Thursday, February 14, 2013

Move Over Mounce (and Erasmus), There is a Better Way to Learn Koine Greek — and Hebrew!

It has been around for some time, but only recently has the Greek-Immersion movement picked up a lot of steam. The following are some websites that promote this pedagogy.

If you know anything about Koine Greek textbooks, then you'll know that Buth's method is far from traditional. The method for learning Greek today typically does not place emphasis on being able to understand spoken Greek. This missing emphasis on audio, however, doesn't seem to concern many. After all, the goal is to be able to read the New Testament in Greek, not hear it... right?



  1. I have never studied Greek before, but I am interested in learning. Do you think this is a good way to start from the beginning?

  2. Justin,

    I believe it is the best way to start.

    You can find Buth's resources here:

    Also Street has posted some upcoming classes on it in his blog:

  3. This is good to know Alan. I'm fascinated by the phenomenon of "orality" in the earliest church -- the notion that the documents were written to be read aloud. I brought that up in one of my first Triablogue posts:

  4. I agree with this; 30 years too late. :(

    The only disadvantage is that the old Erasmian pronounciation allows you to distinguish a lot of letters from one another. the modern pronunciation - a lot of different letters and diphthongs have the same sound.

    But one also should find someone - a native Greek speaker - to practice with.

    Spiros Zodiates used to say that it is better to learn Greek as it is pronounced today because it will become a living language to you and you can read it. (agreeing with you)

    Then you can also go to Cyprus (the Southern part; the Northern part is now Turkish) and Greece and speak to the people there.

    When I was in southern Cyprus for the first time, a few years ago, I asked someone how to say "thank you" and they said, "ev-κaristo" - recognize that?


    I thought that was cool.

  5. Hi Ken,

    I don't believe that there an advantage with the Erasmian pronunciation on distinguishing letters for a few reasons.

    1. Traditional Greek pedagogy does not implement (or very minimally) orality, so distinguishing vowels would not make a difference. In other words, I do not know of any seminary teacher that speaks Greek and has the students write down what he or she said.

    2. Pronunciating different vowels with the same sound does not make a difference since they are not pronounced in isolation. They are pronounced in the context of words and clauses, so rarely would their be confusion. Millions of Greek speakers today do it just fine, as well as Greek speakers during Jesus' days. They learned it without distinguishing certain sounds.

    3. That being said, the Randall Buth reconstruction system does distinguish two more letters than the modern system (the eta and upsilon). See here:

  6. Thanks. I am learning a lot by poking around at the links you give. I wish I had more time. :)

    Excellent resources. Spiros Zodhiates would be very happy with all this. He passed away in 2009, but his health was going down in the 90s. He was a passionate Evangelical for missions and the Greek language and the Bible.

    I think Cyprus has a slightly different pronunciation than Greece on some letters. the "p" π seemed to sound more like a "b" and in order to make the "p" sound, one had to have two π s

    I don't understand how to make the "v" sound, (for β ) using the lips only. (it seems necessary to use the teeth also)