Koine Greek is the form of Greek used in the New Testament. It was the common language used among most people in everyday conversation and transactions in the Eastern Roman world around the time of Christ.
Why learn Greek at all? The phrase has often been used, “lost in translation”. Translators do a valuable job, but invariably, all translations lose something from the original. The absolute best way to look at the meaning of what someone wrote is to look at it in its original language.
The common approach, and the one that I started to learn, is to learn koine Greek by learning the alphabet, grammar, and individual word forms. There are several reasons for this: one is that the language is a dead language (there are no cultures that currently speak this form of Greek as their everyday language) and there is no absolute reference on how to speak it correctly, and secondly, interest in the language is mainly academic so the approach to teaching and learning koine Greek is an academic one.
The problem with learning koine Greek in the usual approach is that it is a complicated language with significant differences from English and most other languages. Whereas, for example, word order is very important to English speakers in determining the meaning of the sentence, word order is not as important in koine Greek. For example, whereas in English the object is determined by its placement after a verb, in koine Greek the object is determined by a unique word ending. Likewise, whereas English speakers use pronouns to differentiate person and number (I, you, he/she/it, we, you, they) koine Greek uses word endings to make those distinctions, among others. What I and some others have found is that trying to learn all these distinctions before you actually speak the language can be overwhelming and daunting. Also, when you don’t speak a language you tend to forget it.
However, this academic approach is not the way that languages are usually learned in everyday life. It is absolutely ridiculous to think that babies and toddlers or even foreign travelers and immigrants, at least initially, are all learning to speak a language by sitting in language classes. Babies learn how to speak by imitating sounds, and they slowly learn to form words, and learn the meaning of those words and the accompanying grammar “on the fly”, so to speak. Foreign travelers and immigrants, similarly, imitate the sounds of key words as they make a working lexicon (translation tool) in their minds. For example, people learn that “casa” means house, and “uno” means one when learning Spanish.
With that in mind, over the next weeks I will be including “Speak Koine Greek” articles on this website that offer a short audio lesson where a Bible verse is spoken in koine Greek. It will be broken down into word by word translation so anyone can learn to speak this ancient language used by the first Christians. As stated above, the pronunciation will be based on water currently accepted practices, and that practice will be explained in a future lesson.
The verse will also be shown in the article with the accompanying koine Greek translation.
At some point, the grammar, syntax, and lexicon forms of the various Greek words do need to be learned. For some of us, however, it just doesn’t need to be learned first.
I am not a Greek scholar, I am just another Bible student offering this aid to others. I hope this will help whoever finds these articles to have a greater understanding of biblical Greek, an appreciation of koine Greek texts, and most importantly, a greater understanding of what the books of the Bible actually say.
© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.