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Reading through the Greek New Testament

Students of the Greek New Testament are often at a loss on how to begin reading the text. After a year of Koine Greek, they may decide to tackle Hebrews, and promptly get discouraged at the prospect of ever being able to read the NT in the original tongue. This Reading List is designed to help students coming out of first-year Greek especially, but may be useful for more advanced students as well.

This list is organized along two lines: (1) easiest to most difficult, and (2) approximately ten chapter segments which bear some semblance of unity (e.g., either literary [pastorals] or historical [James-Galatians]). These two principles are sometimes in conflict.

The best way to read through the NT so as to increase your reading proficiency is to translate each chapter three times. As a rule of thumb, you should translate no less than one whole chapter and no more than about ten chapters at a time (the longer chapters in the Gospels may require breaking them up into more manageable sizes). Every time you translate, employ the “revolving door” principle. That is, rotate some chapters in and rotate some out. Thus, for example, if you try to translate through the NT in one year, you could translate one new chapter a day, but a total of three chapters a day. (See end of this list for how to get through the NT in one month!)

For example: Day 1: Matthew 1. Day 2: Matthew 1–2. Day 3: Matt 1–3. Day 4: Matt 2–4. Day 5: Matt 3–5, etc. Each chapter would get translated three times in the year and two would be near-immediate reinforcements.

One approach to mark your progress is to do this: underline a chapter the first time you go through it, circle it then second time, and cross it out (‘X’) when you’ve translated it three times.

1.            JOHN                    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9   10  11 [Group 1]

12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  21 [Group 2]

2.            1 JOHN                  1    2    3    4    5

3.            2 JOHN                  1

4.            3 JOHN                  1

5.            PHILEMON            1 [Group 3]

6.            REVELATION         1    2     3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10   11 [Group 4]

 12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19   20   21  22 [Group 5]

7.            1 THESS                 1    2    3    4    5

8.            2 THESS                 1    2    3 [Group 6]

9.            PHILIPPIANS           1    2    3    4

10.            MARK                    1    2    3    4    5    6 [Group 7]

  7    8    9   10  11  12   13   14   15   16 [Group 8]

11.            MATTHEW             1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10 [Group 9]

  11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20  [Group 10]

   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28 [Group 11]

12.            ROMANS                1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8 [Group 12]

   9   10  11  12  13  14   15  16 [Group 13]

13.            EPHESIANS            1    2    3    4    5    6

14.            COLOSSIANS         1    2    3    4 [Group 14]

15.            GALATIANS            1    2    3    4    5    6

16.            JAMES                    1    2    3    4    5 [Group 15]

17.            1 COR                     1    2     3     4     5     6    7   8    9    10 [Group 16]

   11  12  13   14   15   16

18.            2 COR                      1    2    3    4 [Group 17]

     5    6    7    8    9    10   11   12   13 [Group 18]

19.            1 TIMOTHY              1    2    3    4    5    6

20.            2 TIMOTHY              1    2    3    4

21.            TITUS                       1    2    3 [Group 19]

22.            1 PETER                   1    2    3    4    5

23.            2 PETER                   1    2    3

24.            JUDE                        1 [Group 20]

25.            LUKE                        1     2     3     4     5     6    7     8 [Group 21]

     9    10   11   12   13   14   15   16 [Group 22]

     17  18   19   20   21   22   23   24 [Group 23]

26.            ACTS                        1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9    10 [Group 24]

     11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19 [Group 25]

     20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28 [Group 26]

27.            HEBREWS                1    2     3     4     5     6     7 [Group 27]

      8    9    10   11   12   13 [Group 28]

N.B. The reading assignments are broken up into twenty-eight segments of approximately ten chapters each (some as short as 6–8 chapters, one as long as 13). If one were to translate one group of chapters a day, he/she could get through the entire NT in one month. (This of course is not for the faint-hearted; doctoral students getting ready for comps may wish to do this though.) For the rest of us mortals, translating one new chapter a day, with two review chapters, will take 260 days to translate the whole NT. Taking weekends off, you can get through the whole NT in a year. A suggested way to attack the reading is DAILY to read one segment with the help of Burer and Miller’s New Reader’s Lexicon, marking with a blue highlighter any words whose glosses you are not familiar with, AND review the previous segment without Burer-Miller (as much as possible). Any words that are still forgettable should be highlighted with yellow (the result will be green). (Alternatively, you could simply check off those words that you know; any words without a check are the ones to concentrate on.) By the time you get through each chapter a third time, most of the vocabulary should be fairly familiar with only occasional glances as Burer-Miller. For those with some expertise in reading, the time it should take to get through each segment (i.e., approximately 10 chapters) should be between two and five hours daily.

This document is also attached as a PDF, allowing you to have a hard copy that you could check off as you go through each chapter.

For the hard copy click the link below:

NT Greek Reading List

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34 comments on “Reading through the Greek New Testament

  1. […] via Reading through the Greek New Testament. […]

  2. Thanks, Prof. DW, for the posting and for the reminder of a past but relevant event. In 1983, at a dinner held in honor of visiting lecturer, Professor FF Bruce, with NT ThM, PhD and faculty attending, When dinner was finished, during a Q/A session, I asked the esteemed Professor from Manchester what he told his students when they completed their studies. “Read your Greek NT everyday,” was his reply. After 30 years in the Pastorate and reading my Greek NT everyday–including weekends–(and preaching from it this morning!) Prof. Bruce’s counsel needs to be heard again by a new generation of Teaching-Shepherds. It’s work. But its worth it. Some of the best advice I ever followed. Reminds me of the words of the Savior in Luke 10: 42

    • Tim, you are the model pastor! I didn’t know about this event (since I was teaching at another school in ’83). Delighted to hear this little vignette about the only scholar to be both president of the Society of New Testament Studies AND Society of Old Testament Studies.

      • Thanks, Prof for the vote of confidence. And you’re right; Prof FF Bruce was unequaled in his ability to do the cross over from OT to NT and back. His autograph inside the cover of my Greek NT–since 1983–is a daily reminder of his counsel. Now, you must carry “The Colors” (i.e., the flag of Greek studies) for the next generation as Prof Bruce did for the last.

  3. Sir,    I noticed this study is for those who have studied Greek and Hebrew already. I’m interested in learning how to read and understand Greek, what is the best advice you can give te on which class to take. I want to do this online if possible. Thanks   Rick Williams

    • Rick, ideally you should first study Attic Greek. It’s a wonderful background for NT Greek. Barring that, there are several schools that offer NT Greek as online courses, including Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Seminary.

  4. Wonderful! This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Anybody know of a similar resource for the Hebrew OT?

  5. Do you have similar reading plans for the Apostolic Fathers and Septuagint?

  6. Thanks for this list–I appreciate the progression from easy to difficult.

    I’m curious: what do you mean by “translate”? Write it out? Do it in your head? Word-by-word, or clause-by-clause?

    Also, might there be a possible concern that a focus on something like one-to-one translation could hinder what could eventually become reading fluidity and thinking in another language?

  7. This is great, Dr. Wallace. :) Thanks, it’s really going to come in handy. This is just what I was looking for! Hope your Christmas was awesome.

    rpc

  8. This is great Dan! After teaching Greek Exegesis I this last semester my students asked me for this exact list (translating NT books from easiest to most difficult). Below is the list I put together but I will use yours from now on :) I was pretty much with you on the easiest books and the hardest books, but not so much in the middle.
    1 2 3 John
    John
    Matthew-Mark
    Philippians
    Galatians
    Ephesians-Colossians-Philemon
    Romans
    1 2 Corinthians
    1 2 Thessalonians
    1 2 Timothy Titus
    James
    Revelation
    Hebrews-1 Peter
    Luke-Acts
    Jude-2 Peter

  9. Abramkj and J. Whidden, having now gone through the LXX many times over the years I would agree that the narrative portions of the parts of the OT that are most familiar are the easiest to translate. Genesis-Exodus (1-20)- (Numbers 12-)-Joshua (1-12)-Judges-Ruth-Jonah-Daniel 1-6 and the most difficult are no doubt the Wisdom books (Job-Psalms-Proverbs-Eccl-Songs) and most of the Prophets because there is just so much vocab that is not familiar. God bless

  10. Dr. Wallace,

    Would you recommend a readers lexicon, like Burer and Millers over using a tool like the UBS readers edition? If so, what are the benefits of that tool opposed to the UBS readers edition? Thanks for this helpful post.

    • Yes, definitely, I would recommend a reader’s lexicon over a reader’s GNT. First, because with a Reader’s Lexicon you can ignore it and struggle through translating the NT without it, while a reader’s edition of the GNT always has the data on the page. Hard to ignore, and therefore hard to wean yourself off of it. Second, reader’s GNTs usually parse words for you, too, and that is a skill that students should have learned in first-year Greek. When a person consistently uses crutches after a while he will end up needing a wheelchair, with someone else pushing him around. Not a good idea. Third, the glosses in the reader’s lexicon are contextually sensitive and have been hammered out diligently, while the reader’s GNT may not have gone through such rigor. Fourth, you really need to learn to use the Nestle-Aland GNT over the UBS text. It gives a much fuller set of variants. Finally, the numbers of word-frequency in the reader’s lexicon are very helpful for exegesis.

      All this is not to say that a reader’s GNT is without merit. It’s a fine tool to use when on an airplane where you have limited space, for example. But when you have access to your tools, it’s not the best way to go.

  11. Just wondering if this will be helpful to new Greek NT readers:
    http://www.busysteve.com/site/greek-readings/grkr_strongs.html

    I wrote it as a study tool for myself with some help of a friend and published it for all to use. The audio is still being broken out at a verse level but all chapter audio segments are there. I hope it is found useful. (I am open to comments)

    – Steve

  12. Daniel Wallace, Sir, I hope this is not too far off topic as I use lexicons when working on translation. I love my Burer/Miller for quicker translation. However, I like to examine many lexicons for more exhaustive study. What, say about top three, intermediate/advanced Greek-English lexicons do you suggest? Thank you ahead of time and appreciate your blogs very much!

    -Daniel Duvall

    • For glosses in the NT, one simply can’t beat BDAG. It’s far and away the best out there. BDAG is to the NT what HALOT is to the OT. When I was in seminary, we master’s students had to use the German HALOT (Koehler & Baumgartner) and translate the German glosses. The profs considered that important a tool. BDAG functions the same way for the NT. Besides BDAG, I would recommend using theological dictionaries for their help more than regular lexica. TDNT, NIDNTT (soon to be revised), and Balz & Schneider are the best. Also, using LSJ and Moulton-Milligan is a helpful approach.

      • I am grateful for your response Sir! I currently have BDAG (also BAG & BAGD), TDNT, M-M, and NIDNTT (abridged). I’m glad you informed me NIDNTT will be revised soon as I will probably wait till then to purchase the unabridged version. Balz & Schneider is already on my wish list. Thank you for suggesting LSJ also! My teacher places a high emphasis on resources so it is nice to get further validation on the resources I am currently using along with suggestions of resources to acquire. Much appreciation and hope you have a happy new year!

  13. Wanted to ask again: what do you mean by “translate”? Write it out? Do it in your head? Word-by-word, or clause-by-clause?

    • I mean do it mentally. And of course a slavishly literal translation can keep one from grasping what the original text is actually saying. I tend to try a fairly literal translation on the first pass, and wrestle with what the Greek can mean (lexically, syntactically, etc.), thinking especially through the syntax. Then, I can go more fluidly with the text on the second pass. And see the big picture on the third. That’s why I recommended translating each chapter 3 times.

  14. Very thankful for this post – and for the discussion that I see here. I have been looking for a way to stay in the GNT since graduating and this actually seems like a fun way to do it. I especially appreciated hearing Tim Cole’s insight. :)

    Grace + Peace,
    Jason

  15. […] Wallace has an interesting—and challenging—suggestion/method for reading through the entire Greek NT in a year (or a month if you have the ability—though he admits that is not for the faint-hearted!). […]

  16. Apologies if this is not exactly on topic – but is there any equivalent resource online offering a list for reading the OT books in Hebrew in order of difficulty? I will definitely be trying to follow this plan for the NT in 2014!

  17. […] you’ve completed the review, here’s a link to another, slightly more extensive review that you may want to use as a follow-up. (If […]

  18. […] to put my Greek and Hebrew to good use and get more intimate with its meaning. I’m following Wallace’s Greek New Testament in a Year Plan and adapting it because I am slow right now. I read in groups of three as he has suggested so that […]

  19. […] When I told that obvious epiphany to my Greek professor after class today, she impressed on me that I should also read the text several times, ideally at least twice before class.  This was also Daniel Wallace’s advice: […]

  20. Thank you very much Dr. Wallace for this wonderfull resource!

    Would you be interested in publishing this reading plan through YouVersion.com ? That way it will be available for many people and we will be able to read usin the phone application.

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