“Go ahead and salivate!” — A Proven Method for Greek Vocabulary Study and Mastery

Here’s a proven method for vocabulary card creation, study and mastery. It’s based on the principle, familiar to some, called “conditioning” (“conditioned reflex”). In the 1890s Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov demonstrated a repetitive occurrence in the behavior of dogs when presented with food accompanied by an additional stimulus (e.g., ringing a bell). Each time the dogs were presented with food, evoking salivation, a bell was rung simultaneously. After numerous trials of food presentation, accompanied by a ringing bell, with consistent occurrences of salivation by the dogs, the trials were run the ringing without food being presented—yet the dogs continued to salivate in successive trials.

This same “conditioning” principle is very effective in producing consistent memory results when studying Greek vocabulary. Since most pre-printed vocabulary cards only include the Greek word on the front of the card with the corresponding definition on the back, it’s important to create your own vocabulary cards with an important addition. Even if you use pre-printed cards, adding this additional information is critically important. “What is the additional information?” you may ask.  It is simply this: Write the Greek vocabulary word (learning occurs here, too) not only on the front of the vocabulary card, but also on the back of the card—with the definition immediately under it. In this way, you are associating the original Greek word (i.e., the “bell”) with its definition (i.e., the “food”), so that, when you turn the card over to the front side, even though it’s not really there, after repetitive viewings you will actually “see” the definition under the Greek word on the front side of the card as well!  In a sense, you can “salivate” all the way through your study of frequently used New Testament Greek vocabulary in gaining a mastery of those words. Try it; it really does work!!

picture-3.png FRONT of  Card (click to enlarge)
BACK of Card (click to enlarge)

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The “Rhyme & Reason” of 3rd Declension Greek Noun Irregularities

As you grapple with the inherent “irregularities” of Greek  3rd Declension nouns, I would strongly encourage you to be diligent to memorize the 3rd Declension Greek noun endings from this comprehensive nouns chart, just as you would the other two (easier?) declensions with their various genders and/or variations (i.e., 1st Declension). If you will do that, you will find that they are easier to identify in context, and the reasons for their various “irregularities” will be much easier to comprehend. The following discussion and related charts (click for larger, clearer view) should also provide some study help visuals.

Note:  The two pages imaged above discussing and charting the declension of various types of 3rd Declension nouns are also available anytime from the sidebar as a downloadable PDF.

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Wermuth’s GREEKBOOK Available for Purchase as a Watermarked PDF!

For New Testament Greek students seeking the contemporary convenience of electronic mobility, Wermuth’s GREEKBOOK is also available for purchase in a watermarked PDF format. I’ve posted three sample watermarked images below; click any of the images for two-stage enlargement viewing. Speedily delivered to you as a 3.8MB file via email, you’ll be able to easily load the full 119-page book—including the table of contents—to your iPad or other such portable devices. To purchase your Wermuth’s GREEKBOOK PDF at a discounted price of $29.99 (25% off the printed version), click on the image below linked to PayPal.


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Judas and Jesus—A Reminder of Our Depravity (Matthew 26:25)

Here is a verse that provides and excellent example of how, oftentimes, our English bible translations simply fail to render the original Greek in the most accurate manner. Within Greek grammatical rules is a grammatical structure where if one of two Greek negatives, οὐ, is used in a question, then the questioner is expecting a “Yes” answer. Conversely, if the other of the two negatives, μή, is used, a “No” answer is expected. In the following verse under consideration, the New American Standard version gets it right, while the highly reputable English Standard version unexpectedly seems to miss it.

The setting is the last Passover Jesus will share with the twelve disciples. Among the twelve, of course, is Judas, who has already secured his booty of silver from the chief priests in exchange for his impending betrayal of Jesus (v. 15). This fact is key to understanding the importance of the Greek grammatical structure in verse 25!

Now, knowing what has occurred in earlier in verse 15, Matt. 26:25 is even more startling, when in answer to Jesus’ all-knowing statement that one of his disciples would betray him, Judas emphatically asks Jesus, “It is not I, is it, Rabbi?” — μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ῥαββι;

According to Greek usage, Judas is expecting—at least in his mind and heart—a “No” answer from his omniscient Lord. This, in spite of the fact that, shortly after “Satan entered into Judas” (Luke 22:3), he has already been paid by the chief priests for the yet uncommitted deed of betrayal. Yet, surely Judas reasonably should have known by then that Jesus, the very Son of God, would know what was in his heart. A reminder and warning to us all of our depraved condition, most clearly set forth by Jeremiah: “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)

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God’s Adopted Children: Chosen “In Love” (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:29-30)

Greek compound verbs have always fascinated me, since as in English—though many people don’t recognize or appreciate them because of the words’ unfamiliar Latin origins—they carry the resultant meaning derived from the inherent meanings of the two individual Greek words now joined. Most often these Greek compounds have a preposition as part of their forms. In the verses observed here in Ephesians 1, the Greek compound verb (ἐξελέξατο) occurring in an Aorist Middle voice form meaning (along with ἡμᾶς), “He chose us for Himself,” comes from the lexical form ἐκλέγω, a compound from the preposition ἐκ (ἐξ- = out of) and the verb λέγω (to say, speak). And this “choosing” or “speaking out” occurred “before the foundation of the world” (v. 4), at which creative point in time God literally “spoke” everything into existence!

But, there’s more to this passage than simply a captivating Greek compound verb. Especially when we look at it exegetically in conjunction with another familiar Pauline passage from Romans 8. There are two other important words in verse 29 that shed light on and undergird what we have already seen in Ephesians 1. Here in Romans, we find the Greek προέγνω = He foreknew (lexical form: προγινώσκω). Of course, there’s more going on here than is analogous to a football “prognosticator” verbalizing his educated “guess” on who the winners of weekend football matches will be. There is much more going on than the physician’s “prognosis” of what the result of the major surgery will most likely prove to be. This is Divine foreknowledge, literally: “to know beforehand.” And this pre-knowing is not simply celestial crystal ball gazing, but rather a “knowing” in the sense that Adam “knew” his wife Eve. There is a true intimacy which existed in the will of God toward those whom He would choose as His own children, as members of His own household. So, in Romans 8:29, God “foreknows,” and then sets His will into full motion by “foreordaining” (προώριζεν, from: προορίζω = to predestine, foreordain) us “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” Then in verse 30, the Father sets His will down as a finished act with a series of past tense Aorist verbs that form the major foundation of what bible students have come to know as the “Ordo Salutis” (“Order of Salvation”) —

“And those He predestined (foreordained), these He also called; and those He called, these He also justified; and those He justified, these He also glorified.

One final observation can now be more astutely accomplished. Many have long questioned where prepositional phrase “in love” (ἐν ἀγάπῃ) belongs in Ephesians 1:4-5. Does it belong at the end of verse 4 where “we should be holy and blameless before Him in love . . .” or, within the context of the longest continuous sentence in the New Testament) does it more appropriately belong with verse 5?

“. . . in love, He (God) predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5)

We have only to refer back to our previous discussion of Romans 8:29-30 to find the only exegetically plausible answer. Within the context in Romans, God has “foreknown” or “set his love upon” us (προέγνω) as those “foreordained to become conformed to the image of His Son” (including our “adoption,” see Eph. 1:5, above). Here, as elsewhere, the bible repeatedly serves as its own interpreter, particularly through the beauty and precision of its God-breathed language.

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FLASH! Card!! Study!!! All the Words in the Greek New Testament Occurring More than 10 times!

For an online flashcard study of all the New Testament words occurring more than 10 times per Bruce Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek frequency lists (supported with words noted by Sake Kubo from his Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament >50x word usage appendix), click here. Each Greek vocabulary word occurs not only on the front of the vocabulary card, but also on the back of the card—with the definition immediately under it. In this way, you are associating the original Greek word with its definition, so that, when you turn the card over to the front side—even though the “answer” is not really there—after repetitive viewings you will actually “see” the definition under the Greek word on the front side of the card as well!  Some cards also include a “third side” clue to the word’s meaning (see screen shot example below).

Here’s a visual example—via screen shots—of what you’ll find once you’re on the “Cram.com” (formerly “Flashcard Exchange.com”) site.

1) Word frequency categories listing —

2) Word frequency group selected —

3) Features & Navigation —

4)  Sample Vocabulary Card (Front) —

5)  Sample Vocabulary Card “Third Side” Definition Clue —

6) Sample Vocabulary Card (Back) showing Greek word coupled with its English definition —

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Online Greek & Hebrew Reader’s Bible (Analytical)

For those who learn visually and love to have an organized, systematic way of studying and memorizing, this analytical Greek (& Hebrew) Reader’s Bible web application (click to go there) is replete with what you would have created if developer John Dyer hadn’t already done so. Similar to Zack Hubert’s former online interactive, analytical bible tool, but with many more creative and useful “bells and whistles,” John Dyer’s online New Testament Greek tool (click image below to enlarge) is also very user-friendly.

Searchable by Book/Chapter/Verse, the accented Greek text has a “roll-over” function embedded that provides a full analytical and lexical summary of each word.  The user may also assign colors to the words in the Greek text, according to parts of speech categories. You can even change the size and style of Greek font being used. (Of course, all the above also applies to the Hebrew text functions as well). There’s even more which you will easily find and be able to use in your Greek (and Hebrew) studies, like setting parameters to preclude information that a student is already supposed to know. So, use it wisely and responsibly, and enjoy!

link to this Bible Web App site is also available from the sidebar of  this “It’s All Greek to YOU!” site under the Online Greek Study Resources topical heading.

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“Getting (Up Close and) Personal” with Personal Pronouns

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“GPS” This! — The “Satellite View” of εἰμί

Similar in comprehensiveness to what’s available for Greek nouns and participles on this blog and also within the body of Wermuth’s GREEKBOOK, here’s another one-page “satellite view” of an important Greek verb: the intransitive (linking, “state-of-being”) verb εἰμί. Included are this verb’s Indicative, Subjunctive, Imperative, and Participial structures. Just think of it as a “GPS” (Greek Positioning System) for εἰμί. For a downloadable one-page PDF, click here or download from the sidebar at any time.

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“Sipping” on Greek Participles

So . . . are you slipping on Greek participles when you’d rather be “sipping” on them instead? Here are some tips:

Greek Participles Defined

Participles are verbal adjectives. Being part verb, they have tense, voice and mode, while being part adjective, they also have (as do nouns and adjectives) gender, case, and number. As a result, the parsing of participles is represented through all six of these distinctions:  tense, voice, mode, gender, case, and number (e.g., λύων ‒ Present, Active, Participle, Masculine, Nominative, Singular).

Participles may be used “adjectivally” including as a substantive, when no antecedent noun is present.  In these instances, as with all adjectives, they agree in gender, case, and number with the nouns or pronouns they modify.  Used “adverbially,” participles may receive adverbial modifiers, and may take a direct object.


Participles are declined in all three genders:  masculine, feminine, and neuter. The masculine active participle is declined like the 3rd Declension masculine, lingual mute stem noun, ἄρχων.* The feminine active participle is declined like the 1st Declension feminine noun, γλῶσσα (whose nominative singular ends in α, and is not preceded by ε, ι, or ρ).  The neuter active participle is declined like 3rd Declension neuter nouns whose stems end in –ματ.

The middle and passive participle endings are declined like 2nd Declension masculines and neuters; the feminine is declined like 1st Declension feminine nouns whose nominative singular ends in . Remember Aorist Passive participles always use endings that are active in “appearance.” To get a more comprehensive “satellite view” of Greek Participles formation,  click  on each of the images, below.


In circumstantial (temporal, adverbial) clauses, the time frame of the participle in translation is related to the tense and time frame of the leading (Indicative) verb.  The Present participle is found where the action of the participle is represented as taking place at the same time as the action of the leading (Indicative) verb, regardless of when the action of the leading verb takes place.  The action of the Aorist and Perfect participles denote action that has occurred prior to the action denoted by the leading (Indicative) verb, regardless of whether the action of the leading verb is represented as occurring in the past, present, or future.  For more on translation of participles, both “Circumstantial” (temporal, adverbial) participles (i.e., those without a definite article), as well as “Articular” (adjectival) participles, see the post, “Participle = Verbal Adjective.” (Also see: Wermuth’s GREEKBOOK (pp. 68-69).

*NOTE:  It is imperative that the beginning Greek student learn the declension of the 3rd Declension noun ἀρχῶν, ὁ (ruler). From this noun Present “active” participle endings are derived, and the noun’s stem (ἀρχ-) is replaced with a verbal stem (or, as I like to say in class, “We’re putting Noah back into the ‘ark’ [ἀρχ] and sending him on a vacation.” The resultant verb stem + declined endings = a verbal-adjective, the grammatical description for a participle (e.g., λύων, λύοντος…).

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