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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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Friday, September 11, 2009

Verbs: Time or Type?

In English, we are familiar with the idea that verbs come in three tenses that show the time when an action happens:

     Present tense - something happening now

     Past tense - something that happened earlier (like yesterday)

     Future tense - something that will happen later (like tomorrow)

In Greek, it's different and it may seem more complicated.  In plain statements of fact (known as indicative mood verbs), Greek verbs do tell you something about the time of an action.  But that's not the most important concern for a Greek.  Greeks were more concerned about the type of action, not the time. If you listen to scholars talking about this concept, you may hear the words "aspect" or "Aktionsart" (if you hang around German scholars!).  With minor distinctions, all these terms refer to the same set of ideas.  Let's explain it this way:

Greek verbs show three types of action:

1.      Continued action -- it describes something that is going on continually or repeatedly.

2.      Simple action -- it just tells you that something happened, without any extra information about how long it took or whether it has been completed.

3.      Completed action -- it describes an action that has been completed, adding the thought that there are results continuing afterwards.

Any of these three types of action can take place in the past, present or future.  For example, look at 1 Corinthians 3:6:  "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth."  

The first two verbs are aorist, which shows simple action.  Paul describes his ministry as a single event:  he planted.  He was in Corinth for well over a year, but he is not emphasizing the length of time in this verse; he simply wants his readers to know that he did plant.  He chooses the same type of verb to describe the ministry of Apollos.  We don't know how long Apollos served in Corinth, but we know the simple fact that he watered.

The third verb, however, is in the imperfect tense, which shows continued action:  God was causing the growth.  This emphasizes the fact that God was quietly in action over the entire period of time.  Paul came and went; Apollos came and went.  But behind the scenes, God continually caused the church to grow.

As you study all the various Greek verbs, don't forget this concept!  It doesn't play a large role in English, so it's easy to overlook.  But it is one of the most important features of the Greek language.

2:41 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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