A Greek guide for the book of Luke and a FREEBIE too!

How’s your Greek? I’ve got a book review as well as a freebie that might peak your interest.

Christmas will be here before you know it, and taking the effort to work through the Greek text of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke might help kickstart a habit that will bless you and your ministry for years to come. And if you need a recommendation to get you started, look no further than the volume on Luke in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT) series.

In the interest of full disclosure, I asked Broadman and Holman to bring Christmas to me early this year by sending me a review copy, but that’s because I’ve already invested in a few of the other books in the series.

Luke was written by Alan J. Thompson. He’s got strong academic credentials, having studied under Eckhard Schnabel and D.A. Carson. He also has a few academic books on his resume, including an upcoming volume on Acts in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series.

Like other volumes in the EGGNT series, Luke begins with introductory materials covering authorship, date, audience, and purpose—standard commentary fare—though the extensive outline at the end of the book (five pages, single-spaced) is more of what you would expect from a much larger commentary.

Once you get past the introductory materials, the real fun begins. Because of size limitations (the book is over 400 pages), there’s no full Greek text or English translation. A Greek New Testament or an interlinear necessary to make full use of the book. Thompson works verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Luke, providing comments on grammar, syntax, textual variants, and translation options. It truly is a comprehensive guide to the Greek text of Luke.

Using this and other volumes in the EGGNT series has brought my Greek back from the brink. It had been a couple years, and I had forgotten so much, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pick it up again. When I saw how helpful one book was, I bought another, and another…

It was a little unwieldy for me at first because of all the abbreviations, but a few visits to the section listing abbreviations, and it didn’t take long to adjust.

Now for the freebie! Rob Plummer does a daily video working through a verse in the Greek New Testament on his website Daily Dose of Greek. Starting November 6 he will begin working through Philemon. As a special incentive, you can download Philemon from the EGGNT on My Word Search Bible, a website from Broadman and Holman for FREE. Check out his post for the details here.

Going deeper with New Testament Greek (a book review)

goingdeeperwithgreekI decided to make 2016 the year I would try to pick up my biblical Greek again after a lapse in practicing for a couple years. One of the most helpful resources I’ve found is the 2-4 minute video clips on the Daily Dose of Greek website Robert Plummer, my seminary professor, created a little while ago. He works through a verse or a part of a verse in each video, translating, parsing verbs, and commenting on the grammar. Because the videos are so short, I’m able to refresh my memory and learn new concepts all with a minimal time investment.

I discovered that he had worked on an intermediate Greek grammar that was due to come out in June, so I contacted the publisher and requested a copy of it to review. After carefully working through quite a few chapters, I have to say Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is just the kind of book I needed to help me pick up my Greek and keep using it going forward.

Plummer didn’t write the book by himself. It’s a collaboration of other Greek teachers including Andreas Köstenberger and Benjamin Merkle. Together they’ve produced something that not only teaches, but allows readers to practice what they’re learning as they go. Each chapter is laid out the same way, so by highlighting each chapter’s features, I’ll show you just how useful this book is:

Going Deeper

The authors introduce each chapter with a practical example demonstrating how the subject of the chapter applies to reading and understanding the New Testament. Most of these examples correct errors that I’ve heard (and quite likely propagated at one time or another). Even before I started reading this book I made a commitment to myself not to use the phrase, “In the original Greek this means…” when preaching unless absolutely necessary. Rabbit trail aside, the examples serve as strong reminders that studying these grammatical concepts are important. I particularly liked the discussion about whether the Lord’s Prayer directs us to pray that God would deliver us “from evil” or “from the evil one” and the matter of whether “go” in Matthew 28:19 should be “going” instead.

Chapter Objectives

This gives a brief outline of the chapter.

Body

The bulk of the chapter is dedicated to discussion of its subject matter. The material is broken up into various headings and subheadings for easy navigation. The authors also provide multiple examples to show how these concepts play out in the New Testament. They also interact with other Greek grammars, allowing the reader to understand how these grammatical concepts are addressed by other scholars.

Summary

Readers already familiar with a given concept may benefit from skipping to the Summary at the end of the chapter, which consists of charts and tables condensing the chapter’s material into a handy reference table. I would have liked to see all these tables reprinted at the end of the book as an easy access reference guide, but this is only a minor complaint.

Practice Exercises

Ten exercises are included at the end of each chapter to reinforce the lesson, and most if not all of the verses used come right from the chapter itself. This feature is quite unique, as most grammars either sell a separate workbook or fail to include any exercises whatsoever. I found that if the answer wasn’t forthcoming the Summary charts usually helped me figure it out in no time.

Vocabulary

Even after a couple years of not practicing my Greek, I was still able to recognize by sight or by context most of the words in the sentences that I should have memorized in my beginning Greek classes. Words that appear 50 or more times in the New Testament are included in the back of the book. The vocabulary section at the end of the chapter for the reader to memorize includes words that appear between 15 and 49 times. There are also words appearing less frequently than 15 times to recognize, which comes in handy in the next section.

Reading the New Testament

This was my favorite section. The reader is given a passage of Scripture to read in Greek. The passage has numerous examples of the chapter’s grammatical concept(s), and the uncommon words in the “to recognize” vocabulary section come from the passage, so you don’t need a lexicon to find a definition if you get stuck. After reading the passage, the authors include a verse-by-verse commentary on the grammar and vocabulary of the passage.

I should also point out that the last few chapters provide even more helps for the aspiring Greek student, including resources for continued study, sentence diagramming (a lot more fun than you might think), word studies, and more.

This has been the most helpful resource I’ve worked with so far in picking up my Greek, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to stay current with their language skills.

Information on B&H Publishing website
Sample Chapter

Picking up Greek again in 2016

philippiansI just spent four consecutive semesters studying Hebrew. After such a long break from Greek, I’ve decided to spend this year working on both languages. I’m becoming very appreciative of my Reader’s Greek New Testament and my Reader’s Hebrew Bible, both of which have renderings of uncommon words at the bottom of the page. This saves me from having to open up a lexicon every few seconds. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, Greek and Hebrew would be on my list for 2016. Perhaps it’s time for you to dust off an old grammar or pick up a new one for the first time.

I have a shortlist of titles I want to get this year, including Advances in the Study of Greek, Devotions on the Greek New Testament, and Devotions on the Hebrew Bible. Although I have a few titles from Broadman and Holman’s Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series, I only recently cracked one open after they so graciously agreed to send me a copy of their recent volume on Philippians.

I first became aware of the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series after my Greek professor sent me an email inviting me to take an elective on the book of James in Greek. He planned on using the volume on James as the textbook, but because of my other commitments, I was unable to take the class. I eventually snagged a digital copy of it for 99¢, and it currently waits in my “to read” list.

Every series has a few stellar volumes that stand out from the rest. I suspect that Joseph H. Hellerman’s treatment of Philippians may be one of those for this series. Hellerman has dedicated a lot of his career to producing good scholarly material on Philippians, including a monograph on Roman honor in Philippi and a goodly portion of his book Embracing Shared Ministry deals with this topic as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to pen a full commentary sometime down the line.

Broadman and Holman’s Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series is not exactly a normal commentary series. Although each volume includes an introduction covering such matters as author, date, outline, and the like, the focus is on the Greek text itself. Readers should already be familiar with Greek grammar if the series is to be of any use.

Hellerman’s volume does not provide a straight translation of the text, so a Reader’s Greek New Testament, an interlinear, or a Greek New Testament with an English translation is a necessary companion. He instead gives his attention to each word and phrase, parsing them out, identifying possible English renderings and ways to understand the Greek, then identifying his preference and arguing for his conclusions. He also provides additional commentary where necessary, such as in 2:6 regarding disputes about the proper rendering of ????? (“form” vs. “nature”).

When Paul and Timothy are identified as ?????? in 1:1, Hellerman says “slaves” is more appropriate than “servants.” He further points out that Paul is intentionally subverting the honor culture of Philippi, “where rank and titles were viewed as prizes to be competitively sought and publicly proclaimed…” (p. 11). He presents good arguments for various viewpoints, and he can hold his own conclusions with a loose grip if the evidence for another interpretation is good. For instance, in 2:17, regarding Paul being “poured out” (?????????) as a drink offering, Hellerman outlines the arguments for treating this as either a reference to Paul’s present sufferings or to the possibility of his martyrdom at the hand of the Romans. In the end, he says, “View 2 seems better, though one cannot be dogmatic.”

The dozens of abbreviations may also pose a challenge to reader’s who’ve done little more than dabble in New Testament Greek. Many can be guessed, but some require knowledge of grammatical terms like anarthrous and apodosis. Despite being a little unwieldy for me at first because I’ve spent so much time away from my Greek New Testament, a few visits to the section listing abbreviations, and it didn’t take long to adjust.

If you’re interested in working on your New Testament Greek skills this year, I commend to you Joseph H. Hellerman’s volume on Philippians in the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament series. Click here for a PDF sample (pgs. 39-47).

Are you planning on working on Greek or Hebrew this year? Share in the comments what you’re doing or planning to do and what resources you’ve found helpful.