In May of 2014, Dr. Rodney J. Decker passed away. He taught at Baptist Bible Seminary (PA) and specialized in the study of Greek. He had completed a new textbook which has now been published by Baker called Reading Koine Greek.
I have always been interested in Greek, and I have taught Greek a number of times, having used four different textbooks. Often it seems that the best writers often don’t have the in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of linguistics. Decker is a bit unique in demonstrating a career of experience and knowledge in research, as well as mastering teaching techniques and tools. Here are some features of this book that stood out to me.
Modern Linguistics – Decker notes that many students and even NT scholars are simply not current with insights from modern linguistics. He tries to introduce these insights into the textbook in a way not often found in Greek grammars.
LXX – Decker has readings and exercises that come from, not just the NT, but important related texts including the Septuagint. Personally, I really like that.
Visual Appeal – the book is extremely well-produced, with attractive visual layout – this is important particularly for a grammar.
Humor – You can tell Decker had a wonderful sense of humor – he integrates all kinds of funny and silly things into the textbook. For example, he has a sidebar on p. 142 that makes reference to the longest extant word in a Greek text – fifty letters (in a subliterary magical papyri). I love his last comment – “I have no idea what it means”
Mnemonic devices – I love that Decker includes a lot of mnenomic devices for memorizing things. How do you remember the Greek word for “one” – hen? “Steal me one chicken” – hen = one, steal is like “heist” and thus heis. You get the picture (p. 205).Verbal aspect – Decker endorses a Porter-ian approach to VA, so know that that is what the students would be learning. What I liked about this (I don’t necessarily agree with him) is that he introduces it in a clear way.
LoTR – Clearly Decker loves the Lord of the Rings. He takes the time to quote Gandalf in an illustration.
Caution – I do want to note one caution I had about using this book – Decker resists using traditional fill-in-the-blank exercises, so you don’t really have them. He gives sample readings from the New Testament that can be teaching and learning moments. My impression is that if I were to use this textbook, I would want to create my own homework sheets.
Is this the best Greek textbook to use? It is really a matter of preference of learning style, approach to Greek issues (like verbal aspect), and level of student. I would definitely say that a Greek teacher ought to look at the loads of excellent teaching tools and tips that Decker offers.
I would definitely be interested in hearing from folks that are using this in class (faculty and students).
Rest in Peace, Rodney J. Decker.