On Greek Readers : Type Of Readers

There are several different types of readers. If you are writing one, not only do you need to decide up front who your audience is, you should probably go ahead and be clear about it. Different types of readers will require different skill sets, from you and them.

Guideline #1: Decide up front who your target audience is, and make sure you indicate that somewhere in the finished work.

Readers with Adapted Texts

Though I think there is a lot of potential for these, many seem to dislike them because they want to be reading "real Greek". I used to feel the same.

There are several of them that employ this method in our gallery post. Colwell and Tune, Colson, JACT’s Reading Greek, and Groton all did this.

I do not think it is a coincidence that all of these except perhaps Colson are aimed at beginners, and that is an important point. Once someone is past his beginning stages of learning he should not be reading adapted texts because he shouldn’t have to be. As for beginners, as long as the adapted text doesn’t contain horribly unidiomatic Greek, it should do them no harm to read this kind of text. At the beginning the user is being inundated with such a large amount of data in the form of vocabulary and morphology they do not need to be exposed to the gamut of different idiom reading a "real" text can give you. On the contrary, not having the distraction of extra unfamiliar idiom could have the effect of hindering learning as the student is not able to focus enough on the subjects being learned. But as they master the basics, exposure to unadapted text can be gradually increased until it can be done away with altogether.

Guideline #2: Adapted texts can be useful, but should generally be used only for beginners.

To create an adapted reader, the following are qualities/experience that I think would be required. First, you would need to know where to find text that is relatively easy to adapt. For example, making an adapted text for a beginner would be easier with Mark than it would Hebrews, because Mark is already pretty easy. Second, you would need to know as much as possible about equivalent constructions in a language. For example, most adjectival participle constructions can be changed to relative clauses with little change in meaning. Since most would be learn about relative clauses before adjectival participles, this would be a good way of "dumbing down" the text. You could say the same for changing adverbial participle constructions to conjunctions + finite verb, or periphrastic participles to indicative or imperfect, etc. Third, assuming these adapted texts were to be used while learning basic Greek, you would need to keep in mind not only where the students are in the text but to always keep a good balance of reviewing old idioms, forms, and vocabulary as well as primary focus on newer items. Of course if your text is based around a reader, this latter issue is much more easily solved.

Guideline #3: If you make an adapted text reader, don’t just make stuff up. Make it as idiomatic as possible without being distracting.

Readers for Different Stages

Readers can also be made for those at different stages in their learning process. A reader for use just after a first year course would probably need to include more help than a reader used even after someone’s second year of coursework (if your students are not further along after their second year than their first, you need to do something about your curriculum).

Once you get out of the realm of adapted texts, the difficulty of the reader is going to be primarily related to the type(s) of text chosen for the reader. One based on the Gospel of Mark and 1 John would naturally be very easy. One based on Acts and Epictetus’ Enchiridion would naturally be more difficult. Any text that uses syntax in abundance that is unusual to the student will be naturally more difficult. The same is certainly true of vocabulary as well. Many of the familiar glosses we are used to in the context of the New Testament are just not normal in secular Greek.

Other than the type of text used, the difficulty will also be related to the amount of help given. Let’s say you have a reader that first includes selections from the Gospel of John and then Hebrews. The switch between the two will most certainly seem abrupt. However, the difficulty of the switch can perhaps be mitigated by more syntactical helps for the readings from Hebrews. This means that for tools like Kubo or the Readers GNT whose help is only in the realm of vocabulary, the readings will be incredibly lopsided in difficulty. This is not always bad, but it should be kept in mind when evaluating or creating a reader. "Graded readers", those that in theory would give texts in order of lesser to greater difficulty, will naturally be prone to this issue. A reader on say, a particular work, or even author, will have less of a problem with this.

Readers as an Assortment of Themed (or Otherwise) Writings

Some readers include a number of closely related texts. Some include a wide variety of texts. Both are useful. Let us start with the latter.

The reader that includes a set of unrelated texts is useful for giving the student a wide exposure to texts found in the language. This can be a very humbling experience, so a teacher should not lightly assign selections from a reader with wide-ranging types of text unless the student has a good deal of confidence, or if the student needs to have his pride beat down. For the author of the reader this is less of a concern, because he can’t take into account everyone’s state of learning. Good examples of this are Colwell and Mantey’s reader especially as well as JACT’s Greek Anthology.

On the other end are readers themed in some way. These seem to be more common. Some focus on a general corpus. Mounce (focuses on biblical Greek with a few exceptions), Decker (selection of various Christian and Jewish Greek texts), Whitacre (selection of patristic texts), and JACT’s NT Greek reader are good examples. Some focus on a particular author, like Sidwell’s Lucian reader and JACT’s Triumph of Odysseus. Both types are very useful, so there is a place for both on my bookshelf.

Readers as Standard Study Texts for Works

If there is any type of reader I want to see more of, it is this. I would love to have a reader’s edition of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. I would totally dig one of Josephus’ works. I would pay large amounts of money for reader’s editions of the New Testament Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha. I would trade all of my copies of Bibliotheca Sacra (okay...so they aren’t worth much) plus a wad of cash for a reader’s edition of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ Roman Antiquities.

It seems the standard format for works is the diglot, which is nice. It’s just not as nice as diglotted reader’s edition! Is this too much to ask?

Guideline #4: There is room for a variety of different types of readers. Go forth and create!


Did I miss any? If I did, or if you have any thoughts, please leave a comment. Next step? Let’s talk vocab.