Dale M. Wheeler (
Tue, 22 Oct 1996 15:36:06 -0700

At 3:31 AM 10/21/96, Dr. Ed Bez wrote:
>Our school needs to begin the selection process for a 1st Year Intro to
>Greek text. Our students will in all liklihood have had no exposure to
>Greek. The requirements for the text: Available, affordable, with
>workbook(if such exists), moderately paced, with some NT readings

This seems to be becoming a perennial question on bgreek...

The following is my $.02 worth on the question; and is my opinion and
perspective (please don't read this as a put down of any other person
or text; this is just I've found works for my students).

As regulars already know (and are no doubt tired of hearing about :-) ),
I use a textbook and vocab card system called "Greek To Me". My philosophy
of teaching Greek is a bit different from many people (you can see the
difference in Multnomah's program, where we devote the entire second year
to translation of Koine materials). I think the reason there is a 90% drop
out rate by people who have taken Greek is that they can't open the text
and read/translate what's in front of them; they know the grammar in the
abstract, but don't know enough words and have not had sufficient exposure
to texts. Consequently, my focus is on vocabulary acquisition and reading,
and for that, IMHO, Greek to Me stands alone.

The first thing is the vocabulary acquisition; the GTM vocab cards make
it possible for my students to learn on average 30+ words a week, which
means that in 20 weeks we finish Greek to Me and they know all the words
25+ times. The last 10 weeks of the second semester we read the entire
Gospel of Mark, which they find easier than the last 5 chapters of Greek
to Me, and they have no problem with it. I give them review exams over
ALL the forms as well, with the final being 20 pages of vocabulary and
EVERY SINGLE FORM; 1/2 to 2/3 of the class gets 90%+ on the final and
the rest get 80%+. The reason the vocab cards (as well as the pictures
in the book which go with verb, etc., forms) work so well is because
they use visual associations based on the sound of the Greek word. The
pictures are deliberately goofy--for lack of a better term--and the
goofier the picture is the faster they learn it (I think it has something
to do with the Fall and Sin Nature... :-) )

But, its not just the vocab cards and pictures which makes Greek to Me
so good, its also the graduated Koine stories. Each chapter of the book
ends with a story written in Koine style using the vocab and grammar they
have learned up to that point. By translating these stories they get to
see grammar in action and reinforce the vocab. I personally think Greek
grammars which teach students to translate nonsense sentences from Greek
to English and from English to Greek don't serve the students well. People
don't learn languages that way; they learn to deal with the complexities
of grammar and lexical issues in the context of sentences within paragraphs
within stories. All nonsense translation does is teach the student to
think of Greek as some sort of mathematical formula, in which the
reader plugs in this term for that one (no wonder generations of Machen
users exegete in such wooden manners; witness root fallacy and
illegitimate totality transfer, which many folks still think is just
fine). My students will never time travel back to 1st cent Palestine
and converse with anyone; the only skill they need is to be able to
translate into contemporary English the Greek that's on the page
(going the other way just makes them think that Greek is English
using different words, whether they consciously realize it or not.).
I'd rather have students spend their time on translation of Greek
that's at their level than filling in the blanks in a workbook or
creating nonsense Greek. They accomplish so much more this way AND
have a greater sense of accomplishment. In general I like the inductive
type approaches taken by some of the newer grammars because they
emphasize this same contextual learning, but I think that no matter
where you start students out in the NT they are in over their heads
and it can become discouraging for them when they see the mountain
they think they have to climb. The graduated GTM stories eventually
get to median NT level of difficulty and then beyond.

Its really amazing how many other Greek teachers simply won't use the book
because of the pictures; the typical conversation at SBL goes something like
(when they ask me what I use), "Yeh, I looked at that, but the pictures
turned me off; it just didn't look like a serious (or scholarly or.....)
book." To which I reply that my students cover it AND read the entire Gospel
of Mark in 2 semesters, and have memorized all the words down to @22x. Most
say, "You mean 2 years, don't you ?" And I tell them No, I mean 2 semesters.
I've had half a dozen come back a year or two later and say they tried
Greek to Me as an experiment and couldn't believe the success they've had;
so they've swallowed their scholarly pride :-), accepted the cartoons, and
are having great fun seeing their students learn to read the text.

Well, that's my $.02 worth...

Prof. Lyle Story, the author of GTM and publisher of the cards, is on this
list and has posted his addresses before, but here it is again, for more

Dale M. Wheeler, Th.D.
Research Professor in Biblical Languages Multnomah Bible College
8435 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97220
Voice: 503-251-6416 FAX:503-254-1268 E-Mail: