Current Issues in New Testament Studies: NT Greek
In this series of blogs, I’ve been surveying four important current issues in the field of NT studies: (1) Biblical Theology (BT), (2) gender studies and biblical manhood and womanhood, (3) Pauline studies, and (4) NT Greek. I hope this survey helps keep students and faculty outside of the NT area (and those in biblical studies as well) abreast of new developments. If you missed any of the previous posts, you can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. I’ll be concluding this series by discussing recent works in NT Greek.
Linguistics and NT Greek
On a broader level, Douglas Mangum and Josh Westbury edited a volume on Linguistics & Biblical Exegesis (2017), which in some respects can serve as an update of Cotterell and Turner’s Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation, with chapters on linguistic issues in Biblical Greek and on the value of linguistically informed exegesis by Michael Aubrey. In our book Going Deeper with NT Greek, Benjamin Merkle, Robert Plummer, and I devote an entire chapter to verbal aspect, which I commend to you as an overview of the current state of research in the field. I’ve also had the privilege of endorsing Constantine Campbell’s recent book, Advances in the Study of Greek (2015), which is a very useful survey of recent scholarship on NT Greek and comes highly recommended.
The latest significant work on verbal aspect and related topics is the volume edited by Steven Runge and Christopher Fresch, for which I wrote the foreword, The Greek Verb Revisited (2016). I especially commend to you my friend Nicholas Ellis’s chapter in this volume, which is similar to a JETS article he and Mark Dubis published. A slightly older but still eminently useful work is Steven Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek NT (2010). On a more minor note, I just received a copy of John Lee’s new book on Greek accents (2018).
Before I move on, I’d like to share with you an interesting note I received from Craig Blomberg that relates to the fragmentation in the field of NT Greek today. He writes, “The linguists think that NT scholars, no matter how much they specialize in Hellenistic Greek, simply can’t be adequate spokespersons for the field of linguistics because they have not studied phenomena across a broad range of modern as well as ancient languages. The specialists in Hellenistic Greek, in turn, criticize the linguists for imposing metatheories developed in the study of modern languages onto ancient languages even though they don’t know any of them as well as the NT scholars do. And then Chrys Caragounis’ major work of not too many years ago [2007, 2013] rightly protests that neither group is paying enough attention to the way modern Greek functions as a living language, and that neither side in the debates over verbal aspect can make their theories work when it comes to the actual spoken language of today!” I think Blomberg is right that those with different areas of expertise should listen to and learn from each other. As biblical scholars and non-linguists, we should certainly listen to those working in the field of linguistics who have much to offer to biblical scholarship. In this regard, let me commend to you Stanley Porter’s and Hughson Ong’s excellent essay on Eugene Nida and J. P. Louw in volume 2 of a volume Porter co-edited with Sean Adams on Pillars in the History of Biblical Interpretation.
Other Significant Works
Just this past November, I was privileged to moderate a panel at the annual meeting of the ETS in Providence, RI on the new Greek NT Produced at Tyndale House, prepared under the auspices of Dirk Jongkind and Pete Williams. This is a fresh version of the Greek NT based on the earliest available MSS rather than extensive text-critical speculation. The layout has an interesting look in that the editors use ekthesis, that is, ancient paragraph breaks, which often helpfully brings out the structure of a given book that is lost in modern English versions.
Finally, I should mention the EGGNT series published by B&H (the Exegetical Greek Guide to the NT). This series began with Murray Harris’ commentary on Colossians and Philemon several decades ago and was later commissioned by B&H to cover the entire NT in 20 volumes. Initially, Murray served as senior editor and I was asked to join in as co-editor, but Murray had to withdraw soon thereafter, and so I became the main editor and asked Robert Yarbrough to join me as co-editor. 9 of the 20 volumes have already been published, with several others in the pipeline. Those published include Matthew (Charles Quarles), Luke (Alan Thompson), John (Murray Harris), Romans (John Harvey), Ephesians (Benjamin Merkle), Philippians (Joseph Hellerman), Colossians/Philemon (Murray Harris), 1 Peter (Greg Forbes), and James (Chris Vlachos). Those in the pipeline include Mark (Joel Williams), Acts (Scott Kellum), 2 Corinthians (Colin Kruse), and Hebrews (Dana Harris). The series is primarily for pastors and serious Bible students familiar with NT Greek. It includes Greek diagrams, homiletical outlines, subject bibliographies, and commentary on significant syntactical and exegetical issues. I’ve used the volume on 1 Peter in a Greek exegetical class here at SEBTS and have found it to be an ideal resource.
I hope the above survey of 4 areas of NT study—BT, biblical manhood and womanhood, Pauline studies, and NT Greek—has given you a helpful roadmap for exploring one or several of these fields (or aspects of these) for yourself. As believers, and as Christian scholars, we don’t have to be afraid of exploring the Scriptures and theology intelligently. We want to know the truth, and get to the bottom of a given issue, by looking at the key primary source evidence and reading widely in the secondary literature. As I develop in my book Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Christian Virtue, scholarly excellence is a wonderful way of glorifying God and of witnessing to unbelieving scholars. In such a God-glorifying pursuit of biblical truth, we are privileged to contribute to the knowledge base accumulated by previous generations of scholars and to engage in an enterprise where faith and reason, the mind and the heart, are working in tandem, and where Christian scholarship becomes an avenue for worship of our great Creator and faithful, covenant-keeping God. Thank you very much.
- Book: Going Deeper with New Testament Greek
- Resource: Chart for Intermediate Greek Grammar and Syntax
- Commentary Series: Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (EGGNT)