The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek, reviewed
Recently my Greek reading has improved due to spending regular time refreshing my memory on verb paradigms, rules of syntax, and so on. The tool I’ve been using is Douglas S. Huffman’s Handy Guide to New Testament Greek (Kregel, 2012). Huffman’s Handy Guide consists of three parts:
- Grammar (“Greek Grammar Reminder: With Enough English to Be Manageable”)
- Syntax (“Greek Syntax Summaries: With a Few Helps to Be Memorable”)
- Diagramming (“Phrase Diagramming: With Enough Results to Be Motivating”)
“A Select Bibliography” concludes the guide and points beginning, intermediate, and advanced Greek readers to grammar texts, reading resources, diagramming helps, and more.
Handy Guide to New Testament Greek joins a number of similar little books already on the market for reviewing and retaining Koine Greek. There is Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide, a helpful and portable distillation of Mounce’s popular grammar. One might also consider Dale Russell Bowne’s Paradigms and Principal Parts for the Greek New Testament, Paul Fullmer and Robert H. Smith’s Greek at a Glance, and even the back of Kubo’s Reader’s Lexicon for its solid summary of Greek grammar with paradigm charts.
How does Huffman’s offering differ? Unlike Paradigms and Principal Parts or Greek at a Glance, the Handy Guide consists of more than simply verb paradigms or noun declension charts. It includes those, but with accompanying explanation along the way. In this regard it is similar to Mounce’s Compact Guide.
Different from Mounce, however, is the lack of any vocabulary-related helps in Huffman. It’s hard to imagine someone wanting a “handy guide” to “New Testament Greek” who doesn’t also want some treatment of vocabulary, which Mounce’s guide accomplishes nicely with its included brief lexicon. Huffman does include information about how words are formed, in his chart on comparative and superlative adjectives, for example:
But vocabulary is otherwise absent from the guide.
Part 1, “Greek Grammar Reminder,” covers everything from accents and breathing marks to nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verb declensions. (Verb paradigm charts take up the majority of part 1.)
Huffman’s “Verb Usage Guide” (from part 2) contains a refreshing amount of detail on Greek verbs for such a short guide. For example, he lists 20 categories of participles followed by a “Participle Usage Identification Guide” to help readers of Greek texts determine what kind of participle is at hand. Part 2 also explains noun case usage. His explanations of nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative cases are short, clear, and include plenty of examples with Scripture references.
Where Huffman is really unique (and what makes this guide desirable especially for a second-year Greek student or pastor) is in his part 3 on diagramming. He briefly treats “technical diagramming” (the kind some of us had to do for English in 5th grade–showing syntactical relationships at the word level) and arcing, then moves into a rich, 22-page description of “phrase diagramming,” which looks like this:
The goal of this kind of diagramming is “to grasp the writer’s general flow of thought and argument, which he has expressed in particular words and sentences” (85). Huffman’s eight steps to phrase diagramming explain the process so that even a beginner can understand it well. His “Special & Problem Issues” section is the icing on the cake of part 3.
The guide is truly “handy”; it fits nicely together with a Greek New Testament, so one can keep it close at hand. The color-coding in the paradigms is done well, so that verb endings stand out for an easy refresher course.
An unfortunate and fairly noticeable drawback to this guide, in my view, is in the layout and color scheme. The orange theme, as attractive as it looks on the cover (pictured above), gets to be an eyesore after looking at more than a page or two. It’s too bright to read comfortably, and there are charts with at least four different shades of orange.
When there is Greek in black font (in grammatical category explanations), it looks great. But the Greek in the charts in orange has a fuzzy or slightly blurry, pixelated appearance. There are also quite a few charts that are in landscape orientation (rather than the default portrait orientation), so that the reader has to flip the book sideways. That alone would not be a huge deal, but the orange was distracting to me.
Hopefully there will be demand for future printings, and hopefully future printings will make the layout and fonts more useable. And despite the omission of vocabulary, this guide has great content. Resources on sentence and phrase diagramming for Greek are few and far between, but Huffman’s guide covers that territory well, and having that coupled with quick-reference charts will help just about anyone seeking to retain and improve their biblical Greek.