Book Review: A Reader’s Greek New Testament (3d ed)

Review--RGNT-(3d-ed)A Reader’s Greek New Testament, 3d Edition

Richard J. Goodrich and Albert L. Lukaszewski

Zondervan | CBD | Amazon

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

A Reader’s Greek New Testament

I picked up my first reader’s Greek New Testament some years ago now. It was Zondervan’s iteration, A Reader’s Greek New Testament (hereafter RGNT), the second edition, and I used it with great benefit. When the UBS reader’s edition was released (hereafter UBS-RE), I did not buy one since I already had the RGNT. However, when the UBS-RE including UBS5 was released, I got a copy and have been using it ever since. In fact, since I’ve received the UBS-RE second edition, I haven’t used the RGNT edition much at all. As I noted in that review, one of the reason’s I prefer the UBS-RE over the RGNT is aesthetic—the UBS-RE simply looks nicer and is easier on my eyes as I read. A primary factor contributing to this is the layout of the UBS-RE. Below the Greek text, the running dictionary is in a two-column format, whereas the RGNT is a single paragraph and is less conducive to following the words easily.

However, Zondervan has recently released the third edition of its Reader’s Greek New Testament and I will say, having used it for a little while now, it is a noticeable improvement over the previous edition. On the one hand, there are no drastic changes. The same eclectic Greek text still underlies this edition, the same lexicon and the same maps are included in the back, and the same disappointing layout for the definitions below the Greek text, etc. The most obvious difference in this third edition is the aesthetic change, namely a different font was used. While this may seem a small matter, it makes a noticeable difference in the appearance of the text and the difference is much better. I’m not sure what font was used in the second edition, but it was too narrow and the paper used for bibles already thin, this font made it more difficult to read, thus in a sense undermining the volume’s ultimate purpose. The font choice in this edition is much better!

We all know that a book’s contents are its most important element, but aesthetics matter, particularly for a volume that is designed to foster reading of the Greek text.  Thankfully, this edition of the RGNT has improved in this regard.  I might also add that the RGNT is significantly slimmer than the UBS-RE, a factor that will sway some towards this volume over the UBS-RE. The authors simply wanted to provide a resource that will foster the reading of the Greek text and to that end they have succeeded.

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Obedience to the Gospel?

For many years I’ve been enamored with Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9, in which he claims that those who have been troubling the Thessalonians would be dealt with at the return of Jesus

with/in flaming fire, meting out retribution to those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will pay the penalty–everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power (translation mine).

There are a number of issues that surface here, but I’ve puzzled over the phrase μὴ ὑπακούουσιν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ–how does one not obey the gospel? This question stems from the assumption that the whole concept of εὐαγγέλιον is less a body of commands and/or directives, such as the Torah, and more the general base meaning of the word–good news. However, in Paul’s writings, the gospel seems to be more than just an announcement of good news (it certainly retains that meaning), but more a collective of truths (though not necessarily codified or written down at this point), perhaps the ever-growing body of traditions about Jesus that were seen as authoritative. In Gal 1:6–9, for example, Paul speaks of the gospel as more than merely an announcement, but rather as a collective of propositions (?) that one must embrace in order to be justified by God–this seems to be the typical Pauline usage. The question remains, then, how does one not obey the gospel if Paul is speaking in terms of accepting and embracing certain tenets about Jesus? The idea of obedience could easily indicate that it was Jesus’ ethical teachings in mind, but we don’t know to what extent Paul knew Jesus’ teachings (though he certainly would have known much of what Jesus taught). Presumably whatever Paul received from the risen Christ on the road to Damascus informs his conception of εὐαγγέλιον.

So what does it mean to disobey the gospel? Likely it means to refuse the message that Jesus is the Christ and is the only way to the Father. It’s not about following rules, as the English term “obedience” may imply, but rather being subject to what was prescribed as the gospel by Paul and the other apostles–that Jesus was Lord and there was no other means by which one could be made righteous before God. cf. Rom 10:9–10

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Today’s Reading from the Ancient World

Today’s ancient reading comes from the Sibylline Oracles, a collection of ecstatic prophecies that were common in the ancient world. This particular text comes from the first book and touches on a number of elements found in the Hebrew Bible and the NT. Enjoy!

Beginning from the first generation of articulate men
down to the very last, I will prophesy all in turn,

such tings as were before, as are, and as will come upon

the world through the impiety of men.

5 First God bids me tell truly how the world

came to be. But you, devious mortal, so that you may never neglect my commands,

attentively make known the most high king. It was he who created

the whole world, saying, “let it come to be” and it came to be.

For he established the earth, draping it around with

10 Tartarus, and he himself gave sweet light.

He elevated heaven, and stretched out the gleaming sea,

and he crowned the vault of heaven amply with bright-shining stars

and decorated the earth with plants. He mixed the sea

with rivers, pouring them in, and with the air he mingled fragrances,

15 and dewy clouds. He placed another species,

fish, in the seas, and gave birds to the winds;

to the woods, also, shaggy wild beasts, and creeping

serpents to the earth; and all things which now are seen.

He himself made these things with a word, and all came to be,

20 swiftly and truly. For he is self-begotten

looking down from heaven. Under him the world has been brought to

completion.

Translation is John Collins’ taken from James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha Volume One: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009), 335.

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The dark reality of infanticide behind Matthew 1:21

Why knowledge of the culture of first-century life in the Mediterranean matters.

Newman Research Centre for the Bible and its Reception

One of the things that provoked discussion at last week’s Advent Seminar concerned a remark made by Leon Morris (1992: 29) that the angel’s instruction that “[Mary] will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus…” (Matt 1:21a) is, in the context of Mary’s predicament, highly significant.

It is important to remember that in pre-industrial societies marriage was not simply an agreement between two individuals, but a contract between two families. In ancient Mediterranean cultures, betrothal would have usually been initiated with a meal at the woman’s parent’s home (M. Pesachim 3:7), this would also be attended by the payment of an indirect dowry (M. Ketubot 5.2); a negotiated payment by the ‘groom’s’ family paid to the betrothed couple. This would have been part of the overall Bride-wealth.

VIOLATION AND BETRAYAL

Therefore, Mary’s unexpected pregnancy was not only a violation of sexually appropriate behaviour, but it could have…

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Today’s Reading from the Ancient World

I’ve been consumed with PhD exams, so I’ve not blogged much at all and thought this would be an easy reentry to the practice.This is just for the sake of reading tidbits of ancient literature, so there will be no commentary of other insights unless I feel it’s something I’d like to note.

So, today’s reading comes from the Mishnah, the Shabbat tractate, 7:2ff (concerning the prohibition of labors on the Sabbath):

A. The generative categories of acts of labor [prohibited on the Sabbath] are forty less one:

B. 1 he who sews, 2 ploughs, 3 reaps, 4 binds sheaves, 5 threshes, 6 winnows, 7 selects [fit from unfit produce or crops, 8 grinds, 9 sifts, 10 kneads, 11 bakes;

C. 12 he who shears wool, 13 washes it, 14 beats it, 15 dyes it;

D. 16 spins, 17 weaves

E. 18 makes two loops, 19 weaves two threads, 20 separate two threads

F. 21 ties, 22 unties

G. 23 sews two stitches, 24 tears in order to sew two stitches;

H. 25 he who traps a deer, 26 slaughters it, 27 flays it, 28 salts it, 29 cures its hide, 30 scrapes it, 31 cuts it up;

I. 32 he who writes two letters, 33 erases two letters in order to write letters;

J. 34 he who builds, 35 tears down;

K. 36  he who puts out a fire, 37 kindles a fire

L. 38 he who hits with a hammer, 39 he who transports an object from one domain to another–

M. lo, these are the forty generative acts of labor less one.

From The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 187–88.

 

SBL draws nigh

…so I need some guidance from you more experienced SBLers.

  1. I am going to try and pack as lightly as possible, but what do you all bring with you? Besides clothes and toiletries, do you really need anything else if you aren’t presenting?
  2. I’m 6’5″ tall–where should I try and sit on the plane? I haven’t flown in a while, so I really don’t know where the best seat might be.
  3. I’ll be staying downtown, so I don’t plan to travel outside the SBL radius. Is this what most people do? If you do travel around, is it best to get a MARTA pass of some sort?
  4. I imagine the book hall to be pretty much a heavenly place, so I will have to exercise extreme restraint when it comes to buying books. Any advice here?
  5. I’ve narrowed the sessions I want to attend by presenter rather than the topic, though I kept a couple of sessions on the schedule because the subject interests me. How much time do you spend in the sessions themselves typically?
  6. Even though I’m almost ABD, I plan to attend the career workshops. I know that the job field is overrun by more qualified folks than myself, but I’m going to attend and meet various prospective employers, if for no other reason than to get a feel of the process. How should someone in my position approach this element of SBL? If you’re not interviewing, is there is suggested attire? Business casual? Since I’ll be walking, I’ll need to wear comfortable shoes, so that will determine in part my attire for my time there.
  7. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love getting free stuff–especially books! Any goodies I should be on the lookout for?

New Testament Introductions

As part of preparing for my exams (upcoming next month), I’ve been reading through various NT introductory texts (to the point I’ve grown weary of it!). I don’t know that I’ve read any of them cover to cover, but I’ve read a fair amount of them and have come to like some more than others. Of these many I’ve pored over, such as The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Ehrman, sixth edition), Introducing the New Testament (Drane), New Testament Introduction (Guthrie), The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (Metzger), The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (Köstenberger, Kellum, and Quarles), The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction (Hagner), Into the World of the New Testament: Greco-Roman and Jewish Texts and Contexts by Daniel Lynwood Smith, and Encounter with the New Testament: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Pregeant), I have to give the nod to The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament. While some may balk at this choice for its more conservative bent, it really is a superb volume. Even if you disagree with some of the authors’ interpretations or particular stance on an issue, they have provided fairly substantial arguments for their take on some of the more contentious matters, e.g., Pauline authorship of the Pastorals, apostolic authorship of Matthew, and have made a great effort to treat each book in light of its various contexts. If you haven’t picked up a copy and are looking for a solid NT intro, grab this one (or the abridged version The Lion and the Lamb: New Testament Essentials from the Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown). Read my glowing review of it here.

I’ve also begun reading Kregel’s latest NT intro edited by Berding and Williams–What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About–and it’s looking promising so far. It’s not the same type of intro as those mentioned above, but looks to be quite useful for its intended audience.

What are some of your go-to intros?

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