhaustive Concordance.
            You can use software packages like Logos or BibleWorks.
            And many Bible study Web sites have a concordance function.

       Center your list on the Greek word, not just the English term.

2.    Study each verse where the word is used.
            Here's a helpful procedure:  Type out the verse in English, but leave a blank where    the target word appears.  Suppose, for example that you want to study homologeo, the most common Greek word for "confess."  You would write 1 John 1:9 like this:  "If we _______ our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  If you prefer, you can insert the Greek word itself, rather than leaving a blank.
            Once you have created this new version of the verse, examine it in its context and ask yourself, "What idea goes in this blank?"  You already know, of course, that the general idea is "confess."  But what does it look like to confess something?  Can you express the idea in a phrase, rather than just a single word?
            You may not notice anything revealing as you analyze a single verse, but when you repeat the procedure on 15 or 20 verses, interesting patterns should start to emerge.
            Look at the words combined with your target word.  Notice the subject of a verb to find out who performs this act in Scriptures.  Notice the direct object of a verb to find out who or what receives the impact of the action.  In 1 John 1:9, a person confesses sin.  In other passages such as Romans 10:9, a person confesses Jesus.  

3.  Write down your observations on each verse.

4.  Organize and summarize your findings.

By doing this, you are actually writing a homemade entry in a Greek lexicon.  Oh, it's not as professional as the entries produced by lifelong scholars.  But it's yours!  And it will not only solidiy your insights into God's Word, it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you carved out that truth for yourself. . . a very good thing.

If you would like to try your hand at this kind of study, you can use this list of verses where the word homologeo appears:
    Matthew 7:23
    Matthew 10:32 (twice)

    Matthew 14:7

    Luke 12:8 (twice)

    John 1:20 (twice)

    John 9:22

    John 12:42

    Acts 23:8

    Acts 24:14

    Romans 10:9

    Romans 10:10

    1 Timothy 6:12

    Titus 1:16

    Hebrews 11:13

    Hebrews 13:15

    1 John 1:9

    1 John 4:2

    1 John 4:3

    1 John 4:15

    2 John 7


1:08 pm est

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Word Study - Stage Two: Borrowing From Others
Most words have multiple meanings, but once they appear in a context, you have to narrow down to the specific meaning that the writer had in  mind.  For example, shot could mean "a 16-lb iron ball used in a track and field event," or "the thing that happens when you pull the trigger on a rifle" or "a small quantity of whiskey."  All those meanings are possible.  But when you read, "The photographer took candid shots of the bridal party," none of those make sense any more.  A little common sense tells you that shot here refers to photographs.

Greek and Hebrew words work in the same way.  That's why a solid word study ideally has falls into two stages:  (1)  Find all the possible shades of meaning that a Greek word could have; and (2) Determine which meaning is operative in the Bible verse you are studying.

The fast track to good information in either stage is to borrow the work of others -- use good reference tools to glean the fruit of studies done by experts.  Today we focus on stage 2:  How can I borrow the work of others to figure out which word meaning applies to this verse? 

Where can you find this information?

1.    Commentaries
            Any commentary that seriously attempts to explain the text of Scripture will give you miniature word studies.  
            For example, when Jesus surveyed a crowd of 4000 at the end of a long day of teaching, he commented, "If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way" (Mark 8:3).  D. Edmond Hiebert explains the word faint: "Faint, "become weary, give out," is an expressive term.  It literally means to be completely unloosed, and suggests that the strength of the hungry people will relax, like an unstrung bowstring, and they will be unable to continue homeward" (Mark: A Portrait of the Servant, Moody 1974).  

2.    Lexicons and other word study tools
           Many of the more complete lexicons not only list the possible meanings of a word, they also give you the specific verses where each meaning appears.  
           For example, here is one lexicon's entry on faint, the word used in Mark 8:3:
               ekluo  (a)  become weary or slack, give out (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3; Galatians 6:9)
                        (b)  lose courage (Hebrews 12:3, 5).
                               Source:  F. Wilbur Gingrich, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament.
I have tweaked the format to make it easier to find the information.  Every word study tool arranges its material differently, but it's usually fairly simple to figure out whether a particular dictionary has the information you want.

Hints for using commentaries to find word meanings:

1.   Evaluate -  Not all commentaries are created equal.  Ask yourself whether this writer really knows his stuff, or whether he's just jotting down devotional thoughts.

2.   Compare -- The Bible is inspired, but commentaries are not.  Even the best writer can overlook something important, so try to check two or three commentaries to ensure that you find the information that helps you most fully.

3.   Think -- Stage 2 of a word study requires you to take all the raw information -- the long list of possible meanings -- and use your educated, sanctified common sense to discern the meaning that was intended in this particular verse.  You don't know enough to argue with the scholars who list all the possible meanings of a word, but you do have the privilege of disagreeing with a commentator who says, "It's meaning #3" when you can find good reasons for thinking Paul originally intended to use meaning #2. 

4.  Learn -- Be aware of the frequency and dates when a word was used.  If it carries a certain meaning 90% of the time, you'd better have solid reasons for choosing the minority usage.  And beware of lightly choosing a meaning that went out of use three centuries before the New Testament period.

We are blessed to live at a time when inexhaustible riches of godly scholarship are at our fingertips.  It doesn't relieve us of the responsibility for studying Scripture ourselves, but we can be grateful to God for the resources He has lavished on us.  It would be a shame to ignore all these treasures!
1:52 pm est

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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:

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