Book Review: Douglas S. Huffman, The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

Huffman, Douglas S. The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2012, xvi + 112 pp., $16.99, paperback.  (Link to Kregel)

Douglas Huffman introduces his book as a “ready reference” for those who have finished their first year of Greek. This includes second year Greek students, but also pastors and teachers who are in need of a quick reference for reading the Greek New Testament.

Handy Guide to New Testament GreekThe book is divided into three parts. The first part (about half the book) summarizes the grammar of the Greek New Testament. This includes the sorts of things covered in a first year Greek class. He includes noun and verb charts, but also useful charts for on other elements of grammar. The section concludes with a chart of the principle parts for the most common irregular verbs. While most Greek students are required to memorize these unusual forms, the chart is a helpful reminder since principle parts are among the first things forgotten by first year Greek students!

In the second part of the Handy Guide Huffman summarizes syntactical categories, typically covered in a second year Greek Course. He treats nouns by listing various nuances of the cases, listing them, providing a brief definition, and a single biblical example. For students wading through Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, these single page summaries are very helpful. While Huffman does not use exact lists from Wallace or any other New Testament Grammar, he does include the major categories and the terminology is close enough that students should be able to use the Handy Guide to quickly find the most likely syntactical description before turning to the more complete, advanced grammars. I would love to see a guide book like this include page numbers to Wallace, BDF, or other intermediate grammars. However, this probably would move the book beyond the “handy guide” status. This section has brief summaries of conditional sentences and a nice section on identifying participles. Huffman has a “participle identification chart”(page 80), although it seems a bit complicated to me. (To be honest, I do not think I have seen anyone come up with a flowchart that makes identifying participles any easier.)

The third part of the Handy Guide is perhaps the most useful to my students, although the section is a mere 23 pages. Huffman offers a simple overview of how to do sentence diagrams, including technical, phrase, semantic, and “arcing” diagrams. He steps through the basics of phrasing in two pages, then provides some examples from the Greek New Testament. His method looks a lot like what Mounce does in his Graded Reader, but I found his brief presentation quite helpful.  I would have liked more in this section, but what Huffman does provide a good introduction / reminder for students.

There is nothing new in this little book, but anyone who have done some Greek work will find it a “handy guide” indeed. The book is convenient and logically arranged. I appreciate both the high quality paper and binding of the book. Since it is the sort of book which will be consulted frequently, the higher quality will not wear out as fast. For example, I have been through three copies of Trenchard’s New Testament Vocabulary now, and my original Old Testament Hebrew vocab lists (published in the 80s) has completely disintegrated. Huffman’s Handy Guide is both useful and built to last.

My first thought when receiving this book was to compare it to William Mounce’s Biblical Greek, A Compact Guide (Zondervan, 2011), which I reviewed when it was released in 2011. Students who used Mounce in their first year may be more attracted to the Compact Guide, and it has a bit more material that Huffman’s Handy Guide, including a short lexicon and more principle parts.

Huffman’s Handy Guide to New Testament Greek delivers exactly what it promises, a handy summary of the things a first year Greek student ought to have learned, but may need a little refreshing.

Thanks to Kregel for providing a copy of this book to review.

7 thoughts on “Book Review: Douglas S. Huffman, The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

  1. I bought the Huffman book but I am going to return it. Some of the orangie colored print is way too difficult for my aging eyes to read. It looks like a good book but I just can’t read some of it.

    • This is a fair criticism which I did not think to mention (although my eyes are aging as well!) A few of the charts use a very small font to pack the information into a small space. Mounce’s Biblical Greek: A Compact Guide uses a lighter blue/grey font quite a bit, but it is hard to tell it is a different color for some readers.

  2. Hi Again: I tried to return this book to Amazon, but they said to keep it without charge as I have been a good customer. They are quite an outfit and I get all of my books from them. I complained once that a book that I ordered was quite delayed in getting to me and they gave me a credit for the book. So now, I will use my magnifying glass and try to use Huffman’s book to help me in my Koine Greek studies. Thanks for your comment.

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