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Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament

greek grammar new testament

Before getting into my post, let me point out that I am reviewing Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament as someone who, having just completed my 3rd semester of (intermediate) Greek, read through Mathewson and Emig’s grammar in conjunction with my required intermediate readings for the course. So, my review and insights are from the perspective of an intermediate Greek student who was actually using the Intermediate Greek Grammar alongside my course!

Intermediate Greek Grammar, A Review

Mathewson and Emig do a superb job of laying out what their grammar is and is not in their introduction. For the sake of this review, much of what they discuss in their introduction is worth noting here.

First, one of their primary goals is incorporating recent linguistic study into their grammar. They have “particularly endeavored to make accessible to students advances in the areas of verbal aspect theory, the voice system, conjunctions, as well as linguistic and discourse studies” (xvi). Another distinctive of Intermediate Greek Grammar is its minimalistic approach, seeking to keep categories to a minimum, as opposed to resources like Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Mathewson and Emig consider a maximalist approach as a risk to approaching Greek “in an unnatural or artificial way” (xix). They also make clear their conviction that Greek ought to be studied like any other language, and that the study of it ought to be synchronic rather than diachronic.

One specific area of Intermediate Greek Grammar that I want to make note of is the chapter on participles (ch. 10). Mathewson and Emig stray from most Greek grammars and avoid breaking the adverbial participle into countless categories. They contend that “participles are ambiguous and, by themselves, do not indicate such refinements of meaning” (211). They continue on: “It is not that such nuances are not present; it is just that the participles do not indicate or emphasize them” (ibid.). Rather, they suggest the significance of considering the placement of the participle in relation to the main verb (i.e., preceding or following). This is the way that I have learned participles from the beginning of my Greek study, so I am biased toward this approach.

In general, I enjoyed working through Mathewson and Emig’s grammar. It is concise and good to use in conjunction with other Greek resources–especially to have a minimalistic approach in conversation with a maximalist approach like Wallace’s indispensable Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Additionally, there is a plethora of helpful examples throughout. Considering the focus of my review, mentioned above, I have a critique relating to the format of various sections. Particularly, the chapter on prepositions (and sections where conjunctions are discussed) has a bit of a cluttered format, making it more difficult to easily reference during translation. However, this may simply be because it is more thorough than Wallace, which I found helpful. There are two significant strengths that I want to make mention of.

First, the practice exercises at the conclusion of the chapters are different than anything I’ve come across in my biblical language study. Rather than having individual verses for practice, there are relatively lengthy chunks of NT discourse to give the student practice within a wider context. For example, the practice at the end of ch. 6 on the verbal system includes Mark 5:16-24 and Rom 5:1-5, with the instructions being to analyze the aspects of the indicative verbs.

Second, the entire last chapter of Intermediate Greek Grammar is devoted to broader discourse considerations. This helps the student to consider things at the discourse level and move beyond phrases and clauses.

This will be a helpful resource for students of New Testament Greek. It certainly was for me, and I gleaned a lot from it. Mathewson and Emig’s incorporation of recent scholarship makes their grammar unique and relevant. Their minimalistic approach was, for me, a breath of fresh air in the midst of drowning in a sea of categories and subcategories.

This Greek Grammar will be a helpful resource for students of New Testament Greek. It certainly was for me, and I gleaned a lot from it.

Application of the Intermediate Greek Grammar

  • Mathewson and Emig’s Greek Grammar is concise and great to use in conjunction with other Greek resources.
  • Relatively lengthy practice exercises to aid students working within the context of larger discourse, rather than individual verses.
  • The authors devote an entire chapter to discourse consideration

Intermediate Greek Grammar, Official Product Description

This intermediate grammar for students of New Testament Greek incorporates the advances of recent linguistic research in an accessible and understandable way. Drawing on years of teaching experience at a leading seminary, David Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig help students extend their grasp of Greek for reading and interpreting the New Testament and related writings.

The authors make extensive use of New Testament texts to illustrate each grammatical category. They take into account the most significant advances in Greek language study (verbal aspect, discourse analysis, linguistics, the “death” of deponency) and focus on major and exegetically significant grammatical usages.

Long enough to provide substantial help yet concise enough for frequent practical use, this text is ideal for intermediate Greek and Greek exegesis classes. It is also a valuable resource for preachers and other interpreters.

[Mathewson and Emig] take into account the most significant advances in Greek language study (verbal aspect, discourse analysis, linguistics, the “death” of deponency) and focus on major and exegetically significant grammatical usages.

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Mathewson and Emig do a superb job of laying out what their grammar is and is not in their introduction. First, one of their primary goals is incorporating recent linguistic study into their grammar. Another distinctive of Intermediate Greek Grammar is its minimalistic approach, seeking to keep categories to a minimum. They also make clear their conviction that Greek ought to be studied like any other language, and that the study of it ought to be synchronic rather than diachronic.

In general, I enjoyed working through Mathewson and Emig’s grammar. It is concise and good to use in conjunction with other Greek resources. I want to note two significant strengths of the grammar. First, the practice exercises at the conclusion of the chapters are different than anything I’ve come across in my biblical language study. Rather than have individual verses for practice, there are relatively lengthy chunks of NT discourse to give the student practice within a wider context. Second, the entire last chapter of Intermediate Greek Grammar is devoted to broader discourse considerations. This helps the student to consider things at the discourse level and move beyond phrases and clauses. This would be a helpful resource for students of New Testament Greek, and Mathewson and Emig’s incorporation of recent scholarship makes their grammar unique and relevant.