Two Septuagint Studies Classics from Wipf and Stock

Conybeare.Stock.Septuagint.53307Conybeare and Stock’s Selections from the Septuagint According to the Text of Swete is a classic–if somewhat dated–work in Septuagint studies. You may also know it as Grammar of Septuagint Greek.

The grammar section is short, and leaves one desiring a properly full grammar of Septuagint Greek. But it’s the best starting point there is, so the Septuagint student will still want to read it. It is chock-full of Scripture references (and quotations), which in the print edition will require a fair amount of looking things up. (The need for this is obviated if you buy the Accordance or Logos edition.)

The grammar section is dense–if selective in its treatment–but not overly obtuse. There is a 20+-page introduction on the Septuagint, its origin, the Letter of Aristeas, transmission, and so on. It offers succinct coverage of the “long process” of the “making of the Septuagint.”

After the introduction there are “Accidence” and “Syntax” sections, the former covering morphology and the latter addressing sentence structure. To get a feel for how much coverage a section has, here is part of a page on “number” in Septuagint Greek:


LXX Grammar Number
Click or open in new tab to enlarge


One oddity that appears to be a printing error is that the Table of Contents for the Grammar appears after the Grammar, on about page 100 or so.

The grammar, then, is a good enough starting point, but won’t really take one deeply into study of a particular grammatical or syntactical feature of the text. Would that T. Muraoka might give us a full Septuagint grammar! (Wait–the day after I drafted that sentence, I saw this. Awesome.)

However, Conybeare and Stock more than make up for any lack in the comprehensiveness of the grammar proper with their guided reading section. It is still the most thorough resource of its kind available for the Septuagint. (Though that looks set to change this fall.)

With the Septuagint texts there are reading helps at the bottom of each page. Especially for those who have only read New Testament Greek, this is a great next step. Here is what “The Story of Joseph” looks like (click to enlarge):


From the reading on Joseph
From the reading on Joseph


You’ll note the attention to grammatical detail, especially, in the notes. And the introductory mini-essays before each reading were a pleasant surprise. These selected readings have definitely helped me keep my Greek going, or ramp it back up after some delays in using it.

You can find Conybeare and Stock’s little gem at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.



6x9Cover Template


Another LXX print resource from Wipf and Stock is A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint: Giving Various Readings from Codices Vaticanus, Alexandrinus, Sinaiticus, and Ephraemi.

It’s what you’d expect: a compact, easy-to-carry-around concordance to words found in the Greek Old Testament. To boot: there is an appendix featuring words from Origen’s Hexapla that are “not found in the above manuscripts.”

Of course, a “handy” concordance cannot include every LXX word. Pronouns and prepositions and the like do not occur here. Those engaged in academic study of the Septuagint will probably cringe at this line:

All reference to the Apocrypha has been omitted; principally because it was judged that the Apocryphal books should never have a place with the Holy Scriptures.

There is the offer that if “the apocryphal parts are thought to be needed, any one so disposed can carry out that work.” (Bible software to the rescue!) But Codex Vaticanus, on which the concordance is primarily based, includes what Protestants consider “Apocrypha.” That those books should be omitted on theological grounds seems an unfortunate decision.

Otherwise the book is easy to carry and doesn’t require electricity or software updates, so Apocryphal omission aside, it could have its place in the LXX student’s library. Here’s what part of a page looks like:


LXX Concordance


You can find the LXX concordance at Amazon here, or at Wipf and Stock’s product page here.



Thanks to Wipf and Stock for the review copies of both books, given to me for the purposes of reviewing them, but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

Geffrey B. Kelly’s Reading Bonhoeffer

I’m a sucker for biblical and theological studies with an unapologetically doxological posture. So it was with excitement that I read John W. Matthews’s concluding sentence in his foreword to Geffrey B. Kelly’s Reading Bonhoeffer: A Guide to His Spiritual Classics and Selected Writings on Peace. Matthews writes:

I believe both the author and the subject [Bonhoeffer] would be disappointed if this book did not somehow draw you, the readers, closer to Jesus Christ and to your neighbor.

Kelly’s short yet substantive book does very much that. His first encounter with Bonhoeffer is intertwined with a beautiful story of his own re-awakening to Jesus. He says in the Preface:

Through Bonhoeffer’s inspirational words Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount seemed to be addressed to me personally for the first time. I was hooked.

Reading Bonhoeffer has four major sections:

  1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biographical Sketch
  2. On Reading Bonhoeffer’s Spiritual Classic, Discipleship
  3. Life Together: Bonhoeffer on Christian Community
  4. Selected Writings on Peace: An Ecumenical Conference and Two Sermons

The Preface, after describing Kelly’s transformative first read of Discipleship, offers some helpful background information and resources for Bonhoeffer studies. Kelly mentions, for example, his involvement with the International Bonhoeffer Society, English Language Section. He writes about the International Bonhoeffer Congress. And he discusses the genesis of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series (English translation), published by Fortress Press.

1. A Riveting Biographical Sketch

Kelly’s “Biographical Sketch” is longer than Renate Bethge’s short work, and (obviously) a much quicker read than Eberhard Bethge’s monumental biography. 28 pages follow Bonhoeffer through his life, writings, and ministry.

Reading BonhoefferThere are a few things that stand out about Kelly’s short biography. For one, though it’s scant on details of Bonhoeffer’s early life (to be expected, given its length), the overview is thorough and really orients the reader well to Bonhoeffer. Kelly has a knack for succinctly summarizing Bonhoeffer’s writings in understandable language–even Bonhoeffer’s challenging Sanctorum Communio!

Second, Kelly’s biography is itself a gripping narrative. There is real movement as he progress through the various pastoral and academic positions Bonhoeffer held, from Berlin to London, from the seminary at Finkenwalde to the church struggle, Bonhoeffer’s arrest, and his imprisonment. I found myself wanting more dates in places (e.g., “Once back in Berlin…”–when?), but perhaps this omission was deliberate to keep the narrative moving. I was not able to put the book down until I had finished the page-turner of a biography.

Third, Kelly describes many of Bonhoeffer’s key terms and concepts, both in this first section and throughout Reading Bonhoeffer. Even a reader with little or no Bonhoeffer background will walk away from the biographical sketch with confidence to read any of Bonhoeffer’s writing.

Fourth, Kelly is clearly in awe of his subject, and rightly so. This, in turn, allows the reader to be inspired by Bonhoeffer. Kelly includes a treasure trove of Bonhoeffer quotations, some familiar, and some more off-the-beaten path. To wit:

I was quite pleased with myself. Then the Bible, and in particular the Sermon on the Mount, freed me from that. Since then everything has changed…. It was a great liberation. It became clear to me that the life of a servant of Jesus Christ must belong to the church, and step by step it became plainer to me how far that must go.

2. Kelly on Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship

Kelly served as co-editor, with John D. Godsey, of Discipleship, volume 4 in the (English) Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works series (DBWE). This second section of Reading Bonhoeffer offers more than 60 pages of commentary on that well-loved Bonhoeffer book, known also as The Cost of Discipleship.

After a brief “history of the text” Kelly proceeds section-by-section through Discipleship. In short, according to Kelly,

Discipleship is a book in which Bonhoeffer uses Jesus’ own words as recorded in the gospels and the exhortations of the apostle Paul to confront readers with the uncushioned challenges to all their inaccurate ideas, falsified by Nazi propaganda, of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

DBWE DiscipleshipReaders of Discipleship will of course already know that much of the book exposits Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, but Kelly’s unique contribution as a commentator here is in highlighting the historical context that makes Bonhoeffer’s writing even more remarkable. Not only does Kelly note a particular Nazi evil to which Bonhoeffer may have been alluding, he also points ahead in Bonhoeffer’s life to instances where he would live out the call of his own writings.

As Kelly was co-editor of the DBWE volume, to read his chapter-by-chapter commentary on Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship is to have a guided tour by a leading expert, complete with summary statements and key quotes from that book. It’s well-footnoted with reference to the page numbers in the DBWE edition, so following up in Bonhoeffer’s text is easy. It’s an essential companion.

3. Kelly on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

The first Bonhoeffer book to be published in the DBWE series was Life Together, which appears as volume 5, bound together with Prayerbook of the Bible. Kelly served as editor of that volume, which includes an introduction and critical apparatus (i.e., lots of informative and orienting footnotes).

DBWE Life TogetherAs with the previous section of Reading Bonhoeffer, Kelly’s commentary on Life Together, although significantly briefer in its section-by-section analysis, serves as a really useful reader’s guide. Its introductory section in this book is thorough, drawing on Kelly’s introduction in the DBWE edition. This sets up the reader well to better understand Bonhoeffer’s important work on community life in the Church.

Kelly, for example, points to “Bonhoeffer’s distinction between being with and being for the others in community.” He traces Bonhoeffer’s interest in building a community, going back even to socio-theological themes in Sanctorum Communio, Bonhoeffer’s first doctoral dissertation. Kelly summarizes and comments on each of the five sections of Life Together in turn: Community, The Day Together, The Day Alone, Service, and Confession and the Lord’s Supper.

4. Peace Writings

Kelly notes the tension that many students and readers of Bonhoeffer experience when they realize a conspirator against Hitler was a peace activist. After tracing the development of Bonhoeffer’s concern for peace, via an overview of his friendship with pacificst Jean Lasserre, Kelly looks at “three texts in which Bonhoeffer reveals himself as an uncompromising advocate for peace on the troubled earth where Nazism ruled with tactics of fear, violence, and the promise of a return to German military glory.” These include a 1932 conference lecture in Switzerland (with excerpts), a 1932 sermon (also with excerpts), and Bonhoeffer’s address to the Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches at Fanø, Denmark in 1934.

Together these orations display Bonhoeffer’s boldness and even impatience at times with inaction around him. In the address in Denmark, for instance, Bonhoeffer says,

Why do we fear the fury of the world powers? Why don’t we take the power from them and give it back to Christ? We can still do it today. The Ecumenical Council is in session; it can send out to all believers this radical call to peace.

Kelly helps Bonhoeffer’s call to peace come alive for the reader many decades later.

Concluding Remarks

There is little to critique in Kelly’s book. However, I was distracted by a number of sentences that were long (multiple modifying prepositional phrases) and comma-less. For example:

[Bonhoeffer] recognizes the danger posted by abandonment of Christ’s vision for the world and the manner in which even basically good people can succumb to the temptations to fall into the compromises in morality for which worldly attitudes are particularly prone, business and government plaudits given to acts of avarice and violence serving as prime examples of why it is necessary to be single-minded in following Christ.

A re-read of every such sentence showed that it was generally clear enough. But additional punctuation or shorter sentences would have helped. If there are future printings of this fine book, perhaps this and a few other minor editorial oversights could be re-visited.

Woven throughout Reading Bonhoeffer are “the twin aspects of Bonhoeffer’s spiritual legacy: scholarly expertise and pastoral care.” Kelly himself writes as one in the academy whose own pastoral sensitivity and concern is fully on display. I can only imagine how engaging and inspiring a Bonhoeffer course with him must be.

Reading Bonhoeffer would be a stimulating read for pastors, theologians, seminary students, and Christians who are intent to more faithfully follow Jesus in both individual and community contexts. The discussion questions at the end of each section will facilitate this book’s use in a small group, Sunday school, or classroom setting.

Kelly writes about Bonhoeffer, yes, but Bonhoeffer points so often and so clearly to Jesus, that a good commentary on Bonhoeffer (which this book is) will do the same. I am grateful for this short, hearty work that Kelly has written, and hope that more DBWE volumes receive similar treatment in the future.

By the way–I’m also grateful to Wipf and Stock Publishers for the review copy. They’ve provided a 40% off coupon code to readers of this blog, good toward the purchase of Reading Bonhoeffer or anything else on Wipf and Stock’s site. Simply use the code LETTERS at checkout. It’s good through the end of May.

Should I get a PhD?

Should I get a PhD? If you’ve asked yourself this question, especially about a PhD in Biblical Studies, you should read Nijay K. Gupta’s book. In Prepare, Succeed, Advance: A Guidebook for Getting a PhD in Biblical Studies and Beyond (Wipf and Stock), Gupta walks through the stages of applying for a PhD (prepare), working on a PhD (succeed), and using one’s PhD to find work (advance).

In Prepare, Succeed, Advance, Gupta seeks to “provide a series of responses to a host of questions that one may encounter when travelling down the path towards a PhD in biblical studies and beyond.” The book is right on the money in this sense. While it reads through nicely, it is also the sort of work that one will want to refer to time and again–especially someone who is trying to advance through the stages of the PhD process.

In the Prepare section, Gupta guides the reader through how to select a program, including what factors to consider, such as cost, location, school prestige, and so on. Perhaps the most useful section of the book is the second chapter, in which he counsels PhD applicants in how to prepare for a PhD–what languages they’ll need to know, what reference works with which to familiarize themselves, and so on. The bibliography he provides (with comments) is a time-saver to many. He concludes the section with nuts-and-bolts advice for how to fill out a PhD program application.

The second part of the book, Succeed, is all about how to do well in a PhD program, once accepted. Gupta goes in depth with regard to how to work with one’s supervisor, how to write and plan for the dissertation, and how to prepare for the oral dissertation defense. He writes:

The point of a dissertation is not that your argumentation and evidence will convince everyone, but rather that you have made a sufficiently plausible argument using methods and evidence that are appropriate to your field and generally accepted.

(He coaches to reader on how to do this, too.)

Finally, for the one who has earned her or his PhD, the final section of Advance covers everything from how to interview for a job, how and where to get teaching experience, conference involvement and article publishing (with helpful lists of journal series to shoot for), and dissertation publishing.

There is much to appreciate about this book. As a book reviewer, I particularly appreciated his section on how (and where) to write book reviews. He covered the basics well. (Key point: measure a book against its own standard; that is, does it advance its thesis successfully?)

If I have any criticism of the book (and this is hard to come by), it’s that Gupta’s section on writing the actual body of the dissertation could have included more. He gives advice like, “Individual chapters should be relatively freestanding and stand as an independent contribution to the overall argument,” but doesn’t spend much time on how to go about writing each individual chapter in the dissertation’s body. Perhaps Gupta assumes that other books on the market adequately cover how to write a dissertation, or that it varies so much from topic to topic that no general advice can be given. But something more about how to organize the argument of the dissertation and make sure its logical flow is clear and cogent would have been a good addition to the book. But this is a minor quibble. There is not much that Gupta does not cover thoroughly and winsomely.

Gupta blogs at Crux Sola. Portions of his book (PhD advice) can be found on his blog here. He writes about his book here. More (PhD Survival Guide) here. Even with all that is available on his blog, this guide is indispensable to anyone thinking about a PhD. Should that day ever come for me, I plan to have this within reach on my bookshelf.

I am grateful to Wipf and Stock for the free review copy, provided in exchange for an unbiased review.