Upgrading to the Fourth Edition of Mounce’s Greek Textbook: A Review and Guide for Instructors

Gregory R. Lanier
Associate Professor of New Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

Given that I had just finished another round of Greek I–II, a palpable sense of dread came over me when I saw a late-2018 advertisement for a new edition of the course’s textbook. Desiring to assess the damage that would be inflicted upon my lecture notes, quizzes, exams, and in-class examples by a revision to the decade-old textbook, I requested a copy and proceeded to assess things once it was in my hands.

What follows is a detailed comparison of the fourth edition of William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar (Zondervan, 2019) with its predecessor, the third edition (Zondervan, 2009). The goal is to probe whether and how an instructor should adopt the updated edition (BBG-4) or continue using the third (BBG-3).[1]

Any time a standard textbook is updated, numerous issues arise for instructors, so this is nothing new. However, Mounce’s grammar is by far the most popular introductory koine Greek textbook in America (it appears less popular overseas), so the ramifications are more far-reaching.

I will provide a summary of my verdict up front. BBG-4 is a well-conceived upgrade that redresses a large number of flaws in the prior edition, while avoiding comprehensive modifications that would force significant rework upon those upgrading. While it retains most of Mounce’s distinctives—for better and worse—and may not be the ‘best’ grammar available, I can recommend that those already using Mounce can and should adopt the fourth edition.

Review

BBG-3 has been an effective textbook for hundreds of thousands of students, including myself. Yet, like any textbook of its scope, there have always been pluses and minuses to Mounce’s grammar.

Its chief strength has always been how it targets an audience that likely has never learned another language and does not know English very well, either. Thus, it is masterful at easing students into the task of learning Greek.

But its limitations compared with other introductory grammars on the market are well-known: idiosyncratic sequencing,[2] weakness or over-simplification in certain grammatical areas,[3] use of the primary-secondary grid of verb endings while still not really moving away from paradigms/principal parts,[4] and (especially) less than accurate ways of teaching tense, aspect, and voice within the verbal system.

With BBG-4, all the things that make the approach distinctively “Mounce” are retained. It still follows the same sequence, makes use of the rule-based approach to the verb system, and so on. Thus, I will not spend time comparing BBG-4 with other grammars on the market, for the features that made BBG-3 different from others are still around. You either like it (and deal with certain limitations) or you do not. In other words, if someone already prefers, say, the grammars of Decker, Croy, or Black,[5] there is probably little reason to switch to BBG-4. It is still Mounce.

However, BBG-4 does make marked improvements over BBG-3 in other areas. So I will focus on helping instructors decide whether to retain their heavily marked-up BBG-3 or go through the pain of upgrading. It may be that the improvements made—particularly in the realm of tense, aspect, and voice (as we will see)—might persuade someone to switch from a different textbook to BBG-4. But that is not my focus.

To these ends, I will assume familiarity with BBG-3 in what follows.

I. Strengths of the Fourth Edition

I will begin with a summary of the improvements made in BBG-4 over BBG-3. In certain cases, some of these strengths will be counterbalanced with drawbacks (which I will cover here rather than in the subsequent section). I will focus on major items; details will be provided in the “Guide” that follows below.

1) Stability in the essentials. BBG-4 does not make any major changes in the areas that would require instructors to make extensive changes to course materials. While there is fine-tuning along the way, the following elements are essentially unchanged:

  • Sequence of chapters (though some are renamed)
  • Sequence of vocabulary
  • Approach to nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions (including parsing method and charts)
  • Approach to verbs (including parsing method, rules, master chart of primary-secondary endings, sequence of the moods, coverage of participles)
  • “Track One” and “Track Two” options
  • Syncing of the textbook with the workbook

Thus, those who already use Mounce can breathe a sigh of relief: wholesale changes are not required, since the basic skeleton of the textbook has remained the same.

2) Revisions to how verb tense and aspect are handled. A key place where introductory grammars struggle is the task of explaining tense and aspect to those who are just beginning Greek. Tense/aspect has been a hotly debated topic within the field in recent decades. BBG-3 is more or less middle-of-the-pack in how it explains the issues, especially with its use of “continuous,” “undefined,” and “completed (but with ongoing effect)” as aspect labels. Instructors who keep track of recent developments have, thus, found themselves needing to correct or essentially replace Mounce’s treatment with their own.

Fortunately, BBG-4 makes good progress in becoming more current on tense and aspect. While Mounce still lands in the camp that holds that Greek does morphologize tense in the indicative, he has adopted different terminology for aspect and provides a longer and generally competent explanation in his overview of verbs (ch. 15).[6] In place of the old labels are those that most will find unobjectionable or, at least, easier to accommodate to their preferred method of teaching:

BBG-3BBG-4
Present / ImperfectContinuousImperfective (Continuous)
AoristUndefinedPerfective (Undefined)
PerfectCompletedCombinative (Completed)

Note that the primary labels have been updated, particularly in the chapter titles and headings. For instance, what previously was “Aorist (Undefined) Adverbial Participles” is now “Perfective (Aorist) Adverbial Participles” (ch. 28).

The old labels, however, still lurk in the parentheses, and this marks a weakness of BBG-4: the shift towards a better approach to verbal aspect is somewhat cosmetic and often inconsistent. Yes, the headers change, but “continuous” and “undefined” are retained (although grammarians decreasingly use those terms in describing aspect); in fact, in the detailed discussions they typically take preference.[7] Regularly BBG-4 will, for instance, describe an aorist verb as “undefined in aspect” even if the header for the section reads “perfective.” Moreover, while BBG-4 adopts “combinative” for the perfect tense-form,[8] it rarely engages in detail with its aspectual features and still falls back on “completed…ongoing” to describe it. BBG-4 also does not even mention that there is debate about this third aspect, with some grammarians arguing that it is not distinct but, rather, should be folded into either perfective or imperfective. On balance the handling of the perfect continues to be a weak spot. Finally, BBG-4 holds the line from BBG-3 that aspect is basically irrelevant for the future tense-form, which remains a point of debate.

All told, the updates on tense and aspect are welcome and certainly will make teaching easier. One wishes, however, that they were more thoroughly applied and not (at points) a cosmetic change, which, due to inconsistent retention of past terminology, will still lead to confusion for students.

3) Revisions to how “deponency” and the middle voice are handled. Perhaps the biggest area in which BBG-4 proves more up-to-date is in its treatment of the middle voice. Much to the chagrin of many instructors, BBG-3 leans heavily in the pro-“deponency” direction and often treats the middle quite reductionistically as reflexive-only. Fortunately, extensive revisions are made in BBG-4 to redress this.[9] In chapters 18 and 24, Mounce embraces the definition of the middle voice as “subject-affectedness,” mentions “deponency” as an option but clearly gives it a backseat, provides a helpful set of examples that flesh out the nuances of the middle, and even raises the possibility of koine functioning as a two-voice system (default vs. middle-passive). In contrast to the inconsistent application of updated aspect terminology, BBG-4 does a great job employing this shift in understanding the middle (and passive) much more consistently throughout the textbook without getting bogged down in the minutiae. It is perhaps the book’s best improvement.

4) Refinements to the handling of glosses. BBG-4 does an admirable job in updating glosses for vocabulary words, particularly by introducing the use of semicolons to make more clear any differences in meaning or semantic fields for given words. In BBG-3, every gloss is separated by a comma; in BBG-4, many entries introduce a semicolon between meanings that are significantly different. Moreover, in select instances BBG-4 rearranges glosses or removes unnecessary information. For instance:

BBG-3BBG-4
ἀκούωI hear, learn, obey, understandI hear; learn, obey; understand
ἄνθρωποςman, mankind, person, people, humankind, human beingman; person, human being; people, mankind
πνεῦμαspirit, Spirit, wind, breath, inner lifespirit, Spirit; wind, breath; inner life

At points BBG-4 inserts semicolons between glosses where there is no clear rationale, or fails to insert them when would have made sense (e.g., ἀνήρ reads “male, husband; man” when it would have been more logical to read “male, man; husband”). But such distinctions can be subjective, and on the whole these improvements will reinforce with students the idea of semantic domains and variations in word meaning.

5) Improved handling of pronunciation. Though Mounce still endorses the Erasmian pronunciation of koine for instruction, he introduces the (neo-)modern pronunciation system at the outset (ch. 3) and integrates it into the updated software tools. This will make BBG-4 much more usable for those who have adopted the latter system as (arguably) more accurate to the first-century time period.

6) Introduction of “phrasing. Periodically in BBG-4,[10] Mounce has introduced an exegetical tool called “phrasing,” which is a simple introduction to clause-level analysis. A rudimentary form is present in BBG-3, but the treatments have been expanded and refined in BBG-4. “Phrasing” is essentially a standard tab-based method of arranging main verbs, relative clauses, participles, prepositions, etc. in a visual way to expose the syntactical structure. An example in ch. 14 visualizes the structure of Rom 1:9a as follows:

μάρτυς γάρ μού ἐστιν ὁ θεός,

ᾧ λατρεύω

ἐν τῷ πνεύματί μου

ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ

It is very basic, of course, but it will serve instructors well in starting to introduce students to the analysis of Greek beyond the word level, preparing them for later coursework. The only major complaint is that “phrasing” shows up only a few times (in chapters on prepositions, relative clauses, and [sometimes] participles). It would be tremendously useful to include more of these discussions throughout.[11]

7) Miscellaneous upgrades of note. While I will summarize several other changes below in the “Guide,” a few other small-scale but valuable improvements have been made in BBG-4. Gone, at last, are all references to the “definite” article—a strange inconsistency in BBG-3. Several additions/revisions will prove valuable, such as an adjective decision tree (substantive, attributive, predicative); the relocation of the discussion of transitivity for verbs from late in the book to earlier; and an improved discussion of verbal and adjectival dimensions of participles. The Greek typography is improved, including a switch to a tilde-style circumflex (e.g., ῦ) that will match students’ Greek Bibles more closely.[12] A higher number of Greek manuscript images have been peppered throughout, while some of the oddities (i.e. Greek bathroom signs and a “Mary Poppins” poster) of BBG-3 have been removed. And other than a single cameo, the cartoon “Professor” has been shown the door.

II. Drawbacks of the Fourth Edition

Let us turn now to areas of weakness for BBG-4. As mentioned above, I am focusing here not on the general critiques of Mounce’s approach (in comparison to other grammars) but on “intramural” issues: namely, changes that are a downgrade from BBG-3, or changes that are not made but would have been beneficial.

1) Less intuitive presentation of vocabulary. Throughout BBG-4 places more pronounced emphasis on roots and stems (especially for verbs). This, in turn, leads to subtle but impactful changes to how vocabulary words are displayed. In the new presentation, the lexical form appears to the left (as in BBG-3), but now on the same line to the right is not the list of glosses but, rather, the asterisked root or stem(s). The glosses appear below the stem/roots and are italicized. Let us compare the formats:

BBG-3 ἔργον, –ου, τό                work, deed, action (169; *ἐργο)
BBG-4ἔργον, –ου, τό                *ἐργο (169)

work; deed, action

This new arrangement unfortunately makes it more cumbersome to track the word to its gloss(es); the eye naturally moves left-to-right, but now it has to move down as well. The particular typography of the italics further causes the glosses to stand out less, not more. The impression is even worse for verbs, for which glosses are now sandwiched between two lines of Greek text (the asterisked root/stem on line 1, and the list of principal parts on line 3). This is yet further compounded by Mounce’s liberality in including sometimes lengthy side-discussions about morphology or other issues in-line under the glosses, rather than in a footnote.[13] On the whole, the visual arrangement of the vocabulary lists has taken a step back, as the glosses—the information a student needs most—are now harder to find in the fray of details.

2) Downgrades in certain elements of form-factor and overall presentation. Users will immediately notice that the dimensions of BBG-4 are strikingly different than BBG-3. Whereas its predecessor is 8.5 x 11 inches, the new edition is 6.5 x 9.5 inches.[14] This reduction in form-factor yields a 21% increase from 419 pages (BBG-3) to 509 pages (BBG-4); however, due to changes in paper thickness, the new edition is 40-50% thicker. The workbook, however, remains the same size. The net effect is that BBG-4 bears the same size profile as most other intermediate grammars and will, thus, look better on the shelf. There are tradeoffs, however: the thicker, smaller edition does not lie flat as readily as BBG-3 (at least, not yet—presumably it will with repeated use), nor does it pair as well with the workbook.

Beyond the size change, other significant modifications have been made to the overall presentation. BBG-3 features extensive margins on all sides—but especially at the outer edges (nearly two inches)—which are very useful for students and instructors. The margins have been dramatically reduced (to roughly 0.5 inches all around), leaving effectively no space on any given page for annotations. While this is fine for an intermediate grammar, it is a major loss for a beginner’s textbook.[15]

BBG-4 has also been reworked with a more contemporary style sheet, particularly in terms of headers. This yields a more polished product: gone is the chaotic mix of shaded headers, thick dotted lines, and so forth that gave BBG-3 a bit of a 1990s feel. There is, however, a downside. In the attempt to render a more sleek product, certain visual aides have been lost or become strangely less consistent, not more. In particular:

  • Noun and verb paradigms no longer have borders but rather are simply tabbed text; thus, they no longer stand out and get lost amid the prose—a disadvantage for students looking to review a chapter quickly.
  • Review sections (“Halftime” and “Summary”) now blend in, whereas they stood out prominently in BBG-3 and drew students’ attention.
  • The formatting of tables, charts, diagrams, and other insets is now strangely inconsistent, whereas it was fairly uniform in BBG-3. Some are plain text (as with paradigms) with no borders or shading (e.g., p. 75). Some lack shading but come with a top/bottom borders (p. 103), black borders for all table cells (p. 173), or a blue border on the outside (p. 334). Others have gray shading and a top/bottom border (p. 200). This may seem like nit-picking, but the cumulative effect of these mixed visual cues is important: to what is the student supposed to pay heightened attention?[16]

Finally, while the production quality of BBG-4 is solid on the whole, there appear to be significant issues in one particular area: the presentation of various noun/verb endings in blue font. The same practice was employed in BBG-3, with no issues. With BBG-4 the quality has decreased, whereby the vertical and horizontal alignment of these blue sets of letters with respect to the base word (in black font) is very inconsistent.[17] Let me illustrate with some examples:

MildSevere

It is possible that these issues are localized (though I have confirmed with two copies of the textbook), and they might be rectified in future printings. But for those whose print copies are subject to this issue, the effect can be distracting.

3) Missed opportunity to smooth out sequencing of material within chapters. At several points (some of which are mentioned above), BBG-4 makes good strides in improving the flow of various chapters. However, on the whole much more could have been done to foster a more consistent and logical sequencing of material within the main content chapters. While the chapters at a high-level follow a basic pattern—English, Greek syntax, paradigms/rules/charts, vocabulary, advanced information—the specifics vary quite a lot.

Some sections show up select chapters but not others (e.g., “Characteristics,” “Odds ’n Ends,” “Hints”). Sometimes a section is called “Translation” in one chapter but “Translation Procedure” elsewhere (and is completely relabeled “Six Basic Uses of the Infinitive” in ch. 32). Occasionally there is an “Exegesis” section in one chapter but not in others where you might expect one. The chapter on imperatives (ch. 33) includes a “Form” section that is called a variety of different things in other chapters. Some chapters have a “Meaning” section, while others sprinkle discussions of meaning throughout. In some chapters, nearly all the relevant information and paradigms are corralled into the section with the heading “Greek,” while in other chapters there is a short “Greek” section followed by a sequence of several sections with their own headings.

Granted, wooden repetition of the exact same substructure of each chapter is probably impossible. However, a bit more consistency in BBG-4 would yield much better user experience. It is a missed opportunity in the updating of the book.

III. Verdict

Several of the drawbacks covered above are non-trivial, particularly the change in form factor (though, of course, some may like it) and printing issues, as well as the modification to the way vocabulary is displayed. Moreover, the incomplete manner in which changes to tense and aspect are worked out in the textbook—often becoming more a switch in labels than a true transformation of approach—is disappointing.

However, the positive changes from BBG-3 to BBG-4 on the whole outweigh the downsides. The revisions made to the discussion of voice (middle and passive, especially) alone probably make the upgrade worthwhile, but several other changes are helpful as well, especially given that the basic skeleton of the textbook has not changed in such a way that would require extensive rework for those moving from the older version to the new one. Though one may feel, at points, like it is two steps forward and one step back, my ultimate verdict is that the upgrade from the third to the fourth edition is the right decision for those who are already using Mounce.

AN INSTRUCTOR’S GUIDE TO UPGRADING

The following discussion is for those who (as suggested above) decide to upgrade from BBG-3 to BBG-4 in their coursework. With any change of a major textbook, instructors need to iron out a lot of details, not all of which can be covered here. I will instead address the big areas where an instructor would need to focus in order to update course materials in line with BBG-4.

I. Organization and Vocabulary

Perhaps the biggest area of concern for upgrading from one textbook to a new edition is the sequencing of material. Particularly for something like Greek that is cumulative, a seemingly small shift in chapter order or even arrangement of vocabulary words would throw off all lectures, quizzes, exams, etc. downstream. Fortunately, as discussed above, BBG-4 makes no such substantial changes. But there are a few changes that instructors should note to ensure consistency.

1) Titles of chapters. In line with the shifts on tense and aspect described in the “Review,” BBG-4 has accordingly updated chapter titles. Other refinements to titles have also been made. Those that have been changed are as follows:

Ch.BBG-3BBG-4
6Nominative and Accusative; Definite ArticleNominative and Accusative; Article
19Future Active/Middle IndicativeFuture Active and Middle Indicative
20Verbal Roots, and Other Forms of the FutureVerbal Roots (Patterns 2–4)
22Second Aorist Active/Middle IndicativeSecond Aorist Active and Middle Indicative
23First Aorist Active/Middle IndicativeFirst Aorist Active and Middle Indicative
27Present (Continuous) Adverbial ParticiplesImperfective (Present) Adverbial Participles
28Aorist (Undefined) Adverbial ParticiplesPerfective (Aorist) Adverbial Participles
30Perfect Participles and Genitive AbsolutesCombinative (Perfect) Participles and Genitive Absolutes

It is worth noting that the ordering of material in the Appendix has been slightly changed in BBG-4. Also, as with BBG-3, the chapter names in the overall table of contents and at the start of each chapter do not fully match what is listed on the “Track One or Track Two” guide (p. 91).

2) Changes to the vocabulary lists. The larger changes in visual presentation have been covered above, so I will focus here on some of the details.

In terms of the vocabulary sets used for each chapter, I only found one possible change: ἅγιος appears to have been moved from chapter 10 to chapter 9 relative to BBG-3.[18]

In terms of actual glosses, updates to BBG-3 have been made sporadically throughout (especially to introduce the “;” vs. “,” distinction, as described above). I will simply mention a few I found interesting:

Ch.Modifications made in BBG-4
8Principal parts are added for εἰμί, but the footnote instructs the student not to worry about it for now; alternate stems are added for λέγω, which at this stage might look confusing to students
11The gloss for πίστις is modified to include “trust” as well as “teaching”; the explanation for the latter (“‘teaching’ in that what is believed”) is not especially clear
14“Arm” and “finger” are removed from the entry for χείρ
18Principal parts are added for δεῖ, and the glosses are slightly improved for ἔρχομαι and πορεύομαι
19It would have been helpful to include a footnote on the debate concerning the meaning of Ἰουδαῖος, but none is provided
20The digamma is added to the aorist stem of ὁράω
21The root of διδάσκω is changed to *διδακ from *δακ in BBG-3; the glosses are modified for both ἐρωτάω and ἐπερωτάω
24Some of the details for φοβέομαι have been simplified

Furthermore, since BBG-4 is now using NA-28 (p. xiii) rather than NA-27, the vocabulary frequencies are slightly updated to reflect the revised critical text. Finally, extra information is occasionally moved from the vocabulary listing to the footnotes (e.g., the spelling changes for ἔχω in ch. 16), but on the whole there remains a lot of commentary (as in BBG-3).

II. Inventory of Chapter Revisions

Major changes (both positive and negative) were covered at a high level in the “Review” above, but it is important for instructors to get down in the weeds to see how such changes play out in the actual text itself. To that end, I will provide a general summary of the significant revisions made to each chapter from BBG-3 to BBG-4 (apart from vocabulary). It is impossible to be comprehensive, so I will focus on alerting instructors to the most notable revisions.

Ch.Modifications made in BBG-4
Intro
  • Revises the overview of the online tools and apps (including a shift from teknia.com to billmounce.com), given that the apps have changed
3
  • Adds §3.2 introducing modern pronunciation
  • Adds a column for modern pronunciation as well as capital letters to the alphabet chart
  • Switches the order of the sections on breathing marks and diphthongs
4
  • No consequential changes
5
  • No consequential changes
6
  • Inserts a brief comment about “normal” Greek word order (V-S-O)
  • Introduces the skeleton of the full noun paradigm (including blanks for genitive and dative), whereas a partial version (excluding genitive and dative) is used in BBG-3
  • Revises the sequencing within the chapter to flow more logically
  • Renames “Definite Article” header(s) to “Article”
  • Instructs students that the theoretical stem/root of all vocabulary words “should be memorized as precisely as the lexical form” (p. 48); this certainly explains why they receive such prominence in the vocabulary lists, but the claim itself is perhaps a bit too strong
7
  • Inserts a short caveat that the genitive does not only mean “of” or “possession,” but one might wish for a more robust discussion
  • Adds a case ending chart for αὐτός to assist with exercises
8
  • Revises the “Translation” section to “Phrasing”
9
  • Clarifies the “anarthrous” and “articular” distinction
  • Revises the discussion about “first” and “second” adjective positions
  • Adds §9.14 containing a helpful decision tree for identifying the use of an adjective
10
  • Moves details about voiced/unvoiced/etc. for the Square of Stops from the footnotes to the main text
11
  • Adds μήτηρ and ἀνήρ to the third declension chart (p. 117)
12
  • Rearranges some of the sections in the discussion of the personal pronoun
  • Removes some of the more confusing footnotes from the αὐτός discussion (p. 123–125)
13
  • More precisely identifies the attribute use of αὐτός as “identical” rather than just “same,” both in the text and the chapter summary
14
  • Renames the section on the form of the relative pronoun to “Hints” and moves it up in the chapter
  • Expands the translation discussion and incorporates “phrasing”
15
  • Adds §15.3 on the principal parts for English verbs
  • Introduces revised terminology for verbal aspect, though retains some of the unclear definitions from BBG-3; for instance, it now reads, “This is called the perfective aspect. I will refer to it as an undefined action” (p. 151)
  • Adds §15.20 on Aktionsart, but it is only three sentences
  • Adds §15.22 on the basics of mood
  • Adds §15.24–25 clarifying the difference between “root” (“most basic form of a word and carries its basic meaning”) and “stem” (the form “used in a particular tense”) (p. 157)
  • Expands the discussion on personal endings and how they encode person and number
  • Adds §15.26 on the connecting vowel (formerly in ch. 16)
  • Adds §15.29 on “voice,” but only mentions active and passive
  • Adds §15.32 on the participial morpheme
16
  • Switches headings to “perfective” and “imperfective”
  • Expands the discussion of time and aspect in the present indicative, but the terminology is used inconsistently; for instance, the headers read “imperfective” but the text often reads “continuous (imperfective)
  • Adds additional details on the nuances of the imperfective (e.g., “progressive,” “customary,” “instantaneous,” “descriptive”), which is a slight improvement but still confuses Aktionsart with aspect
  • Removes the “Gender” discussion from §16.12
17
  • Adds §17.10 on transitive/intransitive (formerly in ch. 36)
18
  • Covers the middle first (rather than passive, as in BBG-3)
  • Expands the discussion of the middle voice and “deponency” to three pages
  • Includes helpful examples showing when middle-ness is important and when it is largely indistinguishable
  • Updates the “Halftime Review” accordingly
  • Introduces the debate about the possibility of a Greek two-voice system
  • Adds a “Translation” section (§18.22–25) that draws out some nuances of the middle and passive with helpful examples
  • Adds §18.26 to introduce helpful categories of the middle voice (e.g., motion, emotion, grooming, spontaneous process, benefactive, reciprocal, reflexive)
19
  • Removes discussion of the English present/past/past perfect
  • Introduces more firmly the “root” versus “stem” distinction (formerly in ch. 20)
  • Rearranges several sections to improve the logical flow of the chapter
  • Relocates “Square of Stops” into the “Odds ’n Ends” section
20
  • Revises the diagram of verbal stem-change patterns to include “other stems” (thus accommodating aorist and perfect)
21
  • Updates the primary and secondary endings chart to read “mid / pas” for the present and imperfect (versus just “passive” in BBG-3)
  • Adds §21.25 on the “preparatory use of ‘there’” to help with translating εἰμί
22
  • Updates the definition of the aorist as the tense that “describes a perfective action that normally occurs in the past” (p. 240), thereby retaining the position that Greek does (at some level) morphologize temporality in the indicative
  • Updates the “perfective” versus “punctiliar” discussion (but more precise Aktionsart distinctions would have been helpful here)
  • Switches between “perfective” and “undefined” regularly throughout
  • Updates the “Previous Words” discussion to add the verbal root and additional review columns
23
  • Adds §23.19 on the liquid aorist middle (formerly in the Appendix)
  • Adds §23.20 on “middle-only or deponent” aorists
  • Updates the “Previous Words” discussion to add the verbal root and additional review columns; pattern 4 verbs are also added
24
  • Removes the tense formative chart (formerly §24.14)
  • Adds a lengthy section (§24.19–21) to discuss the use of the passive (θ) ending for aorists that are not semantically passive, but, rather, are middle; this continues the discussion introduced in ch. 18 on recent changes to our understanding of the middle/passive
25
  • Adds §25.3 to introduce the “combinative” nomenclature for the aspect of the perfect, but does not show awareness of other terminology (e.g., “stative”) or some scholars’ rejection of this third aspect
  • Moves the “Halftime Review” earlier and revises the section now titled “Formation of the Perfect”
  • Removes the discussion of the middle (formerly §25.15), since it is now covered in more detail in previous chapters
26
  • Thoroughly revises the discussions of adverbial and adjectival aspects of participles to read more logically and clearly
27
  • Adds a footnote explaining the change in chapter title to “Imperfective” (p. 299 n 1)—but the description is still “continuous” regularly in the chapter
  • Lightly revises the discussion of aspect (§27.11), but fails to update the middle and passive discussion in line with the nuances introduced in earlier chapters
  • Adds §27.16 on “phrasing” with participles
28
  • Lightly revises the discussion of aspect, including a comment about how perfective views a verbal event “as a whole” (p. 316)—but elsewhere “undefined” is retained
29
  • Removes section on adjectival grammar (formerly §29.5)
  • Updates the participle decision tree to use updated aspect labels (p. 334)
30
  • Fails to update the periphrastic construction section to use new aspect labels
31
  • No consequential changes
32
  • Updates the infinitive summary chart (§32.3) to use new aspect terminology, but the result is confusing: the “infinitive” column contains the “imperfective,” “perfective,” and “combinative” labels; the “aspect” column contains “continuous,” “undefined,” and “completed”; and the translation column retains the notion that the imperfective infinitive means to “continually” do something (which is not quite accurate)
  • Removes section on deponency (formerly §32.12)
  • Renames “Translation” section to “Six Basic Uses of the Infinitive”
  • Relocates “Indirect Discourse” discussion from “Advanced Information” to the main part of the chapter (§32.17)
33
  • Lightly revises the discussion on aspect, but still uses “continually” to describe imperfective imperatives
  • Removes section on deponency (formerly §33.13)
  • Reorganizes the “Prohibitions and Negations” section to be more clear
34
  • No consequential changes
35
  • No consequential changes
36
  • Renames “Definite Article” section to “Article”
  • Slightly reorganizes the content to flow more logically

Though I did not mention the details in the table above, the major “Section Overviews” between groups of chapters have also been updated as needed based on revisions to the chapters themselves.

III. Key Steps Toward to Making the Upgrade

We will conclude with a few suggestions on how an instructor might go about revising course materials in the process of upgrading from BBG-3 to BBG-4 as expeditiously as possible. Much more can be said, but here is where I would focus:

  • Update lectures and other materials to reflect title changes to various chapters.
  • Revise materials (if needed) to adopt the new labels for aspect (perfective, imperfective, and combinative). Though not all instructors may be on board with “combinative” (e.g., I have begrudgingly used “stative”), it may be a worthwhile tradeoff in the long-term to keep terminology consistent with the textbook now that it has been updated. Instructors will, however, need to alert students regularly to BBG-4’s retention of “continuous,” “undefined,” “completed,” in order to mitigate student confusion.
  • Review the extensive changes to the treatment of the middle voice and “deponency” (ch. 18) and adapt to course materials as needed.
  • Review the chapters listed above where the material has been rearranged or expanded in significant ways, and update course materials as needed.
  • Determine whether (and how much) to embrace the much stronger emphasis on “root” and “stem” throughout the verb chapters as well as in each vocabulary set. Moreover, while it was possible to use the two terms interchangeably in the past, because BBG-3 did so, that will no longer suffice now that BBG-4 draws a fairly firm distinction.
  • Point out to students the “;” and “,” distinction in the glosses for vocabulary words, and review the glosses for updates to ensure they are consistent with course materials.

* * * * * *

All told, the updated version of Mounce’s Greek grammar will likely solidify its position as the most widely-used (in America at least) for another generation. It is worthwhile, then, for Greek instructors to proceed with adopting BBG-4 sooner rather than later. Hopefully this review and guide will be helpful in that regard.

  1. I will not be assessing the supplementary DVDs or flashcards. The workbook appears essentially identical to the prior edition apart from updates to chapter names to match BBG-4 (discussed below).
  2. Including the delay of verbs longer than is necessary; covering “second aorists” first in order, etc.
  3. Coupled with too much emphasis on the minutiae of morphology.
  4. While the avoidance of unnecessary rote memorization is commendable (and a strength of Mounce on the whole), every user realizes that the principal parts ultimately have to be memorized at some level, especially for verbs with alternative stems.
  5. Rodney J. Decker, Reading Koine Greek (Baker Academic, 2014); N. Clayton Croy, A Primer of Biblical Greek (Eerdmans, 2011); David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek (B&H Academic, 2009).
  6. He also cites Con Campbell and Buist Fanning at points; Stanley Porter is notably absent.
  7. For instance, the new perfective/imperfective/combinative scheme is not used in the discussions of periphrastic constructions (p. 344) or infinitives (p. 368).
  8. Another option would have been “stative,” but “combinative” is adequate. For more on these labeling issues, see Nicholas J. Ellis, Michael G. Aubrey, and Mark Dubis, “The Greek Verbal System and Aspectual Prominence: Revising Our Taxonomy and Nomenclature,” JETS 59/1 (2016): 33–62.
  9. BBG-4 even cites Rutger Allan and other scholars who have refined our understanding of the middle.
  10. Sometimes as a standalone section (e.g., ch. 8), and sometimes in sections labeled “Translation Procedure” (e.g., ch. 14).
  11. For instance, it would make sense to include phrasing discussions that show how to relate an indicative clause with a ἵνα + subjunctive clause; an indicative clause with an infinitive clause; a main clause with a genitive absolute; and so on.
  12. The use of the half-circle circumflex in BBG-3 is often confusing for students, as it does not match UBS-5 or NA-28.
  13. This is also true in BBG-3 and has not been improved in BBG-4. The choice to include ancillary details in a footnote (along with memory clues) versus the main text (below the glosses) continues to evince little discernible pattern.
  14. This returns the grammar to the same basic dimensions of the first and second editions.
  15. On the plus side, perhaps: instructors will not need to bother copying over their marginal notes, memory clues, and so forth from BBG-3 to BBG-4, because there is basically no room for them!
  16. Pages 226–227 are a particularly vivid example: the first two insets have black borders around every cell; the third and fifth insets are shaded gray with top/bottom borders; and the fourth inset is just tabbed text. The corresponding material in BBG-3 had borders on all five insets (with two shaded).
  17. This is, of course, not Mounce’s fault but, presumably, that of the printer used by Zondervan.
  18. However, when working with students I have at times noticed that certain print-runs of BBG-3 have marginal differences in vocabulary lists. Thus, this shift may only be relative to the specific printing I use. Either way, moving a word earlier in the textbook is far less a problem than moving it later.