Book Review: Greek for Everyone

9780801018916I just finished reading A. Chadwick Thornhill’s, Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application published by Baker Books (Note: My copy of the book was provided to me by the publisher for purposes of review.)

I minored in Greek back in my undergraduate days. My seminary required study of Greek, so I added a couple more courses in New Testament exegesis then. All that was many years ago, however, and my Greek has grown rusty. I thought this book would be a good review for me and be worth considering to share with serious Bible students in my church. I was not disappointed.

First some comments on the content. Thornhill takes the reader from an introduction to the Greek language – what the letters and sounds are – through a comprehensive overview of the grammar. The material is up to date – more than what I had been taught 30 years ago – so in spite of my extensive courses on the subject, I found myself learning quite a bit.

Second, Thornhill structures the book so there are examples throughout. Each grammatical feature is amply and simply illustrated with brief excerpts (verses and partial verses) from the actual New Testament text. The organization of the book as a whole and of each chapter in particular is clear and easy to follow.

Third, each chapter gives some vocabulary and brief exercises for the student. These are by no means extensive enough to constitute a whole course in Greek, but they suffice for the introductory work this is intended to be.

Fourth, as the author brings everything together in the final chapter, I appreciate his wisdom and helpful suggestions. I’ll mention two. First, Thornhill is emphatic that biblical interpretation is a communal activity. As I teach my own students, he insists that we’re more likely to get the Bible wrong when we read it alone, in isolation from other readers. Second, there is an emphasis on epistemic humility. Thornhill hammers home the fallibility of readers. Because we can be wrong, and often are, we need to practice being open to correction.

The main weakness of this book is probably common to the genre, and more a feature of our culture than the book itself. Ordinary church folk seem desperately afraid of Greek (Shakespeare didn’t help us here). Thornhill’s book, if read carefully, will help dispel some of that fear. I’m not sure, however, that a majority will be willing to give it a chance.

There are two contexts I would be inclined to use this book. The first is the New Testament exegesis class I taught to undergraduates. That class required no knowledge of the original languages, and this would have made a nice addition to the course. Second, I would happily use it with advanced Bible students in the local church, particularly those who are or aspire to be teachers.

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