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Reading the Greek New Testament in 2016

I’ve been pondering for the past few days about how I might incorporate the Greek New Testament into my Bible reading next year. Part of me thought that next year’s probably too soon, given that I’ve only had one semester of Greek (albeit, it was an exegesis course since I taught myself beginning Greek and tested out of it). The reason why I wanted to systematically read through the GNT next year and not wait until my Greek is better is because the overwhelming constant piece of advice I’ve gotten from my Greek Geek friends (as early as when I was soliciting final studying advice a few weeks before I took the Greek placement exam to try to test into exegesis) is to read the GNT. The rationale seems to be that even if you don’t understand it and even if it’s beyond your current abilities, keep reading the GNT because it over time it will give you an innate sense for how Koine Greek works, in a way that complements your atomistic translation/exegetical work.

So, how am I going to go about it, as a Koine Greek baby? Well, while there are many appealing elements to Wallace’s suggestion, at this point translating three chapters of the GNT a day (albeit with only one new chapter a day) seems a bit unrealistic – I feel like it would take me hours. But for those of you who’ve been at this for a few years, I highly recommend taking a look at Wallace’s plan (although, interestingly to me,  he suggests the plan primarily for those coming out of first year Greek and says that it may also be helpful for more advanced students). I’ve clipped it for the future (maybe I’ll do it in 2017!) because translating each chapter three days in a row seems like a fantastic way to really get to know the Greek text.

So, while I’m not going to use Wallace’s plan this year, I am going to use his ordering (roughly from easiest to hardest). Then I had to decide whether to try to read the GNT in one year or two, and I ended up deciding to read it in one because the whole point is to read larger chunks of text. That means 22 verses a day. So the way I’m going to read the Bible in 2016 is to read 3 OT  chapters (in English) and roughly 22 GNT verses per day (I say roughly because I don’t like stopping in the middle of main ideas, so I will probably follow the paragraph breaks). For the Greek part I anticipate reading each text a few times, the first time straight through, the second time roughly translating in my mind, and if time permits, one more time looking up words as necessary and analyzing what’s going on syntactically. But the main point is to just read the text. I also plan to finish my time by reading the text in English.

Of course, the main difficulty with doing a mishmash plan like this is keeping track of progress, especially if you miss a day. At this point I don’t think it would be worth the time to create an actual one-year Bible reading record, but I might do it if I feel like this is a plan I would follow many years over. If I do end up making one I will share it here for others who might want to try it. For now I will probably just find a one-year Bible reading plan that only has you reading from one place in the OT and one place in the NT daily; I’ll have to hop around to keep track for the NT because I want to go in order of increasing difficulty, but it shouldn’t be too annoying.

For those who are reading through the GNT next year or have done it in the past, I would love to know how you’re doing it or what you’ve done in the past that’s worked well. Since I’m a newbie I’m eager to learn from those more seasoned!

 

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NIV Zondervan Study Bible – On Translation Fidelity

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At sundry times and in divers manners in the past few months I’ve alluded to my long-time preference for the ESV (including here on my blog) in relation to the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible. When I received a copy of this study Bible in July it was the first time I had picked up an NIV in about 8 years (of a total of “only” 10 as a Christian!). I’ve chosen not to write a review noting all the various features because 1) a lot of reviews are doing that and you can find one with a simple Google search and 2) the NIVZSB has a stunning website where you can explore it in detail. Futhermore, I wrote a bit about it on the Logos Academic blog a few weeks ago, highlighting its most unique feature (focus on biblical theology). Therefore, I would instead like to discuss the controversial issue surrounding the NIV 2011.

Last week our President Dr. David Dockery hosted a Q&A with Dr. D. A. Carson on the new NIV Zondervan Study Bible, and I decided to pose the question to Dr. Carson when the floor was open for questions. Specifically, I asked him how he would respond to complementarians who won’t give this new study Bible a chance because of the fact that it uses the NIV. Both in person and online I’ve seen fellow complementarians decry this new study Bible for its use of the gender neutral NIV, and there was a time when I would have done the same.

Carson noted the need to distinguish between changes in language that are culture-wide and don’t necessarily bring with it huge theological/cultural biases, and those changes driven by ideology (e.g. those on the far left who want to address God as “Our Father and Mother.” While there are feminine analogies for God in Scripture, He is never addressed as mother or described with feminine pronouns). In other words, complementarians need not worry over gender neutral pronouns as long as the pronouns for God are right. And this is because language is ever-changing and shaped by use. Whereas decades ago masculine pronouns were understood to be generic, they are now largely used/understood to refer to males. Carson drove home the point by saying that because today “men” connotes men only, it’s actually a better, more faithful translation in certain contexts (e.g. Acts 17:22) to say “men and women” as opposed to “men.” In other words, because of how English has changed, it’s better to use gender inclusive language when the original languages clearly refer to all people, male and female. Carson also mentioned that he and Doug Moo had stepped off the board of CBMW when they connected complementarianism to linguistic commitments, and that the council has since dropped that connection. I was not aware of either of these facts and found them both particularly enlightening.

The NIV 50th anniversary website has a very helpful piece chronicling the history of revisions of the translation, noting especially the research and data concerning the use of generic pronouns and identifiers in contemporary English. The issue is also noted in this brief video where a few members of the translation committee such as Doug Moo, Karen Jobe, and Mark Strauss discuss translation and linguistics. Carson himself wrote a very helpful book on this matter (The Inclusive-Language Debate: A Plea for Realism) nearly two decades ago, and it’s a great place to go for more in-depth treatment of this topic.

All that to say, I hope the fact that it uses the NIV does not deter complementarians from making use of this unique new study Bible. From the mature high school student all the way to the adult Bible study leader, all will find the NIV Zondervan Study Bible helpful for grasping the unfolding narrative of Scripture. Whereas many lay Christians see the Bible as a random collection of unconnected stories and moral prescriptions, this study Bible has a huge potential of making the average person in the pew a better reader and interpreter of Scripture, able to see the interconnectedness and development of the biblical storyline and able to trace the glorious themes that run from Genesis to Revelation. Check out the NIV Zondervan Study Bible website to explore the features!

Purchase: Amazon

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy!