Review: Reading Biblical Greek

30649311Richard J. Gibson is principal of Brisbane School of Theology in Australia. Gibson has a PhD from Macquarie University and over twenty years of experience teaching New Testament and Biblical Greek at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Constantine R. Campbell is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Campbell has a PhD from Macquarie University and is the author of several books, including Advances in the Study of Greek (Zondervan Academic, 2015), Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Zondervan Academic, 2008), and Keep Your Greek (Zondervan Academic, 2010). Together Gibson and Campbell have joined forces to create a masterful introduction to New Testament Greek that will likely shift the landscape of how the language is taught in institutions around the world.

Reading Biblical Greek: A Grammar for Students is presented with three goals in mind: (1) clarity, (2) convenience, and (3) currency. Gibson explains, “the quest for clarity is reflected in visual layout, the three-column structure to each lesson . . . convenience accounts for the apparent minimalism of the material [and user-friendly explanations]. . . in terms of currency, the material also seeks to reflect the latest developments in verbal aspect, middle lexical forms, and other issues” (p. vii). That said, the overarching goal is to equip students to read the text of the Gospel of Mark (at least Mark 1-4) as soon as possible and practical (roughly 42 lessons into the book). It is here that the exercises in the book and the translation work in the accompanying Reading Biblical Greek Workbook direct the student.

Gibson and Campbell have divided the textbook into 83 individual lessons. Each lesson occupies a single page of the textbook and each page is divided into a three-column layout. Each column also occupies a specific function. For example, the first column introduces the material for that specific lesson and includes explanation and information about the specific part of the language. The second column usually presents information that needs to be memorized, such as the rules of grammar and paradigms. Lastly, the third column is designated to examples and exercises related to the specific lesson topic. Having read and reviewed numerous introductory Greek grammars, I was impressed with the functional benefit of the layout and the intentionality that Gibson and Campbell displayed on nearly every page. Each word counts when you take a minimal approach to teach a language, and Gibson and Campbell have done students a massive favor in Reading Biblical Greek.

There is much to be praised about the layout of Reading Biblical Greek and the content that it supports. Gibson and Campbell really do get the reader into the text of Mark quickly and with substantial comprehension to understand how and what is being translated. I really appreciate that each lesson occupies a single page. This made it helpful for digestion and recognition of each lesson topic before starting new. That said, the convenience of a single page, three-column layout comes with a price. The dimensions of the book are awkward and difficult to place on a standard bookshelf without overlap. Its sized more like a coffee table book than a traditional grammar. Additionally, all the vocabulary is found in the back of the textbook, not within the lesson. This will be a matter of preference, but I would rather it be in the lesson itself and not located in an appendix. These are small shortcomings for an excellent Greek grammar, but they are shortcomings nonetheless.

Reading Biblical Greek: A Grammar for Students by Richard J. Gibson and Constantine R. Campbell is a masterful achievement that promises to help students better read and understand that New Testament. I don’t see this replacing Mounce’s work anytime soon. But, Gibson and Campbell have provided an up-to-date grammar that will be used as an alternative approach in undergraduate and online programs around the world. It would also be an excellent resource for those looking to learn to read Greek at home, especially with the video series and workbook at their side. If you are looking for a new alternative Greek grammar that will get you into the text of the New Testament while guiding you through the nuances of the language itself, I couldn’t think of a better book. You’ll just need to find somewhere unique to put it.

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