Book Note: Advances in the Study of Greek

Advances in the Study of Greek

 

I really appreciated Constantine R. Campbell’s Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek. Yes, I read it cover to cover. And no, it was not even for a book review or class! Just for fun. I don’t know enough to wade intelligently into the minutiae of the verbal aspect debate, but I do know that Campbell presented his view succinctly and clearly in that work. I felt like I had a good, basic grasp on aspect after working through that book.

Now Advances in the Study of Greek releases this month. It surveys the thoughts, studies, and work of many Greek scholars. It’s got a chapter on aspect, but covers much more territory than just that.

Here is the description from the publisher’s page:

Advances in the Study of Greek offers an introduction to issues of interest in the current world of Greek scholarship. Those within Greek scholarship will welcome this book as a tool that puts students, pastors, professors, and commentators firmly in touch with what is going on in Greek studies. Those outside Greek scholarship will warmly receive Advances in the Study of Greek as a resource to get themselves up to speed in Greek studies. Free of technical linguistic jargon, the scholarship contained within is highly accessible to outsiders.

Advances in the Study of Greek provides an accessible introduction for students, pastors, professors, and commentators to understand the current issues of interest in this period of paradigm shift.

I’m looking forward to reading it and writing the review, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Bible Study Magazine. Check out the book here.

Two More Greek Gems from †Rod Decker

Rod Decker on Mark
Long awaited

 

Before Prof. Rodney Decker passed, he finished writing his Koine Greek Grammar, with which I’m already impressed–having just begun working through the Appendixes!

One other last (and sure-to-be lasting) contribution to the world of Greek readers is his two-volume commentary on the Greek text of Mark, from Baylor University Press. It is part of the Baylor Handbook on the Greek Text, which I’ve reviewed (Luke) here.

The two-volume set came in the mail today, courtesy of Baylor. Decker’s Koine Greek Reader is the best resource of its kind. His scholarship was always careful and engaging. These Baylor books–about which I will post again in the future–look like about the first thing you’d want to have by your side when reading through Mark.

You can find the books here.

†Rod Decker’s Koine Greek Grammar

May Prof. Rodney Decker rest in peace. One of his final contributions (gifts) to the Greek-learning community was this exciting new grammar, which I just received in the mail from Baker Academic yesterday:

 

Decker Grammar

 

Here is the description from Baker’s site:

This in-depth yet student-friendly introduction to Koine Greek provides a full grounding in Greek grammar, while starting to build skill in the use of exegetical tools. The approach, informed by twenty-five years of classroom teaching, emphasizes reading Greek for comprehension as opposed to merely translating it. The workbook is integrated into the textbook, enabling students to encounter real examples as they learn each new concept. The book covers not only New Testament Greek but also the wider range of Bible-related Greek (LXX and other Koine texts). It introduces students to reference tools for biblical Greek, includes tips on learning, and is supplemented by robust web-based resources through Baker Academic’s Textbook eSources, offering course help for professors and study aids for students.

Looks great! After a quick flip through, what stands out most is that the vocabulary lists at the end of each chapter include frequency counts for both the New Testament and the Septuagint.

I’ll post more later–find the book here.

From Scratch and Sniff Chip ‘N’ Dale to Jacob’s Travels

Scratch and Sniff feature available in iOS 9 only
Scratch and Sniff feature available in iOS 9 only

 

I had a “scratch and sniff” Chip ‘N’ Dale Rescue Rangers Spanish-language comic book when I first learned Spanish in high school.

I know–I can’t believe I just started a post with that sentence, either.

Silly as it was, the comic was an enjoyable way for me to practice reading a new language. I kept it for way too long and only in the last couple years threw it out. (The “sniff” of the front cover had long since stopped working.)

I’ve tried to step up my efforts lately in improving my biblical Hebrew reading, especially as I preach through Genesis in church. My now seven-year-old son has at times joined me in our Hebrew-learning adventures, always at his request. Most recently we worked together to review EKS Publishing’s enjoyable and accessible First Hebrew Primer.

Og the Terrible may be the more apt Hebrew-learning comparison to my Spanish-language Chip ‘N’ Dale comic. Og appears in a series of adventures featuring Prayerbook Hebrew and a dragon. (Might the Jewish/Christian apostle Paul have said Og helped the Scripture to be fire-breathed?)

JacobsTravelsCoverI’ve not read Og (yet!), but EKS Publishing has a series of Hebrew and English children’s books revolving around biblical characters.

The one at left–Jacob’s Travels–has been on our bookshelf for some time. We return to it on a fairly regular basis, sometimes reading the Hebrew text slowly, sometimes just reading the book in its English translation.

The back cover describes the book:

Jacob’s Travels begins and ends with Jacob encountering the Divine. This retelling of the story from Genesis, told in Hebrew and English, is a reminder of God’s constant presence in our lives. At a time when he feels most alone, this realization brings Jacob great comfort, inspiring one of the most memorable lines in the Bible: “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it!”

The translation is smooth and readable, with a more “literal” translation in the back of the book for those learning Hebrew. There’s also a glossary at the back for those who want to steer clear of the English and see how well they can do with just the Hebrew.

The book is probably better geared toward older children or even Hebrew-learning adults, as there is a high text-to-picture ratio.

It’s fun to read, though, and certainly more edifying than (no offense) the Rescue Rangers.

You can find the book here (Amazon) or here (EKS Publishing). EKS’s other children’s books are here.

A First-Year Textbook that Gets You Reading Hebrew A.S.A.P.

First Hebrew Primer“But when do we get to start reading Hebrew?”

The question was a near-refrain in my first semester of Hebrew class at seminary. After months of memorizing verbal paradigm charts and individual vocabulary words, I wondered he same thing.

I don’t mind a memorization-based or paradigm-based model for second language acquisition. I did fairly well in first learning Hebrew from the Pratico and Van Pelt Basics of Biblical Hebrew (see here and here).

But as I noted in my Pratico/Van Pelt reviews:

Some people disagree that paradigm memorization outside the context of a text or conversation is ideal pedagogy for language learning. … Even dead or ancient languages should be taught as “living languages,” proponents say. So some Hebrew textbooks encourage instead a text-based inductive approach.

 

Getting to Read Hebrew A.S.A.P.

 

The First Hebrew Primer (Third Edition, EKS Publishing) takes more of a reading-based inductive approach:

The goal of the Primer is to teach students to read and understand Biblical Hebrew as quickly as possible; therefore, the lessons emphasize recognition and translation – not memorization.

It succeeds well in this aim. Indeed, as soon as chapter 10 (out of 30), the student will be excited to begin her or his guided reading of Ruth:

Congratulations! You have learned enough Hebrew to begin reading the Bible—revised for your reading level. We have chosen Ruth because it is short, simple, and beautiful. In the beginning, the Hebrew text will be simplified, but as we progress, the text will approach the original. Before we finish the Book of Ruth, you will be reading the actual biblical text.

As soon as the Primer teaches the alphabet, it offers a host of a exercises for out-loud reading practice. The “Tall Tales” (folk tales) readings give students yet another chance to put into a reading context what they have learned. All the expected charts for nouns and verbs, vocabulary lists (with occurrence of 200x or more in the Hebrew Bible), and exercise sets are present throughout the book. But I especially appreciated its emphasis on reading early.

 

Updates to the Third Edition

 

What’s different in the Third Edition? Primarily, there is more grammatical detail offered.

This revised third edition introduces several new terms and clarifies grammatical points, but will look the same to long-time Primer readers. The key change we have made is the inclusion of new explanatory endnotes. Many readers have expressed a desire to deepen their knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, but have unanimously endorsed the clear, uncomplicated tone of the Primer. We have responded by adding these optional supplementary notes. Students may read the notes to enrich their understanding of Hebrew grammar or concentrate solely on the main text. Either way, the Primer provides a sound foundation for more advanced studies in the Hebrew Bible.

One gets the feeling that in the absence of those clarifying notes, some of the grammatical concepts are oversimplified. So the additional nuances expressed in the endnotes are imperative for laying a good foundation for later Hebrew learning. EKS Publishing uses its own name for some grammatical terms (“Word Pair” instead of “construct chain” and “regular infinitive” instead of “infinitive construct”).

I can see this being something a student would need to re-learn if she or her goes further in learning Hebrew grammar; I’m not sure the level of simplification here is always helpful or necessary. (And the lack of an index makes it difficult to trace discussion throughout the book of a given concept.) All the same, page 368 provides a “Guide to Grammatical Terms” with a table of “Our Name” and the “Traditional Name” for key concepts.

 

The Primer for Kids?

 

Hebrew Learning

 

Though the book is for “adult beginners,” my six-year-old son, whose Hebrew-learning adventures I have chronicled here, took an interest in The First Hebrew Primer once he saw it on the shelf. Chapter 3 (“The Sheva, Odd Vowels, and the Dagesh”) was particularly helpful, as the sheva had been giving him trouble. The Primer explains how to pronounce the sheva depending on where in a word it is:

  • Sheva at the beginning of a word: “always pronounced with a short, slurred sound”
  • Sheva at the end of a word: “always a silent vowel, and it is not pronounced at all”
  • Sheva in the middle of a word: “When a sheva appears alone in the middle of a word, it usually falls at the end of a syllable and is not pronounced.” (An endnote at this point offers additional illuminating detail.)

My son did astutely ask, “How do I correct myself if I get something wrong?” So I’ve gone through the Primer with him, rather than letting him use the Primer much on his own (even though he can read just fine). There is a companion audio CD available, which has to be purchased separately; self-guided learners will need it to be able to take full advantage of the oral exercises in the Primer.

 

Concluding Evaluation

 

The Hebrew font in The First Hebrew Primer is clear and easy to read. The exercises strike a nice balance between appropriateness for each lesson and being challenging. For example, in chapter 7 (“The Perfect Tense”), there is this:

EKS First Hebrew Primer

If you prefer an interactive, digital edition, Accordance Bible Software has a Primer package available for purchase here. The Accordance edition includes the primer, the answer key (otherwise a separate purchase), and more than an hour’s worth of accompanying audio. In other words, Accordance puts everything needed in one integrated and easy-to-use place.

Would I use The First Hebrew Primer as a textbook for a first-year Hebrew student? Definitely–despite the occasional lack of nuance in the grammatical explanations, its emphasis on oral practice, its engaging exercises, its inclusions of basic paradigms, and especially its introduction of reading early on make it a solid option for a first-year Hebrew text. As an added bonus, there are plenty of English to Hebrew exercises (and even an English-Hebrew Glossary), which will go a long way to help the student solidify Hebrew comprehension.

 

Thanks to EKS Publishing for the review copy of the Primer and answer key, offered for the purposes of this review, but with no expectation as to my review’s content. The publisher’s book page is here (answer key here). It’s also on Amazon (affiliate link) here (answer key here).

What I’m Reading to Keep My Greek and Hebrew Fresh

To keep my Greek and Hebrew active, right now I’m alternating between two books (and enjoying them both):

 

Prepositions and Theology

 

Murray J. Harris’s Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament (Zondervan, 2012).

Without accepting a so-called “theology of prepositions,” Harris’s guide is readable and illuminating. I found his exegetical guide to Colossians and Philemon quite helpful. Here is a sample of Prepositions and Theology.

 

Jonah Handbook on Hebrew Text

 

W. Dennis Tucker Jr.’s Jonah: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Baylor University Press, 2006).

I like this series already. I’m halfway through Jonah and finding Tucker’s handbook a welcome companion.

I’ll post a review of each when I finish.

Translating Jude Clause by Clause

Translating Jude Clause by Clause

It’s been fun to watch the Baylor Handbook series progress, with volumes on both the Hebrew Text and the Greek Text. Not only do we who are currently engaged in Hebrew and Greek reading have amazing technological tools at our fingertips, but there are also series like Baylor’s that focus specifically on the original languages.

Herbert W. Bateman IV inaugurates a new series of his own, via his Cyber-Center for Biblical Studies, with Translating Jude Clause by Clause: An Exegetical Guide. More volumes of these EBooks for Translating the New Testament have been projected to release in 2014 and 2015.

Jude is a difficult book. It receives far less teaching and preaching attention than most New Testament books. It has clear references to “apocryphal” literature, about which Protestants, in discussions on canonicity, seem to feel compelled to say, “Jude is not citing such as Scripture.”

And the Greek is tough. Paul’s letters are easier! In Jude’s 25 verses, there are more than a dozen hapax legomena (words that occur only once in a body of literature, here understood as the New Testament). Because words are best defined by their context and usage, this doesn’t give the student of the New Testament much to go by for understanding these words.

So a guide to Jude’s Greek text is welcomed by anyone who wants to work through that book. In this post I review Bateman’s Translating Jude. I was eager to receive and work my way through the book, since I found Bateman’s Charts on the Book of Hebrews to be “a top-notch resource for an important biblical book.”

What Is Translating Jude Clause by Clause?

There are three primary sections in Translating Jude Clause by Clause:

  1. Introduction
  2. Clausal Outlines for Translation
  3. Clausal Outlines Translated and Syntax Explained

1. Introduction. Bateman’s first section packs a punch. After I reading it I felt very well set up to begin working my way through Jude’s Greek. In the introduction Bateman explains the layout of his uniquely structured book, includes a substantive section on independent clauses (of three types) vs. dependent clauses (of four types), and suggests “Tips for Translating Jude.” That last section explores some unique characteristics of Jude’s style, such as his frequent use of participles, long sentences, and parallel constructions (among other features).

2. Clausal Outlines for Translation. Here is where the reader will do the work of translating Jude. Bateman understands Jude as consisting of five main sections (vv. 1-2, vv. 3-4, vv. 5-16, vv. 17-23, and vv. 24-25), which is then further broken down into nine total passages, according to which Translating Jude is set up.

In addition to the robust introduction to Jude, each section of the clausal outlines begins with Contextual Orientation to the passage, which I found to be the most consistently excellent part of Bateman’s work. It is “a summary statement based on Jude’s flow of thought in order to provide some contextual orientation to the Greek paragraph to be translated.” It delivers each time.

After that there is the Greek Text for Verbal Recognition, where Bateman reprints the Greek text of Jude so that readers can mark it up to identify the various verbs and verbal forms.

Then there is the Clausal Outline for Translating Jude. Here Bateman spaces out and appropriately indents the various clauses in a passage so that the reader can visualize the flow of Jude’s thought. There’s plenty of space to write in one’s own translation, too. Here is a screenshot from the sample pdf of the interactive edition (i.e., you can fill in the blanks by typing).

Translating Jude

3. Clausal Outlines Translated and Syntax Explained. The final section serves as a sort of answer key for the section above. Bateman shows the clausal structure of Jude again (with indentations), this time with his English translation below the Greek. His “Syntax Explained” offers explanation along the lines of “grammatical function, syntactical function, and semantical function.” Bateman often cites and points to other Greek grammars, which helps enable further study.

What I Found Helpful

The book is highly interactive throughout. Even in a static, print book, I often had the feeling that I was being coached through Jude by an experienced and knowledgeable Greek professor. For those who haven’t used clausal outlining, I recommend it! Bateman walks the reader through the method well.

I especially appreciated how much the third section went from grammatical observation to exegetical insight. For example, Bateman notes the use of a constative aorist in Jude 11. He concludes:

Jude alludes to the behavior of the godless as a whole or in a summary fashion. Thus the godless have made their bed and currently lie in it.

The introduction offered far more than I expected from a book of this length. In addition to the insights noted above, Bateman includes a number of grammatical summary charts in the introduction that I found myself referring to often as I worked my way through Jude.

What I Found Not as Helpful

The user of Translating Jude will have to overlook an unexpectedly large number of misprints and typos, as well as a couple of Greek errors. I found this to be a major distraction that detracted from what is otherwise a good book. Fortunately, I understand that future printings will include corrections. (And the electronic version of Translating Jude will be easy to correct and update.)

By about verse 8 or so of the “Syntax Explained” section, I started to experience the format of the translation notes as repetitive. Perhaps their predictability serves a value–e.g., a Greek verb receives a parsing, its lexical form is noted, there is a brief BDAG gloss, and then there are sentences beginning with, “Syntactically,” “Semantically,” and, “Thus,” each in turn. But something that felt a little less boilerplate would have been more engaging, at least to me personally. Others may not find it an issue.

Finally, simply because it seemed remarkable to me, I was surprised at Bateman’s proposal for understanding the “fault finders” and “grumblers” of verse 16: “two words that might be summed up into one: bitching. They bitch regularly.” It could be just my own sensitivities, but I think that word has enough potentially derogatory connotations (surely unintended here) that leaving it out of a commentary and suggesting another English word would have been better. I otherwise appreciated the English translations.

Concluding Evaluation

Of course one wants to know how Translating Jude compares to the Baylor Handbook on the Greek Text series, especially since Baylor has a volume by Peter H. Davids on II Peter and Jude (review forthcoming!). Davids does not aim to do what Bateman does in terms of clausal outlining and written-out reader translations–Bateman is more interactive in that sense. Davids is more thorough when it comes to explaining the Greek text. Bateman does note that his translation notes focus on verbs and verbals, but Davids has more detail overall, even in defining and explaining the usage of various verbs.

Bateman writes that Translating Jude “is not a commentary. It is a tool designed to help translate and visualize Jude’s train of thought.” With its emphasis on clausal outlines–and with how clearly they are presented and explained–the book succeeds in its aim.

Apart from my (hopefully constructive) criticisms noted in the section above, I’d recommend this book to students of Greek, especially any who have become over-reliant on using Bible software for parsing and translating. Anyone whose Greek or grammar is rusty will also benefit from the clear introduction to Translating Jude and its verse-by-verse explanations.

Thanks to the Cyber-Center for Biblical Studies for the review copy. Prof. Bateman’s other books are here. You can find Translating Jude Clause by Clause at Amazon here (affiliate link). A sample pdf of the book is here.