Book Review: Douglas J. Moo, Romans. Second Edition (NICNT)

Moo, Douglas J. Romans. Second Edition. NICNT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. clvi+1027 pp.; Hb.; $80.00. Link to Eerdmans   

Douglas Moo’s 1996 commentary on Romans quickly became a standard reference on Paul’s longest and most important letter. Pauline studies have blossomed in the last twenty years since the first edition was published. Many important monographs and commentaries on Romans have appeared as well as several important Pauline theologies. Many important responses to the New Perspective on Paul were published, such as the two volume Justification and Variegated Nomism (Baker, 2004). Some of these nuanced and expanded Sanders others sought a return to the traditional view of Paul and Judaism. N. T. Wright’s Justification generated various responses, culminating in Wrights massive Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress, 2013) and a collection of essays in response to Wright, God and the Faithfulness of Paul (Fortress, 2017). Since these developments in Pauline Theology often center on key texts in the book of Romans, an update to Moo’s NICNT commentary is welcome.

The introduction to the letter in this second edition is more or less the same, several paragraphs from the first edition have been omitted or re-worked and there are a few references to recent work on audience and purpose. For example, Moo has added a reference to Michael Gorman and Richard Longenecker as he describes the participationist view of Romans 5-8 (22). He adds a line at the end of his discussion of salvation history as the theme of Romans making it clear that although it is an important conceptual scheme for Romans, “it cannot be called the theme of the letter,” citing Douglas Campbell 2005 work on Paul’s Gospel (25).

In the body of the commentary, Moo begins each section with a translation of the text with footnotes indicating textual issues. In the first edition the footnotes had their own numbering for each pericope, in the second edition the numbers continue the footnotes for a major section. For example, there are now 1291 footnotes for the section Romans 5:1-8:39.

After a brief introduction to the pericope, he proceeds verse-by-verse commenting on key features of the text. Since this is not a Greek text commentary, all Greek appears in transliteration in the body of the text, more nuanced details are covered in the footnotes. His comments on the text not simply exegetical since the book of Romans demands some theological reflection. For example, after dealing with the difficult phrase “faithfulness of Christ” in Romans 3:21, Moo deals with two potential objections his understanding of the phrase as an objective genitive, both from a theological perspective, specifically that his view may violate sola fide and solus Christus. This attention to both exegetical detail and theological importance is well balanced in the commentary.

Moo has updated the footnotes in the second edition to include works written in the last twenty years. A comparison of the Index of Authors quickly shows the inclusion of major commentaries by Jewett, Longenecker, Schreiner, Wright and others. These are not simply appended to existing footnotes; often Moo interacts with these recent works in the body of the commentary.

In addition, footnotes are streamlined by only including a shortened citation. Occasionally only a commentator’s name is used without page number. Readers should refer to the greatly expanded bibliography in the new edition for details. The bibliography for the first edition of the commentary was twenty-five pages, the second has expanded to 156 pages of abbreviations and bibliography.

Some excurses have been expanded, others are added. For example, in the first edition after Romans 6:1-14 there was an excursus entitled “Paul’s ‘With Christ’ Conception.” In the second edition the title is “’With Christ’ and ‘In Christ’” and more than two pages have been added commenting on the 131 occurrences of “in Christ” in the Pauline letters, with references to recent literature. The excursus following Romans 1:16-17 on the righteousness of God has been re-worked and expanded; it now includes a section on righteousness language and Isaiah 40-66 and the section on the phrase “righteousness of God” now includes much more detail from Isaiah. Moo has also updated the essay with references to recent works on the righteousness of God by Mark Seifrid, N. T. Wright, and others.

After the commentary on Romans 9-11, Moo has added about five pages on “Recent Assessments of Paul and Judaism.” This short essay deals with the so-called Radical New Perspective or “Paul within Judaism,” Messianic Judaism, and bi-covenantalism. In every case, these approaches to Paul try to take seriously Romans 9-11 and to avoid supersecessionism. Also new is an excursus on Paul’s reading of the Hebrew text of Genesis 15:16 following the commentary on Romans 4.

Conclusion. Moo’s commentary joins an already crowded field of recent major Romans commentaries, including Richard N. Longenecker’s recent New International Greek Text Commentary (Eerdmans 2016) and Thomas R. Schreiner’s second edition in the Baker Exegetical New Testament Commentary (Baker, 2018). I consider Moo’s 1996 commentary the “first of the shelf” (see my Top Five Romans Commentaries). This second edition is an upgrade to an already excellent commentary, one that should be on the shelf for anyone seriously studying the book of Romans.

Book Review: Amy Anderson and Wendy Widder, Textual Criticism and the Bible. Revised Edition

Anderson, Amy and Wendy Widder. Textual Criticism and the Bible. Revised Edition. Lexham Methods Series 1; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. Pb.; 236 pp. $29.99   Link to Lexham Press

This volume is the first of five texts in the Lexham Methods Series. Each volume is edited collection of basic introductions to important concepts for biblical studies. The series appears in both print and Logos Bible Software format. Although there are several basic introductions to textual criticism, it is rare to find a primer on textual criticism of both testaments in a single volume.

Anderson, Widder, Textual CriticismThe first two chapters of this guide to textual criticism define the discipline by describing the goal of textual criticism as establishing the earliest reading text of a biblical text (40). This is not translation or interpretation since textual criticism precedes both of these steps. Textual criticism is necessary because of the massive number of copies, translations, and quotations of Scriptures in the literature of the early church, all preserved in hand copied manuscripts.

The bulk of chapter two catalogs the usual list of textual variations with several examples draw from examples from both testaments. Greek and Hebrew is used, but the texts appear in translation so a reader without language skills will be able to get the sense of the explanation of the variants.

  • Haplography, writing something once instead of twice
  • Parablepsis, “eye-skipping” that overlooks and eliminates or repeats text
  • Dittography, writing something twice instead of once
  • Conflation, combining multiple readings
  • Glosses, incorporating marginal notes into the text
  • Metathesis, switching the order of letters or words
  • Confusing one letter for a similar-looking letter
  • Homophony, Confusing words that sound alike

For the most part these are unintentional errors which slip into the copying process. Although there are a few difficult examples, most are easy to explain and do not cause much trouble. More difficult are intentional changes to the text. In many cases a copies will correct spelling and grammar with the goal of improving the text. This is especially the case when the original syntax of the text is difficult. Sometimes a copyist will harmonize two parallel texts. This may occur when a copyist remembers the parallel passage and unintentionally inserts it into section he is copying, as in the case of the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. But sometimes this is an intentional attempt to harmonize two parallel passages. One a few occasions, a copyist made theological changes, perhaps to prevent a reader from misunderstanding a text. The authors include the tiqqune sopherim as Old Testament examples. These are eighteen modifications to the Masoretic text made because the reading of the text seemed to be irreverent. The classic example of this theological change in the New Testament is 1 John 5:6-8 where the Latin Vulgate is clearly Trinitarian.

The second chapter concludes the basic method of textual criticism. Anderson and Widder offer three principle for evaluating external evidence, preferring the older manuscripts (although this is nuanced slightly since early manuscripts are just as likely to have intentional changes), the reading that has multiple attestations, and the reading found in a variety of manuscripts (text types, families). With respect to internal evidence or transcriptional probability, the basic rule is “the reading that best explains the origin of the other readings is probably original” (45, citing David Alan Black). Three corollaries follow, usually called the “canons of textual criticism.” The critic prefers the shorter reading, the more difficult reading, and the reading which best fits the author of the text. This assumes (correctly) that copyists were more likely to expand a text rather than shorten it. This is the case for the name of Jesus, a copyist is more likely to add titles to the name of Jesus than delete them. It also assumes that a copyist is more likely to smooth out difficult grammar.

After the first two chapters outlining the science and art of textual criticism, there are two sixty-plus page chapters for both the Old and New Testaments. Both chapters feature brief description of the materials for doing textual criticism, such as critical editions of manuscripts, translations and versions. These are necessarily brief and concise, and often summarized with helpful charts giving names, dates, and scholarly conventions for abbreviating these materials in the textual apparatus of critical editions. There are helpful charts for important papyri, majuscules, minuscules, but not for church fathers or lectionaries. Some readers will find these charts frustratingly brief, but since comprehensive lists appear in the front of the critical editions of the Greek New Testament is unnecessary to include more than the important witnesses in a handbook like this.

Both chapters have a section on method with several examples of the process a student might follow in order to examine a particular variation. The tree steps are simple: (1) assemble the evidence for all variants, (2) analyze the variants, and (3) draw conclusions. I will comment on two examples, one from each testament. For Lamentations 3:22 there is a variant “we are used up” or “they are used up”? The evidence is drawn from the Peshitta, a Targum, and the Vulgate (although the LXX is not used in this example, it is for other examples in the chapter). The student then should work through the list of potential variations in order to explain which reading is likely to be the original reading.

Doing New Testament textual criticism is more complicated because there are far more manuscripts and two different ways of indicating variants. The critical apparatus in the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament uses a series of sigla to indicate a variant (see the chart on pages 150-51, this is worth memorizing) while the United Bible Society uses footnotes when a variant occurs. The general rule is the NA has more variations and less evidence, the UBS has fewer variants and more evidence. Using the same three steps as outlined for the Old Testament, the authors walk a student through the process for a variant in John 3:32 using the evidence in NA28. Each chapter ends with an annotated Resources for Further Study. These resources are often sections or chapters rather than a monograph or article.

The final chapter is a short reflection on textual criticism today. Anderson and Widder make two points as a conclusion to their book. First, they discuss how textual criticism is reflected in popular Bible translations. This includes a short note on what critical editions the translation used for their translations as well as the textual-critical approach used by the translators. Second, the chapter includes two pages considering the impact textual criticism has on the authority of Scripture. They conclude “we can have confidence that the Bible we use reflects an extraordinary degree of accuracy and integrity” (184).

Two items add value to this book for students. First, there is a twenty page glossary of terms used in the book. Second, the new edition of the book has an expanded, twenty page bibliography, including subsections for critical editions of the Old and New Testament, Peshitta, Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and Vulgate). The previous edition of the book was heavily dependent on Bible dictionaries, especially the Anchor Bible Dictionary; that is not the case for the revised edition. The book includes subject and Scripture indices.

Logos Bible Software Features. The book has a number of illustrations and charts. Most key terms appear in a PowerPoint like slides. These images can be copied and pasted into presentation software. The Logos Bible Software version also provides links to the glossary for key terms and scholars. For example, on the desktop version, floating the cursor over terms like Origen, Vulgate, or haplography and the glossary entry will appear; clicking the link will go to the glossary. This is extremely helpful when reading the book on an iPad. I am not sure if this is easily done, but I would challenge Lexham to take this glossary and release it in a flash card format, such as Study Blue, Quizlet or the adaptive learning technology platform Cerego. This would make the book more useful to students, especially of the book is adopted as a textbook.

 

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

 

Book Review: Holger Gzella, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament Volume XVI: Aramaic Dictionary

Gzella, Holger. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Volume XVI. Aramaic Dictionary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. xlvii+884 pp. Hb; $75.  Link to Eerdmans  

After nearly fifty years, the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament is now complete. The final volume of TDOT is an unabridged translation of the German Dictionary published in seven installments between 2001 and 2016. This Aramaic Dictionary contains nearly all the vocabulary of biblical Aramaic (Ezra 4:8-6:19 and 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4-7:28; a brief clause in Jeremiah 10:11 and Genesis 31:47 (יְגַ֖ר שָׂהֲדוּתָ֑א, Jegar-sahadutha, Laban’s name for the Hebrew place-name Galeed).

In his editor’s preface, Holgar Gzella says this volume situates the Aramaic sections of Ezra and Daniel “in the context of its linguistic and cultural history and, thereby, frees Biblical Aramaic from its role as an appendix to the Hebrew Bible.” This “linguistic and cultural history” is illustrated throughout the dictionary with texts from Old and Imperial Aramaic as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The entries in the Dictionary look similar to the other volumes of the TDOT but are necessarily brief and the content for each entry varies. Other than the heading, all Hebrew and Aramaic appears in transliteration. Before the first footnote is a bibliography for the word including journal articles, monographs, and cross references to other Hebrew and Aramaic lexical words (ThWQ, TLOT, TDOT, often for Hebrew cognates). All references to non-biblical Aramaic texts are given with standard abbreviations, only rarely are these texts cited.

Several examples will suffice to demonstrate how each dictionary entry works. Under the heading עלי the word עליון, most high, and other related words appear. The entry begins with a brief etymology, the about a page surveying the use in biblical Aramaic and Qumran. The entry conclude with about a half-page on profane uses of the words in both Old and Imperial Aramaic (an inscription and the text of a contract from Elephantine) and biblical Aramaic and Qumran. The entry for ידע (“to know”) is more extensive and includes מנדע (knowledge). The entry begins with etymology and lexical field before a page of Old and Imperial Aramaic examples. The biblical Aramaic section includes sub-paragraphs in the ground-stem, causative-stem, constructions with an object clause, the noun and the translation of these forms in the Greek Old Testament. Finally the entry includes two pages of examples drawn from Qumran.

It may be helpful to compare the TDOT Aramaic Dictionary to the Aramaic volume in the popular The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000) edited by Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (HALOT). From my example above, the HALOT entry for ידע (“to know”) runs about 300 words and contains glosses for all examples of biblical Hebrew. The entry begins with notes on the word in various forms of Aramaic, the entry does not offer examples. By way of contrast, the TDOT entry has six pages with about a third of the entry offering examples from Qumran and another page of Imperial Aramaic examples. If one were reading and translating Daniel, then HALOT would be an efficient tool. However, if one is doing exegesis on Daniel, then the TDOT Aramaic Dictionary is superior.

Following the dictionary proper, there two shorter lists. First, a list of seven Iranian official titles, second a list of numbers which appear in biblical Aramaic. Gzella provides a thirteen page historical outline of Aramaic grammar, am alphabetical Aramaic-English word list and an English-Aramaic glossary. Since the latter list indicates the root under which the word appears in the dictionary, this will be valuable (and well-used) too for students.

Unlike the Hebrew Volumes of TDOT, this new volume is more akin to a standard dictionary than a theological dictionary. In the TDOT entries often included expanded entries on the theological uses of a word. For example, the entry examined above for ידע (“to know”) in TDOT volume four is thirty-two pages long and includes sections on both secular and religious knowledge, revelation (including signs and wonders in the Exodus), and the use of the word at Qumran. As a second example, under חבל, rope, the entry includes the sorts of things one expects to define rope, but then has sections entitled “Rope in Everyday Life” as an instrument, in military contexts, and as a measuring line) and “Rope as a Metaphor.” The nature of biblical Aramaic precludes this level of detail and there are few scholars with the experience in a wide range of Aramaic to write detailed articles on non-biblical Aramaic.

Nevertheless, this new TDOT Aramaic Dictionary is an essential tool for anyone working on the Aramaic texts in Daniel and Ezra. The wealth of parallel material in Imperial Aramaic and the Qumran literature will serve scholarship for many years to come.

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

Book Review: David A. deSilva, The Letter to the Galatians (NICNT)

deSilva, David A. The Letter to the Galatians. NICNT; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. lxxix+541 pp.; Hb.; $55.00. Link to Eerdmans

Over the past few years Eerdmans has been replacing older volumes of the New International Commentary on the New Testament. In the case of Galatians, deSilva’s new commentary replaces Ronald Y. K. Fung’s 1988 commentary, itself a replacement of Herman Ridderbos’s 1953 work originally written in Dutch. Each generation of the commentary has grown, from Ridderbos’s 238 pages to Fung’s 342 pages, now deSilva’s 541 pages (plus 76 pages of bibliography). The new NICNT volumes are also larger size volume (6×9 as opposed to 5×7, Ridderbos has a larger font than the other two). Ridderbos had a thirty-eight page introduction, a half page subject index and no bibliography; deSilva’s introduction runs one hundred and eight pages, twenty-three pages of indices and fifty-one pages of bibliography.

deSilva, The Letter to the GalatiansWhat has happened in the study of Galatians since 1955 or 1988 to account for this kind of exponential growth in a commentary? First, Hans Deiter Betz commentary on Galatians was published in 1979. Betz was one of the first to analyze Galatians using ancient categories of rhetoric, arguing Galatians used judicial rhetoric and was an apologetic letter. Fung interacted with the rhetorical categories suggested by Betz and ultimately rejected the category of apologetic, deSilva presents a more nuanced interpretation of Paul’s use or ancient rhetoric (ethos, pathos, logos, for example). In his introduction deSilva offers twenty-nine pages on Paul’s rhetoric and letter writing in antiquity and another ten pages applying this material to the letter to the Galatians.

Second, New Perspective on Paul was still new when Fung wrote in 1988 so he does not address some of the more controversial New Perspective issues in any detail. Fung discusses the phrase “works of the Law” in a footnote to Galatians 2:16, deSilva has five pages with extensive footnotes. The same is true for pistis Christou, the “faith of Jesus” or “faith in Jesus.” deSilva has a nine-page excursus on this sometimes technical issue interacting with Dunn’s many articles on the issue as well as the response to Dunn. Fung simply notes the problem in a footnote.

Third, J. Louis Martyn’s Anchor Bible commentary used the category of apocalyptic to interpret Galatians. Martyn wrote an article on apocalyptic antimonies in Galatians just prior to Fung’s commentary, but it did not have much influence on the commentary.

Fourth, related to an “apocalyptic Paul,” there is far more attention in deSilva’s commentary on Paul’s imperial language. To give but one example, to use the language of peace in 1:3 is to use the language of imperial Rome. Augusts brought peace to the empire and Romans sacrificed on the “Altar of the Augustan Peace” and used coins which declared to all that the emperor was the personification of peace in the world (118). For Paul to talk of peace coming from another source, “Father God and Lord Jesus” implies global powers such as Rome are passing away. deSilva offers and excursus of nearly eight pages on the Imperial Cult and the Galatian believers.

With respect to the controversial issue of the destination and date of Galatians, deSilva favors a southern Galatian setting for the letter, although he recognizes the evidence is inconclusive on either side (29). He spends a considerable section of the introduction arguing for a southern Galatia destination based on the record of Paul’s missionary activity in the book of Acts. Commentaries on Galatians which take the book of Acts as a reliable witness to Paul’s missionary activity must deal with problem of Paul’s visits to Jerusalem. Acts records Paul visiting Jerusalem three times, Galatians mentions only two. Of critical importance is the private meeting of Paul and the Jerusalem “pillars” (Galatians 2:1-10).

The result of this meeting is a handshake agreement that Paul continue his mission n to the Gentiles and (most importantly) the pillars agreed the gentile Titus did not need to submit to circumcision. For many commentators, this meeting is what Luke records in Acts 15. DeSilva argues the private meeting in Galatians 2:1-10 is parallel to Acts 11:28-30, the famine visit (which he tentatively dates to A. D. 46-47). After Paul’s private meeting with the Jerusalem pillars Paul and Barnabas travel to South Galatia and establish a number of churches. After the return is the Antioch Incident (Galatians 2:11-14) and the visit of rival teachers to Paul’s churches in Galatia. Galatians was written after these events, either in A. D. 48 or 49, just prior to the meeting with the apostles in Acts 15. As deSilva says, “This is admittedly a tight schedule” (61) and it requires the book of Acts to be taken seriously as history. Those who reject Acts as accurate history may struggle to accept deSilva’s argument for an early date for Galatians, but it is compelling.

The introduction to the commentary includes a lengthy section on the rhetoric of letter writing in antiquity and Galatians as “persuasive communication” (61-106). DeSilva has contributed two commentaries which focused on rhetoric (Perseverance in Gratitude: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, [Eerdmans, 2000] and Seeing Things John’s Way: The Rhetoric of the Book of Revelation, WJKP, 2009). In this section of the introduction he traces Paul’s argument through the letter.

The body of the commentary follows the pattern of the recent NICNT volumes. Each section begins a short orientation and translation of the text with numerous notes on textual variations and translation issues. The commentary moves from phrase to phrase with technical details and Greek grammatical comments in the footnotes. When Greek words appear in the main body of the commentary they are transliterated so readings without Greek training will be able to follow the argument. It is important to observe this is not a Greek text commentary so there are fewer notes dealing with syntactical issues than in Eerdmans’s New International Greek Text Commentary. Most interaction with scholarship primarily appears in the footnotes, making for a readable commentary.

There are a number of extremely useful excurses in the body of the commentary. After his commentary on Galatians 1:11-17, deSilva includes a seven-page essay on Paul’s encounter with the resurrected Jesus as a “paradigm shift.” Before the Damascus Road, Paul would have considered Jesus as a failed messiah and in violation of the Torah (at least according to the Pharisaic interpretation of the Torah). The followers of Jesus declare Jesus as the Righteous One (Acts 3:14; 7:52) and a “prophet like Moses” (Acts 3:22-23, 7:37). If God raised Jesus from the dead, the he declared Jesus was the messianic heir to the throne of David. Paul reacted violently against the movement since the followers of Jesus proclaimed Jesus was indispensable for experiencing God’s covenant blessings. After seeing the resurrected Jesus, Paul’s center of authority shifted from Torah to Jesus (153). Since God was pouring his Spirit out into the Gentiles and reconciling Gentiles to himself, “it no longer made sense to Paul to try and make Jews out of the Gentiles” (156).

Conclusion. Despite his misgivings expressed in the preface, David deSilva’s commentary on Galatians is a worthy successor to Fung’s 1988 commentary and stands well alongside F. F. Bruce’s classic New International Greek Text commentary. Students of Galatians should consider this commentary a standard work on one of Paul’s most important letters. Although this is a professional, technical commentary, deSilva’s text is very easy to read and will be of use for both pastor and scholar.

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

Book Review: Ben Myers, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism

Myers, Ben. The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. Lexham Classics; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. xvi +147 pp.; Hb. $15.99  Link to Lexham Press

Ben Myers is a research fellow of the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology at Charles Sturt University in Australia and director of the Millis Institute at Christian Heritage College. This short devotional reading of the Apostles’ Creed began as a sermon series Leichhardt United Church in Sydney. This brief book on the Apostles’ Creed is a very basic introduction to the deep and mysterious depths of the Gospel. As Myers confessions in to final chapter, just as “no one has yet breathed all the air” no mind has yet to grasp the creed in all of its fullness. This guide is a first step for a believer seeking to understand the historic faith of the church.

Myers does not focus attention on the origin in the creed in its present form, he is simply not interested historical details in this book. He begins with Hippolytus’s description of a baptism in On the Apostolic Tradition. Before the candidates receive baptism, they are asked if they believe the three sections of the creed. From this Myers suggest the creed was used as a catechism for new believers (p. 4). The creed was memorized and served as the basis for further instruction. But more than an ancient confession of faith, Myers thinks this rule of faith functions as a part of the baptismal declaration of faith, a “threefold immersion into the life of God” (p. 5). The creed was both teaching and a “pledge of allegiance” which provides a framework for Christian thinking and Christian commitment.

Myers moves through the Apostle’s Creed in a series of twenty-three short chapters. Some chapters reflect on only a single word (I, Believe and Amen); most discuss a phrase of the creed. Most only treat a few words, the longest combine a few phrases (“He descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead” and “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”). Each chapter connects the theology of the creed to the canon of Scripture. Although he does not often set the creed into the context of the Hebrew Bible, the creedal statements do stand on the foundation of the New Testament. The exception to this is the chapter “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit” and “born of the Virgin Mary.” Myers (rightly) sees the virgin birth in the light of the series of miraculous births in the Hebrew Bible.

My main criticism of the book is this lack of interest in the roots of the creed in the Hebrew Bible. For example, in the chapter on “Jesus Christ, God’s only son, our Lord,” Myers focuses on the final two words, “our Lord.” This emphasis is important since the earliest Christian confession was “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9, 1 Cor 12:3, Phil 2:5-11). But this chapter overlooks the both Christ as well as the “God’s only son.” Both of these titles rooted in the Hebrew Bible, Christ is Messiah and “son of God” is a messianic phrase as well (Psalm 2, for example). The same criticism applies to the chapters on “God the Father” and “Almighty.” Despite the fact the term is drawn from the Hebrew Bible, there is no reference to the Hebrew Scripture in the chapter. Perhaps this is simply a result of Myers looking forward from the creed to the history of the church rather than back to the sources for each line. In fact, grounding each line of the creed to the Hebrew Bible would make an interesting companion volume to this book.

Myers also connects these creedal statements to church writers who comment on the theological importance of each line. He often cites Augustine, Irenaeus, Origen and Gregory of Nyssa (along with Karl Barth and Jorge Luis Borges once each). The historical reception of the creedal statements demonstrate how the words of the creed continued to resonate with each generation of the church.

This is a small “trim size” book (5×7 inches) and many of the 147 pages full-page illustrations. Since no chapter is more than a few pages long, the book is ideal for devotional reading or used in a small group Bible study. The brevity of the chapters allow for further discussion and contemplation of each phrase of the Apostles’ Creed. The book can be read in an afternoon but it is best read slowly, with an open Bible and prayerful, open heart.

This guide to the Apostles’ Creed is a theologically rich and historically aware meditation on heart of biblical Christianity.

 

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

 

Book Review: John A. L. Lee, Basics of Greek Accents

Lee, John A. L. Basics of Greek Accents. Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, 2018. 110 pp. pb; $14.99. Link to Zondervan

Rarely does an introductory grammar devote much attention to Greek accents. For example Croy (Eerdmans 1999) lists five common rules occupying about a half-page. Although other rules exist and should not be ignored, Croy suggests they are best learned as they are encountered. In his extremely popular beginning grammar published by Zondervan, Mounce relegates the rules for accents to the “advanced information” section and only describes the three accents. For the rules, he suggests students consult his arcane Morphology of Biblical Greek. J. W. Wenham’s Elements of New Testament Greek (Cambridge, 1965) states accents “are to be completely ignored except on rare occasions (which will be mentioned as they arise)” (23). Someone might argue Greek accents are unimportant sine they do not appear in the earliest manuscripts (this was the opinion of an author who submitted an article to a journal I edit). On the other hand, D. A. Carson attempted to rehabilitate Greek accents in his Greek Accents: A Student Manual (Paternoster, 1981; Baker 1985). With 38 lessons over 167 pages (plus exercises), most students of New Testament Greek will slip into despair before mastering accents. At 472 pages (and $245 retail) it is unlikely anyone outside of a Ph.D. student will track down and read Probert’s Ancient Greek Accentuation (Oxford, 2006). Probert did publish a shorter guide (Bristol Classical Press, 2003), a mere 160 pages on ancient Greek accents.

John Lee’s new Basics of Greet Accents falls squarely between the view “accents are not all that important” and Carson’s manual. Lee is a Senior Research Fellow (honorary) attached to the Ancient History Department at Macquarie University where this little book had its origin. Lee suggestions “true competence in Greek cannot be attained without competence in Greek accents” (7). As someone who works regularly in the Greek New Testament, there is some truth to the statement. Greek simply looks wrong if it is printed without accents, and it is very difficult to pronounce properly unless the student pays attention to how the word is accented.

There are eight lessons in this manual, although the eighth contains advanced information rarely encountered in the New Testament (accenting optative, Epic and lesbian dialects, etc.) The first chapter covers the basic rules found in most basic grammars, Lessons 2, 3 and 5 deal with verbs, nouns and adjectives. Lesson 4 focuses on “function words” (demonstratives, articles, etc.)  Lessons 6 and 7 deal with contractions and enclitics. Each lesson has several examples for class discussion followed by an in-class exercise and a homework assignment. Each section has six lines of unaccented Greek words, the student should employ the rules and provide accents for each word. Later lessons contain a short paragraph. I looked over a few examples, and immediately went looking for the answer key in the back of the book (pages 73-85).

The book concludes with four examples drawn from ancient Greek manuscripts: Homer, Iliad 8.433, 435-47 (first or second century papyri); LXX Isaiah 13:3-8 (sixth century Codex Marchalianus); Romans 14:22-23, 16:25-27 (Michigan Ms. 34, fourteenth century); Demosthenes, On the Crown, 119-120 (an 1807 manuscript). Lee provides a photograph of the manuscript followed by a few paragraph of comments and a transcription. This wide range of dates allows the student to track the development of accents and other diacritical marks. These four illustrations are fascinating although I would have preferred additional examples from New Testament papyri given the target audience of this book. It would also be useful for Zondervan to host high resolution photographs for professors to use in a classroom.

Conclusion. Basics of Greet Accents is a handy guide to accents and is an inexpensive add-on to any first year course in biblical Greek. Most New Testament scholars will find this book a helpful refresher and set of exercise to sharpen Greek 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.

Book Review: C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans (Shorter Commentary)

Cranfield, C. E. B. Romans (Shorter Commentary). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 406 pp. Pb; $40.   Link to Eerdmans

Cranfield’s 1975 commentary on Romans in the International Critical Commentary series is one of the best exegetical commentaries available at the time. N. T. Wright praised the ICC volume as “the finest work on Romans to appear this century” and F. F. Bruce thought it was “well worthy to take its place alongside the really great commentaries on Romans.” But the two-volume commentary was expensive and the dense exegesis of the Greek text made it difficult for many to use.

Cranfield, Romans CommentaryEerdmans originally published this abridged single volume in 1985. In the preface of the commentary Cranfield described the commentary as shorter, less detailed and Greekless. In addition, the shorter commentary does not have any footnotes to secondary literature (other commentaries and articles) and very few references to historic interpreters of the book of Romans.

In the body of the commentary Cranfield breaks each verse into phrases, identical to the ICC volume except the phrases are in English. The Shorter Commentary often follows the ICC verbatim with respect to comments on the text. Cranfield uses his own translation of Romans, which is identical to the fifth impression of the first volume and third impression of the second volume of the original ICC commentary.

The original commentary was known for offering a variety of solutions to several of the more troubling exegetical problems in Romans. For example, in Romans 5:12, Cranfield offers six alternatives for understanding the phrase ἐφʼ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον, “in whom all sinned.” His ICC commentary has more than five pages of discussion including references to ancient commentaries and one quotation in German. The shorter commentary covers the same six possibilities with only one reference to Augustine in passing and no citations of any secondary sources.

It is fair to question the relevance of a commentary on Romans published in 1985, based on a commentary published in 1975. The commentary reflects the state of Pauline studies before E. P. Sanders and the ongoing debate over the so-called New Perspective on Paul. In fact, there is nothing new about Cranfield’s perspective on Paul. Both his ICC volume and this shorter commentary are excellent examples of the best exegesis behind the traditional view of Paul.

But as with other volumes in the Eerdmans Classic Biblical Commentaries series, this Shorter Commentary on Romans is worthy of staying in print. Cranfield’s commentary is an example of a master exegete who seeks to shed light on the text of Romans so those who are preaching and teaching the book can better communicate God’s word. For a busy pastor, Cranfield’s ICC volume might be difficult to use and priced out of their range, but this single volume commentary distills the larger commentary and will be of value to anyone working in Romans.

It is good Eerdmans recognizes the value of older commentaries. As the series preface observes, these commentaries have been used by pastors, teachers, seminary students, and are cited literary thousands of times by later works.

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