A Balm in Textual Studies

9780825443824There is an abundance of textbooks on the New Testament. Concordances, dictionaries, grammars, and their ilk proliferate book shelves of students and teachers across the spectrum of studies. Dr. Charles Lee Irons is not unawares, but with the publication of his A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament has demonstrated a knowledge of the holes that often plague the student laboring under the load of Biblical languages. This guide is not a substitute for hard work, but rather an aid “to provide concise explanations of syntactical, clause-level features that may not be immediately obvious to the beginner” (8). Of course, the out of practice pastor might find it helpful too.

For instance, a young pastor is preaching through Hebrews and turns to his Greek text for exegetical purposes. Everything is cruising along, and then wham! 3:16 stops him as he cannot quite recall what to make with “τἰνες.” Rather than digging through multiple commentaries to sort it out, or revisiting his professor’s self-published grammar book, he pulls out Irons’s book and turns to p. 506. “Ah,” he recalls, “there is an accent issue to be sorted out here.

This is the brilliance, and practicality, of SGRGNT. It serves as an immediate reference for problems that often come up if your Greek is not quite as good as your Hebrew (or perhaps your English, if you’re like me). This handy little volume is small enough to keep out on the desk all the time, and user-friendly enough to make any M.Div. holder wish they had owned it earlier.

I think we can all thank Dr. Irons for his efforts. May they act as a balm in Greek class, when Gilead seems so far away.

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Studying the Greek Gods

This post originally appeared on the Trinitas Christian School blog.

olympian

In his book, The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly About the Arts, Leland Ryken asks a simple but provocative question: “Why do people hang paintings on walls?” There is of course the straightforward response: “because they enjoy said paintings.” But there is another level to the response worth considering, and its implications ripple out beyond the singular notion of picture hanging. Creative expressions have been how humanity thought and considered the reality around it for all recorded history. We don’t write or tell stories or sing just because we enjoy it; we also do these things because we must.

How does this fit into the Christian life? For starters, the Bible is chock full of stories, and not all them seem pristine on the surface. The Christian Scriptures affirm the idea that we are a people in need of creative expression, with complex heroes like Samson and theologically rich poetry like the Psalms. The Christian, then, engages with the artistic world every time he or she opens their Bible, and this exercise helps the believer interact with opposing worldviews as well. We read the literature of other cultures and eras, mining for gold or dropping lead lines into the water, always expecting to find something of value.

Though the Christian has much to reject in the worldview of the Ancient Greeks, there are also things worth a closer examination. Is there significance to Pandora’s perseveration of Hope that the Christian can understand? Do we weep with Helios when Phaethon is struck down due to his impudence and inexperience? Are we sometimes rattled by the idea that life is out of our control, like Achilles or Oedipus? The Greek myths are not only good stories (though they are that), for they contain in them a way of understanding the world that should and can be reckoned with by any thoughtful Christian.

As we head into Zeus’ Family Reunion at Trinitas this week, we consider the truth and beauty found in the archives of the Greek imagination. Join us as we try to explore these stories together. Perhaps there are still depths to be mined, still deep waters to be sounded. And when it is all said and done, you’ll have a new mosaic to hang on your wall.

Commenting on the Text(s)

9780825443404As a student of the Bible, it is difficult to have enough resources for study. And when it comes to studying the Biblical languages, the problem seems to multiply exponentially. There are so many options for studying Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic that an individual can be easy overwhelmed. Kregel Academic’s Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament is something different though. Rather than another Greek manuscript (of which editions are numerous) or an exegetical guide (which are sometimes redundant), this text is a commentary on the actual manuscripts.

Comfort’s work is to note accurately and thoroughly those pesky places in the texts of the Bible where variants create problems. Having recently completed 9 hours of Greek training, I can genuinely say I wish I had owned this book earlier. The notes on the variants or difficult to translate portions are outstanding. “Why are there brackets in my NASB copy of John 8?” Comfort’s Commentary delves into that. “So do other commentaries…” While it is true that you could pick up D.A. Carson’s tome in the Pillar series, you would have to wade through some dense prose and lengthy exposition to find the simply answer to the question. This Commentary cuts through such matters and takes you straight to challenging portion of the text with minimal critical notes. For pastors and students or Greek, I cannot imagine doing Bible study without this little tool.

The flipside of that benefit is that the average Christian probably has little need for this book. In a word, it is a specialized tool. If you are a preacher, or a student, or a motivated layman, then I cannot recommend this book enough. However, if those brackets in the text or those tiny footnotes don’t bother you, then a more traditional commentary is probably where I’d point you.

Greek Gets the Schoolhouse Rock Treatment

559806_w185Ever struggled to learn a new language? This is often made particularly difficult when the language being studied is a dead one. As an English teacher, I know that the best way for most of my students to grasp a concept is to use it in conversation. But it’s a little hard to practice Biblical Greek in a conversational manner. So, the next best thing? Sing it.

At least, that’s one suggestion from H. Daniel Zacharias. This little bundle of fun comes from Kregel Academic, and offers a “Schoolhouse Rock” approach to learning the basics of Greek so that students can better grasp translational issues with the New Testament. It’s a series of 18 videos, each one set to a catchy tune packed with loads of learning. The concept is a sound one (I use Schoolhouse Rock to teach basic grammar even in my high school classes).

I have never taken a formal class on Greek, but I’ve taken a couple of classes on hermeneutics, and I regularly study my Bible utilizing the principles I acquired in those classes. Having a better understanding of Greek is something I’ve always desired, but found it hard to obtain on my own. “Which book do I use?” “Is there a translation to avoid?” And so the questions go on in similar fashion. This particular item is the second one I’ve received from Kregel Academic, and the two combined make for an excellent primer on Greek.

But let’s say you only have the ability to pick up one of the two Kregel resources? Then I say get this one (and pick up Huffman’s book later). The songs on this are entertaining, and live up to their promise of being “catchy.” I still find myself singing the Greek Alphabet song. And they’re packed with fun little Easter Egg type items as well (like a narrator saying he needs more cowbell). The one down-side I would point out is the quality. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not cheap recordings. But it is very…simple. Both the vocals and instrumental portions are kept to a minimum, which makes sense given the purpose. Still, I prefer to repeatedly listen to things that aren’t just catchy, but are also qualitatively appealing too (Zacharias’ voice is not bad, by any means, so don’t take that away from my comments).

Overall, I think this may be one of the best places to start if you’re looking to study Greek or perhaps trying to figure out a way of teaching it. Zacharias’ little ditties will serve you well as you engage with this language. And in turn, I think it will aid in your Bible study. What more could you want?