Book Review: Keep Your Greek by Con Campbell


I’d like to thank Zondervan for the free copy of Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People. The author, Constantine Campbell is perhaps best known for his work in the area of verbal aspect theory. This book, however, isn’t about that. And we should be thankful! Rather, it is a book that encourages and instructs Greek students to return to tip-top Greek shape and stay there.

Brief Summary 

  1. Read Every Day
  2. Burn Your Interlinear
  3. Use Software Tools Wisely
  4. Make Vocabulary Your Friend
  5. Practice Your Parsing
  6. Read Fast
  7. Read Slow
  8. Use Your Senses
  9. Get Your Greek Back
  10. Putting it All Together

If we could isolate the main imperative of the book, it would be: “Stay in your Greek New Testament.” The rest of the book’s content, then, functions as the participles that show how exactly we should go about staying in our Greek New Testaments and ultimately keep our Greek. Of all the advice shared, perhaps the funniest part was “The interlinear is a tool of the devil, designed to make preachers stupid” (page 19). Of course, Campbell goes on to explain that his comments are to be taken playfully not seriously. The point he is driving at is similar to his caution regarding electronic tools such as Bible Works, Accordance, and Logos. If we use any of these as a crutch, then we will never strengthen our weakest muscles.

As far as honing vocabulary recognition, Campbell suggests using pneumonics and word hooks, i.e. easy ways to remember the words and their meanings. For example, I’ve always remembered ergon by associating it in my mind with ergonomics; the former is the Greek word for work, while the latter is the field that assesses how people and products function within a work environment. Thus, ergonomically sound keyboards and office chairs!

And then there was parsing. Ah! I’m still horrible at parsing participles! Campbell suggests that sometimes as we read that we take time to parse every word in a given section. He insists that our ability will come back, get sharper after some practice, and ultimately assist us greatly in comprehension. He closes the meat of the book by encouraging us to alternate between reading fast (skimming for Greek) and then slow (paying careful attention to as much as possible).

My Thoughts

One of my friends often tells his students half-jokingly, “Sell your personal belongings and buy books.” In this case, however, perhaps I’m not far enough removed from formal Greek class (and I still translate every week for sermon preparation) to see the “sell-your-belongings” value in this resource. I agree with essentially all that is written, but to me it seemed like, “Captain Obvious” information and advice. ¬†I kept reading, hoping that I would find the gold nugget that I was after or stumble upon the secret tip to magically keeping my Greek. That never happened. In one sense, that’s the strength of this book. Campbell is realistic and prescribes nothing more or less than simple hard work for a hard goal. The advice he gives will simply help me get the most of the time that I do have to spend working on Greek. All that being said, the book was a great reminder to stay busy using my Greek. I’ve now scheduled a portion of my morning each day for reading one Greek paragraph.

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