General principles for Paul

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
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David Loving
Posts: 4
Joined: February 17th, 2014, 8:28 am

General principles for Paul

Post by David Loving » July 21st, 2014, 6:09 pm


I'm still very much a beginner, but over the last few months I've worked my way through John's letters and his Gospel. By the end of the gospel, I was still sometimes hitting vocabulary woods I hadn't seen before, but felt pretty comfortable figuring the text out. Then I decided to dip a toe into Paul and worked through Philemon. Tougher, but not too bad. Now I'm in Philippians, and it is considerably more difficult. I'm going very slowly. I can figure out what most of the words mean. I can identify subjects and verbs when Paul deigns to use them. But it doesn't always help--it feels like there's a deep subtext there that I'm just not getting.

What advice can you offer to a newbie trying to work his way into Paul. Are there some good general principles for making sense of Paul's Greek? Or, is this a case of sticking with it until it starts to make sense.

Thanks for any help, advice, or encouragement.

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Jonathan Robie
Posts: 3740
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
Location: Durham, NC

Re: General principles for Paul

Post by Jonathan Robie » July 21st, 2014, 8:05 pm

Can you give an example of a sentence or a passage that you are struggling with, and say what parts you understand and what parts you don't? Maybe we can take it a little at a time and see if we can give you concrete help, or figure out what kinds of aids might be useful for you.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;

Stephen Carlson
Posts: 3010
Joined: May 11th, 2011, 10:51 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: General principles for Paul

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 22nd, 2014, 3:02 am

Though some epistles are harder than others (2 Cor, I'm looking at you), I find Paul's Greek fairly straightforward, though not as easy as John or even Matthew. The difficulty with Paul lies not so much in what he says but in what he means. And that often requires a theological framework to make sense of what he is saying.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia

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