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Merkle, Benjamin L. and Robert L. Plummer. Greek for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2017. 176 pp.; Pb.; $19.99. Link to Baker   

In Greek for Life Merkle and Plummer want to encourage (and occasionally shame) seminary students and pastors to work hard at the task of learning Greek so they will be properly prepared to present God’s word in their ministries. They especially want to gently invite the “lost Greek lamb” back to the fold in order to recover Greek skills lost by years of neglect.

Cover ArtI have always been of the opinion that Greek is not difficult, it simply requires a little work every day (say, an hour a day during the semester for reviewing and reading) and memorizing details. But too many people claim they cannot memorize things. The same students who claim they cannot remember a paradigm or a set of vocabulary can reel off song lyrics without any difficulty, or for too many of my students, the intimate details of the Star Wars universe. Merkle and Plummer therefore devote chapters to reviewing strategies (ch. 3) and effective memory techniques (ch. 4). They have a nice section on using mnemonic devices. I find this very effective for students, working best when they create the device themselves. The sillier the better, as Merkle and Plummer illustrate with their story about a Methodist pastor wearing a tie. (My story: “Omen et a ousi. I do not know what an ousi is, but Omen et one.” I honestly say that phrase about fifty times in a first semester Greek class.) They suggest singing bits of Greek, and there are several resources available setting Greek paradigms to music. (I have a little song and dance that goes along with the rule, “neuter plural subject takes a singular verb.” It is terrible, but memorable.)

I mentioned in the first paragraph that Merkle and Plummer occasionally shame the reader, although it is a very friendly shaming. Chapter 2, for example, is entitled “Go to the Ant, You Sluggard.” The chapter is about time management and developing good habits which can be used to review Greek and master reading the New Testament. They are not anti-technology, in fact, Merkle and Plummer recommend many internet based resources for honing Greek skills. But when instagramming one’s dinner is more important than reviewing Greek vocabulary, perhaps there is a problem with priorities.

This includes some very practical steps like, put your phone away and focus on what is really important, in chapter 6 (“Don’t Waste Your Breaks”) they encourage Greek students to actually use Greek over winter and summer breaks. For example, for several years now I have assigned the Summer Greek Reader to third-semester Greek students. They are told work on it over the summer and get 12% for completing the twelve chapters of the book. Their summer is longer than twelve weeks, the readings are easy (in fact, there is a key in the back of the book!) I only grade on completeness, not accuracy since my objective is to keep their mind on Greek for at least some of the summer. Most students have good intentions in May, and are struggling to finish a week (or a day) before class starts. Usually ten out of twelve chapters is the best I can expect.

One thing Merkle and Plummer frequently return to is the lofty goal of using Greek every day. Most Greek students want to do this, but in the fury of an average college or seminary semester, this is very difficult to achieve. Yet the authors offer some very practical advice, including online resources which offer a few phrases of Greek every day. I follow sententiae antiquae, @sentantiq, to polish my atrophied classical Greek skills as well as Henry George Liddell, @LiddellAndScott, for some amusing daily Greek vocab reminders. There are several physical book resources which a Greek teacher might call a “cheater” book, but for someone trying to maintain (or revive) their Greek, there is no shame in using an interlinear or reader’s Greek New Testament. Carrying this book to class, chapel and church will help give a student familiarity with the Greek text and develop confidence in their reading.

Like the authors of this book, I sometimes reward myself with a new expensive Bible so I can read through it. Early in my Greek teaching career I bought a large-sized Nestle-Aland 26th edition with every other page blank. I read through the Greek New Testament twice and through Acts a third time over the first two years teaching Greek, and I still think that was the time I finally “got it,” even though I had taken many semesters of Greek in Seminary. There is no better way to learn Greek than to read it daily. If you have to bribe yourself with a calfskin Greek Bible, then do so.

Greek for Life has several feature in each chapter. First, there are numerous sidebars with pithy quotes on the value of Greek from a wide range of Greek teachers and scholars. Second, these short quotes are supplemented by several “testimonials” by pastors and teachers on the importance of Greek for their ministry. Third, each chapter includes footnotes to resources mentioned, including (lengthy) links to websites. These will obviously work better in an electronic edition of the book, but most people will be able to use Google to find the sites mentioned. Fourth, each chapter includes four or five questions for reflection. Most of these are intended to push the reader toward making a plan of action. For example, “what are some practical ways you can incorporate all your senses in learning Greek?” Fifth, each chapter ends with a devotional demonstrating the value of using Greek to understand a text. These are similar to the devotionals in the Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek and Mounce himself contributes two devotionals drawn from his own blog, Mondays with Mounce. Others were written by Todd Scacewater of Exegetical Tools or the Daily Dose of Greek, maintained by Rob Plummer, and Kris Lyle’s Old School Script (although that particular blog has not been updated in some time).

Conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Greek for Life. The style was light and engaging, but the content will challenge anyone who is struggling to learn Greek to keep working hard because the rewards are immense. The book will make a great supplemental textbook in a first year Greek class, a gift (and subtle hint) for a pastor or teacher who has forgotten their first love of Greek.

 

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

Laansma, Jon C. and Randall X. Gauthier. The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs. Aids for Readers of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel Academic, 2017. 80 pgs; Pb. $13.99 Link to Kregel

Kregel Academic recently sent me a copy of their latest volume in the “Handy Guide” series of New Testament Greek tools. The first in the series was Douglas S. Huffman, The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek (reviewed here). Like this previous handbook, Laansma and Gauthier provide a user-friendly quick reference which will be an important supplement to any New Testament Greek course.

The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek VerbsThe goal of The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs is to provide a set of vocabulary aids not found in other vocabulary lists. Most beginning Greek students tend to think of the present active first singular forms as a kind of “default” for a Greek verb, but this is often an unfortunate assumption. The authors therefore define a “difficult or irregular verb” from the perspective of that first year Greek student: these are the verbs which have unusual principle parts and are therefore the most difficult to recognize while reading the New Testament.

My typical approach to principle parts has been to have students memorize the 25 most common irregular verbs in the second semester of Greek, and then another 15 in the third semester (reviewing the original 25). The problem with this method is some principle parts are so rare in the Greek New Testament it is not profitable to memorize them. Laansma and Gauthier point out that φέρω occurs 192x in various compound forms, but the second principle part οἴσω only appears three times. It is probably a waste of student effort to memorize the rare form, but it is important to memorize the third principle part, the aorist form ἤνεγκα since it more common and used in compound forms.

The best thing about this book is the four page list of irregular verbs ordered by frequency in the New Testament. Each block of 10-12 forms are assigned a letter (a-j). The list begins with δόντος (the aorist active participle, masculine genitive singular of δίδωμι). Although δίδωμι itself only appears 415x in the Greek New Testament, compound forms run that number closer to 600x. By learning this form, the student will recognize forms of παραδίδωμι and ἀποδίδωμι, for example.

Part 2 of the book is an alphabetical list of verbs with their compound forms. Taking φέρω as an example, they list the six principle parts, printing the most common in bold and indicating which of the lists in part 1 the form appeared. Only the aorist and aorist passive forms are common enough to appear on the lists in part 1, the future active appears online three times and the perfect middle/passive does not appear at all in the Greek New Testament.

The book has two appendices. The first prints the full paradigms of εἰμί and ἵημι in present and imperfect forms. The first is the extremely common to-be verb and appears in numerous compound forms and must be memorized if one is going to read Greek. This second form is not found in the New Testament, but compound forms are common (ἀφίημι for example). The second appendix deals with perfect and pluperfect middle/passive forms as well as the optative mood. Although many of these are formed regularly, they are rare enough to qualify as “difficult” forms in this handbook.

Conclusion. This book should be in the hands of every Greek student as they struggle to read the New Testament. This handbook should be a go-to reference for difficult verbal forms.

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

Irons, Charles Lee. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2012. 608 pp. Hb; $39.99. Link to Kregel

irons-syntaxThis new publication from Kregel follows in the tradition of Sprachlicher Schluessel Zum Griechischen Neuen Testament by Fritz Rienecker (translated and edited by Cleon Rogers, Jr., published as Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Zondervan 1982), or The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, an updated text by Cleon Rogers, Jr. and Cleon Rogers, III (Zondervan, 1998).

In the introduction to the volume, Irons distinguishes his syntax guide from a reader’s guide for the Greek New Testament. In a reader’s guide, vocabulary words under a certain frequency are listed verse-by-verse in order to assist the reader rare words. There are several stand-alone volumes such as Michael Burer’s A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Kregel, 2008) or Zondervan’s A Reader’s Greek New Testament (edited by Richard J. Goodrich, Albert L. Lukaszewski, 2007).

A typical page in this syntax guide will have brief entries highlighting idiomatic phrases, often using modern English Bibles (ESV, NASB, NIV). For example, in Acts 20:20 Irons glosses κατʼ οἴκους as “from house to house.”  In Hebrews 10:12, εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς is glossed as “for all time.”

Second, the guide occasionally identifies syntactical categories. For example, in τῆς πολιτείας is identified as a genitive of separation, citing Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, 107-8. Not every syntactical category includes reference to a grammar. In Eph 3:8, πάντων ἁγίων is identified as a genitive of comparison without a citation. In John 19:22 γέγραφα is identified as an extensive perfect. In Romans 5:1 the circumstantial participle Δικαιωθέντες is identified as causal, although there are other options.

irons-pagesThird, Irons may include brief comments on unusual uses of vocabulary. For example, in Acts 15:6 the phrase ἰδεῖν περὶ τοῦ λόγου is glossed “to consider this matter” (τούτου is omitted from the comment). For this use of λόγος Irons cites BDAG 1aε. In 1 Tim 3:14 the phrase ἐν τάχει is glossed as “quickly,” periphrasis for an adverb, citing BDAG ἐν 11.

Fourth, there are occasional helps for identifying forms. In 1 Corinthians 5:13 κρινεῖ is identified as “future (note accent).” Perhaps called this a liquid future would have been helpful (there is a minor variant on this verse with a different accent making the form present).

Fifth, Irons comment on textual critical issues, although the goals of the book prevent the entry going into too much detail. In Romans 5:1 he mentions the famous variant for ἔχομεν (present indicative) vs. ἔχωμεν (hortatory subjunctive). He does not provide witnesses, but cites Metzger’s conclusion. His notes on Galatians 2:4-5 are more detailed, but limited to four options based on syntax rather than textual evidence. He does not mention textual variants for John 7:53-8:11, 1 John 5:8, or the longer ending of Mark.

Following the verse-by-verse syntactical guide are indices of syntactical elements identified in the guide. These include Septuagintisms, foreign words (Aramaic, Hebrew, Latinisms and Semiticisms), discourse structure (asyndeton, coordination, parenthesis and period), and figures of speech (16 varieties). Under “atypical constructions” Irons includes anacoluthon, mixed and difficult constructions, pregnant and rare constructions, solecisms and other “peculiar” constructions. These indices are valuable to teachers of the Greek New Testament for finding examples of various syntactical features.

There is always a danger with a tool like this that it will become a crutch for students rather than a helpful tool. When I took Greek as an undergraduate some students relied on Sakae Kubo’s A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon or The Analytical Greek Lexicon which parsed every verb and noun form in the New Testament. These tools have been largely replaced by Bible software which identifies all grammatical elements of words and can open BDAG with a simple click. What once was a crutch has become more like a mechanized robot suit! These tools enable people with a little Greek to comment on the text more intelligently, but run the risk of giving someone information without understanding. Just knowing a Greek word is in the aorist tense (for example) does not interpret the text. A student needs to be familiar with how an aorist tense verb can be used in a given context in order to shed light on a text.

Irons’s book does not strike me as a crutch, but a helpful guide to some of the syntactical problems a second year Greek student or busy pastor will encounter as they try to make sense of a particular verse in the Greek New Testament. Despite best intentions, most people do not keep up on their Greek after seminary, so a handy book like this will assist reading of the Greek without becoming a crutch.

The book is published to look like a companion to the UBS Greek New Testament. It is the same size and color, although published in hardback on bright white paper for easy reading. Although I would hesitate to recommend it for a student who is currently taking Greek, A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament should be a valuable help for reading the Greek New Testament for those seeking to hone their syntactical skills by reading the Greek Bible closely.

 

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

 

 

 

Jobes, Karen H., ed. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2016. 351 pp. Hb; $20.00.   Link to Kregel Academic

Karen Jobes is well known for her Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker 2000) co-written with Moises Silva, now in a second edition (Baker, 2015). That previous volume is an excellent handbook for the study of the Septuagint (LXX), but it lacks any exercises for students in the text of the LXX itself. This new volume from Kregel is intended to assist a student read through significant sections of the Septuagint.

Discovering-SeptuagintThis reader includes about 700 verses from nine books from the Greek Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Ruth, Additions to Esther, Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi and Isaiah). Her Exodus examples are divided into two separate chapters (Exod 14-15 and the Ten Commandments from Exodus and Deuteronomy). These selections give the student a wide range of experience in several genres as well as distinctive LXX styles.

Each chapter begins with a short introduction to the book in the Septuagint. Aside from a few obvious general comments, Jobes assesses the translation style of each book. Genesis, for example, is a “strict quantitative representation” of word order and syntax of the Hebrew Bible (19), while Hosea is in some respects quite different than the Hebrew text. This may indicate a different Vorlage or a corrupted text. The introduction concludes with a selected bibliography including a few recommended commentaries as well as monographs or articles on the Greek text of the book. The bibliographies are brief; in most cases these are about a half-page in length.

Each chapter is compiled by graduate students in Jobes’s LXX classes, including Wheaton doctoral students Carmen Imes and Caleb Friedman. After the introduction, the Greek text is presented verse-by-verse with comments on phrases. The Greek is drawn from the Rahlfs-Hanhart critical edition of the LXX. Not every word is glossed, and some a glossed several times with similar comments. For example, the common phrase και ἐγένετο begins both Ruth and Jonah. In both cases the word is parsed and compared to the conventional Hebrew וַֽיְהִי. In some cases rather simple words are parsed ( in Jonah 2:6, for example).

The comments on vocabulary begin by parsing verbs or identifying case, number and gender of nouns and offering a basic lexical gloss not included in Metzger’s Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. But as the introduction observes, some common words are glossed if they appear in unusual forms. In some cases the translation of the NETS is given. Occasionally a syntactical category is given (complementary infinitive, pendant nominative, etc.) The book concludes with a glossary of these terms.

Following glossed verses for a biblical chapter, the editors provide the NETS English translation and a list of quotations in the New Testament where applicable. Some of the examples are not strictly quotations. For example, Jonah 2:1 is presented as cited in Matt 12:40 but this is an allusion to the story of Jonah rather than a formal quotation. The quotation section could have been improved by including the Greek text side-by-side and providing some commentary on any differences between then LXX in Rahlfs-Hanhart and the NA28 Greek text. Although Isaiah 7:14 is quoted exactly in Matthew 1:23, the allusion to Isaiah 54:13 is not as precise.

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of the book is the lack of engagement with the Hebrew text. There are many times in the examples given where the LXX differs from the MT in significant ways. For example, in Jonah 2:3, the phrase τον θεόν μου appears in the LXX but not in the MT. There is no notice of this addition in the reader’s guide to Jonah 2:3. In Jonah 2:6, the LXX translator used ἐσχάτη for the סוּף, reed. The ESV translates the Hebrew word as weeds, “weeds were wrapped about my head.” The LXX translator appears to have read the MT as סוֹף, “end.” The NETS therefore translates the word as modifying the abyss, “the deepest abyss.” The notes indicate only that the “this reading of the Heb results in a different division of the clauses” (245), when the LXX has read a Hebrew word with a different vowel, resulting in a different translation.

Both of these examples were found using Emanuel Tov, The Parallel Aligned Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Texts of Jewish Scripture (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2003). In both cases it is possible the translator had a different Hebrew text than what ultimately became the Masoretic text, or the translator added to the text for clarity or theological reasons. A third possibility is the translator misunderstood the text, something most beginning Hebrew students can appreciate. Ultimately this shortcoming is the nature of the book, it is a guided reader for the Septuagint, not a commentary on the differences between the MT and LXX. Perhaps the book could have been improved if the editors had chosen one or two such examples per chapter in order to demonstrate some of the problems facing those who work on the text of the Septuagint.

Regardless of this criticism, Discovering the Septuagint will be a good textbook for a seminary class on the Septuagint or Hellenistic Greek. I might have preferred a workbook style with more space for students to work out the translations, like Kregel’s Handbook for Intermediate Greek (Bateman) or Koine Greek Reader (Decker). Anyone who has a year or two of Greek could use this book to continue to improve their Greek skills by reading these selections from the LXX outside of a classroom setting.

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

NewDocs 10Now that I have completed my grading for the spring semester and turned in the last of my grades, I am ready to announce the winner of the latest volume of the New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, edited by S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge (Eerdmans, 2012).

I collected all of the comments, randomly sorted them in a spreadsheet then used random.org to generate a winner. And the winner is…

Lindsay Kennedy

So Lindsay can contact me (email, plong42 at gmail.com, twitter DM, @plong42) I will arrange to send the book out to ASAP. And if pastorjimmyreagan sees this, you one the last giveaway and need to contact me with shipping info.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I have at least one more book set aside as a giveaway to celebrate One Million Hits at Reading Acts.  Check back next week for details.

NewDocs 10

This is the second book I am giving away in celebration of One Million Hits at Reading Acts as well as the end of the spring semester.

I have an extra copy of the latest volume of the New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity, edited by S. R. Llewelyn and J. R. Harrison, with E. J. Bridge (Eerdmans, 2012). I reviewed it when it came out a year ago and have found all ten volumes to be valuable resources. This volume has about 100 pages of cumulative index for volumes 6-10 as well as 175 pages of newly published inscriptions and papyri.

For those unaware of the New Documents series, it began under the editorship of G. H. R. Horsley in 1981. E. A. Judge was a contributor to that first volume and now serves as the director of the project. He wrote the preface to the first volume explaining the rationale for the series. Since the publication of Deissmann’s Light from the Ancient Near East (1908) and Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament illustrated by the Papyri (1930), there has been a flood of new published papyri documents and inscriptions, many which are important to historians of early Christianity as well as interpreters of the New Testament. The New Document series proposed to survey newly published material and collate that material into a single printed volume as a “fresh digest of the ancient evidence.”

As I concluded in my previous review of the book, virtually every section of New Documents Volume 10 is worthy of attention.  The entries make for fascinating reading and they all contribute to our understanding of the world of the New Testament and early Christianity. I highly recommend this volume to students and scholars. Every serious library should own all ten volumes of this important series.

The book is new but has a remainder mark and a partially removed sticker on the cover. To have a chance at winning this book, leave a comment with your name (and anything else you need to say, think of this as a chance for catharsis). I will select on comment at random and announce the winner on May 3, 2016.

Porter, Stanley E. and Andrew W. Pitts. Fundamentals of New Testament Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2015. 202 pp. Pb; $22.   Link to Eerdmans

This new introduction to New Testament textual Criticism is intended as a companion to Porter’s Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (with Jeffrey T. Reed and Matthew Brook O’Donnell, Eerdmans 2010). Porter laments the lack of an intermediate textual criticism handbook for use on college or seminary classrooms. Metzger or Aland is too detailed for many students, others are too brief (Black or Greenlee, for example). In addition, textual discoveries often render the data in a handbook out of date, so new editions are always necessary.

Porter_Fundamentals of NT Textual Criticism_wrk 03.inddThere are some sections of the book which are similar to other textual criticism handbooks. After a brief chapter introducing textual criticism, there are chapters on materials used for making manuscripts, types of manuscript evidence (papyri, majuscules, minuscules, lectionaries, versions and patristic quotations) and text-types. These chapters are brief and accompanied by charts illustrating key manuscripts in each category. In general this material is presented clearly, although there is little in this section which sets this textbook apart from others.

There are four chapters dedicated to method. First, Porter and Pitts survey four modern methods (stemmatic, Byzantine/Majority text, eclectic methods, and a single text model). Although the stemmatic/genealogical methods have become popular in recent years, Porter and Pitts conclude that only reasoned eclecticism can provide objectivity for determining the original reading of a text (96).

Chapter 8 concerns weighing external evidence, including date, text-type and geographical distribution. The authors place a priority on external evidence for determining a reading, weighing the date and text-type, geographical distribution and genealogical relationships. The strongest reading, they conclude, is “supported by the oldest manuscripts representing the widest geographical spread and having no genealogical relationship” (108).

Internal evidence is divided into two sections (chapters 9 and 10). The first section deals with “transcriptional probabilities” (including eight scribal errors). In this chapter Porter and Pitts deal with the traditional rules of textual criticism, more difficult reading, shorter vs. longer readings, harmonization and more difficult grammar. While they do recognize there are some doctrinal changes made in the copying process, “theological tampering was not typical” and should only be appealed to if all other canons of textual criticism fail (120). Here they have Bart Erhman’s Misquoting Jesus in view. Because of the popularity of that particular book, there Porter and Pitts discuss several examples from Erhman’s book cited as evidence for doctrinal changes.

A second chapter on internal evidence deals with the “intrinsic probabilities” such as the author’s style, theological and literary coherence, linguistic and source consistency. This is a far more subjective method and requires a great deal from the text critic in terms of familiarity with Greek grammar used by authors.

There are a few features which I found helpful which are not common in other textual criticism textbooks. First, Porter and Pitts include a chapter on canon (ch. 2). To a certain extent this material seems extraneous to the method of textual criticism. I am not sure they make a clear connection between their interesting discussion of the development of the canon and the process of textual criticism. A professor could easily omit it without losing the argument of the book, although from my experience students often have questions about canon at this point in their Greek training.

Second, they include two very useful chapters on the development of the Nestle-Aland and UBS texts.  Chapter 12 is particularly good for professors since it describes how to use both the NA27/28 and the UBS4/5. The book is therefore a good resource regardless of the chosen Greek New Testament chose by the professor. The story of how the two major critical editions developed is more than interesting, this section places the activity of textual criticism into its proper place in church history.

Third, the book includes a helpful summary of translation strategies as they relate to textual criticism (chapter 13). The chapter includes lists of the various abbreviations and marginalia of both editions. Page 148 has a photograph of a page from the NA28 Greek New Testament with arrows identifying everything on the page; page 163 does the same for the UBS4. For some students, this chapter alone will be worth the price of the book.

Each chapter has a list of key terminology and a useful bibliography. There are a handful of B&W illustrations in the chapter on materials. These could be expanded greatly, perhaps with a section of illustrations. I assume these are limited in order to keep the cost of the book lower for students. Ideally Eerdmans could provide illustrations by way of color PowerPoint slides in a teacher’s supplement. One additional resource I would like to see in a textbook such as this are a series of assignments included as a part of the methodology chapters. For example, after introducing the various kinds of scribal errors, it would be very helpful to have a sheet of examples for students to work through and identify the variants. After learning the method of weighing internal evidence, I would like to have several pages of examples so students can work through evidence and make some textual determinations for themselves.

Conclusion. I have used J. Harold Greenlee’s small handbook for many years to supplement Bill Mounce’s Graded Reader from Zondervan in a third semester Greek class. I share same frustrations expressed by Porter about both brevity and datedness. I plan on using this book next year for third semester Greek and intro to Textual Criticism.

Porter and Pitts have written a useful textbook which incorporates additional material the smaller handbooks cannot, yet is still accessible for early Greek students. The information in this handbook will be valuable to anyone reading the Greek New Testament.

 

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

I just received  the new UBS Greek New Testament, Fifth Edition with the NIV in the mail today from Zondervan.  I obviously have not spent much time with the books since it is only just released, but I will offer a few “first impressions.” This is not a Greek Readers Bible or an interlinear, but a full edition of the newest text from the United Bible Society and the latest edition of the NIV (2011). If you like those two editions of the New Testament, you will likely like this new Bible.

UBS 5 with NIV 02

First, when the volume was announced my immediate question was about the textual critical apparatus. I was worried these extremely important notes would be sacrificed in order to print two New Testaments in a handy format. Thankfully the notes are all present and in exactly the same format as the other editions of the UBS Greek New Testament. I did not check every page, but every note I checked was present. I would not have recommended the Bible if the textual notes were removed.

UBS 5 with NIV 03Second, the UBS 5 text is placed on one page facing the NIV. Since the UBS text includes textual critical apparatus, the English side has about a third of a page blank (sometimes a half page). This is a good space for note-taking!

Third, I think the physical size and shape of the Bible are an improvement over my UBS 4. The paper is a bright white, by UBS 4 was a kind of cream color. I am not sure which I like better, but the print (both in terms of color and typeface) in this new edition is very readable and clear.  The book is the same size as the older Bible although it is 1750 pages (plus another 81 pages in the introduction) compared to the UBS 4’s 918 (plus another 203 for the glossary in the case of my UBS 4).

The Introduction includes prefaces to the first through fourth editions and the introduction to the fifth edition (74 pages) and the Preface to the NIV (7 pages).

UBS 5 with NIV 01

One thing I noticed was missing—there was no card with manuscript dates! The information appears in the introduction, but I miss the traditional trifold card tucked into the front of my Bible. The spine of my Bible is off-center, which might be a trigger for some of the more OCD Greek specialists.

Overall I am well-pleased with the new UBS Greek New Testament with the NIV. Those who are do not like the NIV will probably not appreciate this combination appealing, but for many this will be their new Greek Bible of Choice. It will make a good textbook Bible for Greek reading classes, although students should be issued screens to cover the NIV translation for doing their homework.

 

New Addition to the Family

New Addition to the Family

 

Comfort, Philip Wesley. A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2015. 443 pp. Hb. $29.99.  Link to Kregel

Philip Comfort is well known for his many publications on New Testament textual criticism and especially for his work with papyri. His latest contribution is a running commentary on the text of the New Testament with a special emphasis on evidence drawn from the papyri. While it is not required that this commentary should be used along with Comfort’s early work The Complete Text of the Earliest New Testament Manuscripts (with David Barrett, Baker, 1999) or his revision and expansion in The Text of the Earliest New Testament Greek Manuscripts (Tyndale, 2001).

Comfort CoverThis new commentary is similar to Bruce Metzger’s companion volume to the United Bible Society Greek New Testament. Metzger only commented on the variants as they appear in the UBS textual apparatus by giving a brief report of the reasoning behind the committee’s decision. Occasionally there is a dissenting opinion from one of the editors of the UBS. Metzger’s goal is to explain why a particular reading is more likely than another. There are two editions of Metzger’s Textual commentary, the first comments on the variants in the third edition of the UBS Greek New Testament, the second is keyed to the fourth UBS Greek Bible. Since there are many variants no longer listed in the fourth edition, it is necessary to have both volumes available.

Comfort offers a 23-page introduction to the manuscripts of the New Testament. As expected, his main interest is the papyri, especially several examples he considered to represent the original reading of the New Testament. Although he briefly discusses Epp’s canons of internal textual criticism, Comfort gives priority to manuscript evidence (31). In addition to prioritizing the papyri, Comfort is one of the few text critics to give the nomina sacra, abbreviations of sacred words in the manuscripts. Words such as Lord, Jesus, Christ, and God are regular written as a shortened form of the word with a line over the letters to indicate an abbreviation. A significant section of the introductory chapter and an appendix are devoted to the importance of these sacred words.

The second introductory chapter is an 83-page annotated list of manuscripts of the New Testament. Entries include the designation of the manuscript, original publication (editio princeps) and current location. Comfort then suggests a date for the manuscript along with a brief explanation of this date where necessary. Finally, Comfort offers an assessment of the manuscript for textual criticism. For p2, he states the Greek-Coptic manuscript is too small to assess textual affinities,” for others he concludes they contain “fairly reliable texts” (p70, for example). Comfort includes 127 papyri listed in the UBS/NA editions as well as four others not assigned an official number (Egerton Gospel, for example). He offers similar annotations for significant Uncial manuscripts (Sinaticus, Vaticanus, etc) and a few minuscules (usually families). He offers short introductions to versions (translations) and a simple list of key church fathers. Except for the papyri, this is not a complete list and Comfort suggests Aland for a comprehensive introduction.

Since this book is not tied any one edition of the Greek New Testament, Comfort’s comments are on readings found in the manuscripts rather than why one reading is preferable to another. Since his comments are brief, he is able to list more variants than appear in the UBS textual apparatus. Using John 1 as an example, the UBS text lists variants in verses 3-4, 4, two in 13, 18, 19, 21, 26, 28, 34, 41, and 42. Comfort’s commentary only includes two of these variants, but includes eight other variants, all of which are found in the NA edition. With the exception of verse 18, all his comments are brief observations citing the nature of the variant as well as the presence of a nomina sacra. For significant textual problems such as the long ending of Mark, John 7:53-8:11, or the doxology in Romans 16:23, Comfort offers a more extended discussion.

Despite the fact the book is a commentary on Greek manuscripts, all Greek is transliterated and variants are cited in English. A typical entry begins with the reference followed by an English translation of what Comfort takes to be the original wording of the text in question. Following this heading Comfort offers support from the manuscripts, versions or church fathers. These explanations are brief and to the point, making it easy for a student to check variants as the read their Greek Bible.

This is a sharp looking book designed to be a companion of the UBS and NA28 Greek New Testaments. It is well-bound and printed on thin but quality paper with a sewn in book-mark (like a Bible). Since it is designed to be used as a manual, Kregel should be thanked for printing the book with durable materials.

Conclusion. Philip Comfort’s method for evaluating manuscripts will not appeal to everyone who works in textual criticism. Some of his early books were heavily criticized for being overly optimistic about papyri manuscripts and dating some of these texts too early. But that sort of critique is typical of people who do textual criticism. The two introductory chapters are a convenient collection of material which will aid anyone trying to make sense of a textual variant. There are very few books on textual criticism which give such an important place to identifying nomina sacra. Since the commentary is based on English with all Greek in transliteration, a layperson with limited Greek skills can use this volume without too much difficulty.

Metzger’s textual commentaries will still be the first off my shelf, but this resource from Comfort will be a close second.

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

 

 

 

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.

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