Bible, Bibles, Books, Greek, New Testament, Reviews

Bible Review—Tyndale House Greek New Testament

Tyndale House Greek New Testament
Published by Crossway
Crossway | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Crossway for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

In the modern developed world, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to biblical texts. I’ll always remember when I first read of ancient scribes and their work of copying manuscripts—it made me tired and short of breath just imagining their work environments and the tediousness of their work! Move forward through history and reflect upon the advancements in print production and it’s rather amazing how far it’s come. Now, modern technology has made texts of antiquity available to just about anyone. In light of this abundance of Greek texts, one might wonder why in the world another Greek NT is necessary. Perhaps some might say that the need isn’t really there, that it’s a marketing ploy because, you know, there’s great fame and wealth to be had as a producer of Greek texts!  However, the motivation behind the production of Greek NTs varies in small ways from one publisher to the next, but I think the impetus behind much of what is produced is the desire for a text that most accurately reflects the original. The editors even say as much: “This edition aims to present in an easily readable format the best approximation to the words written by the New Testament authors, within the constraints of the documentary evidence that survives” (505). Presumably this is the general aim of any publishers who put out a GNT, but behind that purpose lays various methodologies, assumptions, text-critical biases, and a host of other factors that influence the production of a GNT.

So, enter the fruit of a ten-year labor at the hands of Dirk Jongkind, Peter Williams, Peter Head, and Patrick James, who indicate that this GNT will provide several unique features heretofore absent from other editions. Perhaps the most notable of these is the layout of the text itself. Its documentary approach means that the editors have followed what is generally found in the Greek MSS from the fifth century and earlier rather than the whole multitude of witnesses, which affects how they have laid out the text (512). This is most evident in the paragraphs, which follows the ancient practice of ekthesis, which means the first line of a paragraph is left aligned and the remainder of the paragraph is indented. It certainly takes a little acclimation when reading, but it’s actually a nice feature.

Spelling will also catch the eye for more astute readers. The editors note that some of these spelling changes “are not found evenly distributed throughout the books of the New Testament, there is enough evidence to suggest that they were conventional spellings” (509). They provide a few examples:

γείνομαι ‘become’ in Mark; Luke; John 3:23; 6:19; and Romans–Colossians
γεινώσκω ‘know’ in Mark; Luke; John 10:14–14:17; and 1 Corinthians–Philippians
*κλειν* ‘incline’:  εκκλειν* in Romans 3:12; 16:17; κλείν everywhere, except Revelation; κλεινίδιον in Luke 5:19, 24; κλείνω in Matthew, Luke, and John, but not Hebrews
μεισέω ‘hate’ in Mark, Luke, and Paul, but not Hebrews
*κειν* ‘move’ everywhere, except Revelation
*χειλ* ‘thousand’ in Mark and Luke (509)

There are several other editorial changes that foster readability. We all know, use, and perhaps even love what has become unofficially the standard for text-critical work—the Nestle-Aland GNT, now in its 28th iteration. However, in terms of readability, its text is besieged on all sides with various kinds of data. Granted, these data are quite important and every serious NT student should have the NA28 at the ready, but for reading, its pages are far too congested, unless you’re a hardened text critic who can’t function without a robust apparatus! So, in line with other GNTs (UBS5 Reader’s Edition, SBLGNT, etc), the THGNT streamlines its pages and minimizes the extra information. The result is a extraordinarily clean page that is beautifully typeset and doesn’t leave you with the eye strain that other editions might. As the editors note, this edition’s “chief significance” is its focus on the text rather than a heavy text-critical apparatus (507).

Additionally, the editors have opted to leave the word Χριστος in lowercase (χριστος) even when it functions as a proper noun (511) and have removed many iota subscripts, which the editors justify by arguing that they do “little to aid readers” (512).

In addition to the visual and orthographical features noted above, another interesting deviation from the norm is the ordering of the books. My initial page-turning led me to notice that some of the books were not where I expected them. That’s because the THGNT presents books a different order: Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Corpus, and Revelation. The reason for this stems from the premise underlying the whole work—it’s the order of the books found in many early MSS (512).

Aesthetically, I think the THGNT stands out from the rest, at least those that are offered with standard cover options. This version is black hardcover, its cover and spine adorned with gold type—it truly looks fantastic! It also comes housed in a hard slipcover that itself is black and is identified with the same gold type. The binding is Smyth-sewn, which is sure to permit years of reading.

In short, I commend Tyndale House for this superb text. I love everything about it and plan to enjoy it for years to come.

 

 

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Bibles, Books, Greek, Hebrew

Hebrew-Greek Bible Typo

Not terribly long ago, I wrote a review for Hendrickson’s Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible, which you can read here if you’re interested. One feature I appreciate in Greek NTs is the inclusion of section/pericope headings and the CHGB includes them in the NT portion. I was reading through Mark’s Gospel today and noticed a typo in chapter 1 (p. 99). The section “Jesus Faces Temptation” for Mark 1:12–13 is rightly denoted and includes references to the synoptic parallels in Matt 4:1–11 and Luke 4:1–13; however, in the next section, which is Mark 1:14–20 and is rightly labeled “Jesus Calls His First Disciples,” lists the same parallels as those concerning Jesus’ temptation. This is clearly a dittography of sorts.

I don’t point this out to bag on Hendrickson—far from it. I can only the imagine the work that went into typesetting, proofing, and generally overseeing this volume. When humans are in charge, mistakes are inevitable, especially when it involves a book with three languages and more than 1,800 pages. I don’t know if there are other examples of this, though I haven’t noticed others to this point. If it’s just an isolated incident, there’s no detraction from the book’s value.

If you’re one of those savages who writes in their books, I suppose you could make a note. *shudder

Books

Currently Reading

Because I’m sure you’ll want to know, here’s what’s on my reading stack (in addition to dissertation materials):

The Aging Brain: Proven Steps to Prevent Dementia and Sharpen Your Mind by Timothy R. Jennings.
– Because neuroscience is fascinating; plus, I’m not getting younger and I’d like to preserve as much brain health as possible.

Death and the Afterlife: Biblical Perspectives on Ultimate Questions by Paul R. Williamson
– I’ve read so much about this topic in recent years, I couldn’t pass this one up.

Christology in the New Testament by David L. Bartlett
– Writing a brief summary for a journal.

Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd ed. by John H. Walton
– Because his first edition was such a helpful book for me, I had to check this one out.

Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle by Paula Fredriksen
– Because Fredriksen is a great writer and I’ve done a bit of reading on Paul and the Gentiles, so naturally, I had to secure a copy of this.

When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation by Paula Fredriksen
– This one came unsolicited from the fine folks at Yale University Press, so this is a bonus!

Bible, Bibles, Biblical Studies, Books, Greek, Hebrew, Jewish Literature, New Testament, Old Testament, Reviews

Bible Review—The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible

The Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible
by Hendrickson Publishers
Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

As many of my fellow language lovers will attest, whenever a new text comes out, we get giddy with excitement (most of the time anyway!). When Hendrickson announced they’d be releasing their complete Hebrew-Greek bible, I was quite excited. I know such a production is hardly novel, but it gives us another tool in the belt for studying the text of the bible.

First, the Hebrew text. This volume is a fully revised edition of the Leningrad codex, though the editor notes there are instances in which he deviates from it (xiv–xv). The editor has included a rather detailed foreword that addresses various matters concerning methodology and textual elements, but that you’ll have to read on your own (xi–xxvi). However, whatever quibbles one might have with this textual base, this remains a fine volume that can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking to read the Hebrew Bible.

So, what makes this volume unique? It’s not a reader’s bible, so there are no running glossaries in the footer nor is there a lexicon at the end. There are several appendixes that cover matters such as textual variants (Appendix A), Petuhot and Setumot in the Torah and Esther (Appendix B), song shapes (Appendix C), a rather technical excursus on the deviation in gemination in the Tiberian vocalization (Appendix D), and a very practical collection of Scripture readings that accompany various Jewish cultural practices, which is perhaps the most unique aspect of this volume. Additionally, this volume is pretty much a bare-bones approach to the text, meaning that there is no text-critical apparatus for readers. While this may be a letdown for some (get your BHS!), for those who want to simply read the text, this is a gem. In addition to the lack of text-critical clutter, the Hebrew text is wonderfully typeset and printed on paper that is adequate for what is certain to be regular usage. The paper is not the oft-used tissue paper many bible publishers employ. It feels sturdier and its tone is soft and yellowish, which I appreciate more and more the older I get.

The NT side of the volume follows suit in that the text is not based on that corpus’s text-critical powerhouse, in this case the Nestle-Aland; rather, the Westcott-Hort Greek text was chosen. I’ll spare everyone any rambling discussion on the merits of one text over another—plenty of others are better at it than I—and will simply say that readers will likely not notice much of a difference in the text anyway. Unlike the Hebrew text, the W-H Greek text does provide more in the way of textual variants, perhaps enough to scratch any text-critical itch. If it’s not sufficient, I’m sure most readers will have a copy of an NA27/28 handy. Other pretty standard features are present, such as pericopes labeled in English and parallel texts in the Gospels noted beneath the pericope title. This edition also includes OT quotes in bold type with the reference beneath the apparatus. It adds a bit to the page, but doesn’t amount to clutter. Also, because the NT text is obviously a fraction of the Hebrew Bible’s length, there is noticeably more space in the margins. So, if you’re a total savage and like writing in your books, you have ample room for it. Also, unlike the Hebrew text, there are no appendixes of any sort at the end.

In sum, textually and aesthetically speaking, this is a great volume. Though it’s bulky enough to keep a door from closing, its usefulness outweighs (see what I did there?) whatever negatives derive from its mass. Mine is bound with the flexisoft cover and while it’s nowhere nearly as fake-soft-leather-feeling as my UBS5, it’s not too bad. Also, you simply can’t beat the price. This flexisoft cover, which is apparently more desirable and luxurious than the hardcover, retails for $59.99. The BHL costs more than that by itself, and add the W-H GNT to your cart and you’re spending more than necessary (unless you’re like me and like to have these separate and together). The point is this volume is a premium work for an affordable price, so go get one, bring it to church or the synagogue, and impress your friends. Or, maybe you’ll win a Who-Has-The-Biggest-Bible contest.

 

Books, Greek, Reviews

Book Review—Keep Up Your Biblical Greek

Keep Up Your Biblical Greek in Two Minutes a Day
Compiled and edited by Jonathan G. Kline
Published by Hendrickson
Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Hendrickson for this review copy! I received this free copy in exchange for an unbiased review.

One of the biggest challenges facing students of Greek (and I have in mind primarily students of NT Greek in seminaries) is retaining even a fraction of the information that is heaped upon them in first- and second-year Greek classes (and beyond). This is a very real struggle and I would venture that many students probably lose most of what they “learned” soon after the class is over. While we could lay most of this blame at the feet of those who rigidly adhere to impractical and ineffective pedagogies, the fact remains that language that isn’t used regularly will be lost, regardless of the method by which it was attained.

Hendrickson has provided students with yet another tool to aid them in their quest for Greek retention, what I will call the “two minute” series—Keep Up Your Biblical Greek in Two Minutes a Day: 365 Selections for Easy Review. The premise is right there in the title—spend a minimum of two minutes every day reading through the selections and you’ll improve your vocabulary base and thereby improve your ability to read the Greek NT.

The approach taken in this series is simple: provide a single biblical text (either a full verse or at least a full sentence), target specific words, and show them in the original context (of that verse) and in translation. Basically, the page layout is as follows (using the selection from my birthday, March 10):

John answered (ποκριθεὶς), “Master, we saw someone (τινα) casting out demons in your name (νματ), and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (NRSV)

νομα                    name, reputation                                                   229x
onoma                                                                                                                S3686

τὶς, τι    >    Day 35                           ἀποκρίνομαι      >    Day 68

ποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰωάννης εἶπεν· ἐπιστάτα, εἴδομέν τινα ἐν τῷ νματ σου ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν, ὅτι οὐκ ἀκολουθεῖ μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν.

John answered ποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰωάννης εἶπεν
Master Ἐπιστάτα
we saw someone εἴδομέν τινα
casting out demons ἐκβάλλοντα δαιμόνια
in your name ἐν τῷ νματ
and we tried to stop him καὶ ἐκωλύομεν αὐτόν
because he does not follow ὅτι οὐκ ἀκολουθεῖ
with us μεθ᾽ ἡμῶν

I think what I like most about this series is its simplicity—it’s easier to drink from a fountain than a fire hose. Each day’s selection provides a minimal amount of Greek to focus on, thus allowing a slow immersion into the pool rather than diving from a cliff. The downside, of course, is that if you limit yourself to one page per day, your rate of retention will correspond. However, you don’t have to do one day at a time (sweet Jesus!). The corresponding calendar days are meant as a guide, to help you keep up with readings in a systematic manner. The selections vary in length and difficulty, so there’s no gradation. You could easily find a difficult verse/clause in the first third of the book as you could the last. So, overall, I think this is a useful tool to help readers of the GNT shore up their skills that may have waned.

There are a couple of elements, however, that I don’t care for, and they are elements that I spurn when found in any work. The first is the use of transliteration for Greek terms. Perhaps they’re included to aid in pronunciation—the author doesn’t say—but I find them to be an unnecessary addition to any work. Knowing how to pronounce a word is important, but if you can’t read and pronounce the Greek text, then exegesis is still far in your future. Knowing how to pronounce a word is barely the beginning of understanding and unpacking all of the information encoded in a word/phrase/clause and I view transliterations as ultimately unhelpful.

The other primary negative I would point out is the use of Strong’s numbering system. If you’re beholden to Strong’s, then obviously this will help you. However, the pitfalls of relying on Strong’s have been long discussed in the biblical studies community and I have personally avoided using it since, well, long ago. I’m always surprised that Strong’s still shows up in modern works. I’m willing to assume, as I mentioned, that its inclusion here is to provide a component many users may be comfortable with, so it’s not a deal breaker by any stretch and it doesn’t really detract from the book’s/series’ usefulness. If you have an aversion to Strong’s, do as I do—ignore it.

Is the Two Minutes series a magic bullet that will propel you to new-found heights of retention? Certainly not. What it will help you do, should you use it regularly, is help you regain your handle on NT Greek and, hopefully, push you to deeper, more advanced studies.

 

Bibles, Books, Reviews

Bible Review—CSB Reader’s Bible

CSB Reader’s Bible
Holman Bible Publishers, 2017
B&H | Amazon | CBD

I’ll admit it—sometimes I have a hard time reading the bible. The issue, in a nutshell, is that my brain suffers a constant barrage of inquiries that leap from the text, which sometimes makes it difficult to finish an entire section. Now, that’s not to say I don’t or can’t read the bible beyond a few sentences at a time, only that it takes a little longer than it might otherwise. Another component that hinders my reading, which I’ve mentioned in other reviews, is the layout/print design of a book. Nothing will deter me from a book faster than bad design—inside and out (cover art is important). Though I’ve never worked in the publishing industry per se, and speak strictly as a consumer of books, I was an editor for one my school’s main publications (in my previous position). I didn’t really have any input on the design side of production, but I worked with those who did, so I can appreciate the amount of time and energy that goes into producing a book that is visually appealing.

So, I said all of that to note that a book’s design is important to me. Bible publishers, I would assume, have a difficult task in preparing bibles for print. With the amount of text alone, preparing a bible proof must be a tedious endeavor, especially with so many publishers churning out study bibles the size of car batteries! While these are certainly helpful works (NIV Zondervan Study Bible and Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible), there are times when I just want a text that is unencumbered by cross references, marginal notes, photos, articles, etc. Thankfully, a number of bible publishers produced a number of excellent volumes designed around this very concept—the reader’s bible. As the title indicates, this review is for the CSB Reader’s Bible, published by Holman Bible Publishers, and let me say, this is a splendid work! When it comes to reading a text, the fewer distractions on the page the better, and this is the driving principle behind these reader’s bibles.

To begin, I want to mention the exterior, which is an important feature of a good reader’s bible (or book in general), particularly because the presumption is a reader’s bible will be used regularly, thus it needs a support structure that will withstand constant use. The version I received is gray cloth over boards, which is should be suitable for years of use before beginning to weaken noticeably. It also comes with a slipcover made from the same material, so any wear that comes from lying on a surface will be lessened. So, the outside is subtle and minimalist in its design—no complaints here. The binding is Symth-sewn, which adds to its durability, and as you might expect, the first and last pages needed little coaxing to stay flat when opened thanks to the boards and binding.

The inside, however, is the true appeal of this volume. This bible is as bare bones as it gets—no indexes, no concordance—just text. There are a few color maps at the very back and the requisite front matter (copyright, title page, contents), but otherwise there is only the text. As for the text, it’s printed on white paper, presumably to provide a suitable background for maximum contrast with the black font. Speaking of the font, it’s a traditional serif font—Bible Serif (produced by 2k/Denmark)—and is excellent for reading. While I do like sans serif fonts, I generally prefer traditional serifs for reading, and this one looks great. The 9.75-point type is also a suitable size. Holman opted for a single-column layout, which I think is the obvious way to go. It allows for larger type, which makes for easier reading. The text is formatted in traditional paragraph style with poetic and other non-prose sections set apart in a block-quote setup. Each new section is marked with a drop cap in a nice shade of blue (as are the book names in the footer and chapter titles) and the absence of versification—a defining feature of a reader’s bible—are a recipe for success. Though the absence of verses requires an adjustment for some, it’s one of the features I like best.

Though the only other reader’s bibles I own are the UBS reader and the Zondervan reader and can’t really compare these with English readers, I can say that the CSB Reader’s Bible is superb in every aspect. While perhaps not as glorious as the Bibliotheca reader that came out last year, it easily stands as a great work all its own.

 

Biblical Studies, Books, Reviews

Book Review—Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-biblical Antiquity

Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-Biblical Antiquity, Complete in One Volume, edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson

Hendrickson | Amazon | CBD

A couple of years ago, the good folks at Hendrickson published a multi-volume work entitled Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical & Post-biblical Antiquity (hereafter DDL), volume two of which I reviewed here. After what seems to be a warm reception of the series, Hendrickson published the previously separate volumes in a one-volume edition, a decision I (for one) am glad they made. Having reviewed only one of the previous volumes, I couldn’t speak for the whole series (though I’m sure each one had its strong and weak points). However, this all-in-one edition has allowed me to read through a broader selection of topics (even though each volume covered numerous topics) with a slightly better sense of the contents.

Given my own proclivities towards background studies, this series was a welcome one. Indeed, I felt it would be a welcome addition to the already burgeoning body of literature available. However, this particular work fills a niche that is part of the world of backgrounds, but still deserves its own treatment. As editor Edwin Yamauchi notes, “the Bible, as received, recounts events in the lives of individuals, tribes, and nations…” (emphasis mine; xii). It is this aspect of background studies that has recently grabbed my attention and this volume provides a wealth of information on various aspects of every-day life, many of which receive only scant attention in other comparable works.

As I noted in my previous review, the primary way in which this series differs from others is its focus—on the daily life of the peoples of antiquity. So, while matters that are pertinent to the bigger picture of the biblical story may still show up, they are only addressed as sub points, so to speak. In other words, they are only mentioned as connections to the primary socio-cultural feature the article is about. However, these matters of connection to larger themes of the biblical story are by comparison minimal and quite brief. There are no lengthy discussions of religion, temples, sacrifice, etc. If such issues do show up, it’s only minimally. And I would also like to note that the length of discussion for many topics is somewhat related to the relevance of that topic to the various contexts in which it relates to the biblical text (these contexts will be mentioned below). For example, the article on milk and milk products (1193–1207) offers but a single paragraph about milk and milk products in the NT. Why? Because the term “milk” (γάλα) simply doesn’t occur that frequently and most of the uses are figurative in some way.

The articles are written by experts in their fields but are written in very accessible prose so that the reader might receive the maximum benefit. Each topic is discussed in overarching contexts—scriptural (Old and New Testaments), which is followed by the cultural (Near Eastern, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian)—thus providing the reader with a wider range of backgrounds against which to understand that particular issue. Within each of these sections there is brief discussion relevant to other sub-contexts, e.g., political, socio-economic, religious, etc. For example, in the section on barbers and beards (sure to appeal to the hipsters among us!), Marvin Wilson discusses the matter in the above-mentioned larger contexts (scriptural and cultural), but conveys how haircuts and beard cutting/shaving were important socially and religiously, information that is not always obvious when reading texts, especially in isolation from these assumed contexts.

While each topic is addressed at generally similar lengths, some obviously will be shorter/longer than others. And for those who wish to read beyond the DDL, each article concludes with a substantive up-to-date bibliography.

One feature that I appreciate in this volume is the fact that the authors took the time to include, at least, parenthetical references to the ancient works they cite. It seems a given that any work that like should require its contributors to do this, but there are surely occasions in which editorial constraints prevent the inclusion of copious references and notes. While there are no notes to speak of here, the reader does have references to primary sources, the consistency of which is dependent on the particular contributor. Also, the references, likely due to the aforementioned restrictions, are not numerous, but do provide a starting point of sorts.

More technical series (ABD, IVP’S black dictionaries) offer insight into all aspects of the biblical world, particularly those issues that were more pervasive socially, e.g., imperial cult, agriculture, religious praxis, etc. The DDL, however, places the focus on aspects of life that were perhaps not central to the texts that reflected the culture. Ed Yamauchi, who both edited and contributed to this series, cites the issue of abortion as but one example of a practice that was pervasive in the ancient Mediterranean, yet is not addressed in the Bible (1). This particular volume covers such matters as dentistry and teeth, doors and keys, food consumption, heating and lighting, and horses, along with a number of other aspects of daily like that are perhaps more expected. As Yamauchi correctly points out, the authors of the Bible took for granted what was well known to themselves and their audience, thus they had no need to provide all the requisite background information to understand what they were reporting (1). As such, we must comb the sources of the ancient world in order to understand their world and thus better understand the context of the Bible. However, outside of academia, most readers of the bible have neither the resources nor the skills to mine the depths of ancient sources, so works like DDL demonstrate their ultimate value.

There is really nothing to dislike about this series, save for the use of transliterated terms from the languages of the sources cited and otherwise noted. This negligible element aside, the DDL is a solid work, one that will benefit both scholars and non-academics alike. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that no, it is improbable that anyone reading these volumes won’t find something they disagree with. However, this volume is well researched and lucidly written, so even in disagreement readers will learn with great benefit. Will this volume replace others? No, and it isn’t meant to—it’s a supplement to previous works that will greatly aid in the study of the world of the Bible.