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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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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Details on Genitive
Merry Christmas!  As a small gift to the Greek students in the crowd, I have just added an extra page with the most common uses of the genitive case.  It's another small step into more advanced grammar.  The other cases will follow shortly.
10:24 pm est

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Of Grammatical Analysis There is No End -- Genitive Case

Don and Neal were brothers and they were strong!  On our church softball team, one would pitch and the other would catch, because no one else could handle their fastballs.  And Neal competed in telephone-book-tearing competitions.  I watched him rip one in half, then take the half and rip it in two.  He could tear the ever-smaller fragments in half five or six times.  If you're not impressed, just try doing it yourself!  

In the world of Greek grammar, I have noticed that scholars can take a grammatical concept and analyze it down into smaller and smaller pieces -- ad infinitum, it would seem!

Take the genitive case, for instance.  Greek nouns have changeable endings which allow you to determine how the noun is being used in a sentence.  As I mentioned in the last posting, a noun acting as the subject of a sentence will have an ending that marks it as being in the nominative case. The genitive case is another one of those basic cases.

Beginning Greek students all learn that the genitive is the case that shows possession, and we normally translate it in English by adding the word "of" in front of it.  For instance, you might read about "the donkey of the farmer," or "the farmer's donkey."  Possession is the concept we usually learn first, because it's easy to understand.  If you want to show it even more clearly, you can insert the phrase, "which belongs to."

However, that explanation doesn't always work.  Not all genitives show possession.  Take, for example, a phrase in John 2:21:  Jesus, it says, "was speaking about the temple of his body."  The word "body" is in the genitive case, and we can follow the usual practice of adding "of" in front of it.  But it makes no sense to say "the temple which belongs to his body."  Jesus had just made the startling claim that the temple could be destroyed and he could raise it in three days.  His hearers scoffed at the ridiculous idea that anyone could reconstruct the Temple in only three days.  Verse 21 explains that Jesus was talking about His own body, not the Temple building.  You could paraphrase his idea by saying, "He was speaking of the temple which is His body."  Grammarians call this construction a "genitive of apposition." 

You see, the genitive case can be used in a number of ways, and Greek scholars have been happy to analyze the possibilities.

A.T. Robertson, a leading Greek expert in the early twentieth century, divided genitive uses into two categories, which he called genitive and ablative.

Another standard grammar book by Dana and Mantey lists 12 ways in which the genitive can be used.

Benjamin Chapman's Card-Guide to New Testament Exegesis offers 14 possible uses.

Intermediate Greek by Philip Young explains 22 different types of genitive.

I have a set of notes produced by Phillip Williams and John Best containing 27 separate categories of genitive case usages.

Beyond that, I have a list of 83 Greek verbs in 11 categories which are normally followed by the genitive case.

Is that complicated enough for you?

No matter how precisely you analyze a feature of Greek grammar, someone can come along and divide into even finer detail. 

Do I have to master all these variations?  Probably not.  I think it's important to know that the initial explanation you learned doesn't cover all the possibilities.  And  you should be willing to explore the options if that's what it takes to understand a New Testament passage.  But most of the time you can function just fine using a relatively small number of concepts.  You don't always have to tear the phone book in half!

Coming soon:  a reference list of the genitive usages that are likely to be useful in your study of the New Testament.

3:20 pm est

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Case of the Nominative Case

In English grammar, we seldom talk about the case of a word, but you can't avoid the subject in Greek.  Any time you try to translate a noun, adjective, pronoun or article, you have to ask, "What is the case of this word?"

You might say that Greek nouns come in four flavors, but grammarians prefer to use the word case, rather than flavor.  It sounds so much more scholarly!

The case of a noun determines how it is used in the sentence.  The subject of a sentence, for instance, is a noun in the nominative case.  The direct object, on the other hand, will be in the accusative case.

How can you identify the case of a noun?  Look at the ending.  A Greek noun normally has eight different endings, including singular and plural forms for each case.  Learning to recognize these endings is one of your main objectives when you take a course in beginning Greek.  

Here's a quick summary of the cases and their meanings:

1.    Nominative - the subject of the sentence - appears before the main verb  (George saw Timothy.).

2.    Genitive - possession - add the word "of" before the noun  (the word of God).

3.    Dative - indirect object - add "to, in, or with" before the noun  (I gave him the ball OR I gave the ball to him.).

4.    Accusative - direct object - appears after the main verb (George saw Timothy).

5.   Vocative (on a few nouns) - direct address (Sam! I'm glad to see you.).

This is the shorthand version of the Greek cases and their meanings.  But the Greek mind was subtle and sophisticated, and there were many shades of meaning that a Greek might want to communicate, not just four or five.  Inevitably, each case had to cover a number of more precise meanings.  There's more to the story than just the "one-liner" presented above.  In the next few postings, we are going to unwrap each case and explain some of those ideas.

Take the nominative case.  It is the simplest case, yet it was used for more than merely marking  the subject of a sentence. The student of the New Testament will find the following uses:

1.    Subject Nominative -- This is by far the most common use.  Nouns in the nominative case usually serve as the subject of a sentence.  

      "The light shines in darkness" (1 John 1:5).

2.    Predicate nominative -- Whenever a sentence uses a form of the verb "to be," (Greek eimi or ginomai) you will find that the nominative case is used both before and after the verb -- as the subject and as the predicate.  

     "God is love" (1 John 4:8).

3.    Nominative of Apposition -- A nominative noun may simply be sitting beside another nominative noun, serving as a further description for that noun.  The first noun might serve as the subject of the sentence, but the second noun is another name for the same person or thing.

    "Philip the evangelist" (Acts 21:8).

4.    Nominative for proper names -- Some proper names always occur in the nominative case, regardless of how they are used in the sentence.  This is particularly common when the name is borrowed from another language like Hebrew.

    "saying to Aaron" (Acts 7:40).

5.    Nominative for Direct Address -- Most nouns do not have a separate ending for a vocative case, which is used for direct address:  speaking to someone and calling them by name.  Nouns that do not have a vocative form use the nominative case for direct address.

    "Hail, king of the Jews!" (John 19:3).

6.    Nominative in Exclamations or Fragments -- The nominative is used for exclamations or other phrases that are not integrated with the regular structure of a sentence.

    "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!" (Romans 11:33).

Keep an eye on this page for the expanded explanation of the other Greek noun cases, coming up soon!

11:42 am 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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