Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Passive Voice Problems

Surprisingly, I started over in Greek: An Intensive Course with my new friend, Wesley (also from the B-Greek forum).

We’re doing a mixed study, using the textbook as our grammar review, doing the translation exercises on our own, meeting on Skype or Hangouts to do the exercises a second time orally (without reference to our work from the week) and to read Greek texts together. Right now we’re in chapter 5 of the book of Galatians. Afterward, we’re going to read through Philo’s On Cherubim (Περὶ τῶν Χερουβίμ) before we choose something from the classical period.

At this point, we’ve gotten back to unit 6 – certainly the easiest unit so far. We’ll be meeting on Saturday to finish up this unit, and then we’re moving on. I still find myself struggling with passive forms. I can easily recognize them, but forming them isn’t so easy. For example, look at this exercise from the book:
(Unit 5) II.3. If you had been sent by the citizens to the island sacred to the goddess in order that the men in the country might be guarded, you would not have been stationed in the market place.
When I look at this, I see that it’s what we would have called a “third conditional” when I was teaching English – what is termed the past counterfactual or past contrafactual in Greek grammar. That is, it is talking about the past and saying what might have been different in a different situation. For example, I didn’t have money when I was in high school. But, if I had had money, I would have bought myself some nice shoes. In this case, “you” weren’t sent by the citizens to the island, so you weren’t stationed in the market place. The form of the past counterfactual is as follows:
εἰ + aorist indicative → aorist indicative + ἄν
This sentence has two passive aorists in its main structure (“you were sent” [from πέμπω] and “you were stationed” [from τάττω]). Additionally, the purpose clause (“in order that”) also has a passive verb in the optative, either present or aorist (“it _ be guarded” [from φυλάττω]). Everything will be connected from these verbs. Here’s the basic form:
εἰ ἐπέμφης [ἵνα φυλαχθεῖεν/φυλάττοιντο], ἐτάχθης ἄν.
Of course, the “you” could be plural here, but I’m going to go with the singular. All we have to do then is fill in the blanks.
εἰ τοῖς πολίταις ἐπέμφθης εἰς τὴν νῆσον τὴν τῆς θεοῦ ἱερὰν ἵνα οἱ ἐν τῇ χώρᾳ φυλαχθεῖεν/φυλάττοιντο, ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ οὐκ ἂν ἐτάχθης.
I can understand the parts of the sentence well enough and construct them into what seems to me to be meaningful Greek. However, getting to the passive forms takes me a bit of thinking. I know that ἐπέμφθην, for example, is one of the principle parts of πέμπω, but it’s not easy to get to the sixth principle form of each verb as they come. I just need to get used to placing all of the principle parts in memory. This will be harder as we get to the verbs that have so-called “deponents” (as much as this term is despised) in tenses other than the present.

In my studies through Ἀθήναζε and Greek to GCSE, I have found that I have a real aversion to the passive and middle voices. As soon as I’ve gotten to that place in both textbooks, I have stopped moving forward. I’ve now finished the main presentation of the passive voice in Greek: An Intensive Course, and I’ve decided to push past it even if I can’t produce all of the passive forms with ease. I know that it’s going to get even messier, and the contract forms are coming up, but I really need to make it through this textbook.

Has anyone else noticed this about the passive forms? That you just stop when it comes to them? Do you have a way to get around it?

Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

Thursday, September 15, 2016

More Hansen & Quinn Study

I canʼt believe that itʼs been over two years since I first posted about Hansen & Quinnʼs Greek: An Intensive Course. On my own I made it through Unit 6. Itʼs an amazing, if not quite difficult, textbook. In addition to the difficulty of it, I engaged myself in teaching Hebrew consistently every Saturday afternoon instead of studying through the Greek textbook - with the result that I didnʼt continue to pursue my Greek study. However, I have just found someone who is willing to study through the text with me, and we had our first meet-up on Skype this past Saturday. Weʼll be meeting for the second time this weekend, during which meeting weʼll be going over Unit 1.

If anyone has suggestions about how to make the grammar come to life for us, we would appreciate it. So far, weʼve discussed doing a couple of things:
  1. Go over our translations of the exercises for each unit, including translation into English and also into Greek.
  2. Adding a couple of our own English-to-Greek translations based on the vocabulary and grammar covered up until the unit that weʼre working on.
  3. Verb drills to review forms quickly from memory.
  4. Augmented readings in the Greek New Testament and soon other Greek works.
Iʼm using Quizlet to put up the vocabulary lists, together with audio for each lesson. The course is listed here if youʼre interested in looking at what Iʼve put together. Let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions for how to use the text in a better way.

εὐχαριστῶ ὑμῖν τοῖς ἐμοῖς φίλοις.
Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Silent Greek World

I’ve noticed recently that the world of online Greek studies has gone silent. I’m not sure if this is due to the end of the school year or if people aren’t producing as many things for online consumption as they were a couple of years ago, but it’s not just my blog that has gone silent.

Mark Lightman (Markos33AD) used to make all kinds of fun videos that he uploaded to YouTube, but his last video was uploaded more than a year ago. Similarly, the online social media site ΣΧΟΛΗ (sxole.com) has had almost no activity over the last year. It was really becoming quite popular for a while, but it’s nearly died out. The B-Greek forum has very little activity, and GreekStudy has a couple of groups currently working through Herodotus and Xenophon, but it’s also operating with limited activity. I’ve done what I can to get some activity up on ΣΧΟΛΗ recently, but nothing started up.

The only site that I’ve noticed maintaining activity is the CARM Biblical Languages forum, which is less geared at language learning and more directed at using the biblical languages to inform theological opinions. The forum has been dominated for the past couple of years by an Internet troll who calls himself “John Milton” on CARM and “Isaac Newton” on Textkit. Although he represents the worst type of person with whom to interact with regard to the Greek language, he at least keeps the CARM forum moving. It’s sad because the world would be better off without such trollish behavior, but at the same time it’s good that CARM has some activity while the rest of the ancient Greek online world has so extremely slowed down.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Non-Indicative Moods

When I was studying Greek at OCC, we used William D. Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek and its accompanying workbook for all of our first-year Greek studies. After that, we just used Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, doing vocabulary tests throughout the following four semesters while translating 1 John and then the Gospel of John and using Greenlee’s A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek to fill in gaps in grammar. We didn’t spend too much time in the more complex examples of Greek writings that are present in the New Testament (specifically, Luke-Acts and Hebrews).

Because the writings of John are not all that complex in terms of syntax, we never really spent any time at all on the various forms of non-indicative verbs. We covered the subjunctive as it is treated in Mounce (memorized the endings -ω -ῃς -ῃ -ωμεν -ητε -ωσι(ν) like good little parrots) and it indeed appeared all over the place, but the only thing that we ever used the optative for was the famous expression of Paul: μὴ γένοιτο (“God forbid!” “May it not be!”). We were basically told in Mounce’s grammar that because the optative barely makes an appearance in the New Testament, it doesn’t really need to be learned in a first-year grammar class. The problem is: in three years of Greek classes, we never took a single class session to look at non-indicative moods of the verb, to talk about proper conditional forms, to look at how conditions, wishes and purpose clauses changed as we moved from Attic into the Koiné period. It was just ignored for three years of formal Greek study in Bible college!

I can truly understand the teacher’s perspective in avoiding the topic of the optative mood. I mean, it really isn’t used that much in the New Testament. In fact, there is no complete “less vivid future conditional” in the entire New Testament. Daniel Wallace lists four partial conditionals using optatives in his The Basics of New Testament Syntax (on page 314-315). Indeed, given the fact that most Bible college students who take Greek do it so that they can use it for sermons and not so that they can become linguists and classicists, it makes good sense that we didn’t spend extra time in grammar and syntax. Understanding this does not alleviate my frustration, though.

I always felt that I was missing out on something when I came to optatives, feeling that it was just a weird tense that didn’t fit in. I mean, Spanish, French, Latin and German (even properly spoken English!) all have subjunctives. But, what is the optative? Why don’t any of these languages (or even the later forms of Greek) have an optative mood? Shouldn’t the subjunctive be enough?

And then there was Greek: An Intensive Course by Hardy Hansen and Gerald Quinn. I worked through the first level of Greek to GCSE, as I mentioned previously in this blog, and I started the second level, but I just didn’t stick with it. Even in that series the optative is saved until late in the set of books. Not so in Greek: An Intensive Course, which I started yesterday. In the past two days I have worked through units one through three. In the course of these three units we have already covered primary and secondary tenses in sequence, including a discussion of purposes phrases and how the optative and subjunctive correspond to the primary and secondary tenses! In unit four, we are set to cover the standard conditional forms. I cannot believe that I’m finally learning this stuff after so many years of studying Greek! And, you know what?, it actually comes across clearly!

So, here’s the key: secondary tenses are those that take augmentation – that is: imperfect, aorist and pluperfect. All the other tenses are primary tenses. In purpose clauses, subjunctive goes with primary and optative goes with secondary. Simple as that! Whoever is reading this blog and isn’t too experienced with these things has just learned something that I wish I had come across years ago. Good for you!

The endings are also quite straightforward. So far we’ve covered only the active for verbs like παιδεύω, λύω and παύω (that is, -ω verbs), but this is essentially what they look like:


The aorist is just as simple:

λύσαις (or λύσειας)
λύσαι (or λύσειε[ν])
λύσαιεν (or λύσειαν)

The distinction between present and aorist is just like it is in infinitives. The present represents progressive, repeated or habitual action, while the aorist is unmarked action. Here are some examples of purpose statements, in which we will switch between subjunctives and optatives depending on the main verb tense:

With the subjunctive (primary sequence)
(the particles ἵνα, ὡς and ὅπως are interchangeable)
ταῦτα γράφω ἵνα πιστεύητε/πιστεύσητε. (I’m writing this so that you will believe.)
ταῦτα γράψω ὅπως πιστεύωσιν/πιστεύσωσιν. (I’ll write this so that they will believe.)
ταῦτα γέγραφα ὡς πιστεύῃς/πιστεύσῃς. (I’ve written this so that you will believe.)

With the optative (secondary sequence)
ταῦτα ἔγραφον ἵνα πιστεύοιτε/πιστεύσαιτε. (I was writing these things so that you would believe.)
ταῦτα ἔγραψα ὅπως πιστεύοι/πιστεύσαι/πιστεύσειεν. (I wrote these things so that he would believe.)
ταῦτα ἐγεγράφη ὡς πιστεύοιεν/πιστεύσαιεν/πιστεύσειαν. (I had written these things so that they would believe.)

With the past tense, we can see a distinction even in English, where I have translated them as “would” as opposed to “will.”

With this post, I just basically wanted to encourage others out there who might be like me. We were never taught the full verb system, never learned the optative, still feel poorly-equipped by our Bible college Greek studies to tackle more complex texts (even the higher texts in the New Testament). Be encouraged! There are materials out there than can make it clearer. I would highly recommend this textbook to anyone who has a good grasp on what you learned in Bible college but wants to get a fuller picture – and quick. This book really is intense, and I’m looking forward to working through the rest of the course.

Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Android and Ancient Greek

Of the three major platforms available for those who enjoy using tablets and telephones for online engagement, Android has been the most disappointing with regard to classical Greek. The following four issue threads have been opened on Android and Nexus forums on Google to bring the issue to the attention of developers:

Android Issues (26037): Font glyphs and text rendering: polytonic Greek characters
Android Issues (3167): Font glyphs and text rendering: international pronunciation alphabet (IPA) characters
Android Issues (53154): Fonts don't support New Testament or Classical Greek (Polytonic Greek)
Nexus Forum: Polytonic fonts not displaying

It looks like it might be possible that the newest version of Android (4.3) released corrected fonts, if I understand the last message in this thread correctly. My latest phone operates on 4.0.4, so I don’t know how the new fonts support anything. Has Android indeed taken a step to fix this issue? Can anyone confirm that 4.3 displays it correctly? I’ll try to find out and let you know.

Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

P.S. I just downloaded and installed the Android 4.3 version of the Roboto Regular to my Windows tablet and opened it up with the character map to check the font’s layout. No, it does not have the extended Greek characters. The user in that thread didn’t state what he did to get the Greek viewable on his device. It is also viewable on my device, running 4.0.4, but I had to root the phone and replace the Roboto fonts to get it to display.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Greek to GCSE - Chapter 7

I told you in the previous post that I would send you a link to my work on chapter 7 of Greek to GCSE, and I never did. Well, this is me sending you the link. You can find my answers here.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

I’ve also re-thought the change in my pronunciation. I will stay with the Erasmian pronunciation that I’ve always used, but with just two changes: (1) omicron (ο) will be pronounced like [oː] [just like omega (ω)]; and, (2) upsilon (υ) will be pronounced like the German [ü]. I don’t like how there’s no difference in modern Greek between iota (ι), eta (η), upsilon (υ) and the omicron-iota diphthong (οι). It just seems absurd to use the modern pronunciation for ancient Greek, in which things like ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς would sound the same and cause absolute confusion. These words are not spelled this way in modern Greek. Confusing forms have become distinguished, and the problem doesn’t exist as it would if we used modern pronunciation for ancient reading.

I think the most important thing is consistency. I noticed in my pronunciation in the video that I sometimes used [ɑː] instead of [oː] for omicron. Hearing that today sounds very strange, so I’ve already made that shift consistent.

Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

Friday, December 13, 2013


I finished the first level of Greek to GCSE quite some time ago, and it has taken me a while to get back into the swing of things with the second level. In the beginning of December I put together my answers for the first chapter of the second book (chapter 7). I’ll upload that to my website and provide a link here so that you can see what I’ve been doing.

I’ll also post some observations and questions that I have after doing the exercises and comparing my work with the answer key generously provided by the author, John Taylor. I didn’t mention this before, but I had some correspondence with him about the text (he’s very generous with his responses and with his work), and he sent me a hard copy of the key he has put together for both levels of his textbook and also to his Greek Beyond GCSE (the third book in the set). I have them now also in digital copies (PDF), and I’ll send them to anyone who wishes to receive them for their own work in this series. Just let me know that you’re interested, and I’ll send them along via link or email – with Mr. Taylor’s blessings.

I’ve also decided to re-record the video introduction that I made before to take into account the most meaningful change I’ve made in my approach to ancient Greek. I’ve begun using Randall Buth’s reconstructed Κοινή pronunciation. I still have a bit of trouble with the equation of οι to υ (not like modern Greek [i:] but like German ü), but I’m getting used to reading αι like ε and have completely converted ο to sound like ω in my pronunciation. Buth’s reconstruction is supposed to be the best equivalence scholars can make to the sound of Greek during the Κοινή period. I’ve been convinced by Buth’s evidence, and I’m doing my best to convert over. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be able to converse with him the next time I run into him in Jerusalem. My plan is to re-record the introduction, upload it to Youtube, make the video private with access only by direct link (because of an abusive user on the CARM forum) – and to post the video here on the blog for your viewing scrutiny. Let me know what you think of it.

Ἰάσων τοῦ Ἰωάννου

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Latest Progress

Well, it's about time I started updating this blog again! I don't know how it got away from me like this.

Since I last wrote, I have finished level 1 of both Athenaze and Greek to GCSE. I've put the former aside for now and am working from the GCSE series exclusively. I'm currently in chapter 8, which is the second chapter of the second level.

I'll add some more later, but I just wanted to open up this blog again. I hope that it will become a focus of some energy in the upcoming days.


Friday, August 27, 2010

My Ancient Greek Introduction

OK, I took Markos' advice and wrote up a small text to practice verbally and to publish as a video on youtube. I hope you enjoy!

Video Caption - Rest your mouse over underlined words for annotations.
Text: “χαίρετε, ὦ φίλοι. ἐγώ εἰμι ἀγνοούμενος ὑμῖν καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἠθέλησά τινα περὶ ἐμαυτοῦ λέγειν ὑμῖν. ὄνομά μοι Ἰάσων κἀγὼ ἐν Ἰσραὴλ οἰκῶ. ἀναγιγνώσκειν πολλὰ βιβλία φιλῶ καὶ πάντοτε βιβλίον ἔχω ἐν τῇ χειρί μου. οὐ πολὺν χρόνον τὴν ἑλληνικὴν γλῶτταν μεμάθηκα, ἀλλὰ ἐν νῷ ἔχω ἐπιμένειν μανθάνων. ἐλπίζω δι᾿ ὀλίγου παρὰ ὑμῶν ἀπόκρισιν παραλαβεῖν. ἔρρωσθε.”

I am just beginning to internalize Greek. I have pulled some of these words (e.g., ἀγνοούμενος ‘unknown’, ἐπιμένω ‘I continue’, ἀπόκρισις ‘answer, response’) from accessible passages in the Christian scriptures (Ἡ Καινὴ Διαθήκη “The New Testament”) when I wasn’t already aware of the word. I’m also using the Pocket Oxford Classical Greek Dictionary and the software Diogenes to search for new vocabulary.

The pronunciation that I use is Erasmian, since this is what I learned when I was younger. While I have had a lot of experience reading the Christian scriptures in Greek, I put Greek down for several years. Only recently has my interest in the language grown again, and I’ve begun to study Attic. I hope to add more videos as I become more comfortable with what I’m learning, in an attempt to turn passive understanding into some kind of active use of the language.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Just realized today that Complete Ancient Greek has vocabulary sections only up to unit 9. After that, they say that you should look up unfamiliar words in the vocab at the back of the book. That was kinda unexpected. What do you think of the practice?