The New Testament Is in Greek: A Short Course for Exegetes

By L. W. Countryman
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (1993). 205 Pages.

Reviewed by Thomas Halstead
9.2 (Fall 1998) : 225-225

As the subtitle states, this book views itself as a short course for the new Greek student. In fact, the author, Professor of New Testament at Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, states in the preface that it “offers a one-semester introduction to the Hellenistic Greek language as used in the New Testament.” It is primarily focused on getting the student to read the Greek New Testament.

The advantage of this type of book is that it will help a student to begin reading and understanding some basic concepts of biblical Greek and will help him be able to research from Greek sources.

However, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. The most significant disadvantage is the lack of thoroughness in understanding the language. Being able to read Greek if a person cannot understand what he is reading is of little value. The purpose of studying the Greek language is not to know Greek, but to be more accurate students of the Word, and thereby give greater glory to God. Just being able to read in Greek will not necessarily help someone understand the Bible better. A second disadvantage is in having to look up many words while reading, making for much slower progress in translation.

As to the book itself, its strengths are in the glossary and index, the paradigms at the end, and some of the bibliography (152 ff.). All of these can be helpful tools for learning. The notes for the passages at the beginning of each chapter are also valuable if the student understands what the notes say.

The weaknesses have been noted above. It is the lack of depth in the book to facilitate understanding the material. In addition, the layout of the book is not consistent. It moves from verbs to nouns, back to verbs, etc.

For someone who simply wants a basic overview of the language, the book will accomplish the goal. But for anyone who wants to learn the language, he should use a text with greater depth.