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.

 

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Biblical Studies, Greco-Roman World, Greek, New Testament, Reviews

Book Review: Hellenistic and Biblical Greek

Review---Hellenistic-and-Biblical-GreekHellenistic and Biblical Greek: A Graduated Reader

by B. H. McLean

Cambridge University Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

McLean adopts a “historical” Greek pronunciation scheme, which is quite similar to the modern way of pronunciation, but varies on several letters. This is hardly a criticism as it does not ultimately affect how one reads and retains the texts, but I thought it important to note.

This book includes a number of elements that are helpful for reading the texts therein. In the front matter, in addition to the groups of abbreviations, McLean includes a section on frequently occurring grammatical constructions, a nice touch considering the volume is designed for those who have had one of more years of Greek. Unless you read a lot of Greek on a regular basis, there are constructions that you just don’t see a lot and the inclusion of such an element will prove helpful for many. Each section also includes its own vocabulary list. McLean has in bold print those words he thinks necessary to memorize, a call which is obviously subjective, but could be helpful nonetheless. The vocabulary lists included in Part 1 (pp. 13–67, “basic level” texts) is built on the assumption that the reader has learned all the words in the Greek NT that occur fifty times or more—these words are not included in the glossary after each text. Each subsequent section then builds on the assumption that the reader has committed to memory the bold type vocab from the previous section. My assumption then is that these words are not repeated section to section, though I did not look into it. For those who may forget words as they work from section to section, there is a glossary in the back that includes all words that occur fifty times or more in the GNT as well as all vocabulary found in the texts. Additionally, McLean has included in the back additional helps, such as a summary of verbal paradigms, cardinal and ordinal numbers, alphabetic numerals, names of the months, Greek currency names and their monetary equivalents, and terms used to narrate the approval of decrees, all of which are immensely helpful, especially for those who don’t encounter these elements enough to immediately recognize them or simply have never memorized them.

This book reinforces an old dictum I heard when first learning Greek—mastery of vocabulary will make all the difference. As I worked through early sections of the book, I found that it wasn’t the syntax that was tricky, but simply vocabulary I either didn’t know or had forgotten along the way. Naturally, the biblical texts I knew better than non-biblical ones, but the vocabulary was definitely the sticking point for some sections. Overall, the graduation of difficulty will vary for each reader depending on their familiarity with the text at hand. As I mentioned, the biblical texts were a little easier for me because I was familiar with them and the particular author’s style, even though they were later in the book and thus were deemed more difficult than previous chapters. For example, in the intermediate-level section, Gal 1:1–2:20 is coupled along with a letter of introduction to Zenon, a family letter of an army recruit to his mother, and some other biblical and non-biblical texts. Again, familiarity can be a welcome help when dealing with syntax and vocabulary and these non-biblical texts were about the same level (inasmuch as I’m able to make such evaluations), but knowing the biblical passages enabled me to work much more quickly through them. At the same time, given that texts are grouped according to their grammatical and vocabulary similarities, being familiar with the biblical text did help work through the others.

There a couple of typos that stood out in the front matter, both involving font changes that escaped the typesetter’s eye. On p. xxx, the text reads “The days from 2 to 10 were counted as the ‘rising’ (iJstamevnou)”. Similarly, on p. xxxi, the text at the end of an example with a clause from Matt 5:20, after the last word Φαρισσαíων, reads “Farisaivwn (Matt 5:20)”.

Perhaps the most salient takeaway from this book is it enables the reader to experience the importance of reading outside of one particular corpus. For the majority of seminary students who take/took Greek, their exposure to the language is almost exclusively the Greek of the New Testament. Granted, the GNT exposes readers to a variety of literary styles and their inherent differences, but many students who take NT Greek do so with varying degrees of familiarity with the Bible. This can be an aid when translating, but it can also become a crutch. Thus, books like this fine work of McClean’s are essential, I think, to strengthening one’s grasp of the NT text in general, but also helps one gain a much better knowledge of how Greek of the period works. My only complaint about this book is not related to content, but a layout issue. There were a number of times when I would look at the sectional glossary for a term only to find that it was on the next page. I don’t know if this could have been avoided—perhaps there were spacing issues that prevented it—but I found this to be an annoyance. However, let me say that this minor issue in now way detracts from the overall quality and usefulness of the book. If I were teaching any class that required reading of Greek texts, this would be atop the list.

Take a look inside here or download a sample chapter here.

Greek, Seminary

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

 

Biblical Studies, Books, Greek, New Testament

A Most Useful Volume

I received this volume several years ago, but I wanted to tout its usefulness for those who may not have picked up a copy. The book is James Ware’s Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English, published by Baker in 2010. For those who may not know, Ware has taken the Pauline texts and grouped them thematically, except for those sections are stylistically similar, e.g., greetings, conclusions, etc. Every turn of the page follows the same format–Greek on one side and English on the other–and allows ease of access to the texts one is reading. Arranging the texts in the way Ware has enables one to read multiple passages/verses on a particular idea or theme in Paul without having to locate them in a Greek or English text.

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I’ve consulted this volume periodically over the years, but have found it to be most useful lately in preparing for exams because, as I mentioned, it allows me to read multiple texts that address similar topics without having to thumb through the GNT.

So, for what it’s worth, I’d recommend you get a copy of this fine volume if you haven’t–it’s a most useful work!

Αυτω η δοξα

Greek

Reading Greek (or any language)

I’ve been studying and reading Greek for a number of years now. Ironically, when I first started with Greek, I didn’t like it at all. I’m not quite sure why, but my first semester was not terribly enjoyable. Nevertheless, I persevered. Once I got into more intermediate and advanced studies and began to actually deal with texts and all their attendant issues, I really began to enjoy it, so much so that I took as much as I could. Like most any seminary student, my Greek studies were relegated to the New Testament, and this isn’t surprising. The NT contains enough variety of styles that one could read texts that are in one place quite easy and in others texts that are much more difficult.

During my years in pastoral ministry, I mostly kept up with Greek (my Hebrew didn’t receive the same attention, regrettably), but not with the same intensity that seminary classes required. Over time, my “knowledge” of Greek became more and more limited to what I was familiar with, i.e., NT texts.

Having completed my PhD coursework now I can look back with 20/20 hindsight and can name a number of things I wish I had done differently in preparation for doctoral work. Chief among them would be reading more widely in Greek. As a Christian, obviously the NT is at the heart of my faith and thus it has received the lion’s share of my attention language wise. But, in terms of learning the language, I wish I had a broader exposure to the literature prior to and contemporary with the NT period (of course, post-NT Greek should be included as well). Perhaps some biblical studies profs encourage and even require this of their students, and kudos to them, but I wonder if NT studies across the board are as myopic as my own experience? This is certainly not to disparage my profs who taught me Greek–far from it! Learning from them was formative for me and I will always be indebted to them for their wisdom.

My hope is to teach NT and Greek in the near future in a college or seminary setting and this is something I will think hard about should that opportunity arrive.

Thoughts?

Αυτω η δοξα

Books, Church Fathers, Greek, Reviews

Book Review: A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers


A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers
, edited by Daniel B. Wallace, Brittany C. Burnette, and Terri Darby Moore

Kregel | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Kregel for this review copy! I received this book free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

Dan Wallace (and his associates) have embarked on an ambitious trek, namely to provide students of the Apostolic Fathers a lexicon that serves to aid readers as they read and/or translate works of the Fathers. Having used the first in this series, Burer and Miller’s A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament with great benefit, I had the same expectations for Wallace’s addition. In short, if you’ve used Burer and Miller’s lexicon, you already know what to expect here.

First, a few preliminary notes of interest from the preface. This lexicon provides all vocabulary in the AF that occurs thirty times or less in the NT, thus serving not only to strengthen one’s vocabulary in the AF but also assisting with vocab from the NT as well. Also of note are the various lexical data provided. For example, the AF corpus is roughly half the size of the GNT, exactly 4,966 different words occur thirty times or less in the NT while the same list for the AF is 4,052, and the AF vocabulary “stock” is nearly eighty percent of that of the NT. A couple of other interesting facts: the most common word in the lexicon is πυργος, which occurs 148 times and the verse with the most vocabulary in the lexicon is Diognetus 7.2, which has thirty-four words. Obviously these are not the reasons one would purchase the lexicon. This lexicon’s value lay in the subsequent pages, which provide the necessary information to aid one in the task of translating the Greek fathers.

One of the aspects of this lexicon that I appreciate is the fact that the glosses provided are contextually derived. This, of course, does not obviate the need for further lexical work in order to determine the meaning in a more precise manner (when such is possible), but it serves as a more stable starting point. Rather than just providing a possible meaning, the editors have gone to great lengths to provide at least a more probable meaning. Naturally, many of their choices some will find disagreeable, and this is to be expected; however, their extra efforts will serve the reader/translator well.

Perhaps the only negative that becomes readily apparent is that which can be said for any reader’s lexical aid–it’s simply not practical to arrange all such data on a page in a way that makes simple reading more easily accomplished. By that I mean it’s rather tedious, at least initially, to have to stop and jump over to the lexicon in order to see what a word means. At the same time, one must bear in mind that such a lexicon should eventually serve as a minimally-used tool, assuming the reader will eventually possess such a vocabulary that only occasional consultation will be necessary. The layout, then, is not necessarily a fault or hindrance–it’s simply the nature of this kind of work. However, students of Greek who consult BDAG or LSJ know what a cumbersome task that can be and will likely rejoice that this volume has nowhere near the bulk of those volumes (understanding that those volumes serve a different purpose).

Without question, this volume will help readers of the AF bolster their Greek vocabulary, which in turn helps them in their work with the Greek NT. It will serve not only as aid to reading and translating, but also (hopefully) as a boon to further studies in the field. One can only hope that with two reader’s lexica under their belts, Kregel has more in the works.

Αυτω η δοξα

Biblical Studies, Books, Greek, New Testament, Reviews

Book Review: The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming by Douglas S. Huffman

Kregel ǀ Amazon ǀ CBD

This short review is part of Kregel’s blog tour for Huffman’s book. The blog tour is technically past; however, there was a mix-up and this volume was sent to my old address, thus delaying its arrival for several weeks. Thankfully, Kregel sent along another copy.

The title aptly describes the book’s function—it is a guide, not an exhaustive reference. Huffman states that this book is “for second-year Greek students, pastors, teachers, and preachers,” “will not replace grammar and syntax textbooks,” “to be less cumbersome  and more readily accessible” than “larger grammar and syntax books,” “presumes some of the basics of NT Greek,” and is “intended as a useful tool and ready reference.” There you have it—why this book was produced.

The book is broken down into three parts: 1) Greek Grammar Reminders, 2) Greek Syntax Summaries, and 3) Phrase Diagramming.

There is a lot to commend about this book. First, it’s concise, just as you would expect a “handy guide” to be (in contrast, for example, to Brill’s four-volume, 3,600+-page Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, ringing in at a staggering $1,200). The Brill example was merely to highlight that when we hear terms like “handbook” or “guide,” most of the time we expect something compact, just what this book is. A “handy guide” must be useful. It must glean important information from other volumes and put it in a more accessible work and that’s exactly what you should expect from Huffman.

Second, and perhaps the primary draw of this book, there are helpful little hints here and there that help the reader recall/remember the function of a particular part of speech or a category into which some element of grammar falls. After all, it’s meant to help fairly new students of Greek recall and retain information they had previously studied. These are often found in standard grammars, but I was glad to see some of them here. For example, in the section dealing with the cases, Huffman provides alliterative descriptions associated with each case’s function.

  • Nominative – typically nominates the subject
  • Genitive – typically generates some description
  • Dative – typically names “to/for” whom an action is done, as in “dating”
  • Accusative – makes accusation about what the subject did
  • Vocative – vocalizes who being addressed

Admittedly, these are very simplified descriptions (and even I shortened what was in the book) and don’t draw out the nuances each case can embody, but again, this is a resource for review not advanced study.

Another feature that you don’t find in many Greek grammars is the section on diagramming. My first- and second-year Greek professors instilled the importance of diagramming in us (thankfully so–it’s a very useful exercise), so I can appreciate Huffman’s decision to include them here.

Third, this volume is portable. I didn’t realize it at first, but it’s virtually identical in terms of width and height of the standard editions of the Greek New Testament (NA28/UBS4). It’s like they were made for each other!

As you might expect, there are also charts and tables aplenty! What is a good book on Greek without the requisite tables and charts?!

Though I may only refer to this volume once in a while, I can still appreciate its usefulness. I remember one of the assignments I had for an advanced Greek class was to take Wallace’s advanced grammar and make a summary outline of it, every category and sub-category trimmed down to the essentials (I still have it). The reasoning was so that we would have a more accessible guide handy when working through a Greek text. It was a long and tedious assignment, but I used that condensed outline for some time after the class. This is essentially what Huffman has done, only not having drawn from a single source.

In sum, this is a wonderful little volume that should aid students who haven’t quite found their footing on the sometimes-treacherous terrain of Greek grammar. The book’s greatest strength (its conciseness) will likely be its greatest weakness for some; however, if one keeps in mind the purpose for which it was written, this little volume should serve many and serve them well.

Αυτω η δοξα