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!

Review: Going Deeper with New Testament Greek

22556981Going Deeper with New Testament Greek by Andreas J. Köstenberger, Benjamin L. Merkle, and Robert L. Plummer is a refreshing alternative to some of the more commonly used intermediate Greek grammars on the market. Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have provided the reader with a unique collaborative effort that is both sensitive to the ongoing needs of the classroom and conscious of the impending deficiency within the developing genre of intermediate Greek grammars. This accomplishment has quickly situated Going Deeper with New Testament Greek as a preferred grammar for at least three reasons: (1) readability, (2) content, and (3) organization.

Unlike most grammars on the market (especially intermediate grammars), Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is a Greek grammar that is enjoyable to read—even cover-to-cover. Sure this book will still function well as a reference work for future consulting. However, for those who will be assigned to read it for class or those who are doing so independently, Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have crafted an experience that will enrich understanding without putting the reader in a coma. To be completely honest, it reads so well that it was difficult for me to put down. Those familiar with the landscape of Greek grammars will recognize the uniqueness of such characteristic and keep coming back for more.

The content of most Greek grammars is identical. There may be different ways to explain a particular grammatical concept or construction, but minimal divergence is to be expected. What is truly unique about Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is that the scope of the volume extends well beyond grammatical concepts and constructions alone, into other related disciplines closely associated with intermediate Greek. That is, Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have intentionally included material on textual criticism, sentence diagramming, discourse analysis, word studies, and more. By including exposure to these other areas of Greek studies, the reader can further invest the learned material in more ways than mere recognition.

The organization of a grammar is almost as important as the content itself. It is the means through which content is effectively communicated. For me, this is one of the most appealing aspects of Going Deeper with New Testament Greek. Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have clearly taken extra care to safeguard that the content through the means of organization. Each chapter opens with a brief example of how the content aids the understanding of Scripture (the “payoff” of the material), followed by several examples from the New Testament in both English and Greek. Each chapter closes with practice sentences, a vocabulary list, a reading from the New Testament (with verse-by-verse grammatical explanation), and summary charts for quick review.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is a Greek grammar that I would not be without. It is a joy to read, easy to digest, and goes above and beyond in both content and organization. The only suggestion that I would have is a small aesthetic recommendation. The book is rather small in comparison to the other grammars on the market, which in turn sacrifices margin room for notetaking. I know this is a minor quarrel, but even an additional half inch would do a world of difference. This small shortcoming aside, I am confident that Going Deeper with New Testament Greek will be the first Greek grammar off my shelf for the foreseeable future, as well as the first Greek grammar I recommend to those interested in going deeper with New Testament Greek. It comes highly recommended!

For more information visit bhacademic.com/deepergreek/

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Grammar of the Greek New Testament

p.robea_.001bwA. T. Robertson’s magisterial volume on the grammar of the Greek New Testament has been utilized by teachers and students for over a century. Having been revised and expanded twice since it was initially released in 1914 (a second edition in 1915, and a third edition in 1919), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research has firmly stood the test of time because of its comprehensive usefulness and approach to the New Testament language. The fact that Robertson’s work is today still widely recognized as one of the finest produced Greek grammars by nearly all of the experts in the field is an accomplishment of its own. Still, the real achievement here is discovered in the broad scope of the grammar itself.

First, at well over 1,400-pages, it may run the risk of being an understatement, but this volume is massive! The table of contents alone is over 40-pages, and the bibliography, while certainly outdated in many respects, is over 20-pages in length. Second, Roberson does more than provide the reader with a mere descriptive overview of the grammar of the Greek New Testament. Instead, Robertson endeavors to present the language of the New Testament in light of its development. This is a unique approach and requires a lot of groundwork to be laid, which Robertson accomplishes well in the nearly 150-page introduction and beyond. Therein, Robertson associates the language of the New Testament with the non-literary development of Koine Greek and various influences from the Semitic languages.

Robertson was a brilliant scholar, and the work that has gone into this volume is the unequivocal testimony to that very fact. If there is one thing that the reader will walk away with from this volume, apart from Robertson’s end goal of linguistic competence in the language of the New Testament, it is the wide-reaching knowledge and passion that Robertson displays for the New Testament and its language. As the grammar proper opens the reader is carefully escorted through mountains of explanation and examples, from word formation to declensions and the history of declensions, to syntax and figures of speech (a real high point of the volume). The volume closes with over 200-pages of index and appendix material, including additional notes and a thorough subject and Greek word index.

As an intermediate Greek student, I was able to follow along with Robertson well and found much of his observations and explanations insightful. With that said, this is an advanced grammar that is primarily going to benefit the specialists or advanced students. Of course, if you are (myself included) an intermediate student with aspirations of continuing education in the language, then Robertson is an appropriate resource to acquire. The high points in this volume are many, and I have already alluded to a few above, but for the sake of personal reflection, I really benefited from the second section of the book that dealt at length with the topic of accidence. Grasping Greek inflection is imperative to understanding the language in general, and Robertson has provided a thorough treatment of such. This section alone would be worth the investment of the book.

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Few grammars of the Greek New Testament have been as impactful to the present pursuit of the study of New Testament Greek as A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in Light of Historical Research by A. T. Robertson. While modern options are certainly available and may be more appealing to many readers, the significance of Robertson’s volume cannot be overlooked because of its publication date. With that said, this is definitely an advanced grammar of the Greek New Testament, but even intermediate Greek students (myself included as mentioned above) will have much to glean from Robertson—especially his ability to ground the grammar within its historical development. While this review might run the risk of being a mere overview of Robertson’s work because of its sheer size, the reader can be assured that this volume is a must-have reference work for any serious student of the Greek New Testament.

 

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Review: Unless Someone Shows Me

WIPFSTOCK_TemplateLearning the biblical languages without a firm understanding of how your native language works is in many ways destined to be a disaster. There is a certain underlying grammatical foundation needed if competency is expected. The problem is that most grammars being used today, while they assuredly recognize the need, devote little if any, page real estate to the development and formation of a grammatical foundation for the English language. It is here that Unless Someone Shows Me: English Grammar for Students of Biblical Language by John A. Davies successfully fills a much needed grammatical gap.

Like everyone else native to the English language, I never formally learned English grammar prior to learning the English language. It was acquired by submersion rather than study. It wasn’t until much later in life that I was exposed to English grammar, and I use the term “exposed” loosely. When it came time to acclimate myself with the biblical languages my first major hurdle, still somewhat of a hurdle to this day, was the lack of a grammatical foundation and understanding of my own language. I was never trained to think about language in this fashion, and if I am completely honest, it was somewhat of a culture shock.

Recognizing this chasm in my understanding, I took it upon myself to be familiarized with English grammar as much as possible. I knew that with this understanding and exposure the process of learning the biblical languages would be easier and return a more fruitful payout, both in the comprehension of the grammatical language and rules being utilized by the grammars and the end goal of translational recognition. My only regret would be not having a resource like Unless Someone Shows Me at that time. Had this book been available at the beginning of my linguistic journey I could have saved ample time and energy.

Unless Someone Shows Me begins with a brief introduction into the world of grammar. For the reader, it will be easy to detect the level of experience that Davies brings to the table. He is clear, capable, and judicious in his discussion. Moreover, as one would expect from a good English grammar, Davies leaves no page unturned without a proper explanation and example. Still, the unique feature of this book is the intentional care that has been taken in orienting the explanations and examples towards the goal of the user for competency in the biblical languages.

While I believe that Unless Someone Shows Me would have been more than helpful at the outset of my journey, I still believe it will function as a helpful reference tool for those of us who have, for the most part, made it past that grammatical hurdle. The layout of the book is clearly oriented in such a way to cultivate cross-reference and usability. Moreover, the index, while it is certainly brief, can function as a quick look up guide for various topics that may arise in one’s studies. Lastly, each chapter ends with a number of exercise questions to aid in retention and application of the content.

If you are just beginning your journey into the biblical languages, as a native English speaker Unless Someone Shows Me: English Grammar for Students of Biblical Language should be a requires text. If it is not, make sure it becomes one for you. It will prove to be worth its weight in gold. If you have been on this journey for some time now and are in the market for a practical aid and/or refresher in English grammar, Davies has provided something special, and I trust that it will glean many years of use in the English-speaking world. It comes highly recommended!

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.