Guzzling and Sipping Greek

“I have never gone to the Greek New Testament without receiving fresh illumination on some point. . . . Each student has the joy of discovery as the Greek opens its beauties to his mind and to his soul.”

~ A.T. Robertson

“Before we sip the Scriptures, we should guzzle them.”

~ Rodney Whitacre

Today, I finished reading Paul’s letter to Philemon in Greek. It took me a week to work and understand its grammar and syntax. But the labor is paid off. When reading Greek, I normally read slowly in order to understand it better. This morning, I learned from Whitacre’s “Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek” (he encouraged me to guzzle and sip the text in Greek) that rapid reading also has some benefits. It is one of the key practices for gaining fluency. By reading rapidly, you’ll “get the flow of the structural units of a passage.” Another is learning to process the data more quickly. You’ll also see which areas of the Greek language you need to work on (vocabulary, paradigm, syntax, etc.).

In Whitacre’s book (chapter 5), he gave three simple steps to move toward fluency from one passage at a time. These are (1) Puzzling – where you skim over the passage in order to see the words that you recognize as many as possible; (2) Scanning – identifying and examining the clauses, phrases, verbs (finite and non-finite), nouns, pronouns, conjunctions, etc.; and (3) Rereading – after puzzling and scanning, read the passage as many times as possible for “[t]his step is crucial for becoming comfortable in Greek.” By doing these steps in every passage that you read you’ll become more and more comfortable with reading Greek and the author’s flow of thought (Paul is harder to read than John!)

As we learn the language, being keen on every detail of the scriptural passage as you read it carefully is indispensable. But “Getting the language right, even if tentatively, should be the precursor of fluency development (Whitacre).”

"Fluency does not describe a stage in which a reader is able to decode all words instantly; rather, we become fluent word by word. Studies in which the eye movements of readers are tracked have shown that a skilled reader pauses at between 50 and 80 percent of the words in a text. He needs to fixate on the words, essentially to scan them in, but does so very, very quickly because the words—their spelling patterns and pronunciations—are well known to him." ~ Sally Shaywitz

Let us read God’s word extensively and closely (if you can, please, learn Koine Greek!) and you’ll find extreme joy in going deeper with the LORD’s infallible word. According to Merkle and Plummer, “For Luther, it was while reading the Greek New Testament that his eyes were opened to the reality of God’s righteousness being revealed in the gospel. To put aside the Greek language is to put aside our surest guide to the truth.”

How about you? When will you start to sip (deep meditation) and guzzle (extensive reading for maximum familiarity) the biblical Greek?


ὅτι ἐξ αὐτοῦ καὶ δι’ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα· αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, ἀμήν. ~ ΠΡΟΣ ΡΟΜΑΙΟΥΣ 11:36


  • Whitacre, R. A. (2015). Using and enjoying biblical Greek : reading the New Testament with fluency and devotion. Baker Academic.
  • Merkle, B. L., Plummer, R. L., & Mounce, W. D. (2017). Greek for life : strategies for learning, retaining, and reviving New Testament Greek. Baker Academic, A Division Of Baker Publishing Group.

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

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