. Why I’m Using Logos to Learn Greek—and Loving It

Why I’m Using Logos to Learn Greek—and Loving It

image of greek bible for post about reading greek

This may come as a surprise to some, but it’s possible to finish a seminary MA and a PhD in theology and not learn Greek, and I am living proof of this.

My programs of study were specialized enough that the need never arose (and it was never required). But now that my schooling is over and I want to continue learning, I decided that the time to learn Greek has come.

So, of course, I looked to Logos first.

Why Logos? For a few reasons:

  1. Logos has become my go-to tool for biblical and theological study. When I hear of interesting books or want to begin a new research project, I open Logos without a second thought (and, I promise, it’s not just because I work here). Primarily this is because of how easy it is to move about my library and document my insights.
  2. The resources I selected are immediately available. There’s no waiting for physical materials to arrive, so there was no opportunity to second guess my commitment to this process. I could simply jump right in.
  3. And finally, I went to Logos first out of a commitment to caring for the planet. I prefer digital materials because they have a much smaller carbon footprint than physical materials (which I won’t get into here since that would be a sizeable tangent).

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My preferred resources to learn Greek

My first stop was with the Mobile Ed Courses, where I picked up the Biblical Greek Foundational Certificate Program. This, paired with my Logos base package and supplemented by Biblical Greek Made Simple, are where I started.

To my surprise, the certificate program offered two different pronunciation methods for its Greek alphabet course. The fact that I was unaware of the competing pronunciation schemes just showcases how new I was to biblical Greek.

For good measure, I went through both alphabet courses, which ended up being quite helpful since the GK101 course uses Koine pronunciation, but Biblical Greek Made Simple uses Erasmian. I think I would have been at something of a loss if I had picked one and ignored the other. I can see the benefits of learning both systems, so I’ll just let the experts explain which one they prefer.

And let me just say, John Schwandt is great and so is the Greek Alphabet Course (which is bundled into the certificate program I selected). It’s amazing how much confidence I gained simply from learning the letters and their sounds. I still have no clue what most of the words mean, but I can sound them out and pronounce them correctly, mirroring, in many ways, my six-year-old as he is learning how to read simple English. He doesn’t understand what some words mean, but he can piece together how to pronounce them.

It’s humbling to feel like a child again, but this is simply because it’s a new language with some new sounds, and not because of how the materials are presented. Both Schwandt and Zacharias (author of Biblical Greek Made Simple) have worked hard to help newbies along, and have invited us to dive head-first into this new experience. I’m sure that as I continue to work through these materials slowly and consistently my comfort with the language will grow and my ability to use it will too, just like my son’s will with English.

Already know Greek?

I’m confident that these resources will benefit those who need to refresh their Greek as well. Schwandt’s course is broken up into bite-sized sections that are easy to navigate, so you can quickly find particular topics that you want to brush up on. And Zacharias’ book features a “Second Time Around” section at the end of each chapter, which will help those who already know Greek to dig in a little deeper.

So, if you’re considering learning biblical Greek on your own, or if you want to refresh the skills you worked so hard to develop, consider using Logos to do it. I’m only at the beginning of what will prove to be a long process, but so far I couldn’t be happier. I’ll report back in a later post about my progress and my experience with learning this ancient and valuable language.

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Written by
Adam B. Shaeffer

Adam B. Shaeffer (PhD, Durham University) rarely had time for books until he discovered the fantasy novels on his dad's shelf at age 12; the rest is history. His primary research interests revolve around the interplay between theology and literature, attending to fiction's power to narrate theological insights through the thoughts and lives of imagined people and places. His poetry and fiction have appeared in *Jabberwocky*, *Resident Aliens*, and *This Mutant Life*.

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  • A PhD in theology without knowing Greek? I think you were cheated. I will never use an English New Testament again except to help out with a difficult translation. You just miss too much.

    • I wouldn’t say I was cheated. It was actually one of the reasons I chose to do a PhD in England. There, they don’t require you to learn any language unless it’s necessary for your particular research field. If at any point it becomes clear you need the language, they expect you to go learn it so you can do your work. My research just never required it…

      • Dear Adam,
        I find myself in close agreement with Larry Craig, How you would feel contented to do a PhD in theology without Greek is beyond me. I would really like to know where you found an Educational establishment in England, that would allow you to pursue a PhD degree in Theology without a working knowledge of the original languages. A University education is about gaining knowledge and understanding so that you will have good tools to follow whichever career you are led to. You were cheated as Craig says your degree may have got you a job but I doubt you could call it an education. Your admission that “one of the reasons I chose to do a PhD in England.” was that “There , they don’t require you to learn any language unless it’s necessary for your particular research field.. . . My research just never required it…” It is good that you are retrospectively learning Greek but your testimony now looks more like an advert for products obtainable from Logos for cash. Sad not encouraging.

        • Doug,

          I’m sorry to hear you feel that way. In no way was this post intended to drive sales, it was simply sharing what I’m doing to continue learning. Those Logos resources are the ones I’m using, so they’re the ones I wrote about.

          It sounds like you disagree with the way PhD research is done in the UK. There, they assume that candidates will do what they need to do in order to produce first-rate research, rather than prescribing a set curriculum requiring skills they may or may not need for their particular project. Many US schools require not just Greek and/or Hebrew, but also theological French or German. None of those languages were necessary for my work, which was integrating literature and theology, and I appreciate that the University did not require that I take years to learn languages my research did not require. I certainly don’t feel cheated in the slightest.

          If my project been one of Biblical Studies, then of course knowledge of the languages would have been necessary.

          • Yeah – clearly Larry and Doug have no concept of education in other nations. Smacks of intellectual arrogance that if you don’t do it the same way in Amerika then you are wrong. I personally think the methodology of grad programs in England makes a lot of sense and is quite intense.

            And yes – I have taken Latin, Greek, and Hebrew in my Seminary degrees. I just have a broader perspective.

            You keep doing you Adam – take care brother.

          • Dear Adam,
            No further comment other than to wish you well and every blessing in your chosen work.

  • Randy Kyle
    Intellectual arrogance? I don’t think so. I just questioned how a person can earn a Ph.D. in theology without being able to read the texts on which the theology is based. I am surprised that a school would consider Greek as being optional. And then, what, a student discovers in the course of a project, Oh, I can’t read some important books, because they are in German, he’s going to take an overnight course in German so he can do his project right. When I was considering doctoral programs, it was the general rule to have reading comprehension of French and German. It’s not a question of whether you can learn enough without them, but those in charge of the program should have known better. A PhD is not about the least you can do to earn it, but what you need to learn to be really good at something. I wasn’t trying to be unkind or pedantic in my comments. I had heard for years about schools cutting back on language requirements, and I just reacted to his story.

    • Larry,
      I think possibly that part of the problem is that you don’t understand the strengths and weaknesses of the various Ph.D models. For instance, have you ever met a Ph.D that completed his/her course work, projects and dissertation in such a way that they received their degree? I am sure you have. Have you also noticed that many of those while having knowledge in their specific focus many times are woefully ignorant of other disciplines or even nuanced differences within their discipline? In the American model, you listen to lectures from an instructor who teaches what “they” want and your job is to learn what they say and regurgitate it back in an exam. I am fortunate to get to interact with a large group of higher education groups that, as my dad used to say, “they are as smart as a whip and dumb as a rock at the same time”. They would represent some/many of the American model of a Ph.D.
      In the UK model, however, the candidates are expected to be self motivated, mostly self-taught students, not so they can focus on one aspect of their discipline, but rather, that they research “everything” related to their focus and master it all. In other words, they don’t just have a degree they are the “go to” person in their field. The UK model is used by over 2/3rds of the world’s higher education universities/seminaries. There is a reason for that :-) Most of academia roll their eyes at what passes for higher education in America.
      I am NOT saying that there isn’t any value with the American model, but I am saying it is only of limited value, especially if one’s goal is to master one’s field of study.
      I choose the UK model, even though it is MUCH more difficult than the American model, specifically because I wanted to know more, to understand more so that I could be used more. As a former American arrogant theologian that was a big hurdle to get over. But a little humility goes a long ways, and more humility and knowledge takes one even further.
      Blessings, my brother.

      • James, thank you for your insights and for taking the time to share them. There is just one slight problem with the model you are recommending. When a person starts doing serious Bible / theology research, he/she soon sees how much of the work depends on exegesis, where knowing English only is a severe limitation. He/she soon discovers how much of the relevant research is in French, German, and, who knows, sometimes Dutch or Italian. And then, of course, so much of the earlier work is done in Latin. I’m only suggesting that making this discovery so late in one’s education is a severe handicap. Learning the languages is just too much work to do when you are in the midst of your research. You should have had all that years before. A good PhD program should have alerted prospective students to all this beforehand. I would say even requiring it. A PhD director should know how much of the relevant material is in a foreign language and how much, say, New Testament theology depends on an understanding of Paul, and you just can’t have that without being able to read the epistles in Greek.

Written by Adam B. Shaeffer