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  • I Am Going To Take On Biblical Greek

    April 11, 2024

    It has been quite a while since I have last written. This is in part because I have been so busy and have thus seldom had the time to actually sit down and write. It is also in part because I have struggled to come up with topics on which to write. And it is because I am still trying to find a satisfying life project that I think I can bring to completion. I'm trying to find the direction that my life should go, and I'm trying to fill my time with things that I think are worthwhile and meaningful.

    This has led to a lot of thoughts, prayers, and conversations with my family and fianceé. Through this, I have decided to set aside all of my current personal projects and focus all of my personal time and energy on two things: my cello, which I believe is a tremendous opportunity to lead others to worship, and learning Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament. In this post, I will focus on the latter.

    What this means is that going forward, I don't see a path in persuit of my computer projects, such as my operating system from scratch, my cryptography projects, or Telodendria and its accompanying support library, Cytoplasm. To be sure, I'm not giving up computers entirely. I have a vast amount of technical knowledge that I think will be valuable in my future, but I want to make sure that I am using my technical knowledge for the glory of God, not for myself. All of my current projects have been primarily for myself; they have been to scratch my own itches, but they have not actually been very useful, nor have I actually brought any of them to completion.


    This was initially a difficult question for me to wrestle with. In September of 2023, I suddenly found myself with a strong desire to learn the Greek of the New Testament. I wasn't really sure why. And since then, I haven't had the time to think about it. I just found a textbook online and tried to dive right in. Unfortunately I did not make it very far; as soon as the academic year kicked into gear, I lost all time and motivation for it, and I wouldn't touch it again until a few days ago. Back in September, I had no idea where that desire would lead me. Maybe I thought it would lead me to Seminary, and eventually into Ministry. Maybe I thought just that it would be fun. Either way, I had no real, clear-cut "Why" for persuing Biblical Greek, and so I burned out. I didn't make it any further than the first chapter of the book I was going through, and I stopped listening after the second or third lecture I found online.

    Now that the academic year is coming to a close, that desire to seriously learn Koine has returned. And this time, I have sought to discover within myself just why that is. Because I seriously want to learn---I've already purchased a textbook and high-quality lectures and other course material. I have even purchased a Greek New Testament, and I long for the day that I will be able to read it fluently. I'm seriously committed to this, but I really had to discover why.

    I desparately don't want my persuit of Koine to be purely an intellectual persuit. I don't want it to be something I use to show off and think higher of myself. I don't want it to be interesting just because it is a somewhat unique skill in my circles. But I'm also not sure whether or not I will end up in true Ministry. I'm not sure I will be a pastor or a missionary, or anything like that. While I would love to go to Seminary, I'm not sure that I ever will. So these also can't be the reasons why I want to learn Koine.

    I have been thinking about this for at least a week now, and through much prayer, I have come to believe that these are the reasons I am called to learn Biblical Greek:

    In summary, as I was thinking through these things, one question kept popping into my mind: what better way is there to spend your time than studying the Word of God? Is there anything I could do that would be more important than learning something about the Bible? Of course, one doesn't need to learn its original languages to do that, but is it ever a bad thing to do that? Will it ever detract from my ability to honor God? This recurring thought is precisely why I feel called to do this.

    Ecclesiastes 12:12 offers a warning: "...of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." In other words, don't get too caught up in the persuit of knowledge. This is something that I sometimes struggle with and will thus have to be very careful as I continue. And yet, the Bible consistently insists that we understand it fully:

    Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    --- 2 Timothy 2:15

    But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.

    --- 1 Peter 3:15

    Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

    --- Psalms 119:105

    And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.

    --- Romans 12:2

    All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

    --- 2 Timothy 3:16

    There are many more verses that express a similar sentiment. God makes it very clear that knowledge of His Words is essential, and not just a surface knowledge, but a deep knowledge on which our minds are continually fixed. I believe that my desire to learn Biblical Greek is in line with this.


    The next question is one of logistics. Now that I have my rationale figured out, and I have concluded that I really am called to do this, I had to figure out how to realistically attain this goal. It is important to note that reliance on the Holy Spirit for motivation and wisdom to comprehend the material will be absolutely crucial. It is the single most important thing to have.

    However, this section will contain both the resources I used and---since I am a computer scientist after all---the software that I used as well. This section will attempt to summarize my methodology both in terms of the grammar I chose to use, and how I chose to go about taking notes, completing the quizzes, and the like.

    First, I'm using Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Fourth Edition. I am also using its accompanying workbook and lectures, as well as the other resources he provides on his website. From my research, Mounce seems to be the most popular for this subject, and his grammar seems to be of the highest quality. I also listened to him speak about his other books, and found him to be incredibly theologically sound. He makes it very clear that we must not forget why we are studying Biblical Greek, and that is to be faithful to God. I really appreciate the lens through which Mounce views learning the Biblical languages, and I found him to be friendly and yet compelling in his views.

    I also purchased a Tyndale House Greek New Testament. This is the most recently published edition of a Greek New Testament, and is regarded as "the most accurate," although many regard the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece to be a quality edition as well. Ultimately, I chose Tyndale's edition because even though it is not as critical---that is, it does not contain all of the manuscript variations---it more faithfully renders the text in the way that it is presented in the manuscripts. It is designed to be elegant, and it incorporates the latest scholarship while preserving the original manuscripts, including its misspellings. This may make it a little more difficult to read, but the edition I ordered contains a complete dictionary, which will be immensely useful for my learning. When I know the vocabularly sufficiently well, I can get another copy that doesn't contain the dictionary if I wish, but I foresee that being many years away.

    Despite being a computer scientist, I went for physical books whenever possible, because I want this to be an entirely offline experience. I do not want to become distracted by the internet as I often do. I want to just focus on learning the material, and paper is still the best way to do that, so I wanted to have paper copies of all of the material, and of the Bible itself. I even ordered 3x5 notecards for my vocabulary, and dug up some old notebooks with which I can take notes by hand. Studies show again and again that hand writing is much better for retention than typing on a computer.

    That being said, I can't help but use a computer for some of this. Of course, the video lectures will be shipped on a flash drive and will require a computer for playback, but I will also digitize my notes and flashcards after I have written them by hand. To do this, I plan on using NeoVim and Markdown with Pandoc to render my notes as HTML, which may eventually be published on my website. To actually type the Greek characters, I will be using Unicode. Pretty much every major operating system supports the Greek polytonic keyboard layout, so I will be learning that. Originally I was going to use TypeGreek, a website that lets you type Greek letters using beta code, but I think the most proper solution is to just learn the Greek keyboard layout. That will be far more versatile, as it will allow me to type Greek characters everywhere, instead of having to copy-paste them from a website.

    Finally, repetition and consistency is absolutely necessary. I plan on studying for 2 hours every single day during the week and 2-4 hours on Saturday. In order to learn a language effectively, one must commit to it daily, otherwise it simply won't stick as well. No amount of notes or flashcards will be useful if I am not studying them consistently.


    A lot of thought and effort has gone into this. So has a lot of prayer and discussions. While it is with some sadness that I abandon my previous projects, I am extremely excited to get started learning Biblical Greek. I think this new direction will be extremely beneficial to me. It will make me more well-rounded, and I sincerely hope that it will be honoring to God in ways that my programming projects never could. I hope that immersing myself in God's Word for the next 16 or so weeks will be good for my soul.

    I'm not going to make any rash decisions right now; I'm not going to shut down my Git server or anything like that. I'm of course still going to stick to Linux, and I'll always be a computer scientist at heart, but it is time for me to take a step back and do something different. My career will still be in computing, but my personal time is best spent elsewhere. I think I will be updating my home page on my website to reflect this change. Maybe instead of Programmer, Digital Minimalist, Privacy Advocate, and UNIX Expert, I will merely refer to myself as a Computer Scientist. The truth is that I have not specialized in any one area of computer science, so while I have my preferences, I think for the sake of brevity, it is best that I combine these so that I can emphasize my other interests as well.

    © 2019-2024 Jordan Bancino.