Why use Athenaze to learn biblical Greek


This site is intended to help students learning biblical Greek get the most out of the Athenaze curriculum published by Oxford University Press. The material presented on this site is not a replacement for the text. You will need to obtain a copy of Athenaze to take full advantage of these resources.

How to Use the Site

The additional resources on this site are organized according to each chapter and section of the Athenaze text. This was first done with the 2nd edition of the text. 3rd edition owners can still use the materials since the chapter structure is the same between editions. The vocabulary and stories are nearly identical, so 3rd edition users simply have to be aware of some minor variations.

The goals for using these audio/visual materials for learning Biblical Greek with the Athenaze curriculum are:

  1. To read ancient Greek (including biblical Greek) as quickly, thoroughly, and enjoyable as possible
  2. To speak and compose ancient Greek
  3. To get a feel for ancient Greek culture

As you can see the materials on this site for each chapter of the textbooks are not a republication of the printed text. The student is expected to obtain a copy of the textbook and read it in conjunction with the materials provided on this site for each chapter.  The material on this site provides audio and visual additions, supplemental teaching, and modifications to focus the grammar on how it relates to learning biblical Greek.

Working through the curriculum with the materials on this site provides both an inductive and deductive learning experience.  Between the textbook and recorded lectures, there is plenty of grammatical explanation for each chapter and concept.  The important distinctive of using working through the grammar with this site is that it will train students to internalize the language rather than merely teach them to translate.  The grammar translation method is the standard for nearly all classical language courses.  Students using this method learn grammatical and syntactical structures of the language and how to convert linguistic data points into English where they then interpret the meaning.  The Greek language is meaningless per se until they deal with it in English.  This method does have value but should really be presented as a tools-based approach where some of the references tools are memorized.   If someone is willing to invest a couple of years of learning in this area, why not internalize the language to actually understand it prior to translation.

One doesn’t have to decide between internalizing and depending on translating.  One can have an immediate understanding of the easiest vocabulary and grammar and translated the rest.  We actually do this with every language.  I have to use reference materials for my first language at times.

Internalization is the method used for learning modern languages, where people learn the meaning of the language per se.  They don’t have to translate it.  They simply understand it.  They can speak it and think in it.  In fact, the language becomes such a way of thinking that they ending up dreaming in it.   Internalizing Greek is the only way of achieving the goal of reading Greek quickly and enjoyably so that students are reading pages rather than decoding passages.  This is accomplished with modern language learning and can be done with the classical languages as well.

Speaking and composing sentences are necessary parts of internalization.  So this site focuses on exercises and recourses that promote these skills.  If you can speak in Greek, only then can you ask questions of the text like “Why didn’t the author say it like …?”  This is in contrast to passively decoding whatever is served up by the author.

It is important that the student stays in the target language (Greek) as much as possible.  It is difficult to train yourself to this, but it is part of learning how to learn a language.  This site offers plenty of additional materials such as questions and answers about stories and pictures to help.

Athenaze provides a great story driven approach.  This provides continuity and context from chapter to chapter and gives us a glimpse of ancient life discussed in the ancient language.  It also provides a fantastic opportunity for retelling parts of the story in your own Greek words, which is the final test for internalization.  Athenaze also provides a New Testament reading in most chapters.

Please enjoy all of the additional materials on this site as you work through the curriculum at your own pace.


Some may wonder why a site primarily concerned with biblical Greek is providing additional resources for learning classical Greek (Athenaze is possibly the most used text for classical Greek classes but fairly rare in biblical Greek programs.) This situation creates a false impression that there is a great difference between classical Greek and biblical Greek. Nearly everyone who learns to read classical Greek can also read biblical Greek. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. Much could be said about why this is the case, but rather than spending time pointing fingers, I would rather simply focus on helping as many as possible learn the language. So when faced with the choice of equally lengthy language programs why not choose one that will equip you with more and perhaps better skills?

I’m convinced that to truly learn a language one must use it and generate their own memories where the voice in the head is using the language. The more this is achieved the more students will understand instances fo the language and the easier it will be for them. There seems to be an inverse ratio of effort to language proficiency. The worst student (students who understand the least) have to work the most and most proficient students have to exert the least amount of effort. For someone who is fluent in a language, reading is nearly effortless.

The only way to achieve such intuitive skill is to practice using and producing the language not just deciphering written texts. Students must practice listening to Greek read, which forces the listener to keep up even if a percentage of the material passes by unintelligibly. The more such exercises are repeated and possibly memorized the easier the brain will be able to digest larger chunks of languages at one time. The same can be said of conversational exercises. This site will attempt to provide additional resources along these lines.

Athenaze is story driven text. It uses a story as a tool for continuity and application while gradually introducing the new grammatical material. The story method per se isn’t that much better than unrelated practice sentences. Its value isn’t so much what it serves up to students, but what it allows students to create on their own. Stories are meant to be retold. So after reading a story in Athenaze, the student is in a position to take a major step toward effortless fluency by working with short and simple stories until they can retell them in their own Greek words. Then it is a small step to start talking and thinking about their own lives in Greek, making memories in Greek.

Perhaps this method of learning Greek is wishful thinking (However it is done in modern languages all the time.) But I’m willing to bet that once you start practicing retelling the stories in Athenaze you will soon be dreaming in Greek.