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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, February 19, 2010

A Closer Look at the Present Tense I

In English, we use the present tense to show that something is happening right now -- in the present.  That's simple and obvious.  When you say, "It is raining," I know I'll need an umbrella if I'm on my way out the door.

In Greek, the present tense is more versatile . . . and more complicated.  Sometimes the present tense does tell us something about the time when something happens.   But sometimes it doesn't. 

However, present tense always tells something about the type of action.  In Greek, the present tense is normally used to show continued action.  It goes beyond a bare statement that the act happened, and lets me know that the act keeps on happening.  (See "Tenses: Time or Type?" for a fuller explanation.)

What do we mean by "continued action"?  

Continued action can come in three variations:

1.    Progressive -- the standard use of the present, it describes an action that is in the process of happening.  The act has begun but it is not yet finished; we are watching it in the middle of the action.  Example:  "The sun is rising."  During the few moments when the fiery disk is sliding above the horizon, we watch it make the transition.

        Matthew 25:8 -- "Our lamps are going out."  One by one, the lamps are in the process of running out of oil, then flickering weakly, and then dying out with a thin column of smoke.  We are watching the process happen.

2.    Iterative or Repeated -- the present tense may describe an event that happens repeatedly, at regular intervals.  Example:  "The sun rises every morning."  Used in this way, the tense does not imply that sunrise happens all through the day.  It simply means that it occurs every morning.

        1 Corinthians 15:31 -- "I die daily."  Paul is not describing a long, agonizing death scene.  He is reporting the fact that he has to die to his sin every day; it is a fresh decision every time.

3.    Customary -- The verb here refers to something that occurs habitually.  It does not recur according to a schedule, but you may expect it to occur from time to time.  Example:  "The sun melts snow."

        Hebrews 3:14 -- "For every house is built by someone."  This verse does not envision a daily routine of housebuilding or a long process of construction.  It simply states the fact that houses are built all the time, and someone is responsible for each.

These are the most obvious ideas conveyed by the present tense.  But in certain situations, you may find some unexpected variations on the tense.  Next time, we will look at a few of these.


1:51 pm est

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two Useful Web Sites

No one has a corner on the market of user-friendly tools for mastering the Greek language, including me!  From time to time, I will mention helpful Web pages that I have encountered, and that's the agenda today.


Memorizing vocabulary is always a heavy burden unless you are blessed with a photographic memory. Most of us have to invest a lot of time and sweat to reprogram our brains with the meanings of foreign words.  And we all have our personal study practices.  Some write out a word over and over.  Others pace the floor, shouting or whispering it.  Some have a ring of flash cards perpetually in hand.

One practice often recommended by memory coaches is the use of cartoons as a study aid.  We tend to remember the extreme and the ridiculous much more quickly than the routine, so a cartoon that makes outlandish connections is just likely to stick!

VisualGreek.com has a variety of features, but you will want to start by looking at their cartoons for the 320 words that occur 50 times or more in the Greek New Testament.  The approach might not spark an interest for everyone, but it might be just what you need to surge forward in learning the Greek vocabulary.

The site also contains a link to a more comprehensive Greek study site . . .

Greattreasures.org (formerly GreekBiblestudy.org)

To access this site, you will need to provide a user name and password.  But once you've set up your account, you can find a remarkably simple set of tools for studying the Greek New Testament. 

Click on Passage Study and insert a reference, and you will see the verse in Greek and four English translations.

Click on a Greek word, and you will see a short definition, a long definition, and a list of the passages where it occurs in the New Testament.

Click "Greek study," and you will see the parsing, or grammatical identification, of each word.

Other sites take you deeper, but this site covers the basics more painlessly than any I've found.  Give it a try and decide what you think!


11:19 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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