Greek For Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek (Baker Academic 2017, $19.99) by Robert L. Plummer and Benjamin L. Merkle
In seminary culture, most students are intimidated at the task of mastering the biblical languages. It takes hours of memorizing vocabulary, paradigms, and the exceptions to the rules. However, for a Christian, the goal of learning Greek and Hebrew is to be able to read Scripture in its original language without needing to rely on outside commentaries or dictionaries. Greek For Life has this goal in mind and provides readers with practical tools to, as its title says, help someone “learn, retain, and revive” their New Testament Greek.
“The study of Greek is not an end in itself,” the authors write. “The goal of learning Greek is first and foremost born out of a desire to behold unhindered the grandest sight: God himself.”
From the first page the authors set up the goal of learning Greek as “to know the God who has revealed himself through his Word.” One could argue that is the same goal of their book: To point readers to have a greater passion and understanding of God. Secondary goals are to encourage readers to be faithful in their ministries and to recognize the privilege of learning Greek. Each chapter is filled with testimonials and quotes from students and historical figures in order to act as cheerleaders and encouragers for readers not sure if working on their Greek is worth it.
Studying Greek takes discipline and commitment. This book combines teaching experience and research about habits and tips for better studying methods. While it is practical in nature, it provides support through facts and experiences. Plummer and Merkle recommend a self-assessment for each reader — including tracking habits and internet use.
“Perhaps one of the benefits of assessing our time is to cause us to face up to what we really love,” the authors write. “We say we wish we had more time to read the Bible and pray, but it is what we actually do that shows what we want to do.”
In a culture of instant gratification and information overload, it is easy to blame our distraction on outside forces, but each reader makes a choice about how to use each minute of each day. With this in mind, readers are encouraged to take specific steps to battle distraction including “unfollowing persons or feeds” that do not discuss matters of eternal value and “install a software program or smartphone app” that allows you to control and monitor your internet use. Such apps include Moment, Freedom (for iPhone), and Checky, Quality Time, and Focus Lock (for Android).
In addition to fighting distractions, the book also provides tips for better review strategies. Among them includes the advice to use as many senses as possible while review. This includes our eyesight as we read, our hearing as we speak and listen to vocab words, our hands as we write, and even singing.
A major help for those retaining and reviving their Greek is to have a community to study with, challenge them, and to hold them accountable in setting attainable goals and working toward them.
“God created us to live in community. How foolish we are to attempt life or ministry alone, or to think that we can persevere in Greek by ourselves,” they write.
For readers seeking to “revive” their Greek, the authors point them back to understanding why they should work to recover their Greek. This vision casting points back to the main goal of learning Greek: to know God.
“Shame and regret do not provide lasting motivation, so take those emotions to the Lord in prayer,” they write. “Be infected with a burning passion to be as close as possible to the Spirit-inspired words of the apostles.”