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.

Zondervan Reader’s Greek New Testament: An Illustrated Review

 

The Zondervan Reader’s Greek New Testament has undergone vast improvements in its Greek font since its first eye-hurting edition. Now in its 3rd edition, the lightweight, handsome, and well-constructed Reader’s Bible is perfect for sticking in a satchel to be able to read the Greek New Testament in transit.

Most notable is its size—it’s significantly thinner and lighter than its UBS5 Reader’s counterpart. Here it is with a 3.5” x 5.5” Field Notes notebook on top:

 

 

The included ribbon marker and gilded edges and lettering add a touch of class:

 

 

It’s worth repeating: the Greek font looks much better that previous editions. I think the UBS5 font still is the best-looking and most readable, but this one is good, too:

 

 

The text here is the Greek that underlies the New International Version—so not an exact match with the Nestle-Aland 28th edition. However, there are notes that point out where this Greek text and the NA28/UBS5 differ. For the purposes of reading through the Greek New Testament (the aim of this edition), I found the (minor) differences wholly inconsequential.

The footnoted vocabulary covers words that occur 30 times or fewer in the Greek NT. At the back is a “mini-lexicon” for everything else:

 

 

Whereas the UBS Reader’s edition has two nicely formatted columns, it can be difficult to quickly scan the single-column footnote jumble in Zondervan’s edition to find the appropriate word:

 

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And there are no verb parsings—just a list of possible glosses for each word (without a decision made based on context).

Overall I think the UBS5 Reader’s GNT is the best on the market, but the improved font, feel, and portability of the Zondervan Reader make it worth exploring. And if you’re going to own two Reader’s Greek New Testaments (because why not??), it’s nice to be able to switch between the UBS5 and this one, which is more affordable.

You can find the book here (Zondervan) and here (Amazon). See also my recent review of the UBS5 Reader’s Edition here.

 


 

Thanks to Zondervan 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.

 

 

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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.

Exercise App Review: Runtastic

Runtastic has probably the best running app on the market.

And there’s no shortage–Strava, MapMyRun, Endomondo, Runkeeper, etc.

I’ve been using Runtastic for a couple years now–first on an iPhone 5C and now an iPhone SE. Runtastic is cross-platform: it has an Android app, as well as a Web interface you can access from any Internet-connected device.

 

Runtastic: the iPhone App

 

Even if the user interface doesn’t look “native” to the iOS world, the layout is clean, intuitive, and easy to read at a glance.

Here’s what it looks like mid-run:

 

GPS is great

 

You may notice that screen says “Internet not reachable.” That’s because I have a highly limited data plan, so I use the app with my data off. Still, the GPS tracking works remarkably well, even without Internet or cell data. This is impressive.

The app updates everything in real time–your map, your current pace, your average pace, your distance, and your duration. The Premium version of the app (more on that later) also has auto-pause, which detects when you’ve stopped running and automatically puts tracking on hold. (Not every running app has this.)

Here’s what it looks like when you’re done:

 

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Again–everything is really easy to see at a glance. You can even see your spits:

 

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And–what’s amazing to me–drag your finger across the line to see what your pace was at any given moment in your workout:

 

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You can even customize how your splits occur–whether miles or minutes:

 

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The history screen (easily accessible when you open the app) looks great:

 

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And you can compare statistics (by week, month, or year). I find this motivating:

 

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There’s more–you can track how many miles you’ve run in a given running shoe:

 

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Which also permits a more detailed view:

 

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The voice coach is even customizable, and gives you audio markers for different points in your run:

 

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Setting Records

 

Runtastic does a great job tracking your personal records, and letting you know when you’ve beaten them. One lack is that a personal record does not pop up automatically within the app once you’ve gotten it in a given activity. You have to wait to check the Website or receive an email (automatically generated). Record notifications look like this:

 

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I loved getting this email!

 

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The Web Interface

 

It’s not perfect, but it shows you a ton of information. The home screen looks a little cluttered to me:

 

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Even with Runtastic Premium, which removes ads, I have an item on the top and everything in the right sidebar that just look like, well… ads. They’re all in-house, but I could do with less. You also still get pop-ups (rarely, but more than expected) like this on the phone:

 

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You can set everything to private, though, so no one knows when, where, or how fast you’re running, except you.

This activity view on the site is much cleaner (minus the vexing “Report a Problem” pop-over that I can’t close out):

 

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The site allows you to see some cool stats, too. I loved knowing (and was grateful Runtastic tracked it) when I most often work out!

You can also easily import a workout (either a GPC or TCX file) from another app. This process is pretty easy and smooth. You can export a single workout from Runtastic elsewhere, but there is no bulk export option. If you do a bunch of workouts in Runtastic, it’s not so easy to later migrate all that data elsewhere. Other apps are proprietary like this (some accuse this kind of thing as a sort of “holding your data hostage”), although Runkeeper allows you to bulk export your data. Runtastic should add this feature.

You can also have a weekly fitness report delivered your way, which is cool:

 

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Running Goals

 

There’s a lot more I could mention, as this is a really great app. You can set yourself a duration and distance goal and track your progress in real time. This has made a couple of my runs better! Here I am meeting my pace goal:

 

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But then I fall behind:

 

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I didn’t make it that time:

 

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The next time, however….

 

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To Premium or Not to Premium?

 

Easy. Premium. You get ads removed (except for in-house stuff that I’d like also to be able to remove), free training plans, free “story runs,” the aforementioned records tracking, a free 3-month trial to Runner’s World, accelerated response to support queries, and more. (Details here.) It’s a subscription model, so you just have to decide whether you’d use the premium features. The price is definitely reasonable for what you get in return.

I’ll have a Runkeeper review posting soon, so will be able to better compare, but from what I’ve seen so far, Runtastic (especially in its Premium version) is the best running app I’ve seen. Check it out here.

 

 


 

Thanks so much to the folks at Runtastic who set me up with a trial of Premium so I could review the app!

How to Read a Book in Accordance (Screencast)

I’ve recorded a 12-minute screencast on how to read a book in Accordance Bible Software.

I highlight four features:

  1. Hyperlinks, hyperlinks, hyperlinks!
  2. The expandable/collapsible Table of Contents sidebar
  3. Search Fields to better focus your search
  4. Advanced: Amplify/Research to get from the book you’re reading to the rest of your library

You’ll never read or study a work of theology or biblical studies the same way again. Accordance makes Kindle look like a codex.

Here’s the video:

 

 

I mention these resources:

And there are Interpretation Bible studies. More about these exciting new additions to Accordance can be found here.

Thanks for watching!

 


 

Thanks to Accordance for access to the Interpretation modules shown in this screencast review. See my other Accordance posts (there are many) gathered here. I recorded the tutorial using the app Capto.

My (Mixed) Review of Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different

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I’ve got a review of Maria Semple’s Today Will Be Different over at Englewood Review of Books. An excerpt of the review:

Eleanor Flood’s day is about to be different—but not in the proactive way she had committed to. Today she wants to be her “best self,” because “the other way wasn’t working” (7).

A writer and illustrator, Eleanor lives in Seattle with her eight-year-old son Timby (Timby?), a forgotten and forgettable dog Yo-Yo, and her husband Joe, well-loved hand surgeon to the Seattle Seahawks.

The review continues here.

From the Creator of Captain Underpants: Dog Man

Our children don’t need any encouragement in the area of scatalogical humor, but here we all have been anyway, laughing through the pages of Dav Pilkey’s new Dog Man. (Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.) That is to say–this book would not be something to read to your four-year-old daughter. Unless, uh, she had two older brothers and was already unfazed by such humor.

Case in point:

 

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Dog Man, as Pilkey tells it, is the creation of George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two comic-writing friends whose teacher, Ms. Construde, clearly does not appreciate their “disruptive activity in my classroom.” All my kids love it, of course.

The premise itself is a little more violent than I would have liked for my (or any) kids: Dog Man is born when the evil cat Petey blows up Officer Knight and his dog Greg:

Doctor: I’m sorry Greg, but your body is dying. and your head is dying too, cop.

Officer: Rats! I sure hate my dying head!

But just when all seemed lost…

Nurse Lady: Hey! Why don’t we sew Greg’s head onto cop’s body?

Doctor: Good idea, nurse lady! You’re a genius!

Here “a brand-new crime-fighting sensation was unleashed.”

Dog Man the character is about what you would expect from somebody who is half man, half dog. He battles Petey, then Robo Chief, and then a giant, walking Philly cheesesteak mascot in chapter 4, “Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken.” This last chapter was probably the funniest and best part of the book. Sample lines:

OH look! Little baby hot dogs are starting a revolution!!!!

We’re not little babies! we’re regular sized!

(Their subsequent claim to be “gangsta” will go over kids’ heads and seems to unfortunately engage in cultural appropriation.)

A fun feature that comes up at several points is the “Flip-O-Rama,” where you can create a little bit of animation by quickly flipping between pages. At this moment I’m looking at the book’s warning: “Remember—Flip it, Don’t Rip it!!!!!!”, which happens to be right next to a newly made rip in our edition. Oh, well.

The section in the back of the book with “How 2 Draw” different characters is icing on the cake.

For how inexpensive the book is, I was pleasantly surprised to see a sewn binding. The colors are vibrant and the lettering is what you would expect from Dav-Pilkey-as-two-kids-writing-a-comic. It inspired my own kids to write their own. (Details forthcoming, or maybe we’ll just try for a book deal.)

If you’re trying to avoid scatological humor, don’t get this book. If you’ve maybe slacked a little with your standards for your kids in that regard, they’ll probably love Dog Man.

You can find the book at Scholastic’s page here. It’s also available at Amazon here. Dav Pilkey’s got his own site, too.

 


 

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.

Mamoko: A World Where Kids Read to the Grown-Ups

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Some of the best book gifts our oldest child has received have been Maps and Animalium from Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick.

Our kids have also spent many collective minutes and hours poring over two books from The World of Mamoko series: The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000 and The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons.

The premise of Mamoko is simple: “Use your eyes!” to “follow the adventures” of more than two dozen different characters through seven detailed spreads that span two pages each. The books are hardback, like giant board books, so they’ll last us a long time. The target age range is 5-8 years old, but my four-year-old (who can’t yet read) really enjoys looking at the pictures, too.

Here’s a spread from World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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It’s lots of fun. There are short descriptions of each character that help in knowing what to look for. For example, a pink elephant (holding a hammer?) is Othello Smith:

OTHELLO SMITH is feeling bummed out. What is the cause of his distress?

The book is pretty funny. And it’s big enough that, like the Where’s Waldo? books, two people can easily look for characters and their antics at the same time.

But I told Candlewick my kids would help me review these two books, and a promise is a promise, so… here are my nine-year-old’s review notes from The World of Mamoko in the Year 3000:

 

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And here’s his short take on The World of Mamoko in the Time of Dragons:

 

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You can find all three Mamoko titles at Candlewick’s page here. They’re also available at Amazon here.

 


 

Thanks to Candlewick Press for the review copies, given with no expectation as to the content of the review.