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My Greek New Testament Course

For the first time in forever I am teaching a new course — one I’ve never taught before — at UNC, a class for classics students (and others who already know Greek) on the Greek New Testament.   It is obviously a very small class (6 or 7 students); to be in it students have to have already had at least a couple of years of Greek.   So the class is not teaching the rudiments of Greek grammar, but it assuming knowledge of that.

We are reading/translating/analyzing lots of Greek in the class; learning about “textual criticism” (how to establish the oldest wording of the text given all variations among the manuscripts); and acquiring the skills to read and analyze actual manuscripts (the hand written copies of the New Testament, as opposed to the printed editions of the Greek).

For anyone interested in the details and the play-by-play, here is the syllabus I handed out yesterday:



Religion 409 / Greek 409

Spring 2018

Instructor:  Dr. Bart D. Ehrman


Course Description

This is an advanced-level Greek class focusing on the New Testament.  The class has three main objectives:

  • First and foremost, it is designed to improve your facility with Koine Greek as embodied in the earliest Christian writings. There will be translation assignments for each class and periodic quizzes – all designed to help you become more intimately familiar with the vocabulary and grammar of the New Testament.
  • Second, we will delve into the many issues connected with New Testament textual criticism, roughly defined as the endeavor to establish the earliest attainable form of the text of the New Testament (given the many differences among our surviving textual witnesses) and to understand the alterations made to it in the course of its transmission.
  • Third, we will explore issues connected to the exegesis of the New Testament, to learn how exegetes working with the Greek text go about establishing their interpretations (e.g., through analysis of grammar, word usage, and literary structure).



        Required (available at Student Stores)




Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar.

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics.


Course Requirements

Attendance:  Yes, indeed, you must grace us with your presence at all class meetings.  If you have a legitimate excuse for missing a class, please let me know.

Translation:  Every class period we will be translating portions of the New Testament.  You need to come to class fully prepared, knowing the vocabulary, able to parse all the forms, and recognizing all the syntactical structures.

Reading:  You are to read Metzger’s Textual Commentary for each passage of the New Testament you translate, and consider the logic of his argument; most week there are additional reading assignments as well.  You are expected to have these completed before the class period for which they are assigned.

Position Papers.  For most weeks you will be asked to prepare a two-page (no more!) position paper on an assigned topic related to the texts we are translating.  Instructions for each paper may be found on SAKAI, under “Resources.”  These are not expected to be research papers: they simply involve reflecting on specific textual and/or exegetical issues related to the passages you have considered.  I am less interested in seeing that you get “a right answer” for these papers than in knowing that you’ve recognized the issues and tried to resolve them to your satisfaction.  The papers will not be graded per se, but simply marked “S” (Satisfactory) if you have done the work as assigned and “U” (Unsatisfactory) if you have not.  Late papers will automatically be marked “U.”

Quizzes.  Instead of a Midterm, we will have four quizzes throughout the semester as marked on the Reading Schedule below.  Most of these will involve translating (on sight) passages we have already covered in class, parsing words, and answering grammatical questions.

Research Paper:  On the last day of class, April 26, you are to turn in a 7-10 page research paper on a textual problem of your choice from anywhere in the New Testament.  The paper is to explain what the problem is, explore both external and internal evidence for establishing the oldest available form of the text, and developing a theory about why the text was changed in the course of its transmission.  You should decide which textual variant you will be addressing by the time we come back from Spring break, and you should devote some serious time over the rest of the semester doing your research.  We will be discussing your tentative findings in a special session devoted to the papers on April 17.

Final Exam:   The final exam is scheduled for Friday, May 4, at noon.  The exam will involve translating on sight any of the passages we have covered over the course of the semester; you will be asked to render the text in fairly literal English, parse forms, and answer grammatical questions.



Your grade will be calculated as follows:  Weekly translations 20%; Position Papers 20%; Quizzes 20% (5% each); Research Paper 20%; Final Exam 20%.


Office Hours

My office hour is Wednesday 12:00-1:00 p.m. or by appoint­ment.  Office: Carolina Hall 117; Email: behrman@email.unc.edu


Honor Code

All students must be familiar with and abide by the Honor Code, which covers issues such as plagiarism, falsification, unauthorized assistance or collaboration, cheating, and other grievous acts of academic dishonesty. Violations of the Honor Code will be taken with incredible seriousness.


Reasonable Accommodations Policy

If you have a disability that may prevent fully demonstrating your abilities, you should contact Accessibility Services as soon as possible to discuss accommodations.  I will do all I can to help out on my end.




Jan.     11         Syllabus and Introduction to the Course



Jan.     16        Introduction to NT Greek; Reading Assignment: Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, pp. 54*-61*; TRANSLATION:   John 1:1-18

Jan.     18        TRANSLATION:  John 1:19-51.  Position Paper 1: The Varying Christologies of John



Jan.     23        TRANSLATION: John 11:1-44; Mark 5:21-24, 35-43; Position Paper 2: Different Views of Jesus and His Miracles.

Jan.     25        Quiz 1:  The Sigla in the Apparatus; TRANSLATION:  John 3:1-24



Jan.     30        Reading Assignment:  Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, pp. 61*-94*; TRANSLATION: Matthew 2:1-23

Feb.      1          TRANSLATION: Luke 2:1-24; 39-40.   Position Paper 3: The Birth Narratives



Feb.     6         TRANSLATION: Matthew 5:1-48

Feb.     8         READ: Romans 1:1-3:8 (English); TRANSLATION: Romans 3:9-31; Position Paper 4: Jesus and the Law



Feb.     13        Introduction to Textual Criticism 1; Reading Assignment: Metzger, Text, pp. 3-33; TRANSLATION: John 7:37-8:20

Feb;     15        Introduction to Textual Criticism 2:  Reading Assignment: Metzger, Text, pp. 33-51;  TRANSLATION:  Mark 16:1-20.  Position Paper 5: The Endings of Mark



Feb.     20        TRANSLATION: Luke 22:1-46; Position Paper 6: The Bloody Sweat

Feb.     22        QUIZ 2:  John 1; Matthew 5; Mark 16.  TRANSLATION:  Mark 14:12-42



Feb.     27        TRANSLATION: Mark 15:1-39; Reading Assignment: Metzger, Text, pp. 52-94;

Mar.     1          TRANSLATION: Luke 23:1-47; Position Paper 7: Jesus Going to His Death



Mar.     6         TRANSLATION: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:4; Reading Assignment: Metzger, Text, pp.94-134

Mar.     8         TRANSLATION: 1 Thessalonians 2:5-20; Reading Assignment: Metzger, Text, pp. 137-96; Position Paper 8:  The Textual Problem of 1 Thess. 2:7.


SPRING BREAK!  (Mar. 12-16)  Hit the Beaches and Take some Greek!



Mar.     20        QUIZ 3:  Mark 15; Luke 22-23; TRANSLATION: 1 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Reading Assignment: Metzger Text pp. 250-72.

Mar.     22        TRANSLATION: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thess 2:1-12; Position Paper 9: The Eschatologies of 1 and 2 Thessalonians



Mar.     27        TRANSLATION: Romans 1:1-32; Reading Assignment: Metzger Text pp. 272-315.

Mar.     29        TRANSLATION: Romans 2:1-3:20; Position Paper 10: The Structure of Romans 1-3



Apr.      3         Reading Greek Manuscripts 1:  Practice with Majuscules. Reading Assignment: Handouts on Greek Palaeography;  Reading Assignment: Metzger Text pp. 316-43

Apr.    5          TRANSLATION: Romans 4:1-17 Paper 11: Collations of P75 and Codex Vaticanus



Apr.     10        Reading Greek Manuscripts 2: Practice with Minuscules. TRANSLATION: 1 Peter 1:1-12.

Apr.     12        TRANSLATION: 1 Peter 1:13-2:10; Paper 12:  Collations of MSS 69 and 124.




Apr.     19        QUIZ 4: Romans 1:1-4:17;  TRANSLATION: 1 Peter 2:11-3:22; Reading Assignment: Metzger Text pp. 197-249



                  Apr.     24        TRANSLATION: 1 Peter 4:1-5:5.

Apr.     26        TRANSLATION: Revelation 1:1-20

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  1. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 12, 2018

    I signed up for undergraduate New Testament Greek when I was at the University of Texas. I immediately went to the University of Texas tower library and asked to see “THE” Greek New Testament. The response I got, if I remember correctly, was “Which one?” I remember answering “Well, I want THE Greek New Testament.

    The first day of class, one graduate student after another gave somewhat different translations of the beginning of Ephesians 1:3-14 which wanders around in one very long sentence much like my grandmother used to write in her letters to me. She would start with a capital letter and 3 or 4 pages later she would end things by using her first period in the letter. What I learned is that everyone translated this stuff somewhat differently. About halfway through the class, the female student in front of me moved her books to the side and dropped her head on her desk and took a nap. I don’t see Ephesians anywhere on your list.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      Ha! No one will be sleeping in my class, since there are only a few students and I’ll be working them hard.

      • Avatar
        J--B  January 15, 2018

        I took 3 semesters of ancient Greek in the early 1980s and was the only student in the 3rd semester class. No sleeping there! I loved it.

  2. Avatar
    DavidBeaman  January 12, 2018

    Very good. It was reminiscent of my Greek classes in Seminary at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. Needless to say, your class is more advanced than those I took were. Entering students had to take the first course over the summer before the regular semester began. We were told that we had to pass it or we couldn’t continue at the seminary. I passed with an A. Most students passed. But it was intense. You got a T-shirt at the end if you passed saying something like, I survived Summer Greek at Concordia. One fellow didn’t pass and he was about in tears. He was sure he had to leave. Only then did we find out that students who didn’t pass would be required to attend another course that taught the basic characteristics of the difference between the Greek NT and the English ones. It was an easy course that everyone passed. So, we started our professional Christian education by being led to believe a lie to scare us into intensive study. So Christian of them!

  3. Avatar
    Silver  January 12, 2018

    If this is a new course what is the decision making process when determining that it should be offered? For example, are you approached by the classics department to devise it in order to widen the skills of their students or does your department decide that it should be presented in order to increase the number of NT scholars? I note that there are two sessions a week, how long does each one last?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      Each session is 75 minutes. It was a class on the books for the Classics department, so I asked if they’d be willing to let me offer it. No one had done so for some years.

  4. Avatar
    seahawk41  January 12, 2018

    Looks like fun–and work. If only I were 50 or so years younger–and had that two years of Greek!

  5. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  January 12, 2018

    Outside Acts, is there any evidence that the apostle Paul was ever known as Saul? What is the earliest non Christian reference to him? There are two OT Sauls I know of: the King of Israel and “the son of the Canaanite woman” in a genealogy in Exodus ch 6. Would the author Acts have any reason you can imagine to link the young Paul with either of them?

  6. Avatar
    joncopeland  January 12, 2018

    Will you offer this course in the future and are there distance learning opportunities? Or maybe video of your lectures?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      I don’t know if I’ll offer it again, and no, it’s an “in-class” only course. I won’t be lecturing in it: it will be seminar-style.

  7. Avatar
    Malik  January 12, 2018

    Looks intense !!!!

    I have three sort-of-related questions:

    (1) How many people in the world (right now) can read, write and speak Koine Greek?
    (2) Is it safe to say that Koine Greek is a dead language ?
    (3) I’m looking for an Online, Searchable, LXX Concordance ( Most importantly, one that is User-Friendly)? Do you recommend any? I’m finding BibleHub and BlueLetterBible difficult to use.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      . 1. No idea 2. Yes 3. I haven’t done a comparative analysis of hte options.

  8. Avatar
    Sixtus  January 13, 2018

    Is Koine close enough to the language of Euripides and the other playwrights and Classical philosophers that Classics students would not have to learn yet another language? Or is specific Koine experience a prerequisite for the course?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      If they can read Euripides they will be able to read the Koine (though not necessarily the other way around, at least easily)

  9. Avatar
    plparker  January 13, 2018

    Thanks for this. Very interesting. I’m studying Greek at a more elementary level. In other words, I’m a beginner. Do you have some suggestions for beginning texts on Koine Greek?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      Do you mean textbooks? I’m sure there are “teach yourself” aids available now, but I don’t keep up with what is out there, since my students arleady have Greek when they come to us.

  10. Avatar
    Tempo1936  January 14, 2018

    In one of the YouTube videos you mention that your brother is also a scholar. Is his professional and academic pursuits anyway related to yours?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 15, 2018

      Yes, indeed. He is a classicist with expertise in both ancient Latin and Greek. He sometimes teaches a New Testament Greek class. He is at Kent State.

  11. Avatar
    juandetobarra  January 18, 2018

    I’d like to know if you have (or know about a good one) an e-learning course about New Testament, Historical Jesus or Early Christianity that can be enrolled from abroad. Since I live in Spain (and I’m working) is “a little difficult” to attend to classroom courses. I have bought most of your “Great Courses” from The Teaching Company, -and I highly recommend all of them!!- but I consider is essential to have assessment and feedback in order to take good advantage of any course. Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 18, 2018

      You can go to the free Yale Online course on the New Testament. They, again, would not involve teacher feedback. For that you would need an Online course connected with a university. We have them at UNC for example, and I imagine you can just google a bit to find them. (I never teach them myself, but my grad students often do, and they are highly trained)

  12. Avatar
    Hngerhman  February 18, 2019

    Dr Ehrman –

    I cannot read Greek (aside from gyro and souvlaki) but am very interested to get a sense of the relative quality of the writing and Greek across the NT books. To my rough understanding (from survey of literature), below are the books ranked in descending order of quality (with a short descriptor):

    – Hebrews – near-literary quality Koine Greek
    – James – high quality Koine, alliteration
    – 1 Peter – highly quality Koine
    – Authentic Pauline epistles in aggregate – learned and rhetorical but not always high quality
    – Luke/Acts – putting aside the pastiche issues, the main body is solid and versatile Koine with a lot of vocabulary
    – John – simple Koine but still majestic at times
    – Johnannine epistles in aggregate – solid in grammar/structure but boring Koine
    – Matthew – descent but simple Koine
    – Mark – simplistic Koine
    – Jude – idiomatic Koine
    – 2 Peter – awkward Koine
    – Revelation – crude, sometimes gibberish

    I’m certain I’ve mucked up a lot in that list in either order or characterization. Might you be able to point out the major errors above, or direct me to a study that addresses the question?

    Many thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  February 19, 2019

      I’m afraid I’ve never done a ranking, so I don’t know! But at first glance, it looks roughly right — at least with Hebrews and Revelation.

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