I’ve tried it a few times before and got nowhere but I’m going to give it another go. I’m going to teach myself New Testament Greek. I’m not going to set my sights too high though, I just want to learn a little. I am a bit rubbish at memorizing things, and doing grammar and spelling, and writing for that matter. These are all things that tend to come in handy when learning a language so you might ask, why put yourself through all that pain? (I am already having flashbacks to my experience of learning English spelling which was rather like pulling teeth). Well there are a number of reasons really:
1) I was doing some teaching recently and needed to talk about the words used in the Greek text. I wasn’t even sure of the pronunciation of them let along whether they where singular or plural.
2) I had just tried learning Greek via books before but I suddenly realized I had all the resources of the internet at my disposal including tutorials on YouTube.
3) A few friends I know have learnt or are learning NT Greek which is really inspiring.
4) I’m more excited about the word of God than ever before and the idea of studying it in its original language appeals.
5) I hope soon to have a bit more time to study than I have had before but even if I don’t I have the rest of my life to do it and I’m sure I can find the odd few minutes here and there in the next 40 or 50 years.
So I’m going to start another series. I have quite a few on the go at the moment (https://marcustutt.wordpress.com/cool-series/)
The first helpful YouTube video that I found was this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP_ouFyYPvY&NR=1). It’s a basic course that’s been videoed. I was greatly encouraged by something the teacher said in his introduction. Apparently “kai”, the Greek for “and” makes up 6.7% of the words in the NT. Wow. I can already translate and understand almost 7% of the NT! At this rate it will only take me a couple of weeks. Turns out it’s not quite that simple although another encouraging fact is that 319 different words make up 80% of text. When I looked into it though even that figure is rather deceptive. There is a little matter of grammar and endings but I think I will put such dark thoughts to one side for a moment and look at the alphabet.
The Greek alphabet with its 24 symbols is descended from the Phoenician alphabet which has 22 letters. It has existed since around the 9th century and gave rise to our modern Roman alphabet which is the most widely used in the world. In 700BC Homer wrote the Iliad in what’s a known as Classic Greek and in 360BC Plato used it to write “the Republic”. The three main dialects of Classical Greek are Doric, Aeolic and Ionix. Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle who spoke Attic Greek which is derived from the Ionic dialect. Alexander brought this version to the Mediterranean which gave rise to a common form of Greek called Koine Greek. This is what the NT writers used.
The original manuscripts were written in capital letters without spaces, punctuation, accents or other helpful marks. It was later transcribed into the newly invented lower case script which was easier to write and punctuation and spaces etc were added.
Anyway without further ado, here are the 24 letters of the NT Greek lower case alphabet. (I’m sure I was told I didn’t need to learn the capital ones but actually they are used for proper names and the start of paragraphs).
(I used the font Bwgrkn to write the Greek letters and have noted the keys used to produce them in the table.)
NOTE : I am trying to figure out how to get the Greek font into WordPress. Best I can do right now is a jpg screen shot. Poor I know!
I am familiar with some as I used them a lot in math’s at Uni. Some are also used in physics for particle names and the first and last have a star role in the bible with Jesus saying he is the “alpha and the omega” (Rev 21:6, 22:13).
The first five are the same as the first five letters of the alphabet except Gamma replaces “c” so that’s not too hard to remember. Then we get the rhyming Zeta, Eta, Theta (a girl called Zeta ate a theta). Then its “i” to “u” except with no “j” or “q” and a “Xi” after “n”. Then comes the home straight with the exotic Phi, Chi, Psi and we finally break the tape with Omega.
Here’s some standard-ish pronunciations I found.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0gUfuWoHJA (also has an interesting way of remembering the alphabet)
And here is a slightly more Greek sounding pronunciation:
Apparently Erasmus pronounced them in a particular way (as in my table) that though probably not that faithful to the original does have the advantage that they are pronounced as they are written and spelled as they are spoken. Modern Greek, like English, has different ways of sounding the same letter depending on the word. For example the “c” in “cat” and “circle” sound different. Also words that sound the same can mean different things ie “cubical” (like a cube) and “cubicle” (little booth). I want to keep life simple so I won’t try and do it the flash, Greek sounding way. That means if I can learn what a word sounds like I won’t have to learn it’s spelling. Little sayings like “one collar and two socks” will not be necessary! (a few days after writing this I discovered that that is not quite true – there is a vowel combination that sounds like a letter, Epsilon Iota = Eta)
My home work now is to learn to write and pronounce the alphabet by heart.