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How Does Dr. Constantine Campbell Keep his Greek?

and Hebrew, and Aramaic, and Syriac, and German, and French, and…

Budding biblical scholars are often daunted by the prospect of learning and maintaining at least four languages. Dr. Constantine Campbell concludes Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People by giving us a look at his pattern for maintaining multiple languages:

I try to read a little of each of my languages each day. I have an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading going simultaneously, and I alternate each day between them. At the moment, I’m finishing off 1 Kings and Acts. I read from these texts using Accordance, and I have a tab open for each language I want to read…

My pattern at the moment is to read a few verses from 1 Kings in Hebrew, then check an English translation. Then I’ll read the next verses in Aramaic, then the next few in Greek, the next few in German, and the next few in French. When I’m reading the New Testament the next day, I’ll start with Greek, then read the next few verses from a Hebrew NT, Syriac, German, and French. The advantages of this pattern are that I can take in a fair slab of the Bible, which is good for devotional purposes, and each language is read each day. A disadvantage is that it means I won’t read the whole of Acts in Greek, since I’ve read some of it in the other languages instead. But I’m OK with that tradeoff.

As I follow this pattern, I’ll tend to focus more on one language than the others, but I switch the focus language around from day to day so that each language gets a more focused treatment at least once a week. But even so, every language is still read each day.


What about you? What are your strategies and patterns for keeping your Greek (and/or other languages)?

Exciting News!

Some of you might already know this (e.g. if you’re friends with me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter): I passed the Greek Proficiency Exam at TEDS!!! And not only did I pass, but I tested into Dr. Constantine Campbell’s Greek exegesis sequence. If you missed my reflections on teaching myself beginning Greek from about a month ago, you can read it here. I was very nervous about the exam. Especially early in the learning process, I had a lot of questions about grammar and morphology that were not addressed in Mounce’s grammar; the innate nerd in me struggled with having unanswered questions, and the goal-oriented part of me feared not being able to pass the exam because of these perceived gaps in learning. If I had had time, I would have liked to work through an intermediate grammar, but I just barely finished two run-throughs of Mounce and had no time to consult additional resources. I think it’s a bit of a miracle that I did as well as I did, because I was in full “freak out” mode as I took the exam. Even though it’s for the purpose of testing out of beginning Greek, some of the grammar questions and one of the translation passages was at an intermediate level. If I could do it over (without knowing I would have passed with just my actual level of preparation, of course), I would definitely also have worked through an intermediate grammar.

So, yes….after taking the exam I was fairly certain that I did not pass, and I moped around the rest of the day. I’m the type of person who reads whenever I have free time, but after the exam I was so distraught that I couldn’t even read. Under the assumption that I had failed, I just kept telling myself that even if I have to fork over an additional $5,000 to take beginning Greek, everything would be alright and that God had a purpose even for this seeming travesty. I also thought that maybe God had ordained this failure to humble me (because I did feel like my academic career had failed before it even started).

I was not expecting to find out the results until Monday, but I received an email Sunday afternoon and was on Cloud 9 for the rest of the day. I really wanted to buy myself a book to reward myself for my hard work that saved me $5,000 but I didn’t (what self control, right?). Anyway, I’m ecstatic to have tested into exegesis at all; but I’m especially thrilled to be in Dr. Campbell’s sequence. All the professors are phenomenal, but Dr. Campbell is really at the forefront of research in Greek and has written an amazing exegetical and theological treatment of Paul and union with Christ, with a similar study on Pauline eschatology in the pipeline. I was hoping to test into his exegesis sequence, and I am just elated to have made it. Soli Deo gloria!!

So, with the addition of NT Greek Exegesis I with Dr. Constantine Campbell, my schedule for my first semester of seminary is now complete. It’s truly a who’s who of contemporary biblical and theological scholarship! In addition to Greek Exegesis I I’m taking Systematic Theology I with Vanhoozer, Biblical Theology and Interpretation with Carson, American Church History with Manetsch, and Elementary Hebrew with a doctoral student. ST and BT will be pretty easy for me because I already know the material and read the books years ago, but I anticipate that purely because it’s KJV & The Don, I will not be bored.

Alright, that’s all I have for now in terms of updates. I do have one more bit of news, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks before I tell you about that :)

Free Lectures: Dr. Craig Keener on Matthew

A few days ago Dr. Craig Keener noted on his Facebook that he had made available for free his full course on the Gospel of Matthew. This is such a gift and blessing since Keener is one of the foremost NT scholars of our day, so definitely take advantage of these and share. Dr. Keener mentioned that they especially hoped that these lectures would be used by those in parts of the world that lack access to this kind of training, so if you know people laboring for the Gospel in those parts of the world, be sure to share this resource with them (I have a lot of other free seminary level resources on my “free resources” page). This site also has a lot of other biblical studies lectures, Dr. Keener’s on Matthew was just the latest to be posted. Enjoy!

Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King (Bateman, Bock, & Johnston)

Herbert W. Bateman IV, Darrell L. Bock, and Gordon H. Johnston. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2012. 528 pp. $36.99.

Jesus the MessiahIn Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King, three leading biblical scholars bring their differing expertise to provide a survey of “contextual-canonical, messianic, and christological developments of God’s promise of ‘Messiah’ within the larger framework and unfolding of Jewish history in canonical and extracanonical literature” (20). Gordon Johnson covers the Hebrew Bible, Herbert Bateman IV covers intertestamental literature, and Darrell Bock covers the NT. By using the Hebrew Scriptures as the starting point, Jesus the Messiah already differs significantly from certain streams in biblical scholarship that ignore Jesus’s Jewishness and view him primarily through Graeco-Roman lenses (e.g. John Dominic Crossan). However, their approach has a significant difference from others that see the foundational value of the Hebrew Scriptures as well: in distinction from Evangelicals who use a single reading strategy and see direct prophecies in many OT texts, Bateman et al. argue that “these texts do not need to be only direct prophecies for them to reveal a messianic connections [sic] and fulfillment in Jesus…while the wording is ultimately messianic, it is often more implicitly stated and becomes clearer only as the entirety of God’s portrait of messiah is eventually and fully disclosed” (25, italics original).

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Saturday Sillies

How to write a hip-hop song in 30 seconds:

Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters

Charles Halton ed. Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. 176 pp. $16.99.

Genesis CounterpointsIn contemporary evangelicalism there’s hardly a biblical/theological topic more divisive than that of origins. The various topics under this umbrella (such as creation versus evolution, an historical Adam, etc.) are all impacted by how we interpret the early chapters of Genesis. Hence, though recent years have seen a large number of books published in the area of origins (including one on the historical Adam from the same series as the volume currently under review), Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? offers a unique and complementary perspective by addressing the topic from the perspective of the genre of Genesis 1-11. As editor Charles Halton notes in the introduction, “Readers will first need to understand the genre of the text and how it worked within the author’s cultural environment before they will be able to successfully address the question: ‘What does this text mean?'” (18). Each of the contributors address four issues in their essays: the genre of Genesis 1-11, why this is the genre of Genesis 1-11, the implication of this genre designation, and the application of their approach to the interpretation of the story of the Nephilim (6:1-4), Noah and the ark (6:9-9:26), and the Tower of Babel (11:1-9). Following the common structure of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series, each essay is followed by a response by each of the other contributors.
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A Milestone (Reflections, Lessons & A Prayer Request)

Last night I reached a big milestone – I finished Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek. Now, my journey through teaching myself beginning Greek has been…interesting, to put it neutrally. I’m actually rather embarrassed because I initially royally failed. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that it was almost a year-and-a-half ago that I first announced that I was going to start learning Greek. Here I am, finishing much later than I had anticipated; not only that, but there was a huge gap of about a year when I had abandoned it completely.

I’m a bit of a detail-oriented perfectionist. When I learn things, I like to know why everything is the way it is and what everything means. I also like to get everything perfectly before I move on to the next thing. And this was the cause of my initial downfall in learning Greek and why I gave up (well, having too many review books is also to blame. You know you’re extra nerdy when academic books are the main things that distract you from Greek studies).

When I first started teaching myself Greek last February I only made it through the first nine chapters of Mounce’s grammar before abandoning it. I think part of the reason was that I was trying to understand every exegetical insight, every footnote, every advanced information section at the end. Furthermore, there were a lot of things that weren’t explained in the text and I was all hung up on the “why’s.” In the workbook I often felt completely frustrated and hopeless because I had a very hard time with the last section of translations (advanced translations). I was trying to understand/master/do everything in every chapter before moving on, and it was so much (and frankly probably impossible for a beginning student teaching himself) that it broke me pretty quickly and I gave up.

So here’s my first tip for anyone teaching themselves beginning Greek with Mounce’s grammar: do not worry about anything in the previous paragraph if you’re struggling and frustrated. Just get the basics, the skeletons in the book and workbook and move on. And keep moving. Then after you get through everything, go back through the grammar and workbook again, and this time worry about the footnotes, advanced information, exegesis sections, advanced translation exercises. Oh, and in between (as in, during your “first” run-through) be sure to go back every few chapters. When I say I just finished Mounce, I’ve actually gone through most of the chapters three times. That’s because as you’re going through each chapter, things will be pretty hazy (Mounce calls this the “fog”). But as you move on, the fog moves with you (Mounce’s description). So as you’re moving on, things from previous chapters should be becoming clearer, so it’s good to work in chunks of several chapters and go back and review each chunk before moving on.

So after abandoning Greek over a year ago without even having finished the noun system, I didn’t pick it up again until about two months ago. And the past two months have been a self-imposed Greek bootcamp because I’m hoping to test into NT Greek Exegesis I at TEDS this fall. And here’s where you come in. Please, please, please pray for me to use these next/last two weeks of studying well and that I’d be able to pass the placement exam. Needless to say, it would save a lot of money to not have to take beginning Greek. Not only that, but I’m eager to get into more advanced NT courses, so taking beginning Greek would also set me back by a year.

This brings me to my last tip, which will include some thank-you’s. If you endeavor to teach yourself Greek, be sure to make friends with a few people who are skilled with the language (advanced students and professors). If you don’t know anyone (I didn’t when I started), join the Facebook group Nerdy Language Majors. I’m so thankful for this group, not only because people were so kind and helpful the few times when I posed questions, but also because through the group I’ve made some online friends who have given me even more help through private messages. I would especially like to thank Thom Chittom, Jacob Cerone, Todd Scacewater, Geoff Ng, Emily Varner, Joe Liu, and Kevin Chen for answering questions and/or providing me with some excellent resources.

Alright, please pray for me! I’m terrified. Just terrified. The placement exam is on August 21 at 8:15, but I really only have until August 14 to prepare because I will be driving to Deerfield on the 15th and from the 16th-20th I will be participating in a retreat for Mosaic. I hope to have good news to report in about a month!

The Early Text of the New Testament (Charles Hill & Michael Kruger ed.)

Charles E. Hill and Michael J. Kruger, ed. The Early Text of the New Testament. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012. 498 pp. $50.00.

Early TextIn response to the recent burgeoning of new textual materials and renewed scholarly interest in NT textual criticism, editors Charles Hill and Michael Kruger felt that it was time for a radical and thorough review in light of the major text types. The Early Text of the New Testament brings together some of the best scholars of the early NT texts to present an impressively comprehensive set of essays that “provide an inventory and some analysis of the evidence available for understanding the pre-fourth-century period of the transmission of the NT materials” (2).

In Part I, four essays cover the textual and scribal culture of early Christianity. First, Harry Gamble discusses the book trade in the Roman empire, addressing the commercial book trade, the non-commercial book trade, and finally the publication and dissemination of early Christian books. Early Christian texts “were produced and disseminated in much the same way as other literature in the larger socio-cultural environment,” (31) and hence susceptible to the same hazards. Next, Scott Charlesworth examines indicators of “catholicity” in early Gospel manuscripts. He notes that the use of standard-sized codices and standardized nomina sacra in the early manuscripts of the canonical gospels prove the notion of “catholic” consensus and collaboration among early Christians. This catholicity, Charlesworth points out, does not indicate uniformity. The upshot of all this is that “[t]he evidence for later second- and second/third-century “catholicity” presents real problems for the Bauer thesis” (46).

In the third essay Larry Hurtado focuses on the sociology of early Christian reading, arguing that “there is a distinguishable Christian reading-culture, another ‘specific sociocultural context,’ and that early Christian manuscripts are direct artefacts of it” (49). In the final essay of the first part, Michael Kruger addresses early Christian attitudes toward the scribal process. He examines early testimony regarding the scriptural status of NT texts (such as 2 Peter 3:16 and The Epistle of Barnabas 1:14), and early testimony regarding the reproduction of NT texts such as the Deuteronomy 4:2 formula. Kruger concludes that “a high view of these texts (and concerns over their transmission is not mutually exclusive with the existence of significant textual variation” (79).

Part 2 comprises eight chapters devoted to a detailed and up-to-date assessment the early manuscript tradition of the NT, proceeding by book or groups of books. These essays are quite technical and detailed and are not as accessible as Part 1 and Part 3 to the nonspecialist. This section concludes with an essay on the witness of the early versions by Peter Williams in which he issues some words of warning in regards to Bruce Metzer’s The Early Versions of the New Testament and that particular tradition of using the early versions. Specifically, Williams argues that “while the early versions are indeed important for historical, cultural, and linguistice reasons, in one respect their contribution has been overestimated: they have been held to play an important role in deciding between Greek variants concerning which actually they give no clear testimony” (239).

The final sections contain eight essays that deal with early citation and use of the NT writings. In the first essay of this section, Charles Hill examines methods and standards of citation in the second century. He first looks at the Greek tradition and provides examples such as Homer and Herodotus to demonstrate that accuracy in reproducing another author’s words was not part of the tradition of classical Greek. To show that this same tendency characterized the citation of sacred literature, Hill brings forth examples from sources such as Philo and Josephus. Hence, “even a stated and sincerely held regard for the sacredness of a text did not necessarily affect an author’s practice of what we would call loose or adaptive citation” (277). Hill concludes his essay with some important implications for not only attempts to extract an underlying text, but also for the study of reception history of biblical writings as well. The rest of the chapters examine the citation and use of the NT in a variety of early writings: the Apostolic Fathers (Paul Foster), Marcion (Dieter Roth), Justin Martyr’s 1 Apol. 15:1-8 (Joseph Verheyden), Tatian’s Diatessaron (Tjitze Baarda), early apocryphal Gospels (Stanley Porter), Irenaeus’s Adversus haeresus (D. Jeffrey Bingham and Billy R. Todd, Jr.), and Clement of Alexandria (Carl Cosaert).

The Early Text of the New Testament is a must-read for students and scholars of the NT and particularly for those with interest in the early manuscripts and early citation of the NT texts. While some of the essays (mainly the ones in Part 2) are quite technical, the essays in Part 1 have broader appeal and could benefit the thinking lay Christian and pastor who is curious about the scribal culture during NT times, canon formation, and apologetic issues surrounding Scripture (and the NT in particular). This book presents the latest research on the early manuscript tradition of the entire NT and also addresses key issues in the discipline of textual criticism. As such, I think it’s essential reading for those taking a New Testament textual criticism course at the seminary level. One final note: this book was originally published as a hardcover retailing at $175 (standard for academic monographs). Last year OUP published a much more affordable paperback that retails at $50, which is a steal for this type of book. Buy this book if you’re a serious academic student of the NT, and especially if you’re interested in the manuscript tradition.

Thanks to Oxford University Press for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

John S. Hammett. 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2015. 336 pp. $21.99.

40 Q B&LSThough baptism and the Lord’s Supper have been almost universal practices among Christians throughout the ages, disagreements about what they mean and how they are to be practiced are littered across church history and continue into our day. While there is a healthy ecumenism concerning these topics among evangelicals today, it would be unhealthy to assume that these so-called second order doctrines are not important to Christian theology and practice.

Indeed, the importance of these two topics is thankfully recognized as recent years have seen a number of books addressing them (e.g. Understanding Four Views on Baptism and Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper). One might ask why 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper is necessary when there are already a handful of books that address the key issues related to these two sacraments. The author John Hammett (professor of systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) addresses this in his introduction, noting four ways this book is unique: it addresses both baptism and the Lord’s supper, whereas most books deals with just one of the two; it covers a much wider range of topics; it addresses practical issues; and the table of contents lists each of the forty questions, providing a helpful reference for readers who want to look up specific issues.

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NIV 50th Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the (commissioning of the) NIV, the most widely read modern English translation of the Bible in the world. Celebrations began at ETS last year with a dinner hosted by Zondervan and will culminate this fall with the release of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. I am pretty excited about this study Bible. I haven’t read the NIV in years and wasn’t expecting to want to read it exclusively ever again, but when this study Bible lands on my doorstep I plan to read it cover-to-cover right away.

A bit of background is warranted, I think, for those reading this who might be where I was just a few years ago. My history with the Bible is that from spiritual inception ten years ago to about a year in, all I read was the NIV. It was the Bible I was given when I became a Christian, and it was the only Bible that the people I knew used, taught/preached from, talked about, etc. But then I discovered the NASB. I loved the idea of a faithful, word-for-word translation; and so, I abandoned the NIV and exclusively read the NASB. Fast forward another year, and I had become a rabid cage-stage young, restless, Reformed Calvinist. So of course, I became ESV-only. With the advent of the 2011 NIV, my already low opinion of the NIV (due to a lack of understanding about Bible translation) sunk to its nadir due to the new NIV’s gender neutering. I say all this in case someone reading this holds the misguided notions I once did. It’s a great time to give the NIV another chance with the forthcoming NIV Zondervan Study Bible. This study Bible is edited by D.A. Carson and it was the full-time project of Andy Naselli for four years. If my words mean nothing, surely theirs have a lot of clout!

Check out the video below to hear some of the members (e.g. Doug Moo, Karen Jobes, Bill Mounce, etc.) of the translation committee talk about the ongoing work they do to ensure a faithful and beautiful translation. The video after that is of Dr. Doug Moo’s talk at the NIV celebration dinner at ETS last year entitled “We Still Don’t Get It: Evangelicals and Bible Translation Fifty Years After James Barr” (PDF here for those who prefer reading). The last video is of Dr. D.A. Carson talking about some of the features of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. And finally, though the year is just over half over, the special 50th anniversary free NIV Bible App is still worth checking out for limited time access to some NIV study Bibles and other resources. Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on the NIV in general as well as the new study Bible.

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