Greek for the Rest of Us
William D. Mounce
Published in 2007
Review by Ryan Ho
Let’s face it–there’s a lot of bad Greek usage present in many of today’s sermons. Far too many pastors with no training or experience in the biblical languages seek to use Greek to support their points, spouting out terms like “Genitive case” or “middle voice” without any clue as to what they mean. Really, there’s only two solutions to the problem: 1) Somehow convince untrained pastors and laymen to stop their Greek attempts altogether, or 2) Train these individuals to use Greek tools correctly.
Dr. William Mounce, former director of the Greek language program at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has made every effort to implement that second solution. Practically every Greek language student is familiar with Dr. Mounce; his Basics of Biblical Greek is a staple textbook in many Greek 101 classes, and he’s authored numerous language titles ranging from workbooks to analytical lexicons to morphology studies. Certainly, he’s no newcomer when it comes to Biblical Greek.
Now Mounce has turned his attention to a new group of students–those outside of the academic classroom. One of his more recent titles, Greek for the Rest of Us, targets those who can’t spare the time to study Greek for years, yet who still long to understand the Bible better.
In Greek for the Rest of Us, Mounce does a great job of covering the basics. He breaks the book down into six sections, or “weeks.” He begins with an introduction to the Greek language, alphabet, and pronunciation, then moves into a discussion on the various Bible translations. In the second section, Mounce examines the various elements of English Grammar, explaining “if you don’t understand the basics of English grammar, then you can’t make sense of what the Bible is saying with its groups of words” (p43). In the third section, Mounce discusses conjunctions, adjectives, phrases, and clauses. In the fourth section, Mounce looks at how Greek verbs work, something that he delves into deeper in the fifth section. In the sixth and final section, Mounce moves onto nouns and their cases. Mounce ends the book with an appendix titled “Hebrew for the Rest of Us,” a short but sweet summary/analysis of the Hebrew language that he certainly didn’t have to include in this volume but did out of a commitment to help the church community.
Let me say off the bat that this book wasn’t developed to enable you to master Biblical Greek. Even if you were to read it from cover to cover, there would still be a great deal about the Greek language that you probably didn’t understand. Mounce’s point in this book wasn’t to cover every element of Greek. Instead, he developed this book to enable people to glean more out of the usage of good biblical study tools than they could otherwise. As the preface demonstrates, Mounce wrote this book for several reasons: to help people understand why translations are different, to find out what the Greek words mean, to see the author’s flow of thought and central message, and to enable anyone to read good commentaries and other biblical tools that make use of Greek.
Personally, I’ve found Mounce’s work to be an incredibly helpful review, since it’s been several years since I studied Greek in a classroom setting. I think Greek for the Rest of Us (as well as Mounce’s accompanying title, Interlinear for the Rest of Us) would be a great tool for someone who had never studied Greek academically. It’s written very clearly and intentionally. The Greek language isn’t easy for anyone to understand, but Mounce clearly went to great effort in order to communicate it in a manner that anyone could understand. If you’re wanting to become a Greek scholar, this probably isn’t the volume for you–I recommend picking up Basics of Biblical Greek. If, however, you’re interested in learning a little bit about how the Greek language worked, why it makes a difference in Bible study today, and how it can help you in your own personal study, I highly recommend Greek for the Rest of Us.