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

49 thoughts on “Reading through the Greek New Testament

  1. Pingback: Reading through the Greek New Testament | Overheard

  2. Tim Cole

    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

    Like

    1. 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.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tim Cole

        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.

        Like

  3. Rick Williams

    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

    Like

    1. 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.

      Like

      1. Bruce Smith

        I recently read, with the help of English translation since it’s been 38 years since my two quarters of Hebrew under Dr. Howard, Even Bohan, or Matthew in Hebrew. I was wondering what your thoughts on the works (13 extant)might be.

        Like

      1. J. Whidden

        abramkj: Thanks for that link. I would imagine that Greek Isaiah is probably the most difficult book to read in the LXX and that the narritive sections in Books such as Genesis, Exodus, Judges, 1 and 2nd Sam, 1 and 2 Kings are the easiest.

        Like

  4. 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?

    Like

  5. Rory C.

    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

    Like

  6. Pingback: Reading the through Greek New Testament | συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

  7. 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

    Like

  8. 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

    Like

  9. 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.

    Like

    1. 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.

      Like

  10. 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

    Like

    1. 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.

      Like

      1. 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!

        Like

    1. 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.

      Like

  11. 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

    Like

  12. Pingback: Reading the Greek NT in a year | NT Resources

  13. 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!

    Like

    1. Kaspars – short answer, no.

      Last year I began a plan to read the NT in Greek in 2 years and the OT in Hebrew in 3. I am using the plan that Lee Irons put together at http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2011/12/savor-the-greek-new-testament-the-two-year-plan.html

      For the OT, I could only find 1-year and 2-year plans. I finally found a free windows program that could generate reading plans. Given a section of Scripture and a time frame, the program would try and make each day as even as possible while also trying to hit paragraph breaks.

      Like

  14. Pingback: » Refresh Your Greek in 15 Minutes a Day

  15. Pingback: Bible Reading Plan for 2014, and My Story | adamsetser

  16. Pingback: Ditching flashcards. | Linguae Antiquitatum

  17. dardosordi

    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.

    Like

  18. Tait

    Mr. Wallace, Is there a list of easiest verses or passages? It would stand to reason that if we categorize verses according to the the usage frequency of each word, it would not be terribly difficult to come up with a list of phrases, verses, and passages and tailor the teaching of new vocab to make those verses accessible as early as possible to the student. I was thinking of putting together such a list, but after reading this I thought I might reach out and see if you are aware of any.

    Like

    1. Emma E

      Tait – I’m not sure of your background, but you might have a look at jtauber’s “New Kind of Graded Reader” at http://graded-reader.org/

      The type of thing you’re suggested can be done, but I’ve found there’s more involved in doing it well. For example, looking at the ‘least frequent word in a verse (or sentence)’ is one way to measure complexity, but there are other ways to consider as well (e.g. how does one account for complexity of syntactic construction?)

      That said, annotated syntax trees of the Greek New Testament are available from the Global Bible Initiative, so if you’re computationally inclined, play away!

      Like

  19. Pingback: Greek like Swinging a Bat — Personal Tips and Goals to Read Greek | Doctrinae Coram Deo

  20. Pingback: Reading Challenge #313: 1-3 John. | Linguae Antiquitatum

  21. Pingback: Keep Your Greek: Reading Greek Devotionally | exegetical.tools

  22. Pingback: Reading the Greek New Testament in 2016 |

  23. Kraig Russell

    Mr. Wallace,
    I am involved in a protracted discussion with someone who has used quotations from your published works to support “godly was the Logos” as a valid translation of John 1:1c. I know Greek and have explained to him that he has misunderstood you, but he continues to insist, and I quote, that you “are not ruling out the possibility that the phrase can be translated as ‘and godly was the Logos’ . . .” He insists that, “Wallace saw ‘theos’ as having a qualitative sense ( clarified in a word like ‘godly’) . . .” . I have explained to him that when you say that the word ‘theos’ without the article in John 1:1c is QUALITATIVE that you mean that ‘theos’ there describes WHAT the Logos is—GOD.
    I would not bother you with this if it were not for the fact that this man has a strong influence over many and is misleading them by teaching this. Maybe a short word from you might help.
    Kraig Russell

    Like

    1. Kraig, you are quite right and he is quite wrong. I say in my grammar that θεός in John 1.1c is qualitative and can be translated ‘divine’ (I never say ‘godly’ as an appropriate translation). I also qualify what I mean by ‘divine’: it would refer only to true deity, not to angels or other non-human sentient creatures. I also affirm that in John 1.1c this is the most concise way that the evangelist could distinguish the persons of the Father and Son and yet identify them as having the same essence.

      Like

  24. LB

    Mr. Wallace,

    I have been trying to get information on why the ESV translates ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου in Revelation 13:8 as before the foundation of the world, while all other occurrences are translated as “from the foundation of the world”, like most other English translations. Perhaps you have insight as to why the ESV translates ἀπὸ as before in this verse. I would also be interesting in knowing if you feel this is a valid translation or not.

    If this is not an appropriate post for this blog, my apologies.

    Like

  25. Pingback: 2017 Reading Goals – GNT & OTP |

  26. Pingback: Reading in 3s « The Patrologist

  27. Pingback: Non-Lectionary Greek New Testament Reading Plans | Thomas Sandberg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s