The Greek New Testament: Reader’s Edition (UBS5) – A Short Review

The UBS Greek New Testament, Reader's Edition with  Textual Notes--hardcover  -     By: Barclay M. Newman, Florian Voss
 I’ve had my Greek New Testament (UBS 4th Revised Edition) since 2004 when I was in seminary.  It’s been my main NT Greek Bible ever since.  Although I had to tape the spine, it’s held together pretty well. I typically try to keep the same Bibles as long as possible, but recently I purchased the 5th Revised Edition of the UBS Greek New Testament – reader’s edition.  I’ll still use my older Greek Bible for sure, but I like this updated reader’s edition a lot and I see myself using it quite a bit.

Here are some reasons I like it:

  • It’s very solid – the pages are slightly thicker than pages in other Bibles and the hardcover is pretty sturdy.  The page layout is very nice and I like wider margins for notes.
  • There’s a running Greek dictionary on the bottom of each page that contains the parsing and definition of Greek words used less than 30 times in the NT.  Since there are some pretty rare and tough vocab words in the NT, it’s nice to have them handy at the bottom of the page.  I don’t consider it to be cheating when having to look up a rare vocab word.
  • Some of the major text variants are noted.  Usually in a “reader’s Bible,” the critical notes are left out – but it is nice to have some major text variants listed.
  • There’s a dictionary in the back of this Greek NT of words that appear more than 30 times in the NT.  This means that between the running dictionary on each page and the dictionary in the back of the book, the reader has a complete dictionary of all the NT words.  NOTE: these dictionaries only give basic word glosses/meanings and are not meant to be exhaustive dictionaries for exegetical use.

Here are a few pictures in case you’re interested (apologies if the formatting is crazy):

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All in all, I very much recommend this Greek NT – Reader’s Edition (UBS 5 – Revised Edition).  It’s reasonably priced (under $40 right now) and is a great tool for Greek students.  The use of this Greek NT will certainly help people learn how to better read the NT in the original language.  Five stars for sure!

The Greek New Testament: A Reader’s Edition (UBS 5th Revised Edition).

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54002

A Practical & Concise Resource For Reviewing Greek Grammar (Merkle)

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek If you 1) have a few semesters of Greek under your belt and 2) want a concise resource to review the basics of Greek grammar, here’s a book to check out: Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek by Benjamin Merkle.  It’s not a standard shortened Greek grammar.  However, it does contain the basics of Greek grammar such as a brief explanation of the cases (Genitive, Dative, etc.), verbs, participles, pronouns, and so forth.

How is it different than a standard Greek grammar? First, it’s shorter and more concise.  Second, it doesn’t get into all the grammatical details that longer grammars would explain. Third, and most significant, is how each chapter is structured.  Each chapter does deal with a different Greek grammar topic, but there’s more to each chapter than just grammatical notes.

For example, chapter 11 is the five-page chapter on adjectives.  Merkle starts by briefly discussing the adjective θεόπνευστος (God-breathed) in 2 Tim. 3:16 and asks if it is a predicate adjective or an attributive adjective.  He then spends two pages explaining different uses of Greek adjectives, including examples from the NT.  Finally, in the last two pages of the chapter, he comes back to the adjective θεόπνευστος (God-breathed).  Using grammar and syntax, Merkle explains why it is best to take θεόπνευστος (God-breathed) as a predicate adjective (“All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable…”) rather than an attributive adjective: “All God-breathed Scripture is profitable…).

Each chapter is structured like that: a note about the grammar of some phrase in the NT, a discussion of that grammatical topic, and a conclusion about the phrase under discussion.  As you read and study this book, you’ll learn more Greek phrases from the NT, you’ll review the basic Greek grammar rules, and you’ll learn how to use grammar for exegesis.  Grammar and exegesis: two for the price of one!  And it’s not just “geeky” Greek stuff – this structure helps the student exegete and understand the Word!

My final note: if your Greek is more advanced, some of these chapters will probably be too basic for you (although a grammar review is good for all!).  On the other hand, if you’ve only had one or two semesters of Greek or aren’t “getting” it, you’ll want a resource aimed more at beginners.  This one, Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek, is for those somewhere in the middle who want a review.  And yes, I recommend it!

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Greek Humor (Wallace)

 There are countless passages in the Hebrew and Greek texts that are relatively easy to translate and interpret.  On the other hand, there are some texts that are super difficult to translate and interpet.  After many hours/days of work (or more!), sometimes you just can’t figure it out.  One such example for me has been 1 Peter 3:21 (…and this prefigured baptism, which now saves you—not the washing off of physical dirt but the pledge of a good conscience to God—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… NET).

I understand that Peter is talking about what baptism signifies (the blood and resurrection of Christ), but the phrase about the “pledge” or “appeal” of a “good conscience” is pretty tough.  Exegetically or grammatically, how exactly does the “good conscience” phrase relate to “baptism which saves”?  There’s no verb in the “good conscience” phrase, but there is a nominative (pledge/appeal – επερωτημα).  What’s with that?  Is – or how is – that phrase related to the verb “save”?  While looking for meanings of the nominative in Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, I came across this category which I thought was worth a good laugh:

Nominative ad Nauseum – Also known as the aporetic nominative (from the Greek word απορεω, ‘I am at a loss’), this is the category one should appeal to when another slot cannot be found.  The title is descriptive not of the nominative but of the feeling one has in the pit of his/her stomach for having spent so much time on this case and coming up with nothing.

Ha! Yes! Agreed!

Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 64.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Principles for Productive Word Study (Walton)

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (5 vols.) Word studies are a helpful tool in the exegetical toolbox.  There is a lot more to studying Scripture than doing word studies, to be sure, but word studies are helpful in determining the meaning of a text or texts.  Now there are wrong ways to do word studies.  There are exegetical fallacies that are quite common in word studies.  Nobody is immune to these fallacies; we all make mistakes from time to time when it comes to word studies.  I’m sure others have heard some doozies!

However, there are good helps for good word studies.  One that I highly recommend for word studies in the OT is “Principles for Productive Word Study” by John Walton (it’s in the NIDOTTE).  I can’t summarize the whole article here in a brief blog post, but below are a few parts of this article I’ve found helpful:

In order to understand what an author invests in the meaning of a word, we must think about what goes into the choice of a word. Biblical authors did not use some special heavenly language with mystical meanings. Like any other author, a biblical author chose a particular word because it carried precisely the meaning that he wanted to communicate. That sounds too obvious to mention, but it must be realized that there are other alternatives….

When we choose to use a particular word, we are often not conscious of the parts that make up that word. For instance, we use the word “awful” without even noticing that it is a combination of awe + full. English is full of compound words, some easily recognizable, such as “understand,” others not as readily noticed, such as “syllabus.” Our usage of these words does not imply knowledge of the parts, nor does it intend to convey what the parts meant in their individual forms. Therefore, when we analyze the word choices of the authors of Scripture, we should not assume that the use of a compound word assumes knowledge of or carries the meaning of the parts.

Avoid the “cafeteria” approach. In a cafeteria the diner moves through the line choosing whatever food he likes. In a similar fashion some interpreters feel that it is their free choice to decide which aspect of the semantic range to associate with a particular occurrence of a word. Sometimes this is done to the neglect of categories established in the semantic range.

The fact that a word can have a particular meaning does not prove that it does have that meaning.

Again, there is more to this helpful article.  Walton gives some positive ways to do word studies and gives pitfalls to avoid in them. If you are someone who does word studies in Scripture, you should read this article.  Although it is specifically for OT (Hebrew) word studies, there are principles in it that apply to NT (Greek) word studies as well.

John Walton, “Principles for Productive Word Study,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, pages 161-171.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

 

Word Study Fallacies (Carson)

Exegetical Fallacies Many preachers, speakers, and Bible teachers know at least a little Greek.  Knowing a little Greek isn’t a bad thing, but trying to use the little Greek one knows often turns out badly.  One example is when it comes to Greek word studies.  Word study errors are legion.  From defining the word by its root, to always defining the word in the exact same way, to missing metaphors, word studies that are not careful and nuanced can be a train wreck!  Don Carson helpfully lists sixteen (!) word study fallacies in his book, Exegetical Fallacies.  Here are a few:

The root fallacy.  “The root fallacy presupposes that every word actual has a meaning bound up with its shape or its components.  In this view, meaning is determined by etymology; that is, by the root or roots of a word.”  For example, some say that “apostle” is “one sent” because the Greek words are similar (apostolos and apostello).

Semantic anachronism.  “This fallacy occurs when a late use of a word is read back into earlier literature.” For example, some wrongly say that the Greek word power (dynamis) has to do with what we think of as “dynamite.”  This is incorrect; Paul was not thinking of blowing things up when he used the term power (dynamis).

Linkage of language and mentality.  “The heart of this fallacy is the assumption that any language so constrains the thinking processes of the people who used it that they are forced into certain patterns of thought and shielded from others.”

Carson notes more; this is a short and edited summary.  The chapter closes with these wise words – words which those of us who do word studies need to read carefully!

“Perhaps the principal reason why word studies constitute a particularly rich source for exegetical fallacies is that man y preachers and Bible teachers know Greek only well enough to use concordances, or perhaps a little more.  There is little feel for Greek as a language; and so there is the temptation to display what has been learned in study, which as often as not is a great deal of lexical information without the restraining influence of context.  The solution, of course, is to learn more Greek, not less, and to gain at least a rudimentary knowledge of linguistics. …The heart of the issue is that semantics, meaning, is more than the meaning of words.  It involves phrases, sentences, discourse, genre, style; it demands a feel not only for syntagmatic word studies (those that relate to other words) but also paradigmatic word studies (those that ponder why this word is used instead of that word).

D. A Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, chapter one.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI