Oct 7, 2019

Review of Biblical Greek Made Simple

H. Daniel Zacharias, Biblical Greek Made Simple: All the Basics in One Semester. Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2018, 360 pp.

In my pre-Bible college, pre-seminary days, I wanted to learn Greek. So, I began looking around for a text to help me. Two in particular caught my attention. One had “Do It Yourself” in the title and the other had “30 Minutes a Day.” I ended up buying both books but never made it through either one and reading Greek remained elusive. Neither one of these works were really to blame. It was only later that I discovered in learning a language there is a difference between simple and easy. To say that something is simple is to say that it is not complicated. But mastering and applying the simple is often not easy. The work under review promises simple and to that end it is successful but readers who pick this book up should understand that it will probably not make learning Greek easy. This book can provide the simple but the reader will need to supply the blood, sweat, and tears!

But now to Biblical Greek Made Simple. Here Daniel Zacharias has provided a simple Greek grammar. He identifies four features that make it “unique” (probably distinctive is better) (pp. XXIV–XXV). First, it is designed to cover all the basics in one-semester (12-weeks or so). Second, it attempts to incorporate Logos Bible software into the process. Third, because of the first two distinctives, it attempts to ask different kinds of questions. And fourth, the volume is set up to allow one the option for going further and deeper.
There is much to like about the approach taken in this volume. Zacharias is often able to navigate the pedagogical tension between gross oversimplification and pedantic overqualification. The definitions and explanations are clear and at times entertaining. There are a number of helpful tables and diagrams and color coding is used in a helpful way. Budget-conscious students will be glad to know that there is no separate workbook to purchase since all the exercises are built in.

That being said, there are two concerns that I have about this volume. First, Zacharias is big on the idea of familiarization rather than memorization (either paradigms or patterns) and that is certainly a consolation to the beginning student. Casual familiarization is probably not going to get the job done and a robust familiarization looks a lot like memorization. Second, hitching the grammar to Logos is fine but what of the student who might not be able to afford the often-sizeable investment any decent package entails. There are also two additional issues related to the use of Logos. (1) The temptation to misuse the software as a crutch is ever present where the spirit is willing but the flesh is week. (2) The possibility that the already stretched thin student is forced to learn both Greek and Logos at the same time.

In the end though, there is much to commend this entry into the crowded field of introductory Greek texts. I imagine that more than a few will respond favorably to Zacharias’ approach. He has done an admirable job of trying to make things simple. This is great. As noted earlier, simple is not the same as easy. But of course, many of the best things in life are simple but not easy.

Thanks to the folks at Lexham who provided the volume used in this unbiased review.

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