The Greek Verb Revisited

Steven E. Runge and Christopher J. Fresch have edited the papers from the Greek Verb Conference in Cambridge last year into a new volume entitled The Greek Verb Revisited. The book is available as an e-book from LOGOS or as a paperback from You can preorder from Amazon, and the book will ship when supplies come arrive.

Scholars representing the fields of Linguistics, Classics, and New Testament Studies have contributed chapters, creating a valuable collection from a wide range of perspectives.

The contributors include:

  • Rutger J. Allan (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)
  • Michael Aubrey (Faithlife Corporation)
  • Rachel Aubrey (Canada Institute of Linguistics, Trinity Western University)
  • Randall Buth (Biblical Language Center)
  • Robert Crellin (Faculty of Classics, Cambridge)
  • Nicholas J. Ellis (BibleMesh)
  • Buist Fanning (Dallas Theological Seminary)
  • Christopher J. Fresch (Bible College of South Australia)
  • Peter J. Gentry (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
  • Geoffrey Horrocks (Faculty of Classics, Cambridge)
  • Patrick James (The Greek Lexicon Project; Faculty of Classics, Cambridge)
  • Stephen H. Levinsohn (SIL International)
  • Amalia Moser (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)
  • Christopher J. Thomson (University of Edinburgh)
  • Elizabeth Robar (Tyndale House, Cambridge)
  • Steven E. Runge (Lexham Research Institute; Stellenbosch University)

Mike Aubrey, one of the contributors, announced this publication on his blog back in September. I decided to post a notice here to add my recommendation that you purchase it!


A Treebank-Based Study of Subject-Verb Agreement with Coordinated Subjects in Ancient Greek


Journal of Greek LinguisticsAn article in the current issue of the Journal of Greek Linguistics by Francesco Mambrini and Marco Passarotti illustrates well the tremendous benefit provided by the development of electronic treebanks for the Ancient Greek data. Mambrini and Passarotti examine subject-verb agreement with coordinated subjects and bring to bear on the problem a breath of data that would have proved inaccessible only a short time ago.

Whether or not you agree with Mambrini and Passarotti’s conclusions (that partial agreement—where one of the coordinated subjects rather than the entire coordinated phrase controls the number of the verb—is “more than a mere deviation from a rigid syntactic behavior” and that “semantic and discursive factors influence the choice” between possible controllers of the verb’s number), you now have the amass a very large amount of data to argue with them, and the tools needed to amass that data are much more available than they were even a few years ago.

Mambrini and Passarotti used two annotated treebanks. The Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank (AGDT), part of the larger Ancient Greek and Latin Dependency Treebank (AGLDT), was created in 2009 and is the first syntactically annotated corpus of Greek literary texts of the Archaic (Homer, etc.) and Classical Age (Bamman et al. 2009).  is a project from the University of Oslo that provides aligned treebanks that can assist with translations of the New Testament in a broad spectrum of Indo-European languages (Haug and Jøhndal 2008). In addition to the New Testament, though, PROIEL includes a selection of other prose texts. The morphological and syntactic annotation of Herodotus, for example, is ongoing.

Mambrini and Passarotti’s use of these syntactic treebanks foreshadows what is certain to be the norm in future research on Ancient Greek. We are all greatly indebted to those who have put the time into developing the databases that will serve and greatly expand our research in the decades to come.

I’ve added the article to A Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics.

The Greek Verbal System and Aspect Prominence

A new article by Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis has recently appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society discussing the need for revising the terms we use to discuss the Greek verbal system. You can download the article from

Their proposals have grown out of the work they have done with BibleMesh and are influenced by the work of other scholars such as Stephen H. Levinsohn and Randall Buth as well as conversations with Christopher Fresch and Steve Runge.

Here is the abstract:

Verbal systems can give prominence to tense, aspect, or mood. The morphology of the verbal system within biblical Greek provides important evidence to suggest that Greek is an aspect-prominent language, though one that also incorporates tense within the indicative mood. Certain traditional grammatical labels inappropriately treat Greek as though it were instead a tense-prominent language like English (e.g. the use of “present” or “tense formative” outside of the indicative mood). We need to reform our descriptive labels and general conception of Greek accordingly. In doing so, the simplicity and beauty of the Greek verbal system emerges, offering pedagogical advantages for teachers of Greek and challenging exegetes to properly account for Greek’s particular configuration of tense, aspect, and mood.

The well-informed discussion Ellis, Aubrey, and Dubis provide is long overdue. The terminology we use to label particular forms and their usage play a large role in informing interpretation of those forms. More accurate nomenclature will lead to better understanding and greater efficiency in describing the language.

I have added this article to the bibliography here at with notes to the names of each of the authors.

Robert Crellin on the Hellenistic Greek Perfect

Robert Crellin, writer of the entries on prepositions for the Greek Lexicon Project in Cambridge, has recently published   The syntax and semantics of the perfect active in literary Koine Greek, (Malden, MA : Wiley-Blackwell), 2016.

The book is not yet available in the Wiley catalogue, but it is projected to cost $45.00. Not bad for a 264 page book by a competent linguist! According to the abstract at the Library of Congress, Crellin

Offers a comprehensive and unified account of the Greek perfect that considers its behaviour in terms of tense and aspect, as well as voice (or diathesis)…

I have not yet been able to get a copy of the book, but according to the abstract, Crellin discusses the syntax and semantics of the Greek perfect using a large corpus of Hellenistic Greek texts that has not previously been discussed in the linguistics literature about the perfect. The book is targeted primarily at linguists and researchers specializing in (Hellenistic) Koine Greek.

Crellin has also recently uploaded his 307 page PhD thesis on the Koine Greek perfect to The Greek Perfect Active System: 200 BC – AD 150. The thesis was completed in 2012 under the supervision of Geoffrey Horrocks at the University of Cambridge. I’m not certain of the relationship between the book discussed above and the PhD thesis, but here’s what Crellin says of his aim’s and the scope of his corpus in the uploaded thesis:

It is the aim of the present investigation to establish under what circumstances the various senses, past and present, active and medio-passive, may be attributed to the perfect active stem in this period, and from this to seek to provide an account of the semantics and function of the form which most readily accounts for the observed distribution. At the heart of the investigation is a very large corpus, approximately 800,000 words, containing work of the historians Polybius, Plutarch, Josephus and Appian. A combination of close contextual analysis and quantitative statistical methods is then used to analyse this. The investigation is primarily synchronic, but seeks to use findings made on a synchronic level to inform discussion of diachronic developments (p. 3).

I’ve added both the book and the thesis to the bibliography here at

Review of Living Koiné (Part One)

LivingKoineImageKevin Madden has written a helpful review of Randall Buth’s Living KoinéPart One. His review even has a video of the first lesson.

If you are interested in learning Biblical Greek, and you want to know how it sounded at the time of Jesus, you will probably enjoy these materials tremendously. Using drawings and audio, Buth employs a method commonly found in books on modern languages. It’s a great way to internalize the language!

Randall Buth's Reading of 1st John

I had the good fortune of encountering Randall Buth’s reading of 1st John today. He uses the reconstructed Imperial Koiné pronunciation, the system that represents how Hellenistic Greek most probably sounded in most places during the period of the Greek and Roman empires, more specifically between 200 BCE and 200 CE.

You can hear his reading here.

Alphabet Flashcards


When I returned home after SBL a package was awaiting me from CARDDIA entitled Biblical Greek Alphabet. Angelo Cheung, the producer of these cards had offered to send them to me several weeks ago so that I could give my assessment of them on this blog. I was delighted to see them and opened the package right away. Let’s start with a description of what the cards provide.

The set includes forty-eight alphabet cards, 24 upper case and 24 lower case, plus eleven additional cards covering diacritics and punctuation. Each alphabet card provides the target letter in an attractive large font on one side and key information about that letter on the back, including guidance on the stroke sequence needed to write the letter, the letter’s alphabetical order, its Greek name, the form not shown on the front (upper case for lower case letters, lower case for upper case letters), the usual English transliteration, a pronunciation suggestion, and one or more forms of the letter found in manuscripts. This last detail is a welcome addition to what such products usually provide.


Punctuation and diacritics cards show the relevant mark with a gray letter or word on the front of the card and give an explanation on the back.


Each card is 8.6 centimeters (almost 3.5 inches) across and 6.1 centimeters (almost 2.5 inches) tall. The clear print allows a surprisingly large amount of information to be legibly presented in this small space.

When the producers of the cards first contacted me about writing a review, the cards gave pronunciation suggestions using the Erasmian system, and I recommended that they revise them to provide the reconstructed Hellenistic pronunciation. They have clearly attempted to do this, but with mixed results. The card for β recommends “v as in vote” which does pretty well approximate the Hellenistic pronunciation of that letter, but the recommendation for τ is “t as in time,” and this aspirated pronunciation was not in fact used. The letter was pronounced like the “t in stand” where there is no aspiration. The card for ζ even retains the Erasmian recommendation!

The discussion of accents is particularly problematic as the editor has merged pitch accent with stress accent. The recommendation for the acute, for example, is as follows:

The acute is used to indicate a syllable with a high pitch, it marks the stressed vowel of a word. (e.g. χρόνος)

Pitch accent had disappeared before the period of “Biblical Greek” and mixing the two systems is simply confusing.

My recommendation to students who use any such cards along with a course in Greek is to ignore the pronunciation recommendations and listen to your instructor. It is the other features of the cards that are particularly useful anyway, and the quality of production of this set places it above any other I have seen.


Greek Palaeography Bibliography

Thank you Wray Bryant, for pointing out the following bibliography of Greek Palaeography. While it does not apply a particular variety of Modern Linguistics to the study of Hellenistic Greek (the criteria for inclusion in the bibliography here at, it is certainly of value to anyone interested in the history of writing in Greek.

  • Greek Palaeography and Byzantine Book Culture: A Bibliographical Essay, by Stratis Papaioannou

The bibliography is available at Log in (or sign up for a free account), then paste the following link into your browser: