Book Review: “A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament”

syntaxOnce you have learned the basics of reading Koine Greek, a beginner student starts being able to read longer passages and units with only occasional help from a Greek Lexicon or Bible language software. But there are still thorny passages that defy explanation, even after several lexicons or grammars have been consulted. These threaten to frustrate and discourage the student from reading in the original language. However, resources like Charles Lee Irons’ A Syntax Guide for Readers of the New Testament attempt to fill that gap and aid the student in deciphering intermediate and difficult passages.

“The primary aim,” the introduction states, “is to provide concise explanations of syntactical, clause-level features that may not be immediately obvious to the beginner.” This is intended to be a companion resource that one reading the Greek New Testament would have open (or readily accessible) while reading in order to facilitate a smooth understanding of the text.

Does it succeed in its aim? I used the Syntax Guide in a variety of settings: in a Greek exegesis class focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, in preparation for teaching a weekly Sunday School class for adults, and for sermon preparation. I found that it in every instance I consulted it, it gave good readings for difficult passages. Most of the time it simply provides a translation. Occasionally it cites the entry in BDAG where the definition it gives for a particular word can be found and cross-referenced. And sometimes it goes even further, providing an explanation for what is going on at the grammatical level instead of just translating the difficult phrase in question.

There were times it did not cover a phrase that I hoped that it would and there were other times that it simply gave a translation instead of a longer explanation. But those were the exceptions. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the New Testament will be an excellent help to any beginning or intermediate student of New Testament Greek looking for a help in growing in their understanding of NT Greek.

4 stars out of 5

Charles Lee Irons. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016. 629 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: “Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader” (ed. Karen H. Jobes)

dtsFor the student of Koine Greek, a natural next step after learning the basics of the New Testament would be to turn to the Septuagint, or LXX, which is the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. The LXX was the Bible for Greek-speaking Jews from the 3rd Century B.C. until the time of Christ and became the Bible of choice for Christians in the first few centuries of Church history. Its impact on not just those early believers but the New Testament itself is not to be underestimated!

But the Septuagint is a different beast than the New Testament. One jumping straight from the NT to the LXX will encounter unfamiliar vocabulary, slightly (or very different!) meanings of familiar words, and strange syntax. It would be easy to be discouraged by this and not knowing where to begin in tackling this new challenge.

Enter Discovering the Septuagint. Edited by Karen H. Jobes, who teaches New TEstament Greek and Exegesis at Wheaton and has written (with Moisés Silva) an introduction to the Septuagint, this is a work intended to function as a guide for those students making the jump from the familiar waters of NT Greek to the LXX.

Discovering the Septuagint includes “more than six hundred verses of Greek selected from nine different books of the Septuagint” (9). These were chosen as representative of the various genres of the LXX as well as for their distinctiveness and also because they were referenced by NT writers (who at times preferred the LXX version to the Hebrew version).

Each section includes the printed text of the selected verses along with definitions and comments on the parsing or construction of difficult or unfamiliar parts of the verses. An English translation (NETS) follows for reference/comparison, as well as brief discussion of how the selected section is used or referenced in the New Testament.

Discovering the Septuagint fills a needed role in introducing the intermediate Greek student to how to read the Septuagint, guiding the student through important passages and helping familiarize what can be intimidating or frustrating. Jobes and company have produced an immensely helpful and straightforward all-in-one approach (i.e. you don’t need a copy of the Septuagint, an English Bible, a lexicon, and a book on the NT use of the LXX all open on your desk or even in Logos to study a given passage) to the subject that deserves a place in any serious Greek student’s library.

4 stars out of 5

Ed. Karen H. Jobes. Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016. 351 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Review: “A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3” by Allen P. Ross


I previously reviewed the volume on 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Kregel Exegetical Library and found it to be a volume very much to my liking that would make a solid addition to any pastor or student’s library. But 1 & 2 Chronicles is a relatively neglected area when it comes to good, rigorous academic work and commentaries. In contrast, there is no shortage of resources on the Psalms, which Bonhoeffer called “the prayer book of Jesus Christ” and which have given the saints throughout the ages words of comfort, solace, hope, and encouragement. How does this volume on the Psalms hold up?

In brief, it holds up excellently. If you are looking for a commentary that will serve as a one-stop-shop for your exegetical, homiletical, and devotional needs in the Psalms, this commentary would be a superb choice.

First things first: this is part of a 3-volume set on the Psalms and covers from Psalm 90 to 150. The advantage of these multi-volume commentaries is that they can go into much more detail on each Psalm. The main disadvantage is price. The three together currently cost $124.99 on Kregel’s website (though you can chop about $20 off of that by getting them individually on Amazon). So it’s a serious investment to grab them all, but I believe it could be worth it.

You see, the commentary on each Psalm contains a section with extensive notes on the Psalm’s text-critical issues, comparing the history of the Hebrew (MT) versions with the LXX, Qumran, and other extant copies. This is followed by an overview of the Psalm’s content and composition, a section-by-section and verse-by-verse exegetical analysis, and a final message and application section. There is something here for the scholar, the layman, and the preacher (though perhaps *slightly* more for the scholar and pastor).

Of course, this may be simply too much if you are looking for a commentary that only focuses on unpacking the Psalm for personal devotions or for a more thorough translation of the Psalm to a sermon or teaching form with examples that are relevant to a contemporary audience.

But unless you have a very narrow purpose you are looking for a commentary on the Psalms to assist you in achieving, this commentary functions marvelously in a variety of functions. I highly recommend it and am excited to have this in my personal library: can’t wait to use it!

5 stars out of 5

Allen P. Ross. A Commentary on the Psalms: Volume 3: (90-150). Kregel Exegetical Library. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2016. 1018 pp. Hardcover. $49.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Review: “40 Questions about the Historical Jesus” by C. Marvin Pate


40 Questions About the Historical Jesus fills a niche that relatively few other books on Jesus occupy. As the book’s introduction states, “there are many books that focus only on the background issues of the relationship of the historical Jesus to the Christ of faith” (9). These are issues of the historicity of the Gospels, what we can truly know about the man named Jesus of Nazareth that lived 2,000 years ago, and the like. “On the other hand, many other fine books about Jesus only summarize his life, ministry, death and resurrection as based on the Gospels” (ibid.). So some books primarily focus on the background while others focus on the contents of the Gospels as we now have them.

Both of these approaches have their values, but this is a book that distinctly aims to incorporate both background issues to Jesus and the Gospels as well as discussing the content of the Gospels. A brief glance at the table of contents reveals how Pate goes about this: Part 1 (Questions 1-11) addresses background questions about the historical Jesus, Part 2 (Q’s 12-19) includes questions on Jesus’ birth and childhood, Part 3 (20-32) covers questions about Jesus’ life and teachings, and Part 4 (33-40) zeroes in on the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

How does the book do in accomplishing its aims? I was impressed by the scope of the questions (everything from “When was Jesus born?” to “Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?” to “What is the main message of [Matthew/Mark/Luke/John] about Jesus?”) and by the well-researched and thoughtful answers.

Of course, like most books trying to serve as an introduction and reference to a subject as vast as the background to and contents of the accounts about Jesus, this is far from an exhaustive list of questions. For example, aware of some who question whether Jesus was actually crucified on a Friday or perhaps was crucified on a Wednesday (mainly due to a rigid interpretation of “3 days and 3 nights”), I tried to find a specific answer to those exact objections here in this book. Question 37 answers “Did Jesus remain in the tomb three nights and three days?” but mainly does so by presenting positive evidence for a buried-on-Friday-raised-on-Sunday interpretation rather than answering specific claims to the contrary. This is sufficient, but not precisely what I was looking for.

Still, this is a great resource that serves as an excellent starting place for investigating questions about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

4 stars out of 5

C. Marvin Pate. 40 Questions About The Historical Jesus. Grand Rapids, Kregel Academic, 2015. 408 pp. Paperback. $23.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene H. Merrill

chronThere are so many different commentaries out there that it can be overwhelming to try and find a useful one! Both in my personal studies at GGBTS and as an employee at the library on campus I’ve seen the benefits of using a good commentary instead of a poor one.

So what do I think of the Kregel Exegetical Library volume on 1 & 2 Chronicles? It’s an excellent balance of helpful exegesis of the text and application of the material that would work equally well for the preacher and for the student or reader wanting to go deeper in their study of Chronicles.

A few specific points. First, the author. Eugene Merrill is an Old Testament professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who has written, among other things, Kingdom of Priests. Definitely a plus to have him writing this commentary and bringing his expertise to bear.

Commentaries fall somewhere on a range from scholarly/technical to pastoral/application. The one end will examine a book verse-by-verse (and perhaps word-by-word!) in a thorough analysis of the historical background, original language, and original meaning while the other end will focus on what the text means for us today and how we can apply it.

While this commentary falls more towards the scholarly side, it is by no means inaccessible to the pastor or layman. The author provides a discussion of each unit of text (rather than word-by-word) and includes textual critical notes, exegesis and exposition, and the occasional excursus of ideas or application of theology.

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles is a well balanced work that would make a solid addition to any study library.

4 stars out of 5

Eugene Merrill, A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Grand Rapids, Kregel Publications, 2015. 640 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Kregel Publications for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!