Bible Review: The Greek New Testament–A Reader’s Edition

The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition
Hendrickson | Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft | CBD

Many thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy!

As I noted in my review of the UBS5, I have always preferred the UBS over the Nestle-Aland, and it usually comes down to one aspect—aesthetics. The UBS text is simply more readable and looks better on the page. The font choice and the less detailed critical apparatus yield a less cluttered page, which leads to a better overall reading experience. However, despite my preference of one over the other, these volumes aren’t exactly ideal for just reading, though it certainly can be done and certainly less a chore than reading volumes in Loeb Classical Library. They’re a tad small and for those who are dependent on ocular assistance, it’s more of a effort to read beyond a passage or two.

Enter the heaven-sent concept of a reader’s edition! The idea behind such works is, of course, to facilitate regular reading of the GNT. The reader’s edition assists readers to this end by providing the text and a running dictionary below to aid the process of reading. Rather than stopping and having to consult a lexicon, most of the unfamiliar words are listed below. For this volume (as is probably standard), all words occurring fewer than thirty times are listed at the bottom of the page. Each entry consists simply of the lexical form of the word, its parsing (for verbs), and a gloss. Readers should know, if they don’t already, that the provided glosses are editorial choices and do not necessarily preclude other connotations. One example (of many that would likely be arguable to any given reader) of a gloss that is less helpful than could be is found in Acts 2:22. Jesus was ἀποδεδειγμένον, which is glossed as “commend” in the dictionary. While this is certainly a possible meaning and not necessarily wrong here, it is an editorial choice that perhaps would have been better rendered “display” or “set forth.” Again, “commend” isn’t wrong, but better choices (I think) are available.

Unfortunately, I do not own a copy of the first edition of the UBS Reader’s Edition against which to compare this current edition. However, I can unequivocally say that this is a splendid volume and will certainly become my go-to edition for reading the Greek text of NT. I have been using Zondervan’s Reader’s Greek New Testament for several years now and have enjoyed it, but it is safe to say it will spend considerably more time on the shelf now that I have the UBS reader. Why? There are two primary reasons. First, the GNT-RE’s running dictionary is formatted in two columns, unlike Zondervan’s edition, which runs left to right in an ordinary linear fashion. The UBS layout is much better for dropping down to find the word in question. Second, the GNT-RE’s paper is only slightly thicker, but enough that it more effectively prevents ghosting so as not to be distracting, noticeably more so than the Zondervan edition. One thing I do when reading bibles to mitigate some of the ghosting effect is to place a dark colored piece of paper behind the page I’m reading, which effectively eliminates the effect altogether. This is especially true with the GNT-RE.

There are a few more notable features to mention. For one, idiomatic word combinations are defined. For example, in Acts 1:12, the disciples are returning to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and Luke tells us that the distance from the mountain to Jerusalem is σαββάτου ἔχον ὁδόν. The UBS-RE translates this idiom in the dictionary “a Sabbath day’s journey = about half a mile or 900 m”. These small measures help achieve the desired goal of facilitating a good reading experience. Though this is not a critical text, there is a small apparatus for the more significant variants for those who may be interested in a brief brainstorm concerning a particular word choice. That being said, there are many pages on which there are no variants listed, so the t-c element is decidedly minimal. Other minor features include OT references in the margins (always helpful!), an appendix that defines words used more than thirty times, and a few nicely colored maps. This volume is also noticeably larger than the UBS/NA texts. Those volumes are approximately 7.5 x 5.5, whereas the GNT-RE is approximately 9.7 x 6.4, which is closer to the average size of a regular book. All this is bound in black flexisoft, which is softer to the touch than the standard binding and also looks quite nice.

In sum, this is a splendid and well-designed volume. I’d be interested in knowing how this edition has changed from the first, other than including the updated UBS5 text, so perhaps I’ll find a used copy somewhere, if only to have a means of comparison. Whatever the other changes from the first edition to the second, this is a wonderful volume that every reader of the GNT should have.

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Book Review: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory

Heaven, Hell and Purgatory: A Protestant View of the Cosmic Drama by Jerry L. Walls

Brazos | Amazon | CBD

Jerry Walls, who has published widely on Christianity’s teaching on the afterlife (though this is not a uniform concept), here seeks to articulate and defend a Protestant view of purgatory.

Early on, Walls makes a couple of astute points that are more commonly found in academic circles, but are still struggling to find a foothold in the church. For one, Walls comments that “popular writing about the afterlife is often sentimental, simplistic, and emotionally manipulative” (14). This is especially evidenced by the flood of journey-to-heaven books and movies to the Christian media market.

In his seven truths about heaven (based on Revelation 19–22), Walls dismisses the notion that heaven is an escape from earth. Redemption concerns more than just human souls—it concerns the entire cosmos (30). I have come around to this particular view of salvation, that God’s work of redemption in/through Christ entails the preparation of those who have been justified by faith in Christ for the fullest realization of the kingdom of God—the redemption of the created order as the dwelling place of God.

On these (and other more general points) I found Walls’ arguments agreeable. However, the main idea of the book is that the concept of purgatory is a defensible position for Protestants to hold and Walls spends the first third of the book turning the soil into which he will plant, sow, and reap a Protestant view of purgatory. Walls suggests that every theology needs a purgatory, not just that of the Roman Catholic tradition (93). The assumption underlying this idea is that prior to “entry” into heaven (which I take to simply the entry into God’s immediate presence) souls are still stained with sin, thus, they need to be fully purged. Walls makes clear that the very word purgatory bears the negative connotation that drew the ire of the Reformers, which was a justifiable response. However, Walls contends that the concept of purgatory had been perverted and is in fact a rather gracious work of God, not on men. Walls’ contention seems to be that the necessity of repentance requires some measure of purification between death and entrance into the heavenly kingdom.

As far as the biblical evidence for his position, well, there’s little discussion of that. Walls’ work is more philosophical in nature and does not deal adequately with the biblical data, which is its biggest weakness. Scripture is referred to, but only in such a way as to leave readers wanton for more substantive interaction with the sacred text. Walls is certainly shows himself adept in his interactions with theologians, philosophers, and writers (Dostoevsky, for example) on this issue, but if he had addressed the Scriptures more substantively this book would have been much stronger. As it is, it remains a largely philosophical enterprise, which is not necessarily a critique, but an observation as to its

Deep down I want to believe that there is some post-mortem opportunity for those who die without having surrendered to Christ to repent and enjoy life eternal, but I simply can’t get around the biblical data that suggests otherwise. I’ll admit that perhaps some texts could hint at the concept of purgatory as articulated by Walls, but I think the overwhelming testimony of the NT is that life is the time of opportunity and to miss it means separation from God. I want there to be another chance, but I can’t convince myself there is and Walls’ book, while thoughtful and well written, does not sway me in this matter. However, despite the fact I’m not persuaded by his arguments, Walls is a good writer and makes his case for purgatory well enough, just not strong enough to persuade me.

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Book Sale

No, I’m not selling mine–don’t be silly! But Westminster Bookstore has a couple of volumes on sale that you might be interested in: Collected Writings on Scripture (D. A. Carson) for $7 and Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (eds. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey Waddington) for $10. I’ve read a couple of essays in the Gaffin volume and they were quite good, so I ordered a copy–can’t pass up a new hardcover for $10!

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It seems no matter how meticulous editors and proofreaders are, invariably mistakes are missed. I found this one in Frederick J. Murphy’s Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World, p. 94.

There was no empire-wide persecution of Christianity until the middle of the third century BCE.

Did you catch it? BTW, this is a great book–get a copy and read it if you can.

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My New Study Aid

For my birthday last week, I received gifts that were nothing if not practical. For me, this is a good thing. The older I get, the more the things I want need to be of some use. In addition to clothes, accessories, and funds (!), I got something I’ve wanted for some time–a book stand! More specifically, it’s a Witzem Rosemary Book Stand and it’s a big one–it measures at practically 2′ x 1′–it’s huge!

Photo Mar 17, 10 41 06 PM

To give you an idea of the size, the pictures below feature BDAG, which is a behemoth of a book, and BDAG alongside BDF. How’s that for space?!

Photo Mar 17, 10 40 52 PMPhoto Mar 17, 10 41 46 PM

The size was part of the reason I wanted this particular one–it would have to be large enough to accommodate two books. I mean seriously, I never only have one resource open at a time, so this was a must. In addition to the size, a bookstand simply must keep the book open. I’m one who would never crack a book’s spine just so it will stay open, so this book stand appealed to me because it sports four flexible arms that swivel and can the pages at any point.  The stand itself is adjustable, so if I wanted to lay a book at a different angle, I could do so easily.

It has been a frustration of mine for many years that there was no good way to have multiples books open at once for easy reference. Now, I can at least have two open and know that the pages will stay put and I can refer to them easily while typing. Maybe I should get another?

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Bad Book Covers

I posted not too long ago how much I appreciate good book covers, album cover art, etc. As I’m sure you know, for every good piece of cover art there are ten bad ones.

This gem came through an email I received this morning.

book coverWhile the overall design isn’t bad, I think it’s quite strange to see the silhouette of a tennis player, apparently having just hit the ball, in front of a large body of water. I will assume that this somehow is relevant to the story, but wow–this is a stinker of a cover. How many people play tennis on the shore at dusk??

But that one pales in comparison to this one.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 8.14.20 AM

Seriously–this is really bad! Where to begin? The author’s name gets half lost against the graphics, which were clearly done by someone who doesn’t know how to Photoshop very well, and it’s just blah. Apparently the book is better than the cover. Let’s hope so–this is a bad one!

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The Spirit was willing…

…but the flesh was weak.

I had good intentions when I began blogging through Walton and Sandy’s The Lost World of Scripture. However, as I suspected, it proved to be more of a chore than I wanted to deal with, especially with the intervening holidays and with the spring semester right around the corner.

So, I’ve decided to forego the remainder of the series and just post one last time on it, essentially a review of the book as a whole. Though my “series” was brief, it was helpful to go through the chapters more methodically. However, the engine lost steam and will soon pull into the station.

Read my previous entries here: Propositions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

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