For far too long, we have thought that the basics of reading the New Testament in the original Greek language is something that takes years to learn. As a result, most of us depend on our pastors, priests and clergy to explain the original meaning of the New Testament passages to us.
When Christians are too dependent on translations of the Scriptures into our own language, we can never be sure that what we are reading is an accurate portrayal of the source text. In the last days, we need to know God’s Word well enough to avoid deception.
Greek is not Hebrew and Aramaic
The authors of the Bible originally wrote it in three ancient languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. However, for English speakers, Hebrew and Aramaic are a bit more difficult to grasp. This is because they are written “backwards” – from right to left instead of left to right, as we are used to.
In addition, in Hebrew, you cannot pronounce the verb root forms. They are a string of two or three consonants. In order for you to conjugate the vowels, you plug them into these consonants in a specific, predictable way.
If you would like to learn Hebrew, we highly recommend the Hebrew4Christians website.
Greek does not have the same challenges as Hebrew and Aramaic do. The letters are similar to what we are used to. Yes, Greek verb conjugations are complicated, but you can easily distinguish verbs from one another by recognizing the root of the verb at the beginning. And because the verb and noun markers mostly appear at the end of the word, it’s easy to look the words up in a Greek-English dictionary.
How this lesson plan works
You can teach the kids and teenagers in your church the basics of Greek in 1 to 3 Sunday School lessons! If you have time or are working with adults, you may want to break it into additional classes.
Lesson 1: Introduction, and the Greek Alphabet
Discussion: When God first revealed His Word to the Jews, He did so using the Hebrew Alphabet. God gave us the Torah through Moses. Likewise, the poetry of King David and Solomon, the history books, the major and minor prophets… all were presented in Hebrew (and Aramaic).
Then, there are 400 years of silence… and we meet the Messiah, Jesus! His disciples begin to present the Bible to the world in Greek.
Question: Why did God use Greek to show His Word to His People, and not Hebrew or Latin (the language of the Roman Empire)? (let the students try to guess why.)
Answer: In the time of Jesus, Greek played the role that English does today. It was a language of trade, commerce and education. Greek was more widely understood, so more people were able to understand His Message. His Message was reaching “into all the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). To do so, it went out in Greek.
Now it’s time to teach the students the basics of the Greek Alphabet. Pass out the handout with the Greek Alphabet on it, and explain how each letter is pronounced.
In preparation for this lesson, go to Foundalis.com to learn how to pronounce the letters.
Before long, they will know enough to write their names in Greek. So have them give it a try! Then, before the class is over, divide the students into teams. Have them see who can translate the Bible Names in the picture to the right the quickest!
To kids, this will seem like a secret code they can use to communicate with their friends. With all the Greek letters, your students can write almost any secret message in English!
Lesson 2: Translate a passage of the Bible
Next, work through a passage from John in the handouts with the students. Give some of the students a copy of the two page dictionary, and others the passage from the Gospel of John. Have the students match the words in the dictionary with the words in the passage. As you go along, point out how the sentences are formed, and teach them a few of the most common words in this passage.
Lesson 3: Word Search the Greek New Testament
In the lesson plan below, there is three-page Greek dictionary at the end of the handouts. All of the words listed in it appear 100 times or more in the Greek New Testament.
Can you get your hands on a few Greek New Testaments? If so, have a contest where you write one of the dictionary words on the board. Have two or more students face off as they try to find that word in the Greek New Testament. First one to find it, raises their hand. If they are incorrect, the point goes to the other team.
At the end of class, give one of these dictionaries to the students, and show them how to use a copy of the Greek New Testament, either on their phones or in your church library. As a result, they will be able to learn more if they want to dive deeper.
Let your students amaze you!
I believe that we totally underestimate how much our teenagers can learn. Children and teens enjoy a challenge to grow by learning something new and useful.
If we give our kids the basics of the language of the Bible now, who knows? Perhaps God will raise up a pastor, missionary or Bible translator from among your students!
Would you like to download the lesson handouts in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format? There is no need to give us your email address. Just click on the button below!
We would be glad to come to your church and teach the basics of the Greek language to youth group or Sunday School class. If you’re interested, please let us know using our “contact” form.