Review: Intermediate Greek Grammar

27066901David L. Mathewson (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. Mathewson has written two important volumes on the Book of Revelation, including Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation (Brill, 2010) and Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor University Press, 2016) in the highly acclaimed Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series. Elodie Ballantine Emig (MA, Denver Seminary) is an instructor of New Testament Greek at Denver Seminary and has been teaching New Testament Greek for over three decades. Together Mathewson and Emig have delivered an intermediate Greek textbook that students will enjoy as a first-stop resource for building a transitional foundation from basic to advanced Greek.

A number of helpful intermediate Greek grammars have been released this year. The most recent of which is the multi-authored Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: An Intermediate Study of the Grammar and Syntax of the New Testament (B&H, 2016). This upsurge in linguistic attention is a welcomed reality for Greek enthusiasts everywhere, and Mathewson and Emig have added a unique contribution to this excitement. The differentiator is observed in the minimalist approach Mathewson and Emig have sought to establish, which is further accompanied by an informed understanding of the recent advances in the study of NT Greek. The combination of these two characteristics offers a clear, up-to-date, and student-friendly Greek grammar that provides the reader with an enough information to build a foundation without taking a journey too far into the grammatical forest of concepts and labels.

As mentioned above, one of the distinctive features of this volume is its minimalistic approach to Greek grammar. That is, Mathewson and Emig have sought to eliminate the perceived duty of a grammar to “uncover the most meaning possible in each grammatical form and construct,” which is frequently supplemented by “the multiplication of categories, labels, and rules for their usage” (xvii). Consequently, Mathewson and Emig have “kept categories and labels to a minimum” for the purpose of relieving “the student from the burden of learning an unwieldy list of case or tense labels,” which “greatly streamlines the choices and categories for which the students are responsible, thereby freeing them up to focus on entire text instead of isolated details” (xix). In short, while recognizing the importance of extended categories and labels, Mathewson and Emig have taken a different approach to better assist the reader in grasping the larger grammatical picture.

The benefits of Intermediate Greek Grammar are numerous. First, and probably foremost, as one who has read and reviewed a number of intermediate Greek grammars (including Going Deeper with New Testament Greek), the minimalist approach that Mathewson and Emig have presented really does free the reader from the burden of rigorous case and label memorization. Not that such should be completely ruled out of one’s linguistic journey (in fact, it is imperative), but for many readers, such will be more applicable after the minimalist foundation is laid. Second, Mathewson and Emig have provided ample “fresh examples” throughout the book. That is, whenever possible, Mathewson and Emig have sought to use unconventional examples to illustrate the concepts. This choice will be helpful for readers familiar with the landscape of Greek grammars and the traditional passages used therein. Third, the “For Practice” section that concludes each chapter intentionally seeks to position the reader to move beyond isolated passages to longer portions of Scripture, often highlighting the concept discussed in the chapter. That said, I think the minimalist mindset may have overflowed too far into this section, as the scope of the exercises is just that, minimal.

Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament by David L. Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig is a breath of fresh “grammatical” air. Mathewson and Emig have provided readers with an intermediate Greek grammar that seeks to bring the student into the grammatical world with minimal distractions. The result is a clear, student-friendly grammar uniquely submerged in the recent advances in New Testament Greek. While the minimalist approach should not be the final stop in one’s linguistic journey, it is well-situated as the first. It would be difficult to recommend any other resource as a proper stepping stone into the world of intermediate Greek grammar. This book promises to establish a foundation of fertile soil with which other traditional New Testament Greek grammars will plant seeds and continue to grow. It could not be recommended more highly!

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