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What to Do When You Can't Read a Greek Verse

When you first begin reading Greek verses, you won’t be able to make out hardly any of it. Remind yourself that it is ok. You are a beginner. You aren’t supposed to be able to understand yet.

First, click on each word you don’t recognize

The details of the word will appear below the verse. In order, it will show you:

  • The dictionary form of the word.
  • A brief definition. If the dictionary gloss doesn't seem to fit the rest of the sentence, refer to your Greek lexicon for possible alternate meanings. This is especially common for prepositions.
  • A grammatical summary. If you need a reminder of the meaning of the grammatical category, see the grammar terminology page for a brief explanation.
  • The number of times the word occurs in the Greek New Testament. If it’s a common word you don’t know or a word you would like to memorize soon, click Add Word to Vocab Deck and the word will be added to your next vocabulary session.
  • If you know the word. This means either that you’ve repeatedly said in the flashcard program that you know the word or that you’ve marked the word as known manually. Marking a new word as known will increase your known word count on your progress page. If this motivates you, go ahead and click I Know This Word as appropriate. If it doesn’t, feel free to ignore this feature.
  • If the word is inflected, meaning if the form changes based on usage, the See Paradigm button will appear. Click to see the various ways the word occurs in the New Testament, arranged into grammatical tables. Don’t try to memorize these, but glance over them, noticing how the word changes for different uses. For verbs, most of these forms will not be unlocked yet; don’t give them more than a passing glance at first. Over time, you’ll intuitively recognize the word changes.

Once you’ve informed yourself about one word, go to the next. Notice how the words combine into phrases and how these phrases interact to make sentences.

When you don’t understand how a word functions in a phrase or sentence

When this happens, you have a couple of options:

  • Observe how the ESV and NET translators interpret the verse.
  • Look up the syntax of the word in your grammar textbook to see if you can find an explanation that makes sense. For example, suppose you read a noun related to time in the genitive case and the standard translation “of” before the noun doesn’t seem to fit. You open up Going Deeper with New Testament Greek or Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics and find the section on the genitive case and time. You see that a genitive of time indicates the kind of time, for example “during the day” or “at night.” The more you follow this process, the less frequently you’ll need to reference your textbooks.