How to Learn Greek Without Seminary

Learning Greek is an important skill but will also take a great deal of time.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Over the years, I have had many people come to me and ask how to learn biblical Greek. Their purpose is to understand the New Testament better and thus honor God in their spiritual lives. 

However, learning a new language takes a lot of work. People usually go to seminary to learn Greek. In full disclosure, I learned most of my Greek at a seminary. However, I also learned that most seminary students fail to gain significant proficiency in biblical languages. Instead, seminary students learn enough to pass their Greek and Hebrew classes. They often desire to return later and brush up on Greek and Hebrew, but the pressures of ministry rarely leave them with the time to do so. 

When I went to seminary, I determined to learn Greek well enough to read the Greek New Testament devotionally. Since I did not have a suitable pathway for this, I decided to give an hour a day studying Greek or the New Testament in Greek for five years. While my seminary studies were a significant part of the first few years of this process, I continued my studies diligently during summer breaks and for years after my Greek classes finished. While I learned much of my Greek at seminary, I grew even more as a student of Greek outside of my classes. 

It took me about 4-5 years before I hit my goal of being able to read the Greek New Testament devotionally. My five years were roughly from 2006-2011. Twelve years later, my Greek skills are stronger than in 2011 because once you learn a language to that degree and can use it in your everyday life, your skill in the language continues to grow. 

So, the first thing you need to do to learn Greek is to decide to put in the hours. I probably logged over 2,000 hours in the Greek text over those five years, from 2006-2011. Since then, I have been in the Greek text for thousands more hours, as I have used it in regular Bible study. If you want to learn Greek, you need to put in the necessary time to do so.

The second thing you need is a pathway to learn Greek. It would be best if you had a way to use your hour a day well. Here is what I recommend.

A reader's Greek New Testament is helpful for students of Greek since it does not require that you know every Greek word. Instead, rarely used words are footnoted so you can gain fluency in reading.
  1. First, subscribe to Daily Dose of Greek. Daily Dose of Greek is a FREE daily video that walks through a verse of Scripture in Greek. It reads the text, translates it, and gives a few grammatical tips. Build a habit of watching these videos daily. Daily Dose of Greek will help you by sending a video to your e-mail inbox daily.
  2. Second, get a handful of essential resources. You need a few things to help you learn Greek, which will cost some money. Invest the money in these resources. They are far cheaper than a seminary class.
    1. A Reader’s Greek New Testament. Reader’s Greek NTs are Greek New Testaments for beginners. They do a few things to make reading Greek text easier. First and foremost, they footnote any Greek word with a simple gloss (i.e., definition) used less than 30 times in the New Testament. These glosses make it so that someone with a basic understanding of Greek can begin reading without looking up every Greek word. Once you learn about 300 Greek words, you can start reading the New Testament.
      1. I recommend the UBS Reader’s Greek New Testament, which is $66.75 at Amazon.
      2. If that is too expensive, you can get Zondervan’s edition for a budget version for $37.49.
    2. A basic Greek Grammar. I recommend
    3. A workbook. The grammar text book above is paired with this workbook:
      1. Long story short, if you only get the grammar and do not get the workbook, your chances of learning the language drop drastically.
    4. A lecture series. Here is a free lecture series by Bill Mounce, who wrote the grammar and workbook above, lecturing through those books. This course is a seminary-level education for free. If you buy those books, work through them, and take this free course, you will learn lots of Greek.
  3. Here are the competencies you need to develop in order:
    1. First, learn the Greek alphabet. Usually, the first chapter of your Greek Grammar will usually teach you the alphabet. If you cannot recognize the characters, you cannot move forward. I recommend using flash cards. It should take you only a short time to learn the alphabet. If you want to start this while getting other resources together, use this Wikipedia page:
    2. Second, you need to undertake two simultaneous tasks:
      1. Learn Basic Grammar. You have two choices for learning Grammar: (1) learn from a textbook or (2) learn from videos. Some people may combine the two. See above for recommendations in the section on gathering resources. No matter what, you will need to work hard to learn.
      2. Memorize Greek vocabulary. Your goal should be to learn the 319 Greek words used at least 50 times in the NT. If you remember those 319 words, you will understand about 80% of the total words in the Greek NT (these 319 words account for 110,425 of the total 138,162 words in the NT!). A good Greek grammar book will help you to learn these words (For these stats, see William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Third Edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 16). 
    3. Third, immerse yourself in the Greek New Testament. If you want to read the New Testament, try to read it from the beginning.
      1. Watching the Daily Dose of Greek videos is the easiest way to start reading the Greek NT. Make this part of your daily habit. Incorporate it into your quiet time. If you subscribe to that channel and watch their videos daily, you will move forward significantly in your ability to read biblical Greek.
      2. Begin reading through an easy book of the Greek NT. Read through it multiple times with a grammar in one hand and your NT in the other. I recommend using a Reader’s Greek NT so you can look up less vocab. Reading the Greek NT will initially seem frustrating and slow, but practice makes perfect. 
      3. Others have made good lists of which books you should read in what order. Here is my recommendation for the order of books you should try to read in the NT:
        1. 1 John – The most accessible book because of its relatively short length, easy vocabulary and grammar, and concrete statements.
        2. The Gospel of John – It is almost always easier to read narrative than epistles. John is much easier to read than the other gospels. 
        3. Philemon – Many of Paul’s books are also fairly easy to understand. Begin with Philemon since it is so short.
        4. Philippians or 1 Thessalonians – for Paul’s other short books, Philippians and 1 Thessalonians have relatively simple grammar and vocabulary.
        5. Mark – Mark is easier to read than Matthew or Luke, reading Mark will help you grow in your skills substantially.
        6. At this point, you can begin reading most books of the NT. You will still struggle with Luke, Acts, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude, 2 Corinthians, and Hebrews until your Greek strengthens. Therefore, avoid reading those books in Greek until you become confident in other texts. 
Learning Greek requires that you work through numerous simple resources to gain fluency in the language. A workbook will help you with this process.

The tasks I have outlined above will take six months to a year, depending on your work. So, what next? Here are my recommended next steps:

  1. Be diligent to continue reading the Greek New Testament. Read the NT cover-to-cover over and over again. Go deep into a few books. Sometimes, do quick reads that gets through all of it. Other times, slow down and look up everything you do not understand.
    1. How do you look up what you do not understand? At this point, you may consider purchasing Bible software like Accordance. These programs are expensive, however. The cheaper way to do this is to use online tools like Using the translation MGNT (Morphological Greek New Testament) on that site will break down every word and show you the lexical form, how it is parsed, etc. 
  2. Continue learning Greek vocabulary. At this point, continue learning Greek vocabulary primarily by reading the text, looking up words, and studying. If it is helpful, continue using flashcards and memorize more and more terms.
    1. At this point, you need to go beyond simple definitions of terms. Your next step is to buy an expensive book that is commonly called BDAG. While you may outgrow BDAG someday, it will become your most frequently used Greek book (along with Wallace below) for your next 5+ years of study.
  3. Learn Intermediate Greek Grammar. Once you have learned basic grammar, you need to know syntax. In basic Greek grammar, you will have learned how to understand what cases nouns are using or what tense verbs are using. Syntax is the study of the different ways that these cases and tenses. For studying syntax, use Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.
    1. When you get this Wallace book, you will likely be intimidated. Again, flashcards are your friends. Just get out the flashcards and begin memorizing. Go ahead and memorize them. Slowly work through Wallace, memorizing everything. For example, Wallace gives 13 uses of the nominative case.
  4. Begin translating and working slowly through a book of the New Testament. I recommend one of Paul’s shorter letters, like Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, or Colossians. Again, you can use to make a printout. When you print it out, use lots of spacing between words. Above every word, you will want to put:
    1. The translation of that word,
    2. The words parsing/declension,
    3. The syntax of that word, and
    4. Other notes about the word/grammar.
    5. Also, leave tons of space in the margins, as you will have lots of other info you want to write down. You will do the deepest dive of an NT book in this process that you have ever done.
  5. Once you finish translating and working through one book, start another. Continue this process until you master the Greek New Testament. 
  6. Sentence diagramming will help you take your translation work even one level deeper. At this point, it will also be helpful for you to learn skills in sentence diagramming Greek sentences. My favorite book on this subject is out of print. At this point, you will need to begin googling some of these next steps.
Understanding the usage of Greek words is vital for growing in fluency in biblical Greek. BDAG will be your best friend in learning this skill.

After you master Wallace, read the Greek NT a few times, and translate/work deeply through several NT books, you have mastered the basics. At this point, continue your reading and studies. You can also begin studying other areas of Greek NT study. For example,

  • Advanced Greek Grammar
  • Discourse analysis
  • Textual criticism

If you have questions, feel free to write to be at However, teaching Greek is not my focus. I have honestly written these things down since many people ask me how to learn Greek. So now, when anyone asks, I can point them to this blog with all the info and invite them to take this journey.

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