Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

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Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Louis L Sorenson » August 21st, 2011, 8:26 pm

I've been looking for a simple book which has tables and simple grammatical explanations for the basics, without vocabulary, but also with a simple syntax. I stumbled upon Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide (Zondervan, Feb 2011) http://www.amazon.com/Biblical-Greek-William-D-Mounce/dp/0310326060/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313970294&sr=1-9. This looks like it could be a GoTo book for my students, without having to revert to a full grammar. I'm trying to teach via the inductive method (like Dobson) and spoken/communicative method (like Buth), but I'm also developing my curriculum. I need a full grammar reference for my students to refer to for further explanations and to give my students the feeling that they they have in their hands the answer to most questions they might have.

But I don't want a first year grammar's progression of introductions to get in the way, nor vocabulary. Mounce's grammar is overkill - but very useful as a 1st year reference grammar. Using the communicative method, you are forced to use imperatives and infinitives early on. Mounce and Croy postpone these till the end. They also don't use the vocabulary that the communicative method uses, and don't introduce vocabulary for items used in class in the same progression. Books like Croy don't introduce 3rd declension nouns like φῶς until later in the year. So I need a 1st year reference grammar which is independent of progression.

Sakae Kubo's "A Readers Lexicon of the New Testament" has a very simple appendix listing the forms of verbs and nouns (without the explanations of formations which would be helpful). Earnest Cadmen Colwell's/Earnet W. Tune's A BEGINNER'S READER GRAMMAR FOR NEW TESTAMENT GREEK grammar's section (pp. 18-56) is incomplete and leaves the student with limitations and massive holes in their understanding of Greek morphology). Ultimately, a student should get Smyth's "A Greek Grammar" and learn to use it, but for the first year, that would be needless overkill. Funk's grammar A BEGINNING-INTERMEDIATE GRAMMAR OF HELLENISTIC GREEK, while a great explanation of how and why words form, does not contain an appendix listing word/verb forms (like Sakae Kubo.) The appendices in Funk list word groups (words forming in a similar fashion) - it must be where Mounce's Morphology of Biblical Greek got most of its information.

For Syntax, something simple like B-Greek's former co-chair Carlton Winberry's A SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK (University Press of America, 1979) or H.P.V. Nunn's A SHORT SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK (Cambridge University Press 1912-1924) would be a good clear and simple addition, without getting a student bogged down into all the gritty details. But neither of those grammars deal with morphology nor word formation.

So my question for this post: Has anyone looked at Mounce's BIBLICAL GREEK: A COMPACT GUIDE? If you have reviewed it, what do you think of it being used as a 1st year student's simple reference book?

Awaiting your answer; Louis Sorenson,
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Louis L Sorenson » September 4th, 2011, 9:07 pm

I received Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide in the mail yesterday. I think this could be the backup/go-to simple grammar a teacher is looking for who wants some independence from a beginning grammar. It is progression independent. This is a book that the student could use for a couple of years, before graduating to Smyth's "A Greek Grammar" which is the quintessential Greek student's grammar.

The format of the Mounce's BGACG is small, about 3x5 inches (about 1/2 inch less wide than a 26th Nestle-Aland blue GNT). It comes in a hard plastic cover sleeve that can be taken off; It should endure a lot of use, if the pages stay attached to the binding. There are three colored page sections (a dark blue edge on sections). These blue edges alternate with white sections, so there are 7 sections in all. The student who uses this book may want to put tabs on the section breaks. The best of Mounce's BBG is included (although few references to it). Some references are made to his Morphology of Biblical Greek (MBG) and BDF (Blass-Debrunner-Funk) but those references are minimal.

BGACG starts with the basics, alphabet, contractions, accent rules, syllabification, numbers, and more. The beginning basics are followed by a short syntax, charts, principle parts and lexicon. Unfortunately, Mounce's BGACG does not list scripture references, nor number the sections (a teacher would have to use page numbers). The best comparable book to Mounce's BGACG is H.P.V. Nunn's "A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek" http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CBYQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.textkit.com%2Flearn%2FID%2F141%2Fauthor_id%2F62%2F&rct=j&q=nunn%20syntax%20of%20new%20testament%20Greek&ei=XAFkTo3iKofY0QGCici1Cg&usg=AFQjCNHxtfcpVLRFKFLyWks6Sv9ruCt8Zw&sig2=ZmeLeF_UfmeILrXkvZdFkA&cad=rjaThe simple syntax is about 1/3 the length of Nunn's "A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek". Nunn's syntax includes as glossary of terms which Mounce's does not include. (Nunn has about 125 pages of syntax in a smaller typeface, Mounce's BGACG has only about 65 pages -- a little less content per page than Nunn). Mounce's examples, which he gives for every item, gives both the Greek and English, one above the other. The Greek construction in question is underlined and the English in question is italicized. Examples are minimized (space requirements) and no additional scripture references are given as Nunn gives. BGACG covers all the basics: Parts of Speech, Nouns, Verbs, syntax, sentence structure.

The charts include all the noun and verb morphologies (He lists them by his MBG numbering). The charts are fairly complete, but there is no English gloss for the Greek words as in Smyth's grammar. BGACG also has a list of principle parts for the most common verbs (about 90 verbs). It has a lexicon of all words in the NT with frequencies 10x or more.

Overall, for those looking for a go-to grammar/chart reference this would be a fine addition. Mounce's BGACG is like Nunn's Syntax (simplified) complete with charts and a lexicon. A version which matches the size of the USB would be another nice version. The book is simple and to the point. It fills a gap in existing literature. I intend on having my beginning-Greek class use it as their go-to reference book - it is simple that simple and comprehensive at the same time. I recommend it to all.
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Louis L Sorenson » September 10th, 2011, 12:29 am

I've gone through Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide, I'm very satisfied with the book as a whole - but there are a number of areas where it could be improved for those who are using the book as a simple go-to grammar. Again, my criticisms are really a number of smaller issues (formatting, broader encompassing, explanatory explanations) than a condemning criticism. I like this book. I'd just like to have a few more items expanded, explained, glossed, clarified, ktl.

So here are my suggestions. I'm also sending these into Zondervan at their suggested email so that perhaps the 2nd edition could be just a little better. As with most Zondervan books, don't expect much of an Index of Terms. I guess that is something Zondervan prides itself on. UPS until 1990 never had power steering in their trucks; they were too frugal for that. (Of course, it took a UPS driver an extra 30 minutes a day to drive a truck without power steering, all at overtime rate). Those old UPS execs must have moved to Zondervan. Why make a reference book without a comprehensive index? Because it costs less. I just don't get it. Anyways, here is my wish list for improvements:

General Issues:
1. A list of conjunctions needs to be shown. I would like to see a list of the basic conjunctions (categorized) Add 1 page. Perhaps use Runge's list of Logical functions (DGGNT, p. 18).
2. There is no discussion of adverbs or how adverbs are often formed from the neuter singular of nouns or participles, or -ως, κτλ. Add 1 page. There are no quick lists of adverbs by category (e.g. time words, place words, position words).
3. The numbers δύο, τρεῖς, τεσσαρεις are not given in the number section (there is room - chart on p. 78 under Adjectives). Show all the declineable numbers.
4. The number chart (p. 11) does not show that the ordinals (e.g. πρῶτος) are usually declined like ἀγαθός, -ή, -όν. This could be done in a note.
5. The number chart does not show which characters represent which numbers. This could be done, alternatively on the Greek Alphabet chart (p. 1) as does Cadmen/Colwell/Tune's Reader's Grammar.
5a. The idiom κατὰ δύο or δύο δύο patterns are not given for distributive numbers 'by two'
6. The discussion of the middle voice (pp. 48-49) could use some updating. He classifies them as (1) Indirect middle, (2) Reflexive - direct- middle, (3) Redundant middle, (4) Deponent middle. But the overall explanation that the middle voice is subject based is not clearly emphasized.
7. There is no explanation of passive forms such as ἀπεκρίθην, ἐγέρθην being active in meaning. This is tied to the middle voice issue.
7a. There is no glossary of grammatical terms (as in Nunn's "A Short Syntax of the Greek New Testament". I've found this very useful, in addition to asking my students to buy Matthew S. Demoss' book: Pocket Dictionary for the Study of New Testament Greek.
7b. There are few internal links from syntax to chart. Such a references, e.g. "See this chart" would be very helpful.
7c. There could be better use of highlighting Greek/English counterparts to set off examples: E.g. p. 16, ἀρχῇ.



Tables
The tables are fairly complete. All adjectives and nouns have a MBG (Morphology of Biblical Greek) identifier (e.g. a-4b(2)).
8. This type of identification does help those who have MBG, but it does not explain the stem type. (e.g. Stems in -εσ-)
9. The noun charts have no article or gender attached to them. They are just a chart of forms preceded by the MBG identifier.
10. The charts have no glosses (as does Smyth's A Greek Grammar), so the student is left looking at a word with no English meaning.
11. The noun charts for the family words (πατήρ, μήτηρ, θυγάτηρ, ἀνήρ) is missing. Τhis chart is one of the basics used in active learning.
12. Pronouns: αὐτός, τίς are listed under adjectives, not pronouns or interrogative pronouns. - a little odd.
13. There is no section on interrogative pronouns.
14. There is no section on interrogative adverbs (e.g. ποῦ, πότε,) Smyth has a nifty chart (cf. §346) of correlatives. This is totally missing from BGACG.
14a. There is no chart of any interrogative questions: who?, when? where? why? how? how far? to what extent? how many? how much? how often? which one? what kind?
15. There are no charts for ἐκεῖνος, ἄλλος, nor a reference made to the fact that those words along with αὐτός, οὗτος are declined identically.
16 The pronoun section (ἐγώ, σύ, ὑμεῖς, ἡμεῖς) is stuck in the middle of adjectives. No mention of pronoun alternatives (the article), or ἐκεῖνος, ἀλλήλων, ἴδιος, σός, ἑμός, ἄλλος.
17. Interrogative pronouns are listed under adjectives (e.g. ὅστις (p.77), τίς (p. 80).
18. Verb charts are organized by tense (as in BBG), not by verb stem type (as in Smyth). There is no link from one verb's present indicative form to the next. No one necessarily knows that ἵστημι is related to στῶ. This type of pattern introduction (without a listing of the lemma above the forms or gloss) leaves the student lost - it is just another list of words out of context.
19. There is no list of irregular mi verbs: εἶμι, ἵημι, φημί, κεῖμαι, οἶδα, ἦμαι, κάθημαι, κτλ. as in Smyth. These words are basic, and being somewhat irregular, should be given in any simple reference grammar. They are used frequently in an active learning class.
19a. There is no list of comaparative/superlative adjectives (cf. Smyth §319).

Issues of Syntax
20. There is no discussion of semantic roles (actor, patient, agent, etc.). This is a very useful paradigm to use in deference to transitive/ intransitive. Modern linguistics has contributed to a clearer understanding of sentence and verb types. These newer definitions/classes should be incorporated.
21. There is a small mention of word order, (e.g. Sentence Structure: #2, #3 Emphasis.) I've found no better understanding of Greek word order than presented in Runge's Discourse Grammar (
22. There is little mention of Greek word order. I would like to see a small section explaining Simon <not Selma sic!> Dik's P1 P2 preverbal positions in regards to Greek word order. This makes a lot of sense to me. Cf. Runge, DGGNT, §9.2.5 ff.
23. The vocative case (Syntax pp. 25 ff) does not mention ὦ, which is a useful flag.
24. The sections on Questions (p. 50) makes no mention of the indicative mood. The subjuctive rhetorical/deliberative questions should be added here.
25. There is no discussion of relative clauses, or the way that the the relative's case will change depending on how it is used in the subordinate clause. (Kind of a gaping whole -- this is one of the basic sentence structures.
26. The section on Indirect Discourse (pp. 57-58) has almost no Greek examples, and does not clearly list the three ways Greek does this: (Participle: Σαμουὴλ οὔπω ἔγνω τὸν κύριον καλέσαντα αὐτόν; Infintive: ἐπέγνω Ηλι τὸν κύριον καλέσαι τὸν Σαμουήλ.; ὅτι clause: πιστεύω οπ/τι κέκληκάς με).
27. The idioms section could have a few more examples, starting with οἷον = "for example".

Prepositions:
28. There is only one page of prepositions examples. The most frequent words being in a chart (the circle diagram) with no English gloss. There is no gloss, only arrows for the Greek chart prepositions.
28a. Some prepositions are not listed: e.g. περί + acc. = around; ὑπὲρ + acc..
28b. There is no mention that the dative with the prep usually has a stative idea, while the accusative has the idea of motion.

But in spite of these shortcomings, I highly recommend this book. I'm planning on making a simple appendix where needed, and perhaps printing up little sticky overlays which can be applied to blank areas in the existing pages. Mounce's "Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide" is a great simple resource. I recommend it highly (regardless of how I would like it improved.)

Louis Sorenson
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby MAubrey » September 10th, 2011, 1:18 am

Louis L Sorenson wrote:22. There is little mention of Greek word order. I would like to see a small section explaining Selma Dik's P1 P2 preverbal positions in regards to Greek word order. This makes a lot of sense to me. Cf. Runge,


I'm going to guess that you mean to refer to Helma Dik. And just so you know, the terms were actually devised by another Dik: Simon Dik, the originator of the theory of functional grammar.
Mike Aubrey
Canada Institute of Linguistics & Trinity Western University Graduate School
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby RDecker » September 10th, 2011, 7:42 am

I've gone through Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide, I'm very satisfied with the book as a whole - but there are a number of areas where it could be improved for those who are using the book as a simple go-to grammar.


Good suggestions, but I think that if Bill implemented all of them it would no longer be a "Compact Guide"! I'm not sure that I'd expect all of these in a full, first year grammar of reasonable size.
Rodney J. Decker
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Baptist Bible Seminary
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Mark Lightman » September 10th, 2011, 8:24 am

Hi, Louis,

I like the format of Mounce's other books. Does he include the optative here?

I agree with Rod. We're gonna need a bigger book.

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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Louis L Sorenson » September 10th, 2011, 8:49 am

Rod Deckert said

Good suggestions, but I think that if Bill implemented all of them it would no longer be a "Compact Guide"! I'm not sure that I'd expect all of these in a full, first year grammar of reasonable size.


I think the additions would take only 10 more pages = 5 physical pages. The optative is not included in the charts (He could work in 1/2 a page with μὴ γένοιτο, εἴη, κτλ.), but it is discussed under 4th class conditionals along with a small section under moods (p. 44). I want the book to remain simple - that is it's best feature. KISS. The extensive morphology notes found in his BBG are mostly missing, but they are included (somewhat extensively) under the Principle Parts section (Chart of Tense forms pp. 135-153). The book currently is only about 7/16 in thick (ca. 1 centimeter), so a few pages would not make much of a difference. Compare it to the Assimil book Le Grec Ancien (which is nearly the same size, but about 4 times as thick), BGACG is truly a pocket book.

It would also be nice to have a short English-Greek lexicon. Hey, a guy can wish, can't he? In the meantime, I plan on making my own appendix to it. As I go forward, I'll add post a pdf of my Appendix here.
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby cwconrad » September 10th, 2011, 9:12 am

RDecker wrote:
I've gone through Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide, I'm very satisfied with the book as a whole - but there are a number of areas where it could be improved for those who are using the book as a simple go-to grammar.


Good suggestions, but I think that if Bill implemented all of them it would no longer be a "Compact Guide"! I'm not sure that I'd expect all of these in a full, first year grammar of reasonable size.


It seems to me that the very notion of a "compact guide" to Biblical Greek is an idea of questionable usefulness. If it's intended to be a "guide" to Mounce's Biblical Greek, could it replace the textbook itself? Is it supposed to be a compendium of the textbook -- a detached appendix to the textbook? Is it supposed to be a reference work of which a student makes use while proceeding to advanced instruction or reading in Biblical Greek? It seems to me that a student who has really mastered Mounce's primer needs not a Compact Guide to Biblical Greek but a real grammar that will be helpful as one reads more expansively in GNT and in other Biblical or non-Biblical texts; many of us don't really think there's any alternative to Smyth in this category. What one wants and needs help with is not principles and usage that one has already learned but idioms and usage that do not conform to what one has already learned.

The term "guide" is a metaphor taken from a person or a handbook pointing the way through a well-defined structure or area. τίνι οὖν ὁμοιώσω τοιοῦτόν τινα ἡγεμῶνα ἣ τοιοῦτό τι ἐγχειρίδιον; We might think of a "Guide to the French Quarter" or a "Guide to the Loop Area" in contrast with a "Guide to Greater New Orleans" or a "Guide to Greater Chicago."

I know there will be differences of opinion on this matter, and I suspect that they will be comparable to the differences of opinion over the value of Barclay Newman's Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament or another such glossary. It's a matter of whether one is satisfied with minimal information about usage in a language of venerable antiquity and expansive variety and complexity. I grew up in New Orleans myself and have enjoyed many a time in the French Quarter, but I wouldn't want to spend the rest of my life there.
Carl W. Conrad
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ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby Louis L Sorenson » September 10th, 2011, 10:43 am

I'm planning on using it instead of a grammar like Mounce or Croy. Think of it compared to the grammar section of Earnest Cadwell Colwell / Earest W. Tune's A Beginner's Reader Grammar for the New Testament Greek (pp. 18-56). Actually, the two books could be used for a 1st year class, along with reliance on a bigger lexicon like Tune suggests.

Those who have completed a 1st year course could use it, but it's really meant for 1st year students. I like it because I can use it side by side with whatever text we are reading (the genealogies, The Creation story, John 1, John 9, ect.), and is independent of any progression that a 1st year grammar presents. A traditional 1st year grammar is difficult for me to use (I use an active learning methods, spoken, and patterned reading based approach to teaching ancient Greek). I control the vocabulary (often topic based), can introduce the aorist when I see appropriate. I can augment the grammar BGAGC in my exercise pages, if needed, without having to write a whole new grammar book, and I don't have to hunt and peck for a form or grammar explanation - they won't be buried in a chapter or strewn across three chapters. My goal is to get my students to read and understand, not to parse, translate, then understand. I think Colwell/Tune's grammar leaves the student a little in the dark.

I'm also sending my students to Funk's Beginning-Intermediate grammar of Hellenistic Greek (which is available on the B-Greek website), for more detailed explanation when needed.

For 2nd year and following, BDAG + (or the intermediate BDAG early on) + Funk's grammar or Smyth's grammar should be used (imoho).

Who knows, I may change my mind about this book by the end of the class, but I think it has most of what I need.
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Re: Mounce's Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide

Postby RDecker » September 11th, 2011, 6:38 pm

cwconrad wrote:It seems to me that the very notion of a "compact guide" to Biblical Greek is an idea of questionable usefulness.


I suspect that its intended purpose is none that you list. My guess is that it is intended as a quick reference guide for students who have forgotten or are unsure about something they suspect they should know. In the Preface, Bill says that,

With all you learned in first year, there is much to be reviewed and (unfortunately) much to forget. / This minigrammar is designed to ... function as a review or quick reference and has new material to help you move into second year grammar.


I've only flipped through it at this point, not read it as Louis. But I plan to spend some time with it soon and will post my thoughts on my blog after doing so.
Rodney J. Decker
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Baptist Bible Seminary
Clarks Summit, PA
(See profile for my NTResources blog address.)
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