Review of Raske’s Grammatical Blueprint Bible

Review of: Raske, Gerhard Albert. Grammatical Blueprint Bible (series). London, Ont.: Fundamental Baptist Publishing House, circa 1992-. Volumes reviewed: Genesis 1-11; Ruth; Aramaic sections of OT; James; Johannine Epistles.

Please note that this is a preliminary, draft review. We have posted it for feedback from our peers, as a result of which we have made some revisions already since the initial post. We have also contacted a well-known electronic publisher to verify the author’s claims (on which see the final paragraph of the review). The final review may appear in a journal in due time.

Note: SPEzra Hebrew font is used at a few places below, but it should be intelligible if you do not have that font installed.

The following is a joint review that is intended more as a caution than as a recommendation. The volumes consist primarily of grammatical diagrams of biblical portions, though a number of grammatical and exegetical notes as well as several supplemental sections are included. These include “Genesis Chronology: Biblical Evidence of a Young Earth,” and assorted grammatical lists (e.g., Hebrew duals, NT hapaxes, etc.).

The primary purpose of these volumes is to provide a grammatical diagram with an accompanying interlinear gloss. Though perhaps overly promoted in this series, this type of careful grammatical analysis does substantially benefit the student of the Greek text (Hebrew is another matter, on which, see below). The interlinear features, however, are of more dubious value, especially in the way they are advertised to provide the English-speaking student with such easy access to the grammatical “treasures” of the original text. By fostering undue confidence and unjustified conclusions, such tools may hinder as much as they help. They may serve a limited purpose as an aid to the student who does know the languages and can properly assess the material given.

The OT diagrams include typos, such as ty#$i)”b:@ for ty#$i)r”b:@. The script in Gen 1:1?2:3 in the diagrams prints the vowel patach as the accent darga. The long “o” holem often occurs so far to the left as to be almost over the middle of the following consonant. The font used for the diagrams shifts abruptly at 2:4. (Our colleague, Ken Gardoski, also points out both a Hebrew and a Polish[!] spelling error in Gen 1:2:htfyhf should be htfy:hf and the Polish word “bye” should be “być.”) [If your browser doesn’t display the correct Polish spelling properly, the third letter is a ‘c’ with an accent.]

Raske’s extensive diagramming of OT texts demonstrates finally and conclusively the uselessness of diagramming in Hebrew. With the extensive parataxis of biblical Hebrew, the diagrams add little or nothing to the clear reading of the text. The diagrams overlap to such an extent (to fit multiple verses on a page) that they are very difficult to read. The English interlinear glosses which are included would be much easier to read if they used left-to-right word order instead of slavishly trying to parallel the Hebrew from right to left. Raske seems fixated upon grammatical oddities–the listing of all dual forms in the OT, the notation that Gen 2:25 contains the “first special stem used in Genesis: Hithpolel Imperfect 3 m pl,” a listing of terms he believes refer to “Dinosauers” [sic] (ad loc., Gen 1:20-23), and so forth. The significance of these observations remains obscure. (The list of dual forms in the OT is derived from three lexicons, the last of which is “Baumgardner” [sic]. Since he seems to give no bibliography, it is impossible to know which edition of Koehler and Baumgartner he has referenced.)

The translation of Gen 2:17, “you shall surely progressively die,” is dubious at best. Does he take all imperfects as progressive? Could this be an ingressive imperfect, “you shall surely begin to die,” or a telic imperfect, “you shall ultimately/eventually die”? He offers no reason for his exegetical decision. Raske’s confidence in “the universal believe [sic] that Hebrew is the mother language of all world languages … and that it will always exist” (“Witness,” pp. 4-5) is absurd. This belief is not universal, and it is very likely a false belief based more on wish and supposition than on evidence. His note at Gen 10:29 that Jobab is a “short form for Job” would seem to be built on the very slim evidence of the LXX of Job 42:17 which has Jobab for Job, probably in error. The note at Gen 1:1 that )rfb@f is “used in the qual [sic] as ‘creation out of nothing’ with God only as actor” is in error. This verb is used only with God as its subject (hence divine creation), but in Gen 1:27 God “created” man in His image–a creation that used the pre-existing dust of the ground (therefore not “out of nothing”).

Although Raske insists on basing his diagrams on the MT, which he calls “the Received Text or Textus Receptus of the Old Testament” (“Introduction,” p. 2), he frequently resorts to appeal to the LXX, which seems inconsistent. (The Qumran, the Targums, Samaritan Pentateuch, etc., are not even mentioned, which seems inconsistent with frequent use of the LXX.)

Raske claims that the genealogies of Gen 1-11 are “air-tight,” but must then resort to the variant year lengths given in the genealogies of the LXX to defend the overall length of the era from Shem to Terah, despite the fact that Luke 3:36, which adds a certain “Cainan” between Arphaxad and Salah, clearly implies that the genealogies of Gen 1-11 are not “tight.” Raske’s dogmatic certainty of the date of creation (4174 BC) and the tightness of the genealogies is contradicted by other genealogical texts which clearly skip one or more generations (Exod 6:16-20; Matt 1). His suggestion that the waw consecutive forms in the genealogies are proof of “direct sequence” is ludicrous (“Genesis Chronology,” p. 4). If that be the case, then Gen 5:7, “After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters,” would have to mean that Seth lived 807 years after begetting Enosh and then he had other other children in the very year he died (105 + 807 = 912, his age at his death according to verse 8).

Turning to the NT, although there is no right and wrong way to diagram Greek, there are some generally accepted conventions common to the several systems in current use. Evaluated in this light, Raske’s diagrams are generally conventional. Here, in contrast to the OT, there is greater value due to the much more complex syntactical relationships that are found. Some decisions will vary between different students where there are alternate possibilities (grammar is not a mathematical science with only a single correct solution), so it should not surprise anyone to find such differences in these volumes. No distinction is made in the grammatical representation of participles or infinitives, though there are standardized means of doing this. There are some anomalies to be found that would probably be judged as errors by general grammatical conventions. For example, James 1:2 diagrams a temporal subordinate clause as a direct object. Greek accents are sometimes incorrect, most notably in the case of a final grave accent (a final grave always shifts to an acute when out of flow, which it would usually be in a diagram).

Some obvious examples of subjectivity may be cited, the wisdom of which in a grammatical treatment might be questionable. For example, adverbial participles have been glossed in the interlinear with a supplied modifier (e.g., “because…”). Although this is often advisable in a finished translation, in a grammatical layout they should perhaps have been left as unadorned English participles (this is the normal procedure in an interlinear text). As it stands, the English reader will assume that this is what the Greek text must mean, not realizing that adverbial participles can express a wide range of relationships to the main verb, whether causal, purpose, condition, temporal, etc. Verb tenses are also occasionally “expanded” in the gloss to imply various elements of meaning. The present tense is rather mechanically treated with the addition of “cont” after the English translation–presumably to represent some form of the word “continually.” For example, James 1:11 translates an adjectival participle as “to the ones who love cont[inuously?],” and in verse 12 a verb is glossed as “endures cont[inually?].” This reflects a deficient understanding of the verb tenses (especially in light of recent discussions of verbal aspect, though even an older approach would not be so mechanical in this regard) and will lead the unwary to unjustified exegetical conclusions in some cases.

Of even greater concern than the grammatical issues noted above, however, is the advocacy of the Textus Receptus (hereafter TR) in the introduction to the NT books. One hardly knows where to begin an evaluation given the numerous errors espoused. The TR is confused with the Byzantine/Majority text type (hereafter BT; Raske assumes they are the same, but the TR is only one very small sample of the BT, and it is not the best representation of it at that). His defense of the TR-only position asserts as “acknowledged universally” items that are either irrelevant or outright errors. For example, he asserts that the BT is to be dated to the 2d century AD on the basis of the papyri (P45, 46, 66 are claimed as BT manuscripts!). The “Pechitta” [sic!] is likewise claimed to date to the 2d century (the Peshitta is at least late 4th C., and probably 5th). The “critical text” is tarred as a liberal text, though for some (illogical) reason, the critical text used by the Lockman Foundation is not liberal! In his own words, “Whereas the liberal text (excepted by the Lockman Foundation which has since 1960 financed many modern Translations) represents a much variant, ever changing …, minority, nonsuccessional, nonunified text.” Perhaps Raske intended “accepted by the Lockman Foundation,” but if so, it only illustrates the careless editing and poor “scholarship” of this work. (Also note that this quote forms an incomplete sentence!)

Raske says, “According to Luke 1:1-4, Acts 15:21 and other scriptures, the Bible has always been a majority text since its beginning, because many copies have been made and were widely circulated all over the known world” (James, 3). Not only does this sentence say nothing relevant, but if the probable intent can be guessed (that the frequent copying of the Bible from the beginning proves that the BT is therefore original?), then it represents a very childish grasp of the issues of textual criticism and demonstrates a total lack of logical coherence. The relevance of the two scriptural texts cited is wildly improbable and irresponsible.

In terms of more general comments, it should be noted that the price is ridiculously high. For example, the volume on James consists of about 30 single-sided sheets (8.5 x 11) plus 10 pages of introduction, spiral bound, for $15. The two most expensive volumes (which we have not seen) are Matthew and Luke at $55 and $75 respectively. The entire set of available volumes (all the NT and three OT volume on the most recent price list we have seen) lists for $578. That is an exorbitant price for the quantity and quality of material contained, especially given the fact that most of the volumes are hand drawn and not typeset (though they are gradually being converted to a computerized format).

There are numerous blunders in terms of editing and formatting the text that reflect careless or incompetent editing (e.g., commas at the end of lines, lack of spacing after punctuation, frequent English misspellings, copious examples of incorrect grammar, clumsy writing style, misaligned text, amateurish formatting, lack of page numbers, etc.). All in all, these volumes do not remotely reflect the standards that one would expect of a publication that presents itself as a serious reference tool, especially given the price tag. Such carelessness does not engender a great deal of confidence in the quality of the content. Although the author may well have learned some things in the course of his work and thus profited personally, we cannot honestly see that these books provide anything which cannot be found elsewhere except an unusually large number of errors.

It is somewhat disconcerting to read on the author’s web site that these volumes are going to be published in the “Lotus software.” Given the frequent misspellings in the published materials, and since “Lotus” is a spreadsheet(!), we suspect that “Logos” is the intended reference, although this may be wishful thinking on the part of the author. The reviewers have contacted Logos Research Systems, creators of Logos Bible Software and the Logos Library System, to inquire about this publication and have been told that “Logos has not been approached to publish nor does Logos have current plans to electronically publish theGrammatical Blueprint Bible.”

 

Reviewed by Dr. Alan D. Ingalls
Associate Professor of Old Testament Languages and Literature
and Dr. Rodney J. Decker
Associate Professor of Greek and New Testament
Baptist Bible Seminary, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania