Rod’s health

April 16, 2014 — 3 Comments

As of Wed., April 3, both radiation and chemo treatments have been stopped as part of the treatment plan for Rod’s cancer. Over a year ago, we were told it was treatable but not curable. God in his infinite wisdom and grace has given us many blessings through that year but the cancer has continued to grow and spread due to its aggressive nature.

Rod is now on hospice and from a medical perspective looks like the cancer will take him home before long. Could God perform a miracle? Absolutely! Will he? Only he knows that. We continue to press on to serve him for any remaining time and strength he gives.

We covet and appreciate your prayers. The past few days have been stronger ones for Rod but his body is still showing signs of the cancer’s progress. He is not in pain for which we are praising God.

Our family is enjoying this time with Rod. We cry together, laugh together, and just cherish this time that God is giving us with a man who has led us, loved us, and encouraged us for many years. He exemplifies the one he’s served even through this time when life is drawing to a close.

God continues to be faithful and good even in times like these. Great is our God!

I was very surprised and greatly honored to be asked to preach Dick’s funeral message. There are far more capable preachers than me. But to open the Word of God at the memorial service for one of my long time mentors and friends was a special privilege. I prayed, and my church family at Northmoreland prayed with me, that God would give me both the physical strength to stand to preach and also the emotional strength to do so in an honorable way. My oncologist also worked with me in advance to prepare my weakened body for the physical challenge; his help is appreciated.

Dick had given specific written instructions as to what the preacher was to do. (I explain them in the message). In one of his last lucid moments 2 weeks ago he asked his wife to contact me to be that preacher. So, for what it is worth, here is a pdf manuscript of the message. It comprised about the last half hour of a two-hour memorial service.

(If you have no idea who “Dick” is, see the previous post on this blog.)


Richard W. Engle
1933 — 2014

RWE Barb

Christian, OT scholar, pastor, mentor, friend, colleague

“Life is tough, but God is good—all the time.”

ThB, Baptist Bible Seminary; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary;
ThD, Grace Theological Seminary

d. 3/9/2014


L-to-R: Richard Engle, Rod Decker, Bill Arp

Dick and Bill joined the faculty at the same time and taught together at BBC and later at BBS (Dick in OT, Bill in NT) for 35 years until Dick retired in 2006. I was one of their (undergrad) students when they arrived on faculty, later worked as Dick’s student assistant/grader, and many years later I was privileged to become their colleague on the Seminary faculty.


At Dick’s retirement service in 2006 (as are the other pictures above) with his wife Barb

In the Preface to my forthcoming grammar (Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction) I wrote this:

One other prof deserves mention. Though he was not one of my language teachers, Dr. Richard Engle is one of the chief reasons why I persevered in Greek. He came to the classroom after ten years of pastoral ministry. In his theology and Bible classes I saw a blend of the biblical languages, theology, and ministry. He later became a Hebrew professor in seminary, but in his undergrad classes he convinced me that if I was serious about Scripture, I had to be serious about the biblical languages; I could not get by with lip service to the original text. He not only taught it, he modeled it. Dick’s example guided my attempt at a similar integration for the dozen years I spent in the pastorate and is the vision that I now try to communicate to my students who aspire to pastoral ministry.

A memorial service will be held at Heritage Baptist Church in Clarks Summit, Pa. on Tue., Mar 18 at 4 pm; visitation 2–4 pm.

Posted below is a 2-page pdf file with a list of 48 verbs in the NT that take a dative direct object. This is not complete, though it is more complete than other lists I’ve seen thus far. It is based on the list of 20 verbs in Robertson’s Grammar and then supplemented with a search of the entries in BDAG using Accordance to find verbs that have notes regarding the use of the dative. I’m happy to have feedback on this list, either suggestions for omission (if you think I’ve included inappropriate verbs) or for addition for those that I’ve surely missed. I am distinguishing between verbs which take a direct object and others that have a dative complement. I realize that some prefer just to list them all as complements, but I think there is a legitimate distinction.


Thanks to my friend Ronaldo, I discovered this morning that the Mark Handbook is now listed on Amazon. They give these details:

Mark: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament)

Paperback – November 1, 2014

by Rodney J. Decker

Product Details

Series: Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament


Publisher: Baylor Univ Press (November 2014)

v. 1: ISBN-10: 1481302388

ISBN-13: 978-1481302388

v. 2: ISBN-10: 1481302396

ISBN-13: 978-1481302395

MkHdbkCoverArt MkHdbkCoverArtVol2

It is going to be two vols. (yes, I sent in a fairly large MS!). Even then the editor cut it by 20% and suggested that it might well become the first 2-vol. handbook in the series, but this is the first “official” confirmation of that I’ve seen. This means that Mark may be larger than the single vol. on Luke.

Amazon is currently selling the Kindle edition of Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies for $3. If you like to read in that format and don’t have this book, it’s a good deal (pbk. is $11.59). I would not want to see a student graduate—from any school that teaches Greek for the purpose of exegeting the NT—without having read this book. It’s a good read and has a lot of sane advice about how to use Greek. It’s not a complete handbook of how to do exegesis, but it will disabuse beginners (& perhaps embarrass some veterans!) of some of the unjustified (& unjustifiable) things that have been done with Greek in the name of exegesis or preaching.

I spoke in our seminary chapel today on Luke 20:27–38. It is not a profound sermon and may not many qualities of a sermon per se.

My thoughts on this passage were stimulated a year or two ago when a friend of mine, John Makujina, asked me to proof an article that he was writing. That article will appear in the next (?) edition of Filologia Neotestamentaria, “‘Till Death Do Us Part,’ Or the Continuation of Marriage in the Eschaton? Answering Recent Objections to the Traditional Reading of Γαμέω-Γαμίζω in the Synoptic Gospels,” 25 [2012]: 57–74. (FN runs well behind, so yes, 2012 is the correct year, though not yet in print that I know.) It’s well worth reading when it is available; quite technical. Another helpful discussion is found in Bock’s BECNT comm. on Luke. Were this an academic paper rather than a sermon, there would be footnotes to both Makujina and Bock.

So, FWIW, here’s a transcript, slightly edited and abridged from the oral presentation.


A personal note

January 29, 2014

I don’t like to clutter the blog with too much stuff regarding my health, but for those of you who keep asking…

December was a (relatively) good month. I had some energy back and felt much better than Sept-Nov. Unfortunately, January began a downward trend. The chemo has stopped working and the cancer is spreading aggressively once again, enough so that I can feel the difference markedly. So as of Friday this week I begin a different chemo regimen—one that is more aggressive with potentially more troublesome side effects. We’ll see how it goes…! I managed to keep my hair through the first round (though much thinner and shorter), maybe I’ll get to be bald with the new prescription! :)

I received a heavy package by UPS yesterday:

RKG galleyProofs Jan2014sm

5.5″ tall and 1,203 pages! (No, the grammar won’t be anywhere near that big. The galleys are double-spaced—even the tables, etc.—for editorial purposes.) I have 3 weeks to proof this pile. I’m now on p. 148, so only 1,055 more to go! I don’t know who the copy editor was, but they have done a good job, not only in polishing the English, but by making helpful suggestions regarding Greek (which they obviously know, thankfully!). So if anyone has wondered if this was vaporware, here’s the evidence that it’s actually making progress through the editorial pipeline.

Unfortunately, I also received word with the Galleys that the release date has been pushed back to Nov 2014. That means, to my great disappointment, that it will not be available for textbook use this coming academic year. :( The publisher says, and I suppose correctly, that since it had already slipped to July, it was not realistic that it would be used next fall anyway since textbook adoptions must be made earlier than that. So they have decided that they should not promise it before November. I had dearly hoped to use it this fall myself in the nice printed form, but looks like I will be using photocopies again. For those of you who had also hoped to use it this fall, my sincere apologies, but I have no control over such things.

CBD now lists my forthcoming grammar, and at a significantly lower price than Amazon. (I suspect the Amazon price will drop before release.)

Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook

By: Rodney J. Decker

Baker Academic / 2014 / Hardcover

$32.99 (CBD Price)

Retail: $49.99

Save 34% ($17.00)

Availability: This product will be released on 07/15/14

CBD Stock No: WW039287

ISBN-13: 978-0801039287

Amazon now lists my grammar, Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook, Hardcover, $44.99, with an Amazon date of August 19, 2014. (I haven’t heard anything recently from the publisher regarding a release date; it was originally April, then June.)

ISBN-10: 0801039282

ISBN-13: 978-0801039287

(The Amazon link above, BTW, is not an affiliate link, so it’s “safe” to click it. There are no hidden links, IDs, or cookies attached, and I get no profit from you buying it via that link; this site is a ministry, not a sales point.)


Oh, BTW, the past few weeks I’ve done little else but work on final corrections/edits for the Mark volume in the Baylor Handbook on the Greek NT series. I received the MS back from the editor Nov 31 and it is due back to him very soon—hopefully next week. All the editorial “flags” have been addressed (lots of them!) and now I’m working on making sure everything is as consistent as possible. When the consistency check is finished, then one final proofing and it should be ready to go. Release for this book will likely be next fall (ETS/SBL confs). There may also be two other vols released at the same time: 2 Cor (Fredrick Long?) and Gal (David deSilva?).

Dan Wallace has an interesting—and challenging—suggestion/method for reading through the entire Greek NT in a year (or a month if you have the ability—though he admits that is not for the faint-hearted!). Since it involves reading 3 chapters a day, with 2 being review chapters, you actually read the NT 3 times in a year.

Not sure how I missed this on the fall conference tables, but there is a new edition of D. A. Carson’s NT Commentary Survey. 7th ed. Baker, 2013. 176 pgs. pbk. ISBN: 9780801039904.

If you are not familiar with this resource, you really ought to be, esp. if you are a pastor, student, or even a NT specialist. (The pastor is the primary target audience.) The burgeoning number of commentaries of various sorts on just about any NT book makes it nigh impossible for most of us to keep track of what’s available and to what our attention might profitably be due—and these two categories do not coincide!

That is the value of the extensive survey and analysis that Carson provides. His analysis does not consist of reviews of each volume—that would take an encyclopedic work. Rather he gives you his conclusions as to the best works available on each NT book along with extensive listings of other resources grouped in various categories. For many there are very brief comments as to why they are listed as they are. That is where the Survey shines. This is not just a dull bibliography. Carson writes with verve and pulls no punches. It’s the only bibliography with which I am familiar that can produce chuckles and even peals of laughter as you read. (If you are a commentary writer, it may also produce tears!)

When I was pastoring and the early editions of this Survey became available (many years ago now) my practice, which I commend to young pastors seeking a pattern for their preaching and study, was to look ahead at my intended preaching schedule and then consult Carson and the other bibliographies available (in the early years—1980s—Barber’s Minister’s Library was another standby, but now obsolete) to see what I had and what was recommended. I’d then buy 3 or 4 of the best of those recommendations so as to have on hand the tools I’d be most likely to profit from in the coming year as my preaching schedule materialized into actual sermons.

I’ll append some of my favorite comments from a few NT books as a sample and then suggest that you visit your favorite book source and get your own copy (yes, even if you have the 6th ed.; the additions and new/expanded sections are worth it). I’ll leave the more negative comments anonymous as to the writer so described; you can find them for yourself if you’re interested. If it appears that there are more negative than positive, that’s true of the book overall. Carson’s goal is, I think, to hi-light the best and indicate why others do not measure up.


6 best commentaries for pastors are: France, Edwards, Stein, Lane, Hooker, and Brooks. (These are followed by a mixed summary of their strengths that I’ll not reproduce here.)

Negative assessments

  • “Sometimes incautiously speculative in its re-creation of the church circumstances Mark allegedly addresses.”
  • “Far too speculative regarding what can be known about the historical Jesus. Mark emerges as a late Paulinist.”
  • “He is stimulating but irritating, owing to a penchant to read behind the passage rather than the passage itself, and sometimes to read in defiance of the passage.”
  • “So odd I am uncertain why it was published.”


“Until a few years ago, the book of Acts was still not particularly well served by commentaries, but this has changed. The first choice today for pastors and students is David G. Peterson (PNTC, 2009). It reflects careful work across the gamut of integral disciplines: text criticism, grammatical exegesis, historical considerations, literary criticism, and, above all, robust theological reflection.’

Also commended are Schnabel (ZECNT), Bock (BECNT), Barrett (ICC), and Fitzmyer (AB).

Less complementary assessments

  • “Its deviously complex reconstructions of Luke’s sources and theological interests not infrequently in defiance of hard evidence, make it an unsuitable starting point for most preachers.”
  • “Amazingly thin on theology, for which coins and inscriptions are no substitute.”
  • “Not theologically rich but is generally useful if one overlooks the occasionally intrusive semi-Pelagianism.”
  • “Only rarely reflects careful exegesis. Theology that is too abstracted from the history in which God embedded its disclosure, let alone careful contextual reading of the text, is in danger of being free-floating, rootless.”
  • “Sometimes more interested in communication than in a careful understanding of the material to be communicated.”
  • “Sometimes confuses carefully examined social context with comparatively uncontrolled modern social theory.”


“Although one or two reviewers of earlier editions of this Survey have criticized me for saying so, with distinct lack of repentance I continue to think that the best Romans commentary for pastors available in English is still the work of Douglas J. Moo (NIC, 1996). It is becoming a bit dated now, and its introduction is thin, but Moo exhibits extraordinary good sense in his exegesis. No less important, his is the first commentary to cull what is useful from the new perspective on Paul while nevertheless offering telling criticisms of many of its exegetical and theological stances. The combination of the strong exegesis and the rigorous interaction makes the work superior to…”

“Occasionally Cranfield [ICC, 2 vols.] seems more influenced by Barth than by Paul, but for thoughtful exegesis of the Greek text, with a careful weighing of alternative positions, there is nothing quite like it. It is rare that a commentary provides students with an education in grammatical exegesis.”

Less complementary assessments

  • “Its socio-rhetorical interpretation is too narrow, too horizontal, and, finally, too unconvincing.”
  • On many issues I could not avoid the feeling that the exegesis in this commentary is agenda-driven.”
  • “Suitably faddish but too often misses Paul’s point.”
  • “Characterized by somewhat untamed rhetoric when he dismisses those with whom he disagrees.”
  • “Will fill your soul with lovely thoughts, even if you have something less tangible at the end than you expected.”
  • “The thesis as a whole is frankly reductionistic; … makes the epistle feel as if it is a book about [the commentary writer's] own ideas rather than something rooted in history.”

Misc. comments from other books (not identified here)

  • “Shows too many signs of haste. More irritatingly, it does not seem to have been edited or proofread.”
  • “Written with color and verve…. The work is an exercise in brilliantly phrased reductionism.”
  • “Wordy and often betrays too little time and care taken with the text, so that they cannot be read as reliable commentary.”
  • “Painfully divorced from the historical Jesus: one marvels at how bright [the biblical author] is and how unknown Jesus is.”

More could be said and excerpted, but this is enough to encourage you (I hope!) to make good use of this book.

When Your World Crashes Down

November 22, 2013

A week ago my OT colleague and good friend, Mark McGinniss, and I shared the seminary chapel to talk about our personal journeys over the past year—a year which might well be titled “When Your World Crashes Down.” Our situations are, in one sense, quite different. They are similar in that we have both had to face some unexpected realities in life. I’ve mentioned my circumstances here before, so I will not rehearse them again. Mark is dealing, not with a terminal diagnosis, but with “TN”—a nonterminal condition that produces some of the most excruciating pain known to medical science, and that on a very frequent basis. At this point there is no medical hope for any change in his condition and he (and his wife) must anticipate living with it for the rest of his life. Mark is younger than me. A few weeks ago we talked about addressing these situations in chapel so that our young “pastors in training” could grapple with issues they would one day face in ministry. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but it was a very emotional hour for both Mark and me. Below you will find a transcript of our initial presentation. The rest of the hour was Q&A format. We have been told that it was a helpful discussion, though we are not in a good position to judge. So, FWIW, here’s what we said up front.

When Your World Crashes Down (pdf)

For those who do not know Mark, his specialty is OT poetry, especially the Song of Songs. He blogs at Outside My Door.


The fall sale circular from American Bible Society just arrived with their annual student sale. Go to and enter promo code SCHOL40 at check out for 40% off. Some of the items you’ll find:

UBS Greek NT, 4th rev. ed., Item #112824, ISBN, 978-3-43805-110-3, list $43.99, sale $26.39 {Note to my students in NT503 and LA302: this is the one you’ll need for second semester.

The more technical edition (for more detailed exegesis and textual criticism) is the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graeca, 28th ed., Item #123842 (for the standard ed.; there are also leather bound and large print eds.), list $45.99, sale $27.59.

If you’re feeling extravagant, you can get the combined ed. of Rahlf’s LXX (2nd ed.) and NA28, Biblia Graeca, item #124057, list $149.99 for a sale price of only $89.99! The combined edition of BHS and NA*27* is the same price.

Any of the other related works such as Metzger’s Textual Commentary, SQE, Rahlf’s LXX, BHS (large print, standard, or paper), BHQ fascicles, etc. are listed as well.