Greek Tools for Bible Study - Lesson 4

English Grammar

From this lesson, you will gain knowledge about the development of a Greek version of the Doxology, called "doxologiva," and the challenges of translation. You will also acquire a foundational understanding of English grammar, including topics such as inflection, verbs, clauses, phrases, and conjunctions. The importance of distinguishing between independent and dependent clauses is highlighted. Additionally, you will learn about the concept of "phrasing," a method to break down sentences to identify main ideas and relationships between sentence components, aiding in the understanding of complex texts.

Bill Mounce
Greek Tools for Bible Study
Lesson 4
Watching Now
English Grammar

English Grammar


I. Nouns

A. Inflection

B. Case

1. Subjective

2. Possessive

3. Objective

C. Number

1. Singular

2. Plural

D. Gender

1. Male

2. Female

II. Verbs

A. Person


1. Singular

2. Plural

C. Tense

1. Present

2. Past

3. Past Participle

D. Voice

1. Active

2. Passive

E. Aspect

1. Continuous

2. Perfect

3. Undefined

III. Clauses- has subject and verb

A. Dependent/Subordinate

B. Independent/Insubordinate

C. Types of Clauses

1. Concessive

2. Temporal

3. Relative-Starts with Rel. Pron.

IV. Conjunctions

A. Coordinating (connect independent Clauses)

B. Subordinate- begin a dependent clause and often link it to an independent clause.

V. Phrases

A. Prepositional-begin with preposition, has object

B. Participial- begins with participle

VI. "Phrasing"


Class Resources
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the course's objectives and its instructor, Bill Mounce's background. The course aims to bridge the gap between Greek language study and practical Bible study by teaching you how to use Greek tools effectively without excessive memorization.
  • In studying this lesson, you'll gain a solid understanding of the Greek alphabet and pronunciation. This lesson covers letter names, sounds, transliteration, and introduces Greek words and pronunciation rules.
  • This lesson delves into the intricacies of translation, shedding light on the complexity of conveying meaning between languages. The instructor begins by emphasizing that languages are not mere codes, highlighting that the nuances and context behind words are essential for accurate translation. Words, grammar, and context collectively shape meaning, and translators face the challenge of bridging linguistic and cultural gaps.
  • From this lesson, you will gain knowledge about the development of a Greek version of the Doxology, gain a foundational understanding of English grammar, understand the importance of distinguishing between independent and dependent clauses, and learn about "phrasing," a method to break down sentences to identify main ideas and relationships between sentence components.
  • Now that we have a basic awareness of how language functions, we can get into how people go about understanding what the text means. Even if you don't want to learn much about Greek, this lesson will be invaluable for how you study your Bible.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Greek greetings, including how to say "hello" in different contexts. You will also explore the subtleties of Greek conjunctions, such as "καί" and "δέ," and how they affect the interpretation of text, as well as the absence of the word "please" in Greek and its implications. Additionally, you will learn about the flexibility of Greek conjunctions and the translation challenges they pose.
  • In this lesson, you'll comprehensively analyze the book of Jude, focusing on fine-tuning phrasing, identifying divisions, and understanding its message of faith perseverance.
  • This lesson teaches the meaning of verbs in Greek and the present, imperfect, and aorist tenses of Greek verbs.
  • You will learn about English tools used in Bible study, including lexicons, commentaries, and study Bibles.
  • This lesson provides knowledge on the different non-indicative moods in Greek verbs and their significance in Bible study.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about Greek word studies, their importance, and the steps, types, and resources for conducting them.
  • The lesson covers the English noun system, including types, forms, and usage rules.
  • This lesson will provide insight into commentaries, their types, and how to choose and use them in Bible study.
  • In this lesson, you will gain knowledge and insight into the history of the formation and transmission of the Old and New Testaments.

Have you ever wanted to know enough about Greek so that you could find out what the words of the Bible actually mean? Or why are the translations so different in places? Or perhaps you just want to learn enough Greek so that you can understand the better commentaries?

Then this class is for you. The lectures are based on the author's, Greek for the Rest of Us (Zondervan) and will teach you enough Greek, without lots of memorization, so that you can achieve these goals. The book can be purchased from any bookstore.

You can also purchase the author's Bible Study Greek video series and other resourses.



Recommended Books

Greek for the Rest of Us Workbook: Exercises to Learn Greek to Study the New Testament with Interlinears and Bible Software

Greek for the Rest of Us Workbook: Exercises to Learn Greek to Study the New Testament with Interlinears and Bible Software

This book provides a crash course on Greek for people who want to study the New Testament more deeply. It covers the essentials of the language so readers can understand it better.

Greek for the Rest of Us Workbook: Exercises to Learn Greek to Study the New Testament with Interlinears and Bible Software

doxologiva   [slide 1]

I would like to start off tonight by learning another song.  This is my version of the Doxology, and hence it’s name “doxologiva” (doxologia).  I was able to sit down with Dr. Packer once over dinner and ask if he could help me rewrite the Doxology in Greek.  We had a good time doing it together, and I learned quite a bit about Greek poetry in the process.  This is Dr. Packer’s and my version of the Doxology.

As I go through the translation, you will see that we had to be quite free in how we rendered the Doxology.  Greek tends to have longer words and use less of them, and you are going to see that in the song.  For those of you who are listening to this on your computer, the printout of the sheet music is in the handouts directory on the CD- ROM. 
[Note:  The handouts (pdf) and audio (mp3) are available on the website www.biblicaltraining.org

Let’s go through this and read it out loud to make sure you understand how to say all the words first. 

First word is to;n (ton).  Go ahead and say them with me. 

to;n (ton) 
qe-o;n (the-on)  
wJ (hō)  
do-xav-ze-te (dox-sad-ze-te)  That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

to;n (ton)  means “the”.
qeo;n (theon)  is “God”. 
What I learned from Dr. Packer is that you say wJ (hō) if you need just kind of something to fill-in to keep the rhythm. 
And then doxavzete (doxazete) is an imperative.  It’s a command meaning “praise”.  So it is “Praise God”.

And then we get to the next:
euj-do-khv-san-ta (eu-do-kē-san-ta)
dw-re-avn (dō-re-an) 
Let me say that again:  euj-do-khv-san-ta (eu-do-kē-san-ta)   dw-re-avn (dō-re-an)  Good.

eujdokhvsanta (eudokēsanta) is a noun form of a verb, and it modifies qeo;n (theon).  It’s modifying “God”.  It tells us something about Him, specifically “the one who does things” or “the one who does things well”.  But then the adverb dwreavn (dōrean) means “freely”.  We’re being a little loose here with the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

Then it continues:
ta; (ta)   
ktivs-mat+ (ktis-mat)   
a{ (ha)  
pe-poiv-h-ken (pe-poi-ē-ken). 
Say it again with me, ta; (ta)   ktivsmat+ (ktismat)   a{ (ha)   pepoivhken (pepoiēken). 

Okay, ta (ta)  is another form of the word “the”.
ktivsmat+ (ktismat) means “creatures”.
The next word is a relative pronoun, “that”.  
And then pepoivhken (pepoiēken) is a verb form meaning “he has made”. 
So, who is to praise God?  Well, it’s “the creatures that He has made”. 

And then we end with Father, Son, and Spirit: 
pav-te-ra (pa-te-ra)   
uiJ-ovn (hui-on)   
kai; (kai)  
pneu:-ma (pneu-ma).  

One more time.  Say it with me,  pavtera (patera)  uiJovn (huion)  kai; (kai)
pneu:ma (pneuma).   Then we end with aj-mhvn (a-mēn).  

pavtera (patera)  is “father”. 
uiJovn (huion)  is “son”.
kai; (kai) is “and”.
And pneu:ma (pneuma) is “spirit”.

Are you ready to try and sing it?  

[singing of the Doxology in Greek, the doxologiva]

English Grammar   [slide 2]

Welcome to the second class of ''Greek for the Rest of Us''.  This is a week of chapters that are heavy in English.  The chapters are tremendously important, because I can’t teach you Greek grammar unless I know that you know English grammar.  That’s just part of the deal.  A lot of what we’re going to do in terms of exegesis, of studying our Bible is based on an understanding of grammar.  What is a main clause?  What is a dependent clause?  A lot of stuff like that is going to come up later on tonight.  Therefore, it is critical that you understand your grammar.  We will get more into Greek next week, but we have to have a foundation in English grammar before we can move into Greek grammar.

Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are only on English grammar.  Chapter 8 is on something I call “phrasing”.  Last week we talked about how words, grammar, and context makes meaning.  This is the week of grammar.  If we do not have a handle on grammar then we are not going to be able to get to the meaning of the text. 

We are going to look at English grammar for nouns, verbs, clauses, and phrases.  It was amazing to try to teach full-Greek in college, because you start learning by talking about the nominative case.  I remember when I first started teaching Greek, I realized the students had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.  Well, I figured they wouldn’t know nominative, but I said, “Okay, well, what’s a case?”  And I was just amazed that no one knew, so I’ve gotten really used to teaching English grammar before Greek.  So, if you know it, just put up with me.

In chapter 8, again this is an overview, we’re going to look at phrasing. 
It’s an exegetical method.  In other words, it’s a way in which many people look at the Biblical text and go about exegeting it, go about trying to figure out what it means.  I want to spend quite a bit of time today going through the phrasing section with you, because I really want to make sure you have it down.  Again, you might ask the question, “Why is there so much English, and why is there so much exegesis in a class on Greek?”  Well, there’s a couple of reasons.  One is that I want to make sure you can read the good commentaries.  What we’re going to be doing in phrasing is the same kind of things that commentary writers do.  If I can help you become familiar with phrasing, then you’ll be able to make a lot better sense of what the author is saying and why he’s saying it when you pick up a good commentary.  A lot of this week is geared towards helping you learn to read better commentaries.

I also found out that if I teach you just Greek, it’s just a bunch of little pieces that falls apart very quickly.  I remember it was terrible when the first time a taught this class.  I had to give all the students A’s because I did such a bad job.  I taught them all the Greek stuff, but that was just hundreds of unrelated pieces of information.  And I said, “I need a glue.  I need something that will hold this stuff together.”  Phrasing is the glue for me, because I’m assuming you want to learn Greek in order to study your Bible.  If we can be studying the Bible and seeing where the Greek fits in, it holds it all together. 

And thirdly, phrasing has revolutionized the way I study my Bible.  I do not preach a sermon, I do not write on anything in Scripture without phrasing it first.  It’s just a discipline that I use for myself and it makes the text come alive for me.  I want you to see that as well.  So, that’s why we’re going to be talking about these things.

Chapter 5:  Nouns   [slide 3]


Chapter 5 has to do with the English grammar of nouns.  What is inflection?  Inflection is when a word changes its form because of its meaning or its usage.  In other words, words alter their form, and inflection is a fancy word for that.  If you change its meaning or change its usage in the sentence, the form of the word can change, or we say “inflect”.  English is an inflected language, but it’s not really inflected.  Greek is really inflected, so the kinds of changes you see in English are a subset of the changes you see in Greek.  Greek is not as inflected as German.  In fact, there is not even an indefinite article in Greek.  The word “the” only has one set of forms, not all these weak and strong stuff that you have in German.  So, Greek is an inflected language, somewhere in between English and German.  So, what we are going to see in English, we are really going to see in Greek.

There are several things that can cause a word to inflect.  Its case can cause an English word to inflect.  There are three cases, aren’t there, in English:  subjective, possessive, and objective.  When does a word go into its subjective case?  When it’s the subject of the sentence.  It goes into its objective case when it’s the object or the direct object of the verb or several other things.  And it’s in its possessive case when it’s (duh) showing possession.  Okay, that’s an easy one.  The word that inflects in English the most is the pronoun.  If I said, “He gave his ticket to her,” there you have the three cases in English.  He, his, her.

So, case can cause a word to inflect, whether it’s the subject of the sentence or the direct object.  Now, of course, some other words don’t inflect at all, right?  You can say, “The dog bit the dog.”  The first dog is in the subjective case.  The second dog is in the objective case, but the word dog doesn’t inflect because of case. 

Another thing that can cause inflection is number.  Adding an “s”, right?  Teacher, teachers  or man, men.  We have a few different ways to indicate number in English, but normally it is the “s” on the end.

We also have gender.  Different genders can cause some words, very few words actually, to inflect.  Now, in Greek gender affects almost everything.  But it is very restricted in English.  Again, the pronouns will change.  He goes to, she goes to it.  There are a few words like actor, actress, prince, princess, where you have inflection because of gender.  But those are, I think, quickly fading out of American usage.  Society is basically neutering our language, and any kind of gender distinction is trying to be removed. 

Anyway, that’s what can cause words to inflect: case, number, and gender.  I don’t want to belabor the point, but I don’t want to whip over it.  It is in the book, but it is critically important that you understand these fundamental things.  Otherwise, Greek’s going to send you running out the back door!


I once asked a group of kids, “What’s a preposition?”  I was waiting for a definition, but they just rattled off all the prepositions he had memorized; they thought it was easier.  Prepositions are those little words that indicate the relationship between two things.  The book is ''under'' the table.  My hand is ''on'' the wood.  Prepositions are those little words.  When you have a preposition and you have its object, “on the table”, ''table'' is the object of the preposition ''on''.  That whole unit is called a prepositional phrase. 

Chapter 6:  Verbs   [slide 4]

Chapter 6 is English grammar related to verbs.  ''Verb'' is defined as a word that indicates action or state of being.  You know verbs.  Verbs inflect, don’t they? 

Verbs kind of have person in English.  First person is “I” or in the plural “we”.  “I” is the person speaking.  Second person is “you” and “you”, singular and plural, the person spoken to.  Third person is everything else.  So “he, she, it” are third person, but “book, table, projector, class” are all considered third person. 

We have number in verbs as well as nouns, which is singular and plural.  Now, here’s why this is important.  English words agree.  The verb agrees with its subject.  What does that mean?  The inflectional pattern for the verb “to be”:  I am, you are, he is.  But all other English verbs inflect in third person singular.  How do they do that?  (It’s so fun to learn a language natively, and then when you have to think through it, it’s “Oh, that’s right.  I do do that!”)  I say, “I hit Eddy,”  “You hit Eddy,” and then, “She hits.”  You see, on a third person singular verb we add an “s”.  That’s the rule.  That’s called agreement.  If your subject is third person singular, we inflect the verb by putting an “s” on the end.  Now, we have agreement with the verb “to be”, and we have agreement in English with third person singulars.  Greek is going to have agreement all the time, all over the place.  I am just trying to move from what you know to perhaps what you don’t know. 

In verbs we have tense and voice.  English has three tenses:  present, past, past participle.  Eat, ate, eaten.  And from those three principle parts, all the different tenses are formed, right?  We have voice:  active and passive.  If a verb is active the subject is doing the action of the verb.  If the verb is passive then the subject receives the action of the verb.  "I bit the cat" versus "I was bitten by the cat."  So we have tense and voice. 

We have one other thing in verbs called ''aspect''.  What is the difference between saying, “I studied last night” and “I was studying last night” and “I have studied”?  You are just going to have to think of how it feels to your English ear.  But what’s the difference between “I studied” and “I was studying”?  ''Was studying'' is the way that we express the continuous aspect.  When we describe something with a continuous aspect, it means we’re trying to say it was an ongoing process.  Now how long?  Well, context tells you that kind of thing.  But it’s a continuous action.  “I was studying last night, and I got hungry.” 

If I say, “I have studied” that’s the perfect or perfective aspect.  And what are you saying if you say, “I have studied”?  I finished it!  That is what the perfect does.  It says it’s a completed action and it is still relevant now.  There’s something about the action of the verb that is still relevant at the time of speaking.  We do this automatically, but we may not be able to define it.

When I say “I studied” in English, that is the undefined aspect.  That means, I do not really care what its aspect was.  I’m not concerned to tell you whether it was a process or whether I brought it to completion.  I am just saying that it happened.  Now, aspect is important in English, but tense is more important in English.  I mean, most of us think in terms of past, present, future, and aspect is more of a nuance.  What we’re going to find in Greek is that it is the exact opposite, that aspect is always primary to tense.  That is why you have present tense verbs referring to future realities.  And there is one place where there is a past tense verb in the Greek New Testament that is referring to our final glorification at judgment.  So, in English tense is primary to aspect.  In Greek it is the other way around.  In a lot of languages they do not even have tense.  Hebrew does not have tense.  Now, they talk about an imperfect tense and another tense, but what they are really talking about is aspect.  Like Hebrew, many verbal systems are totally aspectual and the time clues come from somewhere else, but that is a difference that English has with other languages. 

This is where exegesis gets a lot of fun.  Let me give you an example: Galatians 2.  Peter has been with the Gentiles, and some translations say, “and he ate with the Gentiles.”  Some Jewish Christians came up from Jerusalem, confronted Peter, so he stopped.  And then Paul confronted him.  I always thought that he just kind of went out once and had a hamburger or something with the Gentiles--that was a joke--and then he stopped.  But the phrase “Peter ate with the Gentiles” is continuous.  See, that totally changes the passage, which is why the ESV says, “Peter used to eat” because we were trying to bring out the fact that it was continuous and not a once only event. 

Aspect, now obviously important in English, is going to become more important in Greek.  In Greek, when we get to the verbal system, what you will see is that the different tenses have different aspects, but it is the aspect that’s critical.  When a Greek speaker was trying to pick what form of the verb to use, he was thinking primarily of aspect and only secondly of tense. 

Chapter 6:  Verbs (chart)   [slide 5]

If you really like charts, there is your chart.  It’s in the textbook.  Again, sometimes you have to say these things to yourself and say, “Now, what did that mean?”   What am I saying when I say, “I was being called”?  Make sure you spend some time in the textbook on that chart, just to make sure you understand how the English words are used.  So you have tense, voice, and aspect.

Chapter 7:  Clauses and Phrases   [slide 6]

In our blitz through English grammar, we come to Chapter 7, which is clauses and phrases.  What’s a clause?  A clause is a sequence of related words–and here’s the important part–that contains a subject and a verb.  Now, this may sound irrelevant, but this is actually one of the single most important distinctions I am going to make in grammar.  A clause has a subject and a verb, but what are a couple of the most common clauses in English?  Yes, you can have a relative clause, a clause introduced by a relative pronoun.  But, a clause has a subject and a verb.  The most common kind of clause is a main clause, a sentence in other words, a simple sentence.  “I went to the store” is a clause.  It’s a group of related words that has a subject and a verb. 

Clauses break down into a couple of categories.  They can be independent or dependent.  What would be an independent clause?  The clause that can stand on its own.  In other words, it’s a self-contained sentence.  So if I said, “I was in school,”  that is an independent clause.  It is a main clause.  It is a sentence.  If I said, “You are older than I,” that’s a clause.  “You” is the subject, “are” is the verb, but "You are" is dependent.

Here is why this is so critical.  Phrasing is mostly about helping you learn to find the main idea, the main point as you read your Bible.  Guess where we almost always put the main point?  In the main clause.  Now, that sounds basic, but it’s fundamental and a lot of people do not know that.  Yes, you can make your point in the subordinate clause, but normally the point that you will want to make is in the main clause.  “While I was at the store, I saw my future wife.”  Now, which of those two clauses is more important?  Usually, not always, but usually we put the main thing we want to say in the main clause and then we modify the main clause with dependent constructions.  “While I was at the store, I saw my future wife.”  This distinction between a dependent and an independent clause is crucial in exegesis.  It is the fundamental thing that I am going to try to get across today.  Independent and dependent clauses. 

So, for example, if the independent form is “I was in school”, I can make it dependent by making it temporal, “while I was in school.”  I can take the independent clause “You are older than I”, and I can make it dependent by saying, “because you are older than I”.  Okay?  They’re still clauses, but some are independent and some are dependent.  Dependent means they are not sentences; they ca not stand on their own; they modify something.  And what we’re going to be doing in phrasing is, if it is a dependent clause, we are going to ask what is it modifies and how it modifies.  “While I was in the store, I saw.”  “While I was” is a dependent clause and it’s telling us when.  It’s modifying the verb by telling me when.  “While I was in the store, I saw Robin.”  In a capsule, that’s what exegesis is largely about:  getting the main clause, the main idea; looking at the things that modify it; and asking what’s the relationship between the modifying clauses and the main clause.  Okay, a lot of grammar, but that’s a large part of what exegesis is about.  So we have clauses, related words.  They have a subject and a verb.  They can be independent, main sentences; or they can be dependent, they can be modifying something. 

Okay, the next thing down is a phrase.  And a phrase is a group of related words that doesn’t have a subject or a verb.  So for example, common phrases would be, we just looked at one a couple of minutes ago, prepositional phrase “under the table, in my shoe, over my head”.  Okay, those are all prepositional phrases.  And the other kind of phrase that we use a lot in English are participial phrases.  A participle is an “-ing” word.  “Sitting at the table, I finally saw the truth.”  (A little corny.  It’s the best I could come up with.)  See, “I finally saw the truth.”  When did I see the truth?  Well, I saw the truth when I was “sitting at the table.”  So prepositional phrases and participial phrases are related words that don’t have a subject and an indicative verb, a regular verb.

All phrases are dependent.  They are all dependent in English, and they are all dependent in Greek.  That is going to become crucial, because when we’re phrasing you’re going to identify something that’s a prepositional phrase.  You automatically know it has to modify something, and you are going to be asking, as you are trying to understand the author’s flow of thought, what word is this prepositional phrase modifying. 

Finally we have conjunctions, the little words that connect words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.  Conjunctions have the same duality that clauses have.  “I went to bed, and I slept for ten hours.”  “And” is a conjunction, and it is saying “I did this and I did this.”  But if you had a subordinate clause, “I went to bed because I was tired.”  See what just happened?  A conjunction took a dependent clause and made it modify an independent. 

Words plus grammar plus context equal meaning.  Very rarely does a word, a single word by itself, have any meaning at all.  But the smallest group of words that we’re going to get that can be used to convey meaning are phrases, and then clauses, and we go up the ladder.  And so, by breaking sentences into their parts, we need to be able to find out where the main thoughts are; finding where the modifying, subordinate thoughts are.  That is what all this is about.

Chapter 8:  Phrasing (Summary)   [slide 7]

Purpose (my story of learning phrasing)

What on earth is phrasing?  First of all, I made up the word.  Well, I did not make up the word.  The word existed, but it was the word I picked up to describe what I was doing.  Phrasing is something that I started doing when I was probably in college.  Now, it turns out that other people were doing it too.  I just did not know that there were names for it and all this kind of stuff.  When I was in college and in high school and I was trying to read my Bible, I would look at a paragraph and everything would meld together.  I couldn’t make sense of it.  I could see the words, but I had a fit trying to figure out what the main idea was, what it was all about.  What was it saying?  And why is he off talking about, you know, this whole thing?  You may have experienced the same thing.

I can still remember sitting, actually I was at the hospital at the school, something was wrong.  I just picked up a Bible that was paperback, and I said, “I’m going to find a different way to study my Bible.”  I sat there in the hospital room, in the waiting room, pulling all the pages out of my Bible.  Just rip, rip, rip.  Man, I was just ripping it up.  And after about five minutes that I looked up and there were two girls that were across from me gasping.  “Why is that pagan sitting there ripping his Bible up?!”  Well, I had to try to explain it to them, which was hard because I really was not sure what I was doing.  Well, I want to get the page out of the book, because then I would get a paragraph and I would cut it out. 

I got my scissors out then and I started cutting every line as a separate line.  I had nothing better to do in college.  What I was doing though, is that I wanted to get a paragraph, and I wanted to get every line as a separate piece of paper.  And then I went through and I started cutting each line.  I wanted to cut it into units that made sense to me.  So I was, “Oh, a prepositional phrase”, okay, that makes sense.  That is not too much for my brain to handle.  So I would cut it.  I would cut up the paragraphs, and then I would get out on the table and I would move them--This is how desperate I was to figure out the Bible--around until they made sense.  That was the key.  I decided to take the most important thing that I found and push it off to the left.  Then on the other pieces, I was going to try to connect them to the word they’re modifying.  So I would take a prepositional phrase that was telling me something about the verb, and I would move the prepositional phrase under the verb.  So I would do this for the whole paragraph, and then I would tape it.  Then I would Xerox it.  And I called it phrasing.  And I called it phrasing because I found that all I had to do was to cut into its phrases. 

This is not grammatical diagramming where you break everything down to the word.  It did not help me to have “in”, “book”, and under “book”, “a”.  That did not help me understand.  I mean, “in a book”, I could handle that.  I was trying to break a paragraph into pieces, push the main ideas to the left, then to use grammatical terms, I would put the phrases under the words they modified.  When I was done, I was looking at something that told me what the author wanted me to know.  It was no longer this pile of words that were so frustrating.  I could see, “Oh, he’s making two main points,”  they’re all the way over to the left.  “He modifies the verb three different ways, two prepositional phrases and a participial phrase,” or something like that.  It was a way for me to lay it out so that it would make sense.

Well, that’s what I called phrasing, and I started teaching it to my upper division Greek students, and they absolutely fell in love with the thing.  I had several of them in later years come back to me and say, “You know, I’m really sorry, but I’ve forgotten every word in Greek you ever taught me.  But I phrase for every single sermon.”  The method stuck because it helped them understand what the Biblical author was getting at.  Okay, that’s what phrasing is.  Simply put, phrasing is a way to see what the author’s main points are and what his flow of thought is; how does he move from main point to main point to main point; what are the ways in which he modifies it.

Four Steps of Phrasing

Phrasing has four steps. 

1. The first is to find the beginning and the end of the passage.  If you were asked to do a Bible study on John 3:3, “…unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God.”  That phrase does not exist in isolation, does it?  There is context, in other words.  There are verses before it; there are verses after it.  If you want to understand verse 3, you have to know the context to be able to interpret it correctly.  That is what step 1 is trying to do. 

If you’re looking at a word or a verse or even if you’re kind of reading through, let’s say Mark, and you start chapter 2 at verse 1, somewhere along the line the story ends, the passage ends, and Mark goes on to something new.  So stage 1 on phrasing is to find the beginning and the end, to know what your context is going to be for this verse.

2. Second of all, you break the passage into its sections.   Passage and sections are the technical words that I use.  As you read a passage over and over and over again, it starts breaking into different sections.  And this is where it gets really fun in exegesis because you are letting the Bible, you are letting the Holy Spirit teach you.  You read it over and over again, and go, “Wow, there are ten verses here, but they are really discussing three different things.”  So, you break it into its sections.

3. The third step is to break each verse into its phrases.  Now, often these phrases are going to be grammatical units (prepositional phrases, participial phrases, relative clauses) but not always. 

4. Finally, you lay it out on the page so that you can see the main points and see the flow of thought, how all the different modifying phrases are helping us to understand the main point. 

In a nutshell, that’s what phrasing is all about. 

Why are we doing this?

We want to read good commentaries.  My concern is not that you cannot understand the words in a good commentary.  However, I know that often when you don’t understand the exegetical method, if you don’t understand the way the commentary writer’s mind works, he’s going to be off talking about stuff and you go, “This is irrelevant. This doesn’t make sense.”  Well, actually, if it is a good commentary, it is very relevant.  But you may not be aware of what he is trying to do, of how he is going about trying to explain a passage.  So, we are trying to read good commentaries.  Phrasing, in a nutshell, is what good commentaries do.  They call it semantic diagramming or sentence flow and different words like that.

Phrasing is also the glue for our Greek, and its just fun to learn.

Chapter 8:  Phrasing (Summary)   [slide 8]

'''Colossians 1:1-10'''
Let me say something to the people who are listening to this with the book.  Colossians 1 is included on the CD-ROM and you can print it off. 

You will notice what there is not in this handout: no paragraphing.  I do not want you using your Bibles for this exercise.  I understand why modern Bibles do it, as it is generally helpful, but they put the headings in, they put the paragraphs in, and that stuff.  But, they are robbing you of the fun of figuring it out for yourself.  The first thing I do when I start to study a passage is getting the text out of my computer program and I print it up this way.  There are no indications of anything.  I do not want what someone else thinks the passage means to control what I think a passage means.  Now, when I’m done doing my own work, I check it.  But it is so much fun to do it yourself first. 

So, I take the text and I clean it up so that there are no hints in it.  I just have to read it the way the Biblical writer wrote it.  I am sure you understand.  All of these are modern typographical conventions.  Verses and chapters were added hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but a thousand years after they were written.  Headings obviously are just an editorial convention, so there is nothing sacred about that.  You also know there was no punctuation in the original manuscripts.  No commas.  No periods.  Actually, there were not any spaces.  All those things (paragraphing, verses, chapters) are all modern conventions.  So let’s get rid of them and have a little fun doing our own exegesis. 

Okay, well, that’s enough for a summary on phrasing and an explanation of the handout from Colossians.  Let’s take a quick break, and we’ll come back and phrase Colossians!