Archives For New Testament

Here’s the abstract for Dr. Green’s work on periphrastics that I mentioned last week.


This dissertation addresses two issues related to the Greek periphrastic construction in the New Testament: (1) identifying the periphrastics and (2) understanding the meaning associated with the periphrastic construction. Chapter 2 discusses the ways scholars have identified and understood periphrastics, concluding that there is no consensus on either issue.

In order to address these two issues, a data set of 506 NT passages broad enough to include all εἰμί periphrastics in the NT was created. Chapter 3 evaluates the data and eliminates the passages that do not contain a periphrastic with the result that 211 passages containing 243 periphrastics occur in the NT. Chapter 4 uses this list of 211 passages to discover the various syntactical arrangements of the periphrastic as well as the types of words that serve as adjuncts separating the auxiliary and the participle. On this basis a preliminary definition of the εἰμί periphrastic is offered.

Chapter 5 evaluates all 243 εἰμί periphrastics using Aerts‖ categories of suppletive, substitute, and expressive in order to describe the meaning of the construction. This study demonstrates that 76 periphrastics are suppletive forms, forms that occur because the equivalent monolectic form is either not used or is fading from use in the Koine period. Additionally, 142 periphrastics are substitute periphrastics and thus have no meaning beyond the meaning of the equivalent monolectic form. The remaining 25 NT periphrastics are expressive. Each of these expressive periphrastics satisfies the criterion that the periphrastic communicates something more or beyond the finite form equivalent. In addition, chapter 5 demonstrates that periphrastics using a present participle are often continuous in pragmatic force, but this is not an absolute rule. In addition, periphrastics using a perfect participle emphasize the state or condition of the action in keeping with their aspectual value.

The final chapter offers a refined definition of the εἰμί periphrastic based on both the syntactical and semantic qualities of the construction. This dissertation encourages interpreters not to overinterpret the periphrastic construction by assuming that syntactical markedness is equal to semantic markedness. Finally, it urges commentators and grammarians to discuss periphrastics in a more nuanced fashion.

Green, Robert E. “Understanding ΕΙΜΙ Periphrastics in the Greek of the New Testament.” Ph.D. dissertation, Baptist Bible Seminary, 2012.

Is historical, grammatical exegesis (HGE) a culturally-justified practice that is only valid so long as the prevailing ethos considers it to be appropriate? As I was reading Gundry’s massive commentary on Mark this morning I ran across this statement in regard to 12:26.

Modern exegetes would brand the transfer of Exod 3:6 from past to future as highhanded violation of the originally intended meaning. But in first century Palestinian Judaism … an argument’s consisting of grammatical historical exegesis would have lacked cogency, just as in another two thousand years different techniques of interpretation (psychological, sociological, economic, rhetorical, and structural posing possibilities that grow out of the present, to say nothing of unpredictable possibilities) may cause grammatical historical exegesis to lose its cogency. What counted then was ingenuity at playing with words by such means as transferring them to new frames of reference where they could be made to say new things, as indeed at the popular level may still count for more than does grammatical historical exegesis.

Robert Gundry, Mark (Eerdmans, 1993), 704.

I find this an indefensible argument for it would destroy any semblance of communicating meaning. Though the term HGE is certainly of relatively modern provenance, and some of the sorts of questions that we ask may be new (or at least framed differently), it is, in essence what people have always done in attempting to determine the meaning of a text in any discipline (law, business, history, and religion) if they assume that the text was intended to communicate meaning. Yes, there have always been those who prefer to “play” with texts, to deconstruct them or to use them in mystical or magical ways, but those are not attempts at determining meaning; they are efforts at creating meaning. As such they have no validity in saying what a text meant, only what the same string of words can be made to mean in a different setting. That meaning is the player’s meaning, however, not that of the text. Of course those enamored with a postmodern view of texts would not agree with me. Though that is their prerogative, they have no right to attribute their meaning to the text. I prefer that when a bank teller reads my account statement that he/she understands it the way its author intended–and as I intend to read it! I do not want them creating artistic, playful games with my money! Just because a text is “religious” does not exempt it from normal reading and interpretation. All that to say that I do not find Gundry’s view of HGE persuasive. Though exegesis may not always be “in favor” with the culture at large, that does not render it invalid.

(Now I will acknowledge that the last clause of the statement I quoted is probably true! Popular practice, however, does not justify/warrant the practice.)

Long overdue (my apologies to the publisher and the publicist), my comments on this new volume were delayed by unexpected events this past spring and summer. But if I don’t take time to do it now, it will never get done since the fall semester is upon us! 🙂

In essence Andy Naselli has taken the highly regarded volume by Carson and Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan, 2005), and produced an abridged guide of about 160 pgs. that is suited for local church study groups, student groups on (secular) campuses, or perhaps a Bible Institute or freshman-level college class. The intended audience need not have much background in biblical studies, though it does need to be serious about grappling with the text. This book will be of little interest to the sort of “Bible study” that spends all its time asking, “What does that mean to you?”!

Book-by-book through the NT the following questions are asked:

  • What is the book about?
  • Who wrote the book?
  • What style of literature is used?
  • When was the book written?
  • Where was the book written?
  • To whom was the book written?
  • What does the book contribute to our understanding of the faith?

The content typically gives mostly summaries of conclusions without detailed defenses of various positions, though some of the more important conclusions have some indication of why the authors take the position they do. There are, however, brief bibliographies for each chapter that offer direction toward the more detailed discussions which are assumed here.

There are introductory chapters to the various sections of the NT that address some of the more technical questions and some book chapters also touch on some such issues. As examples (and only that; the list is far longer), the chapter on Mark has a brief discussion on the ending of the book (concluding that Mark ends at 16:8), the introduction to the NT letters has 4 pages on pseudonymity and pseudepigraphy (a very helpful summary for its brevity), and a chapter on Paul has an overview of the new perspective on Paul.

If this small book serves to entice serious readers to spend more time studying the NT and perhaps to stretch to interact with Carson and Moo’s larger work, it will serve a helpful purpose.

Gal 2:21, δωρεάν

April 17, 2010

Here’s an interesting abstract from an upcoming SBL paper (International Meeting in July) by by Peter Spitaler, Villanova University:

“‘Biblical Greek’ in Galatians 2:21? The Dubious Case of δωρεάν.”

The word δωρεάν (a noun in the accusative case used adverbially) occurs nine times in New Testament texts (Matt 10:8[2x]; John 15:25; Rom 3:24; 2Cor 11:7; Gal 2:21; 2Thess 3:8; Rev 21:6; 22:17). In modern NT editions, it is commonly translated with one of its classical and Hellenistic Greek meanings, namely, “freely”, “gratuitously”, or “as a gift” – with the exception of Gal 2:21. In this verse, δωρεάν is variously rendered “for nothing” (NRSV; NAB), “in vain” (KJV; NKJV), “to no purpose” (RSV). These translations camouflage the fact that a significant shift in meaning has occurred, which originated with interpretation traditions dating back to the first centuries C.E. The long practice of reading δωρεάν in non-traditional (i.e., classical and Hellenistic Greek) ways eventually led F. Büchsel to observe, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, that this meaning is “never found outside the LXX and NT (including the post-apostolic fathers)” and conclude that “we have here a true example of biblical Greek.” What caused δωρεάν’s meaning to shift from denoting unearned, free, “gratis” events to events “without purpose” and, thus, produce a new linguistic category, “biblical” Greek meaning of δωρεάν, of which there is only one instance attested? To suggest alternatives to this long-standing interpretation, this paper attempts to (1) shed light on the interpretation processes that caused the word’s meaning to shift in the post-Pauline era; (2) offer a close look at the grammar and syntax of Gal 2:21; and (3) reevaluate the meaning and function of δωρεάν within its literary context.

[Greek text substituted for transliteration in original abstract.]

HT: Stephen C. Carlson on Hypotyposeis

I think I’ve seen this before, but didn’t remember where it was, but here’s a very helpful page on the blog by Erwin Ochsenmeier that lists all the necessary text critical symbols with their correct Unicode characters/values. I’ve included one chart, but there are others there as well as instructions for how to enter them.


HT: Christian Askeland on the Evang. Text Crit blog

I just received an email from our cataloging librarian. You can smell the skepticism in the note:

I am cataloging a book which has a note in it that it will go on reserve for you. It is: The Scribes: a Novel about the Early Church by Peter Rodgers. Is that correct? You wanted this novel on reserve for NT810? Just checking to be sure we have the right book since it’s a novel.

Here’s my reply.

As surprising as it might seem, yes, that is correct. It is “historical fiction” that is very well done (at least on the history end! The author will never be mistaken for Tolkien or Lewis! 🙂 ) He has a PhD in NT from Oxford and it’s actually a novel with *footnotes*! [technically, “endnotes”]. A very useful tool for introducing students to a somewhat arcane subject. 🙂

I’ve used this the past couple of years in a master’s level class in NT textual criticism. We don’t spend a lot of time on it—they have to read it before they come to the first class. It raises all sorts of interesting questions (many of which my students have not thought of before, and a number of which they are skeptical) that make a great platform for exploring the subject. So if you have any interest in the subject, you ought to read Rodgers’ novel sometime.

ISBN: 1587217171

“First Books/Authorhouse, 2000”

Here’s a link to the publisher’s page, which includes a good summary as well as a preview page. There’s also an intriguing note that this book is “the first in a series of historical novels.” This is the only one by Rodgers listed, so I don’t know if that was only a once-upon-a-time dream, or if there’s actually a series in the works. If anyone knows anything in that regard, please post a comment.

– – –

Added note: I just ran across this on the Evang Text Crit blog:

P J Williams said…

The second in the series will feature “a missionary journey to Gaul and Britain, undertaken by the scribes in response to a request sent to Bishop Eleutherus”. The third vol. is on the N. African church. The fourth focuses on the Syriac domain.

This is not of great exegetical value, but thanks to a discussion on the Accordance forums, I can report that there are 7 one-word sentences in the Greek NT (+ 1 in the short ending of Mark).

Matt 11:9 προφήτην;

Mark 4:3 Ἀκούετε.

Luke 7:26 προφήτην;

Acts 15:29 Ἔρρωσθε.

Rom 3:9 προεχόμεθα;

Rom 3:27 ἐξεκλείσθη.

2 Pet 3:18 ἀμήν. (There is a similar instance of ἀμήν in the short ending of Mark.)

If we get down to the number of letters, that makes 2 Peter 3:18 the verse that contains the shortest sentence.

NT scholarship

August 20, 2009

From an interview with Larry Hurtado (U/Edinburgh) by “Matt” on his “Broadcast Depth” blog:

Q: “If there is one piece of advice you could give to someone entering New Testament scholarship, what would it be?”

A: “Yet again, how to choose one?? I’ll ignore that and offer a few that come to mind! Languages: work on Greek of course (reading, reading, reading, both NT texts and more widely, such as Apostolic Fathers), and other primary-text languages (especially Hebrew, but also Latin if possible), and key languages of modern scholarship (German especially, and French). Context and perspective: aim to familiarize yourself with texts, figures, movements, issues, developments ca. 200 BCE to at least 200 CE! It’s in this slightly wider historical horizon that one sees the remarkable features of the NT texts. Commit yourself also to fair and self-critical engagement with scholarship. My PhD supervisor (E. J. Epp) insisted on one rule above all others, and I re-affirm it: Make sure that you accurately represent the views of others, especially those with whom you disagree. Cheap polemics are of no value to anyone. The NT texts and the scholarship on them will require the most conscientious self-discipline of mind and spirit, and the honing of critical and expressive abilities. But I think these texts are worth the effort!”

This is good advice not only for PhD students (and PhD grads!), but also for master’s and bach’s level students, particularly the advice about reading Greek and fairly representing opposing positions. (The second is harder than the first! 🙂 )

HT: Mike Aubrey

Here’s a very helpful survey of the proper text critical symbols in Unicode.

Entering New Testament Textual Criticism Signs
Erwin Ochsenmeier at blog (with help from Luc Herren of the Institut für Neutestamentliche Textforschung)

Don’t be tempted to use other gylphs that look similar! These are the official assignments. Very few fonts have them. There is info on the page linked above as to your best choices for these symbols (& Greek in general).

I recently received a query along the following lines and thought perhaps my answer would be interest to others.

I am digging down in Koine grammar somewhat and have all the standard reference works. What would you suggest as an approach, as I have read and used Wallace for awhile and consulted BDF, MHT, ATR here and there? I am thinking of reading-through MHT, but this is a pretty big undertaking. Have you found profit in doing something like this, or would you suggest a different approach to Gk grammar study? So far, I have adopted as a pastor a “manual approach,” where I use Wallace and Dana-Mantey for rough-sketch purposes and then look topically through the reference works to find more specificity. I have no idea what to do with BDF, really, as I think I pick up about 1/2 of what it’s saying. It’s like reading the yellowpages. I also do a search in Logos for Bible references to get all the grammars’ “commentary” on any specific verse. This has been profitable in exegesis in terms of time-saving…

You’ll learn more Greek by teaching it and having to answer students’ questions (or find answers for them). Wallace is the ideal reference tool while doing exegesis, but it’s not helpful for teaching. It’s just too big for a textbook and students are too easily intimidated. It has, for most practical purposes, replaced all the “big” grammars for the avg. pastor.

The “big” ones, however are still valuable for people like yourself. ATR is still unmatched in many areas, but very wordy. MHT is good in vv. 1 & 2, but much less reliable in 3 & 4 (Turner has some odd ideas on Greek). BDF is the Cadillac for many purposes, but very difficult to use since it *assumes* a working knowledge of classical grammar–which means you have to have Smyth as well (and that’s worth having and using; despite focusing on classical, you’ll find material there that’s not in any koine grammar). I’m not sure it’s worth reading straight through any of these. Unless someone has a unique memory, most of it won’t “stick” in that format. I was required to read BDF for Adv Gk Gram in my doctoral work (because my prof was req to read it in his!), but didn’t find it a particularly profitable exercise. You’d be better served at this point, if you’re comfortable with Wallace, to work carefully through two other intermediate grammars: Porter’s *Idioms* and Young’s *Intermediate NT Gk.* They both have their strengths and both cover things not found in Wallace. (I do not recommend D&M.) As you read, carry on a running “conversation” with Wallace. Where do these 3 works agree? Disagree? What is significant about their disagreements? Who makes the best sense of the evidence, etc. I’d suggest that Porter’s strength is the verb, Young’s is clause and sentence structure, and Wallace’s the noun and article (& perhaps the participle). Work through their examples and test competing theses against the examples in the *other* grammars. It’s not too hard to give examples that fit your system; it’s more difficult if someone else is selecting the text passages!

Beyond that, diagram all the NT passages you teach or preach. Though it’s not a panacea, it forces you to ask and answer grammar questions you wouldn’t think of otherwise. It’s the process of justifying your decisions that generates the profit from such exercises–which are admittedly more profitable in epistolary genre than narrative.

I recently received a review copy of Burge, Cohick & Green, The NT in Antiquity (Zondervan, 2009). It’s a nice looking volume, but I’ve just begun examining it. I was somewhat startled to see the color photo of a papyrus manuscript on p. 16 (the first page of chapter 1!) labeled as P52. It is NOT P52. Whoops! I’m not where I can attempt to match it with the correct number at the moment, but it’s surely not P52. How a major photo extravaganza book could mis-identify such a key photo is a puzzle. Does anyone who has a copy of the book recognize the manuscript?


Thanks to Nick Norelli for identifying the photo: it’s POxy52, not P52. See his blog for a photo of the MS included in the book along with his identification. You can find a photo on the Glasgow Univ POxy page here with a description of this non-NT MS.

A Bibliography for NT Biblical Theology

2003; rev. February 2009

The following bibliography does not pretend to be exhaustive. The primary focus is on actual published volumes that profess to be “NT theologies.” A few journal articles and more specialized studies are included, as is a select group of OT biblical theologies (at the end) which may be useful in terms of method. Most are English works, though a limited selection of non-English titles is also included.

10 page pdf (from Adam to Zuck!)


What would you add to this list? What have I missed?


You can add this/these entries (I’ll add them here as significant titles are posted in comments or in email; I may not have complete info on all of them initially if I’m writing at home instead of in my study):

D. A. Carson, “New Testament Theology” in the IVP Dict of the Later NT.

A “Roman” quiz

February 14, 2009

Do you remember playing the simple children’s game, “Who Am I?” Someone gives a description of something, and the others must guess what it is? Or perhaps you know the graphical version of it called Pictionary? I won’t demonstrate my rudimentary picture drawing skills for you, but allow me to draw a word picture. Can you give the right answer?

There are three books in the NT which are intimately connected with the city of Rome. Of those three, only one is commonly identified as such. That, of course, is Paul’s letter to the Romans. Yet there were two others, one written to Christians in the same city, and another written in the city itself. Two of these three are connected to the two best-known apostles, Peter and Paul. Once again, only one is commonly identified in this way, and that once again, is Paul’s letter. Two of the three books are formally anonymous; they include no author’s name. Of those two, we do know who wrote one of them, but the authorship of the second is a mystery to this day. One is strictly a letter in form, but the other two are sermons in one way or another. One was a written sermon intended to be “preached” in absentia by someone else; the other is a collection of summaries from sermons that had already been preached in the city. Of the three, one was written by someone who had never been in the city, but who planned to visit there someday. The other two were written by authors who had ministered in that city for a significant period of time, though only one of the two was still in Rome when the book in question was actually written.

Who am I?

(Or should I say, “who are we?” since there are three!) Can you identify all three NT books connected with Rome?

– – –

Yes, this assumes some particular answers to questions of NT introduction. My answers, to be explicit! 🙂 And no, Shepherd of Hermas and 1 Clement don’t count.

(This is part of the introduction to a series of Bible conference messages that I will be preaching next week in Lock Haven, PA.)

Broadus was blunt!

December 20, 2008

I just received a package in the mail with a used copy of John Broadus’ commentary on Mark. I wasn’t familiar with it until Doug Kutilek mentioned it in his last issue of AISI (11.12, Dec ’08). (That issue hasn’t been posted to the web yet, so his earlier note of finding the book may be of interest.) He seemed to think it worthy, having hunted for it for 30 years. I found a used copy on the web fairly quickly and for only $25. So I’ve been browsing.

John A. Broadus, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1905.

In his introduction he discusses other commentaries on Mark. His tone reminds me of D. A. Carson’s comments in his NT Commentary Survey. Here are two samples from Broadus, both from p. 11.

In regard to Riddle’s commentary (in a series edited by Schaff), he says:

It has the attraction for some of claiming to be undenominational. But an undenominational commentary must be very meagre or it will not really be what it professes to be. Thus on 7:4: “The passage clearly proves the wider usage of the terms ‘baptism’ and ‘baptize’ in Hellenistic Greek, whether by immersion, or pouring, or sprinkling. Christianity does not prescribe any particular mode as essential. Disputes about the form of baptism savor much of what our Lord is rebuking in the discourse which follows.” Now Doctor Riddle has full liberty to say this, if he thinks it just and courteous—to thank God that he is not a Pharisee. But has Doctor Schaff a right to say in his preface: “Its object is to make the results of the Revision [i.e., the Revised Version of 1885] available for the benefit of the rising generation of all denominations”?—the italics being our own. … We delight in reading Presbyterian books, if they will only call themselves Presbyterian.

Or in reference to Farrar’s Life of Christ, he comments that:

Farrar’s is the most readable, but over-brilliant in style for such a theme, and a little inclined to be wiser than the sacred writers.

Overall it appears that this is an exposition intended for those who do not read Greek, but his scholarship is evident in making the fruits of his work available to a wider audience. It’s not a large book, only 148 pages, hardcover. Until I’ve read more of it more carefully, I can’t say more about it at this time.

Andy Naselli has just posted a helpful summary of one of D A Carson’s essays. Here’s Andy’s introductory blurbs:

Carson: “Mystery and Fulfillment”

I just read s-l-o-w-l-y through a 44-page article for the third time. (The last time I read it was fall 2006.) In my view this is the most brilliant academic article that D. A. Carson has written:

D. A. Carson. “Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and New.” Pages 393–436 in The Paradoxes of Paul. Vol. 2 of Justification and Variegated Nomism. Edited by D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 181. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

It richly repays repeated, thorough readings. But be warned: it’s dense. What follows is an uneven summary that doesn’t do it justice.