First Steps into Classical Greek

Five weeks left of classes, and we are just a few pages from the end of Crito. Spending the whole school year walking with the 10th–12th graders through Crito has provided me the first chance I’ve ever had to work slowly through an entire Classical Greek text. Each week I worked through a paragraph or two at least twice before class, I read it with the students in class, and then before moving to the next passage the following week, I would read back through it again. I learned so much this year.

The biggest gain was growing comfortable with the sentence structure and syntax. I think Crito would be considered a “1 John” for Classical Greek, but it is far more challenging for someone born and bred on Koine than anything in the NT. 2 Maccabees or Diognetus might be comparable, but dialogue is a completely different animal. Anyway, here are the resources I used:

  • Lysias I and Plato’s Crito, Geoffrey Steadman (PDF / Amazon)
  • Plato: Euthryphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Loeb 36, Chris Emlyn-Jones & William Preddy (Amazon)
  • Plato: Crito, Introduction, and Commentary, Bristol Commentary, Chris Emlyn-Jones (Amazon)

The new Emlyn-Jones Loeb made getting the ball rolling much easier. Using this diglot as a teacher helped me get comfortable with the style much more quickly. Just to mention a few of the issues: all the little emphatic particles, lots of impersonal verbs, extensive use of verbal adjectives, the “οἷος τε + εἰμί” constructions, and the long, rambling questions.

One other note on getting used to the higher register of Classical Greek: For about a year and a half now I’ve been helping a student work through Keller and Russell’s Learn to Read Greek. We are a couple chapters into book 2. I’ve found the workbook exercises to be helpful because they are (1) copious in number and (2) realistically challenging. This is the grammar I recommend for people who are looking to make the transition from Koine to Classical, but only for those interested in a more thorough, longterm solution. The grammar is massive and really something closer to an elementary combined with intermediate grammar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. LTRG, however, is the topic of another post.

Steadman’s reader is the only classroom resource we use. It is great because it doesn’t just provide vocabulary; it includes a ton of syntax help, as well. For the 10th graders this is the very first text they have read outside the New Testament, and Steadman’s thorough notes are a must. I can give them help in class, but they need something written down as they re-read. He provides free PDFs online, and he self-publishes his books so they are affordable. You definitely want to explore his website if you never have.

Finally, the Emlyn-Jones commentary was helpful from time-to-time, but the combination of the Loeb and Steadman would have been enough. The commentary is super concise and strikes a nice balance between linguistic and literary concerns.

I hope these resource notes are helpful and you are motivated to pick up a Crito text soon and see how much progress you can make this summer.

Accordance Greek Starter Sale

Accordance’s Greek starter package is on sale again. In an earlier post, I explained why it’s a great deal. If you read your GNT regularly and have never ventured into Bible software, this is the best place to start.

For $65 you get a tagged version of NA28 (no apparatus), a solid concise Greek-English dictionary, the best one-volume Bible dictionary, and a one-volume commentary.

This will allow you to continue your reading no matter if you have your print GNT with you or not — whether on your laptop, phone, or tablet.

Tyndale House GNT in Accordance

Accordance has just released the first fully tagged edition of The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (THGNT) to appear in any Bible software. I’ve been reading the print edition since November, and I received early access to Accordance’s digital edition. In this post, I’ll explain what THGNT is, describe some of this edition’s unique features, and share some thoughts on how Accordance has created an electronic edition worthy of the thoughtfulness and care that went into the print edition of THGNT.

What is Tyndale House?

In my mind, it is a magical place where scholars go to study in an environment filled with rare and abundant resources — every book you could ever want and a host of brilliant people with which to drink tea and discuss your research. Here’s how they describe the initiative:

Tyndale House is a study centre focusing on advancing understanding of the Bible. Between forty and fifty scholars study here on a daily basis. Many PhD students from Cambridge University as well as other universities base themselves at Tyndale House during their studies and leading biblical scholars in all parts of the world have been formed at Tyndale House.

What is THGNT?

THGNT is a beautiful, affordable new edition of the Greek New Testament produced by Dirk Jongkind and an editorial team connected to Tyndale House.

Those three things alone — beautiful, affordable, and produced by a world class team of scholars — justify its existence. The font is beautiful, the apparatus is minimal but sufficiently helpful, and the text itself fills the pages in a single column format that makes reading immersive. To top things off it comes with a slip case and Smyth-sewn binding, all for about $25 at Amazon.

Aesthetics aside, the preface describes it this way:

This edition, based on a thorough revision of the great nineteenth-century edition of Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, aims to present the New Testament books in the earliest form in which they are well attested. To do this it uses careful analysis of the scribal habits and typical transmission errors of individual manuscripts to establish which readings are likely to be prior.

As you read through this edition you will encounter words that are spelled a bit differently. We are accustomed to the spelling standardizations of other modern editions, but the editors of THGNT are committed to presenting the text as it is preserved in the earliest manuscripts. This means you will find forms like γείνομαι, instead of γίνομαι.

The commitment to following the tendencies of the early manuscripts leads to two other significant features. The editors break the text into paragraphs in a unique way, and they have ordered the NT books in a way different than modern editions. In THGNT, the books are ordered Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline corpus, and Revelation. This means that after the Gospels and Acts, you encounter James, 1–2 Peter, 1–3 John, Jude, and then Romans and the Pauline literature, followed by Revelation. As a matter of fact, the next edition in the Nestle-Aland series might order the books in a similar way.

There are other differences, and all these are explained in the book’s introduction found at the back of the book. These guys are serious about the reading experience. There is no hundred page introduction before you hit Matthew 1:1. When you open the cover, you see a title page, a table of contents, a one and a half page preface, and then you find ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΘΑΙΟΝ.

The Accordance Edition

Since mid November, I have tried to switch my daily NT reading from NA28 to the THGNT. One problem I have encountered is that so much of my daily reading happens outside my office. It might be by a fire pit with friends, while I’m waiting in line at a barber shop or coffee shop, or while students are taking a quiz. In these moments, I’ve had to fall back to electronic editions of NA28. Accordance has solved this problem with their release of the first fully tagged edition of THGNT.

Accordance has done a great job of enhancing the text with morphological tagging, adding links to all the manuscript sigla and numbers, and making the text accessible on the go. The morphological tagging allows you to easily see grammatical information about each word, search the text for all forms of a word, or jump quickly to lexicons in your library, like LSJ or BDAG.

Preserving the Paragraph Style

One of the coolest features of this digital edition is that Accordance persevered the print text’s unique way of presenting paragraph breaks. THGNT uses ekthesis, rather than indentation, to mark the first line of each paragraph. You can see an example of this in the pictures of the print edition above or at the bottom of this page. Accordance was able to implement a version of ekthesis in their digital edition without sacrificing too much space on smaller digital screens. Here’s a pic of THGNT beside NA28 on an iPhone:

Night Mode & Searching

The iOS app night mode is great in low light reading environments. Whether I’m on an iPad or iPhone, when I encounter a word that seems rare and want to see every occurrence in THGHT, all I have to do is long hold on the word, click search, and then select lexeme.

Here’s a picture of the search results for διοδεύω on an iPhone:

Apparatus with All Front and Back Matter

The Accordance edition includes two separate modules: the tagged text and the apparatus. In addition to the verse-by-verse listing of variant readings, the apparatus module also contains the full text of the preface and an introduction detailing the editions unique features.

Moving from THGNT to Mss Images

In the Witnesses section of the Introduction, clicking on a manuscript number takes you to the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforshung Virtual Manuscript Room. This website allows you to view high resolution images of the many NT manuscripts. Here is a video that shows moving from the text of THGNT on my iPad, to the witness section of the apparatus, to the INTF website, and to images of P10. The video has no sound if that’s a concern for you:

In the video, I started in the THGNT text of Romans 1 and noticed a mention of P10 in the apparatus:

At this point, I opened the Apparatus module and navigated to the Witnesses section:

Clicking on P10 in the Witnesses section takes me to the New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room:

This website provides more information about the manuscript, but if you click on the pages tab you will see a link to images of P10:

Finally, clicking the manuscript twice will open a beautiful, high-res image of P10:

THGNT & the Accordance Internal Web Browser

I primarily use iOS products, but the Accordance desktop app provides additional features. You can use Accordance’s new internal web browser to move from the linked apparatus to manuscript images with just a few clicks:

Here is a picture of THGNT in the desktop app and the internal web browser:

Comparing Texts

On the desktop app, you can use the compare text feature to find differences between THGNT and NA28.

Finally, Accordance has preserved one of the key benefits of the print edition: affordability. The retail price of Accordance’s electronic edition matches the retail price of the print volume, and for the time being you can buy THGNT in Accordance for the introductory price of $19.90.

Conclusion

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience provided by the Tyndale House Greek New Testament, both in print and in Accordance. The Accordance edition is morphologically tagged and searchable. It preserves the unique paragraph style of the print edition, and the apparatus links allow users to see many high-res images of the manuscripts themselves. Finally, it is affordable. THGNT presents a text that allows readers to step a little closer to early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament, and in light of the features described above, I think editors and readers of the print volume will be pleased with Accordance’s electronic edition. I certainly am.

For more information on THGNT, visit https://www.thegreeknewtestament.com.

For more information on interesting variants found in THGNT, visit the THGNT blog.

Accordance THGNT product page: regular price $39.90, sale price $19.90

Something to Love

I wrote a note to the HLS students for their school paper this month and wanted to post it here, too. From the February Nova Roma:

On the wall of my home office hangs a picture of my kiddos with these words from one of my favorite songs:

I hope you find something to love, something to do when you feel like giving up. A song to sing or a tale to tell, something to love, it’ll serve you well.

Children are certainly “something to love,” but I typed the words beside the picture of Beau and Noelle because the lyrics from Jason Isbell’s song are my wish for my them. I hope that they find something in this wonderful world that enchants them like Greek enchants me.

I think the most important reason to pursue classical studies is because the languages and literature are full of beauty. If it isn’t Greek or Latin for you, maybe it’s Science or Math, English or something altogether different. One way or another, I pray you find your something to love. Despite its brokenness, the world is the Lord’s, and it is full of his glory.

Angels & Fiery Guides

Matthew’s star — the one that led the magi and “stood over the place where the child was” — has a long history of being interpreted as an angel. The language in Matthew of a star stopping in some way over the location of the holy family raises questions. How could a star so high in the sky indicate the exact location of a few people? This morning I was reminded of a parallel story while reading Exodus 14.

Exodus 13:21 says that during the day God led Israel through the wilderness by a massive cloud and at night by a fiery pillar. 14:19, however, refers to the guiding presence as the angel of God. Early interpreters of Matthew’s star weren’t just making things up. Exodus refers to a divine guide in one place as a blazing fire (similar to a star) and in another place an angel. There is precedent in scripture for understanding fiery guides as angels.

Dale Allison explains the history of interpretation in “The Magi’s Angel,” which you can check out via this Google Books search. Start with page 17 and you should be able to see the whole article.

Accordance Greek Starter Package

Accordance has a great deal this weekend on their Greek starter package. There is a long list of included resources, but these four justify the price of $64.90:

  • Tagged GNT — the text of NA28, the most recent edition of the Greek text behind most modern translations. Does not include any front matter, appendices, or the critical apparatus, none of which are really important for everyday reading.
  • Barclay Newman’s Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (2010 edition)
  • Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, the best one volume Bible dictionary
  • New Bible Commentary, a one-volume Bible commentary from an evangelical perspective

This package would be worth $65 even if it just included the tagged NA28. The Accordance iOS app works really well for looking up words in a concise lexicon as you read your GNT. The popup window isn’t big enough for displaying long entries found in more thorough lexicons, but with a couple clicks you can jump from a word to your lexicon of choice — you could always purchase BDAG later. If you just use the included concise lexicon you won’t have to worry about the size of the popup window. None of the entries in Newman’s dictionary are very long. While reading on your iPhone, you will be able to long hold on a word and see a pop-up of the entry in Newman.

If you have ever thought about purchasing software to make reading the Greek New Testament more accessible on the go, this is a great place to start.

Reading with a Diglot

One simple point here: a translation can serve as a tutor. Some think of a diglot as a “cheater’s text,” but it doesn’t have to be that way. Especially when you are trying to work through a text that is beyond your current reading level, you can use a diglot and genuinely learn from the translation on the facing page. If you use that translation well, it can be similar to the experience of working through a text in a classroom setting. In a seminar, or if you are reading at a coffee shop with a friend, when someone gets stuck, another person chimes in with help, pointing out how to understand the syntax or idiom. The translation can do the same thing if used as a tutor.

The key to using a translation well is to look back at the Greek once the translation has been consulted and figure out how the translator got from point A to point B. The process might go like this: The translator says “at his expense.” Where did that come from? Is it ἰδίᾳ? OK, so that is a meaning I’ve never considered. You could at this point consult a lexicon or just use the context of the passage to see if the translation makes sense. You think about the base gloss you learned for ἴδιος, “one’s own,” and you realize that in this context “at his own expense” makes perfect sense. In just a few seconds you’ve learned from a translation the kind of thing that you might learn from an instructor or reading partner.

Using a diglot — perhaps in conjunction with a digital lexicon — is a way of reading you should consider. It can help you become comfortable reading Greek texts that are beyond your current reading level. The whole idea of “cheating” at reading ancient languages is something that should be left behind. Sure, some ways of reading are better than others for memory, but limiting yourself to only reading when you can do it “the best, most thorough way” shortchanges yourself. You cannot read as many texts that way, and I think reading as much Greek as possible is better than digging through every detail of a handful of texts. So dust off those Loebs and enjoy them guilt free, my friends.

On Daily Recitation

This is my fifth year teaching Greek to middle and high schoolers. Each year I figure out how to do this a little better. We are five months into the school year, and this year’s big take away is clear. Daily recitation is essential in the grammar stage.

Worth the time

For us, the grammar stage takes two years. Seventh grade is the first seventeen lessons of Croy’s grammar; eighth grade is the last fifteen. That means we have around thirty-five weeks each year to cover about sixteen lessons. If you start reciting everything you know on day one and keep doing this every day you meet, the forms soak in deep. Even at this point in the year, where in Greek 1 we are reciting all the forms for lessons 2–12, reciting all the forms takes less than ten minutes. Giving ten minutes out of our seventy minute class periods to form review is totally doable and worth it.

Modeling Memorization

But what is this like for the students? When I first started teaching, I thought it would be miserable and monotonous. I didn’t learn the forms via in-class recitation. I don’t think hardly any one teaches Greek this way in seminary. Maybe daily classroom recitation is thought to be beneath adults. This is odd because even though I didn’t learn the forms through classroom recitation, I did learn my paradigms by reciting them to myself. I remember my teacher encouraging us to do this.

If you do not know your third declension forms, it is because you are not chanting them enough. Even in the shower you need to be saying, “Mmm, os, ee, ah, es, ōn, sin, ahs!”

I remember reciting those forms in class, and at the end of that semester the third declension paradigms stuck better than any other. I suppose the reason we do not give more time to recitation in seminary is because of the pace at which Greek is taught. The exact grammar through which I take middle schoolers over the course of two years is the same grammar we went through in seminary in fifteen weeks. Whatever the reason we do not do recitation in seminary, I think we should consider it. Daily recitation models how most of us learned our paradigms. Learning to read Greek and Latin is not about being smart. It’s about perseverance.

Student Experience

Now that I have I have given daily recitation a try, I see that it is any thing but boring for the students. They love it. You can make recitation boring if you do it in a monotone, sluggish way, but you can also make it fun. I say the label, they repeat the label, and then we say the forms together. I don’t make songs for the paradigms, but we always recite rhythmically. Every declension has it’s own unique rhythm. Even if the difference is subtle between the way we recite first declension endings and the way we recite second declension, having that rhythmic difference in place breaks the noun paradigms into chunks.

For pronouns, we recite down the columns, instead of across. Each demonstrative starts with a long hold on the nominative, and then like a rollercoaster coming down the big hill we zip to the bottom of each column. We always emphasize the genitive plural, τούτων, because it is the same across all three genders. For the definite article, we start slow with the masculine singular, speed up with the feminine singular, and then by the time we get to the neuters we are saying them as fast as we can. For infinitives we say each letter of the ending. In Greek 2 classes, we alternate one day of doing all the Greek 1 forms, the next day all the forms we have learned in Greek 2 up to that point.

After typing that paragraph, I realize that this is something better heard than explained. Please pardon our Erasmian pronunciation and my absurdly southern accent (de-CLIN-sion). Here is my seventh grade Greek 1 class from today:

Greek Recitation Lessons 2-12

Conclusion

This is my one of favorite parts of the day, and the students enjoy it, as well. If you haven’t given daily recitation a try, go for it. I think it would be worth a shot in graduate programs, too.

Reading with a Print Text & Digital Lexicon

Over the summer I did a series of posts about different ways of reading Greek and Hebrew. I said that my the summer time tools of the trade are a print text and a print lexicon. During the school year, however, I am rarely able to read in my home office. To continue reading with a print text and lexicon would mean that everyday I have to carry multiple heavy books around campus. My favorite way to read hasn’t changed, but during the school year I’m really happy to settle for a print text and digital lexicon.

Print text

NA28, Rahlfs’ Septuagint, a Loeb Crito, and Steadman’s Lysias 1 & Crito are in my bag on most days, but because Rahlf’s Septuagint is so thick, sometimes it gets left behind. I prefer a print text because I think holding a book and flipping pages is more enjoyable, unless the book is old and gross. I realize that sometimes an old book is great, but I am not a fan of mold and other people’s finger grime — for example, crusty library copies of Migne or seminary library copies of a GNT.

Digital lexicon

For New Testament, Septuagint, and classical Greek there are a couple really great, affordable iOS options: Logeion & Protagoras. Logeion is free and includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, big Lewis and Short, little Lewis, and several other Greek and Latin lexicons. Protagoras is only a couple dollars, and for Greek it includes LSJ, Middle Liddell, Slater, and Autenrieth. For Latin it has both the full Lewis and Short and the smaller version by Lewis.

Logeion is amazing because of the way it interacts with Attikos, and because the user interface allows for quick entry and easy movement back and forth between the last few words you’ve looked up. Logeion hasn’t yet been updated for the iPhone X, however.

Protagoras, on the other hand, looks great on the iPhone X, and the developer has formatted the text in a way that makes a big difference for longer entries. Every portion of each entry that was originally in italic type appears in Protagoras as bold-italic. This means that as you scan a long entry your eyes can easily jump from gloss to gloss. For quick reading, this is such a timesaver. The bold glosses and iPhone X support means that I’ve been using Protagoras as my digital lexicon more often than not. One additional feature of Protagoras: it has a bookmark feature. As you are looking up words, you can bookmark them, and after your reading session, or maybe at the end of the week, you can go back to review.

For any lexicon not found in Protagoras or Logeion, I turn to Accordance. It is much more expensive, but it is worth every penny. With Accordance you are looking at a price tag much closer to what you would expect to pay for a print text, and this is completely understandable for works that are still in copyright and/or works that they have labored in house to tag in various ways. BDAG and HALOT, for example, are lexicons that I would do whatever necessary to have digitally and in print.

One final note about the digital options: I appreciate the ability in Protagoras and Accordance to type the Greek word you are looking up in beta code. This just saves the step of having to change your keyboard.

Experience

When reading this way, I usually access a digital lexicon on an iPhone, sometimes on an iPad. The bigger screens on the iPhone X or one of the plus models turns thousands of pages with tiny print into a much more readable, handheld reading companion.

This …

becomes this:

I know that the thought of your phone lying directly on top of the book you are trying to read sounds repulsive to some. Random notifications are a real threat, but they’re something that can be muzzled. Waiting for the ideal reading conditions just means you will not read as much text, and the number one thing most people need coming out of their first year of Greek is time in the text reading quickly. For more in that line of thought, see this post on reader’s texts.

Conclusion

Whether you are fresh out of your elementary courses or you’ve been doing this for decades, reading with a print text and digital lexicon is comfortable on the go. Sometimes even at home you just want to sit on the couch and relax with a text and lexicon that makes a small footprint but still gives you all the info you need. This way of reading fits those situations well, too. The print text allows an immersive reading experience and provides all the memory benefits of the sensory experiences that go along with holding a physical book, and the digital lexicon gives you portable, quick access to the vocab you need to keep moving.

This is the primary way I’m reading these days. Read however you like.

Just read.

Best Blogging Platform, Revisited

For the past couple years Squarespace has been my blogging platform of choice for one reason: even without much knowledge of CSS, Squarespace allowed me to customize the site to my heart’s content. It was partly about the template I used, too. I had a Squarespace template that was close enough to my style preferences that I could use the built in customization features to get things exactly as I wanted them.

The last time I wrote about this I said that customizing your theme/template is necessary because no simple, elegant blogging theme exists on any platform. Well, things have changed. I found a WordPress.com theme that I really like (the one you are looking at), and the move to WordPress brings along several benefits.

Money

The monthly cost of Squarespace is the primary thing that sent me looking for another platform. Squarespace cost me $16/month. WordPress is $4/month. The $4 WordPress personal plan allows me to map my Hover domain to my WordPress.com site. Squarespace is setup to be much more than a blog, and I finally realized I do not need to pay for such a robust platform.

Mobile

One of my biggest frustrations with Squarespace was their mobile apps. Getting a post up was not difficult. I cold write a post in Ulysses, and then copy and paste the markdown directly into Squarespace’s iOS app. But if I wanted to access my site’s dashboard, forget about it. Navigating the Squarespace website is a horrible experience on mobile devices. At one time, when I went to the site to customize the template, I was told I could not proceed on my mobile device; only way to proceed was on a laptop or desktop. Mind boggling.

WordPress on the other hand allows me to post directly from Ulysses, and I can run just about every aspect of the site from my iPhone or iPad using either their website or their mobile apps.

Style

Finding the “Independent Publisher 2” WordPress theme was the turning point. It isn’t perfect, but it is minimal, single column, and prioritizes the reading experience. I like the large sans serif headings and the way the theme allows me to set the main font to Noto Serif, which has a nice, full featured set of Latin and Greek characters.

Final Thoughts

The only drawback to the switch from Squarespace to WordPress was that I had to edit the slug for every post on this site. Initially, every link to my posts was broken. This problem only took a couple hours to fix, and for the reasons above, it was totally worth it.

If you are looking to start a blog, I recommend registering a domain with Hover — great support and not tied to a particular blogging platform — and getting a WordPress.com personal plan.