Lee Irons’s Greek NT Syntax Guide, Reviewed

One of my favorite seminary classes was a Greek exegesis course in the book of Hebrews. The Greek of that book is difficult! Hebrews can even be a challenging read in English translation.

Part of our required assignment was to keep a translation and exegesis notebook, translating much of the book verse-by-verse, with our own comments on the vocabulary, grammar, and theology.

In those days Charles Lee Irons had a boatload of free PDFs on his Website, syntax guides for each book of the Greek New Testament. I printed out his Hebrews guide and kept it close at hand.

Now, some years later, Irons has turned his helpful work into a full book: A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament (Kregel, 2016).

This new resource is beautifully produced:

 

 

Irons’s goal is to help the reader toward fluid reading of the Greek New Testament: “to assist readers of the Greek New Testament by providing brief explanations of intermediate and advanced syntactical features of the Greek text.” The focus is on grammar and how words work together, rather than vocabulary helps for individual words per se.

In addition, should a sentence in the GNT lose the reader due to length, word order, or idiom, Irons’s guide provides the needed translation. Here’s an example:

 

 

Irons has created the book to be used in tandem with a reader’s GNT (see here or here), or with Kregel’s excellent New Reader’s Lexicon of the GNT.

The book’s size and production is such that it fits right with other GNTs:

 

 

 

 

Here it is next to a larger Reader’s GNT:

 

 

The binding appears to be sewn. This is as hoped for with a book that a reader might want to use for many years.

 

 

One pleasant surprise is how often Irons details Hebraisms and keeps an eye on the Septuagint and its influence on the GNT. He does that right from the beginning, in fact, as with this entry for Matthew 1:2

1:2 | Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ = LXX 1 Chron 1:34 – note the unexpected definite article τόν before the name of the person begotten, and so throughout vv. 2–16. Formula used in the LXX genealogies: x ἐγέννησεν τὸν y (see LXX Gen 5:6 ; 10:8 ; 1 Chron 2:10ff)

Here is a full sample page:

 

 

It is difficult to imagine an intermediate Greek reader working through the New Testament with just a Greek text and this book… as the author notes, the Syntax Guide is best used with a Reader’s GNT where infrequently occurring vocabulary is already glossed. And of course a book of this brevity will (inevitably) include grammatical matters that Irons does not comment on—it covers fewer words and phrases, for example, than “Max and Mary” (A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament).

But in the dozens of Greek chapters I read with just a Reader’s GNT and Irons’s book at hand, there were very few times when I had a grammatical question Irons didn’t treat.

You can check out a longer excerpt of the book here. And you can purchase it at Amazon here or through Kregel here.

 


 

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

Reader’s Edition of the UBS5 Greek New Testament: An Illustrated Review

Typesetting is somewhat subjective, but the German Bible Society’s UBS5 has some of the best-looking Greek text you’ll find in any New Testament.

The UBS5 itself is about three years old. (Hendrickson, which distributes GBS items in the U.S., put together this excellent infographic.) Known for its full-bodied text-critical apparatus, translators and students alike benefit from its footnoted listing of variant manuscript readings. (So do NA28-loving scholars; don’t let them fool you!)

The UBS5 Reader’s Edition significantly pares down the textual apparatus and in its place provides a running list of infrequently occurring Greek vocabulary. As the name implies, the Reader’s Edition is a one-stop shop that facilitates fluid reading of the Greek text, even for those who have had just a year or so of Greek studies.

Here’s what it looks like:

 

 

 

 

The “textual notes” here just “highlight the most important differences between major Greek manuscripts and identify Old Testament references in the margins,” the latter of which I have found really useful.

As for the footnoted vocabulary, any word that occurs 30 times or less in the Greek New Testament has a “contextual” gloss (short translation equivalent) next to it. What I really like about this volume in contrast to the Zondervan Reader’s Edition is that there are verb parsings and noun genders listed with the vocabulary. This helps me not just to know what a word means in its context, but provides occasion to review verbal forms—something that can slip surprisingly quickly without review! Everything on the bottom of the page is easy to scan, too, as it is in two columns, not all jumbled together as some other reader’s editions have it.

 

 

img_6961-e1497842648504.jpeg

 

 

Between the aesthetically pleasing font and the vocabulary and parsings, this is the best reader’s edition on the market.

I’ve found parsing errors in the previous UBS Reader’s Edition. No doubt there have been corrections in this one. I cannot recall coming across any errors so far, and I’ve been using it off and on for at least a year of reading.

If a vocabulary word is not glossed at the bottom (i.e., you don’t know your vocabulary down to 30 occurrences), there is a concise Greek-English dictionary in the back of the Bible. Yes! Just about everything you need for Greek reading is here.

The only potential annoyance I can think of is that sometimes if a word is glossed already on page (n), when it occurs again on page (n+1) it is not always listed on that page—you have to flip back a page. Sometimes it’s not even footnoted when repeated, but then you recall that you just saw it (hopefully).

The inclusion of a high-quality ribbon marker is icing on the cake.

Finally, I have to say I was a little saddened that a beautiful typo (found in the UBS5 stand-alone and UBS5-NIV11 diglot and even previous UBS Reader’s Edition) is corrected in this edition! For the better, I suppose.

You can find the UBS5 Reader’s Edition here at Whole Foo—I mean, Amazon, here at Hendrickson, here at GBS, and here at CBD. There is both a hardcover edition (what is pictured in this post) and a slightly more expensive imitation leather edition.

 


  

Thanks to Hendrickson for the review copy, given for the purposes of this write-up, but with no expectation as to the content of my review.

How I’m Keeping Greek and Hebrew Fresh

I’ve been practicing reading Greek fairly regularly all year. Hebrew had fallen a bit by the wayside until recently. As of the last two weeks, however, I think I’ve got a good rhythm now for keeping both fresh.

I know I’m not the only pastor who finds it a challenge to not lose the heard-earned results of semesters and years of Greek and Hebrew in the classroom.

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

 

1. Reading through the Greek New Testament, roughly a chapter a day.

 

To become more fluent in reading, there’s no substitute for… you know… reading. I just got through 2 Corinthians, which I think might be the most difficult book in the New Testament—in both Greek and English!

 

2. Working through the Baylor Handbooks.

 

Baylor’s got two solid series in progress: Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament (BHGNT) and Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible (BHHB).

 

 

These are books to read cover to cover, especially when you want to move from “rapid reading” to more detailed analysis of the text. I just finished Jonah and have started in on †Rod Decker’s Mark. You can see more about the series in my reviews of Luke and Malachi (here and here).

 

3. Reading my preaching passage in the original language, maybe even making my own translation.

 

Mark 1 in GreekI just preached through Ephesians. I translated much of it as I studied the text—either typing it out or doing it in my head. Especially with Paul’s longer sentences and more involved lines of thought in the first three chapters, this was challenging, but also essential in my grasping the text.

Now with the Old Testament lectionary readings in view (hello, prophets!), I’ll have a chance to reactivate my Hebrew reading.

If you (a) preach somewhat regularly and (b) want to make use of your Greek and Hebrew, why not combine the two endeavors? Both your preaching and your languages will be the better for it.

(NB: I teach a Webinar on this very topic, with more dates TBA. Here’s the handout.)

There’s also an invaluable chapter in Baker Academic’s Preaching the Old Testament called “Keeping Your Hebrew Healthy.”

 

4. Reading Greek with another person.

 

I’m really fortunate to have a reading partner for #1 above, reading through the GNT. This is an immense help and likely deserves its own post. Just remember that skill-building often happens best in community.

 

5. Learning to enjoy reading Greek and Hebrew.

 

Lack of proficiency for me is a great way to not enjoy a task; conversely, the more I read, the more comfortable I am with the text (Galatians was almost easy after 2 Corinthians!). Reading the Bible in its first languages also forces me to slow down and carefully consider what I’m reading. Greek and Hebrew reading fit well into devotional practices. (Great book on this, by the way, here: Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek: Reading the New Testament with Fluency and Devotion).

 

How about you? If you’ve been keeping your Greek and Hebrew active, what’s been helpful? What pitfalls are you facing? What other resources should I and others like me be using?

Children’s Book Review: Daniel’s Grr-ific Stories!

daniels-grr-ific-stories!-9781481443913_hrDaniel Tiger (a.k.a., “D. Tiger,” according to our three-year-old) continues to be a hit around here. I expressed some skepticism two-and-a-half years ago toward a tiger replacing Mr. Rogers (see here). And of course no one could ever fill those shoes and that sweater. But Daniel Tiger–both the character and the show–has turned out to be pretty awesome.

 

Now… Books!

 

Yes, we enjoy the show. And the music is a favorite soundtrack at home. Last year our three-year-old (then two) got the toy trolley and some character figurines for Christmas.

I wonder whether the franchise has been slow to merchandise since heavy consumerism isn’t exactly a Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood value. However, I have wished on numerous occasions for D. Tiger books to read to my daughter. Now Simon & Shuster and The Fred Rogers Company are releasing a slew of volumes for children.

 

Daniel’s Grr-ific Stories! (6 of Them!)

 

One such release is the surprisingly affordable six-book boxed set: Daniel’s Grr-ific Stories. It includes six short stories (22 pages of story text in each) with full-color illustrations:

  • Welcome to the Neighborhood!
  • Daniel Goes to School
  • Goodnight, Daniel Tiger
  • Daniel Visits the Doctor
  • Daniel’s First Sleepover
  • The Baby Is Here!

As with the show, each book uses an interesting (and, let’s admit it, cute) narrative to help children deal with the many and diverse feelings that life throws their way.

Daniel is a big helper with the new baby–he helps get her room ready, holds her when she’s born, and even helps change a diaper! Smoother sailing then one might expect when a new baby comes and shakes up a family dynamic. (This may be one reason Honest Toddler does not like Daniel Tiger.)

The books are true to the show, which is nice–you’ll see, for example, familiar songs here:

Daniel is not sure what he’s going to do at the sleepover. He sings, “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!”

Daniel and Prince Wednesday have a pajama dance party and brush their teeth together, but then Daniel gets scared:

Now it’s time to turn out the light and go to sleep. But wait! There is a great big shadow on the wall. It looks scary to Daniel! What could it be?

But, lest you worry our own child should get scared, the authors are on it:

Daniel remembers, if something seems scary, “See what it is. You might feel better.”

Sure enough (spoiler alert), “It’s just Mr. Lizard!” It was only a stuffed animal.

“When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!” comes up, too, when Dr. Anna sings it to Daniel in his check-up. Nothing to fear. He’s growing stripes just as he should!

All six of the books are of the quality you’d expect. (Though, be advised: they’re paperback.) Your kid may want you to read all six before going to bed, but one or two or three will probably fill 10–15 minutes easily enough. There’s a lot of good content here.

The illustrations are well-done, too:

 

Welcome to Music Shop

 

Waiting for Doctor

 

Baby Sister

 

Plus, A Super-Cute Growth Chart

 

Also included in the six-book box is a full-color growth chart parents can put on the wall. It starts at 17 inches (so you hang it 16 inches above the floor) and goes up to 59 inches. Daniel, Miss Elaina, Prince Wednesday, O the Owl, and Katerina Kittycat are all there cheering for your growing wee one. A nice touch is that at three parts there is, “Now I’m big enough to _” that you can fill in.

 

Growth chart

 

Where to Get It

 

Here’s what the whole thing looks like:

 

Box Contents

 

You can find the boxed set at the publisher’s page here, and here at Amazon.

For how much is here, both the list price and the discounted price on Amazon make it easily worthwhile.

 


 

Thanks to the good folks at Simon & Schuster for sending the boxed set for review, though that did not influence my opinions.

Cozy Classics: Best Board Books Ever

I finally read War and Peace last week… in about two minutes!

At first I thought Cozy Classics, 12-word board book summaries of classic works of literature, were gimmicky. But then I read War and Peace and Les Misérables. And the cuteness nearly melted me. (“So adorable it makes our hearts hurt,” rightly said one reviewer.)

My kids (ranging in age from pre-school to lower elementary) love the books, and my littlest one can easily memorize them. They’re perfect reading practice for my middle child.

Yes, it’s really impressive that anyone could even attempt to summarize such massive tomes in a dozen words. Les Mis begins:

poor
rich
sad

But what stands out even more is the beautifully detailed images of needle-felted characters. Check out the detail of the first page of Les Mis. (And note the page in the background!)

 

 

From the adult version of the book:

Cosette was made to run on errands, to sweep the rooms, the courtyard, the street, to wash the dishes, to even carry burdens… It was a heart-breaking thing to see this poor child, not yet six years old, shivering in the winter in her old rags of linen, full of holes, sweeping the street before daylight, with an enormous broom in her tiny red hands, and a tear in her great eyes.

Or, as the Cozy Classic puts it:

sad

 

 

Both Les Mis and War and Peace initially make for a quick read, as you might guess. But my kids have really enjoyed the detail of the images (as have I!), and having so few words makes them easy to understand and retain. I did have to explain “stroll” to my three-year-old, but that provided a nice little vocabulary lesson.

 

Image from War and Peace
Image from War and Peace

 

These books are not only adorable; you’ll feel like a great parent in introducing your kids to these classics.

Check out Les Mis’s product page here and War and Peace here. All the Cozy Classics are here. AND… there is now a Star Wars trilogy.

 


 

Thanks to Simply Read Books for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

Omar Comin’…. (for real, this time)

A long time ago I promised you:

Coming soon to this blog… some interaction with The Wire. Stay tuned.

I showed you the cover of this book:

 

The Wire

 

I’ve read a chunk of it, and more than half of this book, too:

 

Source: http://hub.jhu.edu/
Source: http://hub.jhu.edu/

 

(Find it at Amazon here.)

From the product page of publisher Johns Hopkins University Press:

Did Omar Little die of lead poisoning? Would a decriminalization strategy like the one in Hamsterdam end the War on Drugs? What will it take to save neglected kids like Wallace and Dukie? Tapping into ‘The Wire’ uses the acclaimed television series as a road map for exploring connections between inner-city poverty and drug-related violence. Past Baltimore City health commissioner Peter Beilenson teams up with former Baltimore Sun reporter Patrick A. McGuire to deliver a compelling, highly readable examination of urban policy and public health issues affecting cities across the nation. Each chapter recounts scenes from episodes of the HBO series, placing the characters’ challenges into the broader context of public policy.

So far the main thrust of the book is to (mostly convincingly) suggest that decriminalizing (or “medicalizing”) drug use can go a long way to advance public health. More specifically, there is a call to keep non-violent drug offenders out of jail and get them into treatment options. I’ll have more to say on the matter when I review the book–which really will happen this summer.

So, yes, patient readers, more on The Wire is coming to Words on the Word.

Book Review: Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man

Mark 13 is one of the most difficult chapters of the Bible to interpret and understand. From the “abomination of desolation” to the claim of Jesus that “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place,” the chapter is full of statements that could refer either to the near (historical) or far (apocalyptic) future.

Robert H. Stein’s goal in writing Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13 is to finish the sentence, “I, Mark (the author), have written Mark 13:1-37, because…”. Stein, author of the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament volume on Mark, is one of the best commentators one could hope to read on such a challenging and important chapter.

Here is Stein’s outline of Mark 13, in his words (p. 49):

 

  • 13:1-4: Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (chapter 3 of this book)
  • 13:5-23: The coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) and the sign preceding it (ch. 4)
  • 13:24-27: The coming of the Son of Man (ch. 5)
  • 13:28-31: The parable of the fig tree and the coming destruction of the temple (and Jerusalem) (ch. 6)
  • 13:32-37: The parable of the watchman and the exhortation to be alert for the coming of the Son of Man (ch. 7)

 

The majority of the book (chapters 3-7) is taken up with Stein’s exposition of each verse in Mark 13. Chapter 1 defines the goal of the book: “to understand what the author of the Gospel we call Mark meant and sought to convey by the present text of Mark 13” (39). Stein focuses especially on what Mark meant to “teach his readers by the Jesus traditions that he chose to include in this chapter, his arrangement of these traditions and his editorial work in the recording of this material” (45). Chapter 2 is “Key Issues Involved in Interpreting Mark 13.”

Chapter 8 is a really nice add-on, which consists of Stein’s “interpretive translation” of Mark 13. What a great idea! You can read the chapter in one sitting and see right away how Stein interprets it. This could be a really good starting point for the reader, as could the excellent and detailed “Outline” starting on p. 9 (basically an annotated table of contents).

Stein offers at the outset a nice tour of the so-called quests for the historical Jesus, and how that relates to reading Mark. But Stein doesn’t seem to think the authorship (Mark) or genre (historical narrative) of Mark matters much to the purpose of this short commentary. I find his views here less than compelling, but that didn’t keep me from being convinced by the rest of the book.

Two key points the book makes will give a sense of Stein’s approach:

  1. Stein differentiates between three settings we need to keep in mind: “the first involving the teaching of the historical Jesus to his disciples, the second involving the situation of the early church between the death and resurrection of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels, and the third involving the situation in which and for which the Evangelist Mark wrote his Gospel” (47).
  2. Because of the above point, Stein can tease out different settings and time-frames that different portions of Mark 13 refer to. He says, for example, “Mark does not see the coming of the Son of Man [AKJ: the apocalyptic imagery in 13:24-27] as part of Jesus’ answer (13:5-23) to the disciples’ twofold question (13:4) concerning the destruction of the temple” (72).

Throughout the book Stein keeps in view the distinction between the soon-to-come, 1st century future (destruction of the temple) and the distant, unknown day of the coming of the Son of Man. Stein acknowledges that it is “easy to intermix these two horizons [two settings in time] of the text, and the result is confusion and lack of clarity in understanding either setting in time” (100). Much of the chapter, Stein argues (but not all), anticipates the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.

You don’t need to know Greek to make good use of this text, but Stein does keep (transliterated) Greek in front of him so he can analyze the text at the word and phrase level. He is really good, too, at using a broader biblical context to help explain specific parts of Mark 13.

I read the book cover-to-cover in a few sittings—it was that intriguing! As detailed and in-depth as Stein’s reasoning is, it reads really nicely: his tone is conversational, which makes it easy to try to sort through some tough hermeneutical issues. Stein’s is certainly not the only possible interpretation of Mark 13, but it’s a persuasive one.

 

Thanks to the fine folks at IVP Academic for the review copy. Find the book here at IVP’s site, or here on Amazon.