Top of the pops (Learning a little Greek part 10)


I’ve released my first big can of worms. Pandora’s box is opened, the cat is out of the bag, and the horse has bolted, I’ve fallen into the void of Greek grammar, satisfying my curiosity and lived to tell the tale. Now I can go back to taking little baby steps again. I’m going to learn just five little nouns. They will have extra bits and get munged by the grammar monster, I know that now, but what can you do? If I am to give up on learning Greek and my body is to be discovered in years to come in the foothills of this linguistic mountain, I want them to find a few nouns on my frozen body. “Look” they will say “he wasn’t a total looser after all”.

So what nouns shall I learn? I want ones that are frequently occurring and easy to remember. This site http://www.biblicalgreek.org/grammar/vocabulary.php is a sort of “Top of the Pops” countdown for the most frequent Greek words in the NT. Here are the “pic of the pos”.

At number one its the ground of all being, the basis of everything, the one, the only θεός  “God”. It occurs some  1317 times in the Greek NT.

In second place, (only in terms of word usage of course!), it’s the undisputed king of kings,  Ιησοῦς  “Jesus” with a word count of  917.  (again there are some extra bits, but for now lets go with Ιησοῦς

In third place in our pop pickers noun parade is κύριος  meaning “Lord” and occurring some  717 times.

In 4th place is ἄνθρωπος  (“anthropos”) or Man which has some extra bits too but basically a word count of 550.

Finally in fifth place is Χριςτός  “Christ” occurring 529 times.

All but “Lord” have some extra attachments after them which I will ignore for now.

Thing is, do I learn to write them or just recognize them? I only need to recognize them really. What I need is a program that shows me a word and gets me to say what it is, plus all the other things about it. I could add words to the data base as I learn them. It would present me the words that I know least well with the greatest frequency. I could even store any phonetic clues or notes about the word. If only I knew Access or Basic. I may try to write it in C++.  I hope it’s easy to display Greek in “printf” statements! (…had a go in Access but it was taking to long to learn and I don’t have the MFC classes for C++ so that will take to long too. Oh well – pen and paper it is for now.)

I needed to know how well I am doing word wise so I looked at how many Greek words there are in the NT. http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/NT-Statistics-Greek.htm. There are, give or take a few for the textual variations, about 138,020 Greek words in the NT. If I learn these then along with my 3 verbs I will have done about 4000 of them, that’s 3%. Trouble is I expect the verb count (and noun count) includes lots of endings that I have not done yet. λυω as in “I loose”, doesn’t even occur in the NT as far as I can see. Looking at a table of verb endings at the back of one of my books I recon I have done about 1/14th of each verb so I’m probably not even over the  1% mark yet. θεός does seem to crop up over 1000 times though in that form and I forgot to factor in κια which appears over 9000 times so maybe its more like 7% which all goes to show you can say anything with statistics, especially if you get them wrong.

I need more words quickly to increase my score but they need to be easy ones. Here is the “small easy word chart”. (“He, she it” seemed complicated as is “you” so I am ignoring them and any more tricky looking ones.)

Greek English Occuring
ὁ, ἡ,τό the 19867
καί and, even, also 9161
δέ but, and 2792
ἐν in, on, by 2752
εἰς for, into 1767
οὐ not 1606
ἐκ from, out of, by 914

Wow! Stop. Enough. This list is starting to look like hard work. I don’t think I’m going to be able to learn them. Yes they are small but how on earth will I remember which is which? καί I know already but I do not know how to differentiate between the “the” words so I’ll drop them. For δέ I will think of the phrase “You might but in if de is a problem” or “de’r to but in”. ἐν sounds bit like “in”. εἰς sounds like “ace” as in an ace batsman who hits a “four” (four runs are automatically scored in cricket when the ball reaches the boundary and I think someone shouts “four!” when it happens. In this case I can imagine the ball going into the air before rolling to the boundary). οὐ for “not soup again!” and finally ἐκ, as in (please forgive me for this one) “by ‘ek, let’s get the ‘ek out of here”.

I’ll just try that….(a minutes passes)… 80% in one go. That’s not bad. I will have to come back to this again a few times but that’s so much easier than I thought. Ok, one more go: ….A perfect score! That took 2 mins altogether. Amazing. I will try to fix it in my short term memory over the next few days. Of course techniques like this are only a temporary means of smuggling words into my brain. Once I start interacting with the language a lot more and seeing them in context, there should be a whole lot of machinery that takes over and owns and digests these words/thoughts at a deeper level. If not I will be reading the NT with imagines of Cricket and soup in my head all the time. Just one more time for fun:….I forgot ἐκ but I recognised it when I saw it.

But enough fun and games trying to get my statistical word count up. I need to make some serious progress next. Perhaps another verb to add to my massive lexicon of  3 “present, active indicatives” then I will work out what some of these scary grammar words actually mean.

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