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Biblical Greek (Beginners): 01. Alphabet, pronunciation

In this lesson, you will learn the Greek alphabet and to read and pronounce the Greek text.

Alphabet

The first task of every foreign language student is to get acquainted with the graphics of a foreign text. This lesson will guide you through the essentials in order to teach you to read and pronounce the text.

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters (English has 26). The whole alphabet can be also found in charts section. Get to know it very well before you will continue further in the course.

Α α a (alpha) 1
Β β b (beta) 2
Γ γ g (gamma) 3
Δ δ d (delta) 4
Ε ε e (epsilon) 5
Ϝ ϛ w (vau, digamma, stigma) 6
Ζ ζ dz (dzeta) 7
Η η e (eta) 8
Θ θ th (theta) 9
Ι ι i (iota) 10
Κ κ k (kappa) 20
Λ λ l (lambda) 30
Μ μ m (mu) 40
Ν ν n (nu) 50
Ξ ξ ks (xi) 60
Ο ο o (omikron) 70
Π π p (pi) 80
Ϙ q (koppa) 900
Ρ ρ r (rho) 100
Σ σ/ς s (sigma) 200
Τ τ t (tau) 300
Υ υ y (upsilon) 400
Φ φ f (fi) 500
Χ χ ch (chi) 600
Ψ ψ ps (psi) 700
Ω ω o (omega) 800
ϡ ts (sampi) 900

Grey highlighted letters were used, at the time of NT, only as symbols for numbers.

Pronunciation

  1. γ before κ, γ, χ, ξ is pronounced as n (ἀγγελος)
  2. σ before β, δ, γ, μ  is pronounced as (κοσμος)

It is recommended to note this into your own printed copy of alphabet next to a particular letter.

Diphthongs

  1. Short: αι [aj], ει [ej], οι [oj], υι [yj], αυ [au], ευ [eu], ου [ú]
  2. Long: ηυ [éu], [á], [é], [ó]

Letters

  1. Vowels: α, ε, η, ι, ο, ω, υ
  2. Consonants: every other letter

Syllables

Syllable is a part of a word composed by one or two consonants and a vowel. There are only two types of syllables: open (ending on a vowel) and close (ending on a consonant). For example, the word λο-γος (word) is composed of two syllables:

  1. Open: λο
  2. Close: γος

Signs in Greek Text

Breathing Signs

These signs are purposed to catch aspiration. They are written above a lower case letters and before upper case letters. In the case of diphthongs, the sign is above the second letter. In Koine Greek, we have these breathings:

  1. Rough (spiritus asper):
    • ἁμαρτία [hamartia] (sin), ἅγιος [hagios] (holy), μεις [hymeis] (you) → we read with h
    • ῥομφαία [romfaia] (sword): only doubling of ρ, no h when reading
  2. Smooth (spiritus lenis):
    • νθρωπος [athropos] (man), οἶκος [oikos] (house, abode), οὐδέν [uden] (no one), ν [en] (in) → we read in a normal way

Accent Signs

All of the accent symbols can be found on one of the three last syllables.

  1. Acute: ά (can be found at last three syllables)
    • Oxytona: the last syllable
    • Paroxytona: the second syllable from the end
    • Proparoxytona: the third syllable from the end
  2. Grave: (only at the last syllable)
    • Occurs at the last syllable
  3. Circumflex:
    • Perispómena: sound both ascends and descends
    • Properispómena: can be found at the last two syllables

All of these accents have the same meaning. These governing rules of where the accent sign happens to appear are significant especially for linguists and scholars, who are dealing with the language it self. We would only use them in the case when we need to write or converse Greek actively.

Iota subscript (iota signed under)

This iota can be found with these three letters: , , . It is a contracted form of the letter iota under a particular vowel. In the case of upper case vowels, iota is occurring next to the letter. E.g., dative of word δουλος (slave) is δουλῳ

Punctuation Signs

  • . , (dot, comma): declarative sentence
  • ; (semicolon): interrogative sentence

Are you Ready?

Now you are equipped to start reading Greek. When you master this lesson, you can proceed with others. Keep in mind that the material contained in every lesson follows the knowledge gained in the previous ones. 

Continue by practicing your knowledge of the Greek alphabet in the assignments section.


Assignments

  1. Learn by heart the alphabet and the breathings
  2. Review the lesson in order you can recognize all the graphical forms
  3. Rewrite various portion of John 1:1-18 (+ try to read it out loud), until you will remember the letters

John 1:1-18

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3 πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης· 7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν διʼ αὐτοῦ. 8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλʼ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.

9 ῏Ην τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.

14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. 15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.

Exercises

Greek: Basic Vocabulary (300 Most Frequent Words )

The exercise contains words that occur 50 times or more in the New Testament. Mastering this vocabulary will give you an ability for basic reading of the New Testament in the Greek language.

313
Greek

Greek alphabet

The Greek alphabet has 24 letters. It is composed of both consonants and vowels. Today it is also used for technical symbols and labels.

24
Greek

Charts

Alphabet

Greek