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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, March 21, 2011

The Middle Way

In English, our verbs are usually in the active voice or the passive voice.  You may not be totally comfortable analyzing the voice of verbs, but you can automatically think of the best way to express an idea.

    Active verbs -- the subject does the action:  John hit Mike.

    Passive verbs -- the subject receives the action:  Mike was hit by John.

In Greek, however, there is a third option:  the middle voice.  This is a "voice" which has no exact equivalent in English.  Greek uses the middle voice to show that the subject is participating in the action in some way.  There is a double emphasis on the subject, and this emphasis can show up in a variety of ways.  Typically, we translate a middle voice by adding the word "self." 

             Examples:    I saw myself

                                I myself saw

                                I saw for myself


Here are some of the shades of meaning that Greek grammar books discuss:

The translations are mine, phrased to bring out the probable thought of the middle.  You should note that there is a certain element of interpretation whenever you choose a particular type of middle and say that it is the meaning of a verse.  Grammarians agree that these categories are legitimate, but you should check the context to see which use fits best.

1.  Direct Middle -- the subject does something to himself.

        Matthew 27:5 -- "Going forth, he hanged himself."

2.  Indirect Middle -- This use emphasizes the subject doing the action; it is the most common use.

        Hebrews 9:12 -- "He himself secured eternal redemption."

3.  Permissive Middle -- Here the subject allows something to happen to him.

        1 Corinthians 6:7 -- "Why not rather let yourselves be wronged?"

4.  Reciprocal Middle -- A plural verb in the middle voice can show an interchange of effort between participants.

        John 9:22 -- "The Jews had agreed with one another."

5.  Causative Middle -- The subject arranges for or causes someone else to do something for him.

        Acts 22:16 -- "Get yourself baptized and get your sins washed away."

6.  Personal Middle -- The middle can emphasize a person's individual part in an action.

        2 Timothy 2:4 -- The middle verb strateuo means "to serve as a soldier."  The active voice would have meant "to conduct a campaign."


7.  Purpose Middle -- The middle can show that the subject performed an act for his own purposes.

        Romans 3:25 -- "Whom God set forth [for his own purposes] as a propitiation."

8.  Subjective Middle -- The middle can show that the subject is emotionally or subjectively involved in the action.

        Luke 15:14 -- "And he began to be in want [and to feel it]."  In contrast, the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:20 used the same word in the active voice, with no indication that he felt any lack.

All of these are simply illustration of the variety of meanings that are possible for the middle voice.  And there is much more that could be said.


3:44 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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