Campbell, Constantine R. Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2015. 253 pp. Pb; $34.99.  Link to Zondervan   A Short Interview with Campbell

Campbell’s Advances in the Study of Greek intends to fill a significant gap in the education of a student of New Testament Greek. Most first year Greek classes are concerned with the details of the language (vocabulary and basic syntax). If students move on to intermediate Greek they are only introduced to linguistics in a very general sense.

Campbell, AdvancesChapter 1 is a history of Greek studies beginning the nineteenth century with George Winer.  The chapter consists of short paragraphs describing a particular scholar’s contribution to the field. For the modern linguistics, Campbell includes two pages on Saussure and another page and a half on Noam Chomsky. He considers Porter’s (1989) and Fanning’s (1990) to be “genuine advances in Greek scholarship” in the modern era (45).

Chapter 2 introduces the reader to linguistic theory, although the majority of the chapter is on functional linguistics as applied the study of New Testament Greek. The field of linguistics is rarely taught as a part of a New Testament Greek curriculum primarily because the focus of these classes is pragmatic exegesis of a text for sermon preparation. Campbell recommends Cotterell and Turner (IVP, 1989), Silva (Zondervan, 1990) and Black (Baker, 1995) as the best introductions for New Testament students.

Chapter 3 covers lexical semantics and lexicography. While most students are familiar with a lexicon such as Bauer (BAGD or BDAG) and possibly Louw and Nida, very little time can be spent in a basic Greek class looking at the methodologies used to create these resources. Most students treat a lexicon like a menu of possible meanings; they scan down the list until they see something that sounds about right. Campbell reviews the comments made by Frederic Danker and John A. L. Lee on the practice lexicography in order to show the difficult problem of defining words.

Chapter 4 deal with one of the more obscure issues for a student of New Testament Greek, deponency and the middle voice. One of the more difficult things for beginning Greek students to understand is the middle voice, primarily since it does not do much of anything. Throughout the twentieth century grammarians have slowly questioned describing the middle voice as “deponent,” culminating in Bernard Taylor’s paper in the Danker Festscrhrift (Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography, Eerdmans, 2004). Taylor’s complaint is the Latin category deponent was imported into Greek grammars. This issue was taken up at a 2010 SBL session in which all four presenters agreed the standard definition of deponency is flawed and ought to be replaced. Aside from the apocalyptic sign of four presenters at SBL agreeing on something, the issue is still undecided.

Chapter 5 wades into debate over verbal aspect, “the most controversial and volatile area of research in Greek studies today” (131). Campbell wrote a short monograph on this issue (Basics of Verbal Aspect, Zondervan, 2008) and some of that material is briefly summarized here. Verbal aspect refers to the kind of action (Akionsart) described by the tense of a verb. Most of the focus has been on the aorist although Campbell includes the perfect tense in this chapter. After briefly surveying the work of a dozen studies of Akionsart in recent years, Campbell shows how this often obscure topic relates to narrative structure and “planes of discourse.” While there is more work to be done, Campbell admonishes students of New Testament Greek to be engaged in this on-going discussion.

Chapter 6 covers idiolect, genre and register. Dialect refer to the style of a group, idolect refers to the style of a single writer. As Campbell observes, it is possible to read a few lines and recognize N. T. Wright or John Calvin because they have linguistic and syntactic features that characterize their writings. Genre and register are sometimes synonymous, but Campbell uses register to narrow genre to a particular situation. He uses the online genre of a blog as an example. Some blogs are personal journals intended for friends and family, but others are official statements from major news outlets like the New York Times. The genre is a “blog” while the register is the particular application of the genre. Applying this to the study of the New Testament, Campbell observes that genre and form account for “convergent aspectual patterns” (why things are similar in the gospels or Pauline literature) while idiolect and register account for “convergent aspectual patterns” (why things are different in the gospels or Pauline literature). These observations may be beneficial when examining the Synoptic Problem or the authenticity of epistles.

Chapter 7 and 8 form an introduction to discourse analysis, a field which has grown more popular in the past few years. Campbell first describes the system developed by M. A. K. Halliday, then contrasts this method with Stephen Levinsohn and Steven Runge. Discourse analysis goes beyond the sentence to understand the pericope, paragraph and wider units of a text. It is a holistic approach that tries to look at the big picture before moving to the details associated with exegetical method. As he has throughout the book, Campbell begins with a short survey of discourse analysis (SIL, Nida, Louw, etc.) Levinsohn uses connectives and other signals in the text to indicate how the text flows. His often obscure method has been critiqued by Stanley Porter, in fact, many of Campbell’s own criticism is drawn from Porter. Levinsohn’s student Steven Runge applies his method to the entire New Testament and some of his tools are available only through Logos Bible Software. Runge is more functional and he has applied his method to the entire New Testament. Campbell considers Runge’s work a “significant step forward for the advancement of discourse analysis with New Testament studies” (189), although there are some limitations because of his focus on sentence and clause rather than larger units.

Chapter 9 discusses the pronunciation of Greek, suggesting Erasmus may not have been correct (or was even joking) when he developed his system for pronouncing Greek. In fact, Campbell observes it is difficult to mount a serious argument in favor of the Erasmian pronunciation (204). It is simply inaccurate and any defense of the system is purely pedagogical (Dan Wallace, for example). Chris Caragounis, for example has challenged the pronunciation of some of the letters (β, γ, δ, ζ, θ, χ, η, υ, ω) as well as some of the diphthongs. Campbell provides a chart based on John A. L. Lee’s work with several alternative pronunciations, such as β as “v as in van.”

Finally, chapter 10 makes a series of suggestions for teaching Greek as well as how to maintain the formal education is over. Campbell weighs several methods for learning Greek such as Rod Decker’s Koine Greek Reader (Baker 2014) and immersion methods like Randall Buth’s Living Koine Greek (Biblical Language Center, 2007).

Conclusion. I have tried to introduce some of these issues in my second year Greek classes, but to this point there is no single textbook which incorporates basic syntactical issues like verbal aspect with linguistics and discourse analysis and even more obscure topics like pronunciation and idiolect. This book would make an excellent supplementary textbook in a second year Greek class since it introduces topics students will encounter as the advance in their language skills.


NB: Thanks to Zondervan for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.