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Studying Greek at Home

An Interview with Karen Mohs


Karen Mohs, founder of Greek 'n' Stuff, enjoys her role as a homeschooling mom, a role which has spanned more than a dozen years. her love of teaching finds its expression in the workbooks she develops for children. During her husband's seminary training, she audited New Testament Greek at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Asbury Theological Seminary. By Martha Robinson.

Why should one study Greek?

Karen Mohs: An introductory course in basic biblical Greek will arm Christians with a shield of defense against false teaching, both deceptive and unintentional. When a Bible expositor brings "the meaning of the Greek" to bear in elucidating a controversial point, the Christian who has studied even a little Greek will be more likely to go to the source, the Greek New Testament, to confirm or refute the expositors conclusions. Besides instilling a strong godly character, a thorough grasp of God's Word, and a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, what better foundation can parents give to future Christian leaders than a working knowledge of biblical Greek? New Testament Greek is a fascinating pursuit for its own sake, but the benefits do not end there. Many English words have their origins in Greek and Latin roots. Knowing these classical languages can help children master their native language more fully and will enable them to discern more accurately the meanings of obscure English words. The benefits of knowing koine Greek even extend to the study of modern foreign languages. Practice with inflected forms (the changing endings on nouns and verbs) in the paradigms of Greek verb conjugations and noun declensions facilitate the learning of other inflected languages.

Do Greek or Latin offer benefits that a spoken language such as Spanish does not offer?

Karen Mohs: Benefits of studying Greek or Latin that do not apply to the study of a modern foreign language, such as Spanish, include the following:


  • Preparation for personal in-depth study of God's Word
  • Defense against incorrect teaching of other expositors on God's Word
  • Preparation for future ministry in handling accurately God's Word


  • Easier acquisition of many modern inflected foreign languages, especially the Romance languages (including French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, etc.), both in the vocabulary and the grammar of the languages
  • Higher average college entrance verbal test scores

Greek and Latin:

  • Better mastery of the English language, both in word roots and in grammar
  • Aid in learning the technical vocabulary of the sciences
  • Aid to understanding the literature and historical documents of the Mediterranean civilization

Are there different kinds of Greek?

Karen Mohs: Greek is a language which has been used by people over many centuries. As with all languages, through use, the Greek language gradually developed and altered as it interacted with other languages. (Think of the development and alteration of our own language, English, from the largely unrecognizable Old English of "Beowulf," through the Middle English of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," and even into the early Modern English of Shakespeare and the King James Bible. Yet it is important to note that the changes in the Greek language were not nearly as drastic as those in English, primarily due to the fact that the Turks prevented outside influence until the Greeks regained their freedom in the early 1800s.)

Development of the Greek language:

  1. Prior to the 13th century B.C., the history of the Greek language is rather obscure.
  2. The "Formative Period" (sometimes called "Linear B") (from earliest Greek to the time of Homer - dated by some to be around the 8th century B.C.) Tribes migrated from somewhere in west-central Asia to make their homes in the region now known as Greece. Because the terrain is quite rugged and irregular, these tribes existed mostly in isolation. Hence, distinct dialects arose.
  3. The "Classical Period" (from Homer to the Alexandrian conquests - about 330 B.C.) In this period, the ancient Greek literature was written. One dialect gained prominence (the Attic branch of the Ionic dialect), from which evolved New Testament Greek.
  4. The "Koine Period" (also known as "Hellenistic Greek") (from the Alexandrian conquests to about A.D. 330) During this period, Greek was the "common" or prominent language of the people, spoken in their daily lives. Early in this period, colonization, the need for protection from eastern conquerors (especially the Persians), and a growing sense of religious unity among the Greek race led to the development of this "common" language.
  5. The "Byzantine Period" (from A.D. 330 to A.D. 1453) Constantine's conversion led to the birth of "Ecclesiastical Greek." The Roman empire became divided. (The language of the West changed to Latin. Greek remained as the language of the East.) These factors continued to influence the language.
  6. The "Modern Period" (from A.D. 1453 to the present) Modern Greek has two facets: the "literary language" (an attempt to reinstate the Attic dialect in the written word) and the "spoken language." Modern spoken Greek is closer to New Testament Greek (Koine Greek) than it is to the ancient Greek classical writings.

Are there different pronunciations?

Karen Mohs: With so many dialects (some scholars note at least five) in its development, Greek naturally had differing pronunciations. Scholars distinguish these systems in various ways. Perhaps the simplest is a distinction between Classical (or Erasmian) and Modern pronunciation. Others delineate the pronunciations as Erasmian Attic, Allen-Daitz Attic (restored), Koine, or Modern. Still others include various divisions such as Ionic and Doric. Differences are most significant when working with poetry.

Our recommendation for the beginner, however, is not to become confused by these matters. Simply follow the pronunciation taught in the curriculum being used. (Most teach the Erasmian pronunciation.) In addition, koine Greek is primarily studied today, not with the aim of communicating orally, but for the purpose of studying Scripture in its original language. Thus, we feel that emphasis should be on the written language. In our Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! series, we have used the pronunciation standard (Erasmus) which is followed by Machen and Strong. This standard makes the spelling of Greek words easier to master.

Greek is pretty complex with the different alphabet. Is it possible for young children to grasp?

Karen Mohs: Not only is it possible for young children to grasp koine Greek, it is best to begin teaching it early. Three and four-year-old children are successfully learning the Greek alphabet. On the other hand, older students need not be discouraged. It is never too late to start. (Some adults in their seventies are just beginning to study koine Greek.)

Many academic disciplines, viewed as a whole, appear incredibly complex. But when they are presented and absorbed in their elemental parts, they are easily understood. This is true of biblical Greek.

How can a non-Greek trained parent help a student?

Karen Mohs: Any parent can teach Greek. The key ingredient for success is a heart ready and willing to learn. Use a basic Greek curriculum, one with clear instructions, ample practice, and enjoyable activities. Young children learn best and retain more of what they have learned when they are exposed consistently to Greek over many years. Foreign language courses often begin slowly enough. All goes well for the first few lessons. The pace then accelerates rapidly, forcing the child to erect ever-increasing knowledge on a shaky foundation. Soon, the momentum is no longer sufficient to carry the student through, and the course is abandoned. The most successful foreign language curricula present the material slowly, yet steadily, with stimulating practice and review, building year upon year, much the same way that English grammar is taught.

How can Greek studies be made fun?

Karen Mohs: Children are perceptive. Very young children form their opinions about what is "fun" as they observe their parents and older siblings enjoying various activities. In the case of older children and adults, the key to enjoyment is mastery. The key to mastery involves remaining consistent, taking only a small step at a time, staying at that step until the words and concepts are learned well, and putting what is learned into practice by beginning with an interlinear Greek New Testament early. Share the enthusiasm and embark on the adventure together. It will be lots of fun.

How does a homeschooling parent get over the intimidation factor of the Greek alphabet?

Karen Mohs: There are twenty-four letters in the Greek alphabet. Some of them look odd, but they are all easy to learn. Introduce the first one, alpha. Alpha sounds like the "a" in "father." Learn it well. Then add beta, the b sound. And so it step at a time.

How does the study of a classical language such as Greek or Latin fit into the homeschooling schedule?

Karen Mohs: Parents and students can decide how best to schedule the learning of new vocabulary and new grammatical concepts. Some prefer a short session each day. Others schedule longer sessions on two or three days of the week. Audio pronunciation can be reviewed in the car or during craft or exercise time.

How long should one spend studying Greek per week?

Karen Mohs: This, of course, will differ with each family and the unique needs of each student. As a very general guideline, we recommend that a student complete approximately one page of the workbook per day. Some pages can be completed easily in a short period of time, while others may take a little longer. The use of flashcards is indispensable. When a new vocabulary word or grammatical concept is learned well, it can be placed in an "occasional practice" stack to be reviewed weekly, then monthly. If the word or concept is forgotten during the "occasional practice" review, the card should then be placed back in the "daily practice" stack. If a student seems to be struggling for mastery, he should discontinue progress in the workbook and focus entirely on flashcard drill until he knows the concepts well and is ready to learn more.

Should one study Greek and other languages at different times or simultaneously?

Karen Mohs: Many families are teaching their students both Greek and Latin simultaneously. If I had to choose one, I would choose Greek. Other than the preparation Greek gives in the area of biblical study, this choice would simply be preference. Others may prefer Latin. If you want to teach only one of the classical languages at a time, my suggestion would be to start with the one your students are most interested in learning. Some parents and students desire to include a modern foreign language such as Spanish or French in their studies. Greek roots, which aid in understanding English, also aid in understanding the mother tongues of other countries. Regular paradigms of Greek verb conjugations and noun declensions provide the framework for similar paradigms in French or Spanish, among others.

How did you handle teaching both Greek and Latin in your homeschool?

Karen Mohs: We first introduced Greek to our children when they were very young by placing labels on objects throughout the house. Later, we taught a summer course in koine Greek to our children and the children of others in our homeschool support group. Once we realized the value of Latin, we included it as a regular part of our studies each year. Our youngest daughter studied both languages throughout her entire junior and senior high school years.

At the completion of Hey Andrew, Teach Me Some Greek!, what will the student know?

Karen Mohs: At this time, Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! has a Reader and six workbooks available. Upon completing these, the student will have studied the Greek alphabet, first declension nouns (long alpha, short alpha, eta, and masculine first declension), second declension nouns (masculine, neuter, and feminine), articles, adjectives of the first and second declensions, prepositions, enclitics, proclitics, personal pronouns, present indicative of "I am," present active indicative, imperfect active indicative, future active indicative, present middle/passive indicative, imperfect middle/passive indicative, future middle indicative, and deponents.

When will my student be able to read the Bible in Greek?

Karen Mohs: When a student begins Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! Level Three, we recommend that he spend time each day in the Greek New Testament, beginning with the gospel of John. Of course, at this point, the student will just be beginning to understand Greek words, forms, and sentence structure. As he progresses through the workbooks, his understanding will continue to increase. In addition to Greek New Testament reading, we suggest that students spend five or ten minutes each day with "Bible Copy Work." Instructions are included in the appendix of each workbook beginning with Level Three. One homeschooling parent wrote: "I love your products! When our daughter was 7, and she had just completed Greek Level 2, we took her into our Christian bookstore and showed her a Greek Interlinear New Testament. We covered up the English, and she read the Greek! From a seven-year-old! Our six-year old started Greek this year, too, and she's doing great! Greek is their favorite subject!"

What curricula would you recommend after completion of Hey Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!?

Karen Mohs: First, you should know that there will be further levels of Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek! As long as interest in Hey, Andrew! remains strong, we expect the series to extend to the originally planned nine levels. After the Hey, Andrew! series, we suggest that a family consider purchasing New Testament Greek for Beginners by J. Gresham Machen or Basics of Biblical Greek by William D. Mounce. A portion of these texts will review the material the student has already learned, after which further aspects of grammar and new vocabulary are presented. Machen's text is used in colleges and seminaries and is a favorite among many New Testament Greek professors. Mounce's text is relatively new, but is gaining rapidly in popularity.

What benefits have your children gleaned from studying Greek?

Karen Mohs: Because of their study of koine Greek, our children are not intimidated by the conclusions of Bible expositors, especially if those conclusions conflict with our children's understanding of Scripture. With the tools and the confidence to dig a little deeper, they discover important biblical truths for themselves. It is difficult to isolate the factors contributing to their success on college entrance exams and in their college classes, but I suspect that a significant factor is their background in both Greek and Latin. Two of our daughters who have recently taken an interest in medical transcription find that their knowledge of Greek and Latin helps in their acquisition of the essential vocabulary for this course of study.

Would high school credits be appropriate?

Karen Mohs: Many parents give one high school semester credit for each level of Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!. Others give a full year credit for each level. In our own homeschool, we gave one semester each for Level Three and Level Four, and one year each for Level Five and Level Six. For those who plan to pursue their study of Greek in institutions of higher learning, it is important to note that, because college Greek instructors assume that their students have had no prior instruction, they begin at the beginning. Whatever degree of proficiency has been attained in high school Greek will provide an excellent foundation in undergraduate courses.

Many thanks to Karen Mohs for sharing her thoughts with us here at!

Related Resources's Classical Language Resource Section's Classical and Charlotte Mason Education Resource Section
Review of Hey, Andrew! Teach Me Some Greek!
Review of Latin's Not So Tough