Book Review: What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, 2d Edition


What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, 2d Edition

Edited by Kenneth Berding and Matt Williams

Kregel | Amazon | CBD

Many thanks to the good folks at Kregel for this review copy!

Berding and Williams have taken a standard type of work (NT surveys) and have brought a slightly different approach to reading the books of the NT. A collaborative work of NT scholars (from a largely conservative approach), this project seeks to hone in on what the writers of the NT books were most concerned with. While the book’s contributors do address traditional introductory matters, e.g., authorship, date, provenance, etc., the bulk of their writing is devoted to an issue that sometimes receives comparatively less attention—the issue of the biblical book’s purpose. The end result is more discussion of prominent themes in each book. It is also important to note that the approach of the contributors is geared toward undergraduates, who presumably have had less exposure to the introductory matters of the NT.

In terms of features designed to assist those who are relatively new to the enterprise of NT interpretation, there are several. In addition to the items mentioned above (color photos, marginal captions, et al), each chapter concludes with a word bank of terms considered to be significant to that chapter and, presumably, chosen to prompt further study of the book’s key themes. Additionally, each chapter features a very brief bibliography to serve as starting points for additional readings on each section. These bibliographies consist of 2–3 titles, which is suitable for starting points for broader and more in-depth exploration.

I’d also like to comment on the design of this book. While Kregel’s volumes are always well done, the ones I’ve read have always been designed with a more utilitarian slant—they’re made to be read, not so much to be appreciated visually. However, this volume has been designed with much more attention to the aesthetics. Not only are the pages semi-glossed, but they also include numerous hi-resolution, full color photos, along with the various sidebars and info boxes. These elements make for a visually appealing work. This volume reminds me of many of Zondervan’s works—a compliment to be sure—with its visually intense layouts and eye-catching designs. One may also make comparisons to Elwell and Yarbrough’s Encountering the New Testament, now in its third edition.

Overall, this is a well-designed and helpful introduction to the NT. However, I think it’s important to note that this volume is written from a very conservative approach. I don’t necessarily mean that to be a criticism or a fault, but a point of note for those considering purchasing this volume. When it comes to conservative intros to the NT, they are legion, so this volume is certainly not breaking any new ground or vying for any top spots in that category. However, when compared to other standard intros from a conservative viewpoint, e.g., Carson/Moo, Köstenberger/Kellum/Quarles, this volume stands out as more overtly conservative and less inclined towards discussions with critical scholarships at which the various authors may be at odds. However, I must reiterate that the authors’ audience should be kept in mind—conservative Christian undergrads with minimal exposure to the world of higher criticism. As such, this volume will serve as a decent start on the path to seeing the primary themes in each canonical book. Also, as mentioned earlier, the limitations posed by the authors’ audience necessarily preclude lengthier discussions of matters considered to be of critical importance by scholarship. Controversial issues, e.g., Mark’s “messianic secret,” the ending of Mark’s Gospel, the New Perspective on Paul, various interpretive approaches to the book of Revelation, do not occupy a great deal of space.

As with any book, there are also a few negative points. First is the use of transliterated Greek. I continue to puzzle over why publishers employ transliteration. If you don’t know the language, it is of no real value. Just being able to haphazardly pronounce a particular word serves no purpose in the work of exegesis and thus is unnecessary. Second, a number of the captions in the margins are somewhat hokey. For example, in the opening chapter (which discusses the historical backgrounds of the NT) one caption (p. 26) reads “Those from Qumran spent a lot of time copying and reading the Word of God. They would ask us how much time we spend in the Word.” Now, let me say that this may not be wrong on its face, but comes across as overly simplified and presumptuous. Perhaps the scribes there would ask moderns that question, but I have my doubts it would be toward the top of the list. Another example is found in the chapter on Acts, which reads “Luke would be delighted to remind us that God uses people to fulfill his plan” (p. 109). Again, it’s not wrong per se, but seems simplistic and overtly obvious. Third, on p. 27, the writer claims that apocrypha means “unveiling.” Frankly, I find this surprising. The term apocrypha derives from the word αποκρυπτω, which means “to hide/conceal.” The term αποκαλυπτω means “to unveil”, so I’m not sure how this made it through editing.

In sum, I think this volume is helpful for its intended audience, but for those who are more familiar with the NT and its contexts, numerous other volumes are available for more in-depth study.

Αυτω η δοξα

Bible Review: NRSV Anglicized Edition

NRSV Anglicized Edition

Cambridge | Amazon

When it comes to bibles, there are certain expectations that are set by a publisher when you receive and use one of their bibles that happens to be a splendidly produced volume. So what do I think of the NRSV in French Morocco leather? Not surprisingly, this is yet another superbly designed bible from the folks at Cambridge University Press. I’ve had this one for a while now (it arrived on my doorstep some months ago) and, like the previous editions I’ve reviewed from Cambridge, this bible is wonderfully fashioned.

Let’s begin with the binding. In comparison to other bibles I’ve reviewed (NIV Pitt Minion in black goatskin, HCSB in top grain cowhide, ESV in brown calfskin), the French Morocco is definitely the least supple. That’s not to say it’s rough and not enjoyable—quite the opposite—it’s rather nice. In contrast to the others mentioned, French Morocco is grainier and coarser, but that doesn’t mean that it’s unappealing. Though not as soft as other premium leathers, French Morocco is still a quality skin and will likely endure as long as or longer than softer leathers. The appearance is nice, too. Though time and use has dulled it quite a bit, the aroma of French Morocco is like the others—a hearty, aromatic leather that I can still detect.

Being a Cambridge bible, I anticipated a certain level of quality and, needless to say, these expectations were met. The overall craftsmanship of Cambridge bibles is first rate—there’s not corner cutting or shortcuts taken. This bible simply feels solid and that’s a plus for any bible that’s going to be used with any regularity. In terms of the bible’s features, it’s pretty much a bare bones package—front matter (table of contents, letter from the translators) and the biblical text, including Apocrypha—that’s it. There are no indexes, no maps—just the text. For some this may be disappointing, but not for me. Like many of you, I have more than enough bibles with plenty of additional material in them should I want to read text and have supplemental information at hand. So, when I get this bible out, it is typically only to read and/or check how this translation handled a particular question of syntax or the like. On that note, this bible’s size also adds to its functionality (it measures out at 8.5 x 5.5 in). Because it’s stripped of any superfluous extras, it’s a perfect size to carry along in your bag/backpack or to keep handy for reading or referencing (as I do). The text is printed on gilt-edged paper, which itself doesn’t allow text to bleed through as much as more inexpensive bibles, and the font is adequately sized (Lexicon 8.75) for reading without undue strain. There are footnotes throughout, though they take up minimal page space, and there are no cross references or other similar “helps”. Also, since this is the Anglicized version, British spellings are employed throughout.

In sum, all you really need to know is that this is a Cambridge bible, so you can rightly assume that it is of the highest quality. As with my others from Cambridge, I fully expect this one to last at least my lifetime and beyond!

Αυτω η δοξα








Just a quick question for those who take joy and pleasure in the art/science of translating–how do you typically translate ἰδού? I’ve been working through Matthew and it shows up frequently (as it does in the other synoptics) and my tendency is to default to the age-old “behold.” Do any of you translate it differently? I like “Look!”, but I’m not beholden (see what I did there?) to either. In English it’s a strange stylistic thing for me and maybe that’s why I get hung up on it, but I guess for the Gospel writers, it was part of the lingo.


On to the Dissertation

Though we informed everyone yesterday via Facebook, I wanted to share here for the few that may not have seen it. After months of preparing, stewing, worrying, and studying, I am thrilled to announce that I am officially ABD–I’ve completed and passed my written and oral comprehensive exams! The anxiety and uncertainty leading up to exams was not pleasant and I am beyond grateful that I don’t have to go through that again (well, I guess there’s the dissertation defense). The exams were very challenging and the oral exam was tough, but my examiners were gracious and helpful and were not out to stump me or cause me to fail. Where I was uncertain, they gave guidance and I am grateful for their wisdom and encouragement.

Now, on to the dissertation!

Αυτω η δοξα

On Pronouncing Greek

Like the majority of NT Greek students who began their journey with Koine Greek in a theological seminary, I was introduced and reared on the Erasmian scheme of pronunciation. I learned it, practiced it, and reinforced it over the years since I first cracked open Mounce’s intro text. However, more recently, I’ve made it a point to move to a modern scheme of pronunciation and now that I’ve been doing this for a little while now, I can hardly bear to listen to Greek fed through an Erasmian meat grinder. It’s been challenging to unlearn the way I “spoke” Greek for all these years, but it has been a rewarding practice and I can read more fluidly than I could several months ago. Admittedly, it’s hard to let go of something that was in place for so long and I still lapse back into it when I encounter particular diphthongs and the like.

I know there is considerable back and forth about which one is more correct, but it seems much more plausible that the modern scheme would be more akin to the ancient way rather than what Erasmus came up with. Nevertheless, I can think of one useful aspect of Erasmian Greek pronunciation—it can be helpful for more technical analysis of grammar, morphology, etc. For example, if a morphological change involves an ω and an ο (can’t think of an example right off hand), the Erasmian way would make an noticeable distinction in pronunciation between these vowels whereas the modern way would not. In such cases, this is helpful because the difference is one that we can hear and, presumably, this would help in identifying the change that has occurred. The same goes for the various Greek letters and diphthongs that have a long “e” sound. Now, this is easily countered by arguing that if one truly knows the language, phonological similarity would be less important because one would know the changes that occurred. I would think that in most cases, a vowel change would be accompanied with other changes since Greek is a highly inflected language.

Despite what pedagogical value Erasmian pronunciation may have, the most appealing factor for me in adopting the modern pronunciation is the way it sounds. Even listening to Erasmian Greek from someone who is very proficient sounds much clunkier and labored than modern.

The one thing that concerns me about all of this is entering the teaching side of things (which I ultimately plan to do). As far as I’ve seen, many seminaries employ Erasmus’ scheme, so what would I do in that case? What if other profs in the department teach pronunciation this way and I go the other? I could see where this would cause problems for students. I suppose in this scenario, I would go with whatever the others do for the sake of continuity.

Have any of you encountered this? What did you do?

Αυτω η δοξα


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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