How To Self-Study Greek or Hebrew

William Arnold III


I have read a couple of your studies and enjoyed them immensely. (Especially Melchisedec) I intend to read as many as I can as time permits.  I appreciate your generosity to share and your desire for truth above all else.

I have a question for you:  Is it reasonable today for a preacher to preach a lifetime and never once refer to a Greek or Hebrew lexicon during a sermon?  or has this become necessary?

Another question: What is the difference in preparing for a sermon and preparing for a devotional. 

Could you advise me how or where to study Greek and Hebrew.

And finally: Should we feel guilty for not evangelizing?  Or is evangelizing the same as preaching?.  


Thank you for your feedback and encouragment. Personally, I am very big on original language study. With the immense amount of information we have today it almost seems sinful to neglect it. Image a person who only knew of the gospel by word of mouth but then one day was given a printed Bible but refused to read it. We would try to emphasize how important the written word is. We would tell him how many people died to bring the word of God into the English language and into the hands of the common people. Although it may not be as drastic, I believe we are doing something similar when we neglect the tools which are available, especially today. We now have interlinears, computer programs and English based lexicons which make it all too easy to access the original languages without any formal training. (Although I would still strongly emphasize that there is no substitue for the formal training.) Modern translaitons are very good, but no translation is perfect. And every translation is also an interpretation. It is not possible to translate without interpreting as well. Thus we are one step removed from what the original authors of scripture actually said. There is no substitue for getting the message straight from the source.

If you are interested in original language study, the best thing you could do would be to actually take courses in the languages. Having the structure of an actual course with tests and quizes, others to study with and a teacher to ask questions makes learning the language much easier. If this is not feasable, however, there are other alternatives. First I would recommend reading my article: Introduction to Biblical Languages. Then take a look at the Greek and Hebrew sections of our Recommended Book List. Finally, under the "Study Tools" category on our home page, we have several links to original language resources. For Greek, I would recommend the Zondervan series by William Mounce (book, workbook and CD-Rom). At you can order all of these as well as actual tapes of Mounce teaching the course himself. Hands-down, this gets my highest recommendation for self-study of Biblical Greek (it is also the series used in many Bible colleges and seminaries, minus the tapes). I have used this series personally in teaching Greek and it is head and shoulders above any other beginning grammar in print (see my review). For Hebrew, the counterpart to this series looks quite promising. It was written by by Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt and is also published by Zondervan (it also includes a book, workbook and CD-Rom). It is brand new and I have not used it as of yet, but it looks quite comparable to the Greek series. (See also, their website:
Beginning language study basically consists of three parts:
1. Learning the basic rules of grammar.
2. Learning the various forms of words (morphology).
3. Learning the most frequently used vocabulary.
ALL of these are important. A common tendency of beginning students is to focus on one or two of these to the neglect of the other(s). Flash cards are the easiest way to learn the vocabulary. We have links to flash card computer programs which can even keep track of which words you know and which ones you don't. I used the QuickMem Greek program myself to learn much of my Greek vocabulary. However, I would still recommend using printed flash cards as well, since they can be taken anywhere. I have pages which contain Greek and Hebrew word lists for use in making flash cards, but you can buy a set already made for a reasonable price.
If you can find someone else to study the language with you it will make it easier (not to mention the moral support when you get discouraged!). This is especially helpful when you become competent enough to begin sight reading. At this level, one of the best ways to strengthen your knowledge of the language is to sit in a group and read together. Each person takes turns reading and then translating a verse and you help each other when someone gets stuck.
After completing a beginning grammar, it is essential that you take the time to read through an intermediate or advanced book on syntax. Just a little Greek or Hebrew can actually be dangerous sometimes, since you can unintentionally (or God forbid, intentionally) abuse the language and appear knowledgable to those who have not studied it. I have recommendations for advanced Greek tools on our Book List and will soon be adding some for Hebrew. Again, I highly recommend the next book in the Zondervan series for Greek, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, by Daniel Wallace. I own every major grammar on Biblical Greek that is available in English and this is definitely the most user friendly and understandable while maintaining an exceptionally high quality. I cannot say enough good about Wallace's grammar (see my review).
The key to learning any language it to stick with it. One of my Hebrew professors once said that if you look at the language as just a one or two year study then you will not retain it in the years to come. But if you look at it as a study over ten years (or really a lifetime!) then you will be much more successful. Read a little bit every day. Take your Greek or Hebrew text with you to church to follow along with. The more you read, the more you will have a "feel" for the language which goes far beyond what you can read about it in a book.
On the issue of evangelizing, actually, this term really means "to preach the gospel." It comes from the Greek word euangelidzo which is derived from the word euangelion, the word for "gospel." It is primarily used for preaching the gospel to those who have not heard it. So our closest counterpart to the Biblical "evangelist" is our modern missionary. And yes, I do think that we as a church should feel guilty if we are not taking the gospel to those who have never heard it, but I do not think that every individual is necessarily obligated to do so.
On your question of a sermon versus a devotional, I would say that the real issue is more one of what the content is. If we are going to be dealing with doctrinal or theological issues, then I think we should be well prepared no matter how the message is delivered.

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