25 Comments

An Awesome Help for Reading New Testament Greek

In 1975 giant Christian publishing house, Zondervan, released a revolutionary reader’s lexicon. Written by Sakae Kubo and titled A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, this book was to have a huge influence on the reading of New Testament Greek and the learning of its vocabulary. It was called a reader’s lexicon because it was indexed to the text of the New Testament in canonical order. All the words that occurred fifty times or less were listed in the lexicon, as it marched from Matthew 1.1 through Revelation 22.20. It listed the words in their lexical form, verse by verse, and it gave the glosses found in the Greek-English Lexicon by Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich (BAG). It also gave a very helpful word-count after each entry, listing the frequency of words in both the New Testament as a whole and the particular book that the entry was in. Thus, at a glance one could see how important such a word was in said book just by noting its frequency. For example, μονογενής occurs in the New Testament nine times, four of which are in John’s Gospel. Many theological institutes began changing the amount of vocabulary words that students needed to learn because of Kubo. Dallas Seminary was among them: instead of learning all the words that occurred ten times or more (about 1100 words), the school evolved into requiring students to learn only 50+ words (a little more than 300 words altogether).

Four years after Kubo was published, BAG was updated by Fred Danker (BAGD); Kubo was not. The third edition of BAG came out in 2000, with Danker’s name deservedly moving up the ladder (BDAG). Kubo remained unchanged. And there were still numerous errors in it—including many incorrect word-counts, omissions of words, and contextually-inappropriate glosses.

Burer_Miller

It was time for a new reader’s lexicon. Enter Michael Burer and Jeff Miller, two former students of mine. In 2008 Kregel published their A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. It was a significant improvement over Kubo. Not only is it indexed to the glosses in BDAG, it also is keyed especially to the contextually-sensitive glosses. Further, it gives a threefold word-count for the entries: book, author, and NT. For a long time I wanted to see at a glance the favored lexical stock of a particular author, not only in terms of the book I was studying but also his other contributions to the canon. As well, issues related to authorship (as far as vocabulary can give us insights) have needed a ready table of information. The New Reader’s Lexicon supplies this information at a glance by listing the frequency of words according to the traditional authorship of New Testament books. Thus, for example, the corpus Paulinum includes all thirteen letters to which his name is attached.

Any tool that can simultaneously function well on multiple levels—pedagogical, reference, translation, and exegesis—is rare indeed. What Kubo did for one generation, Burer and Miller’s New Reader’s Lexicon should do for the next.

However, I have been tracking both Kubo and Burer-Miller on Amazon recently and noticed that Kubo continues to outsell Burer-Miller, even five years after the latter’s publication. Perhaps it is because it is only 2/3 the price, perhaps because Kregel is a small publishing house compared to Zondervan. But even with the higher price of Burer-Miller it is well worth the cost. It is long past the time to bid Kubo a fond farewell for the years of service it has given students of the New Testament, and say hello to Burer-Miller.

Postscript

When Burer-Miller was in the press, Kregel asked me to write the Foreword, which I was happy to do. And they asked me to be the senior editor of a new series of reader’s lexica. After nearly six years of work, the second volume in this series was published (earlier this month). The design of Burer-Miller was so good that Brittany Burnette, Terri Moore (both former interns of mine), and I adopted it when we edited the second reader’s lexicon in the series (A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers). We even included word-frequencies for Ignatius’s seven letters so that one could see at a glance what words were important to that church father. We are now wrestling with what the third volume should be. Contenders are the Septuagint (four volumes—the Law, the Psalms [including all poetic and other books], the Prophets, and the Apocrypha [or, for my Roman Catholic friends, the Deutero-canonical books]), the Apologists, Philo, and Josephus. Have a suggestion? I’m all ears.

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25 comments on “An Awesome Help for Reading New Testament Greek

  1. Oh, yes, yes, yes. Septuagint, please. :)

  2. I checked out the preview on Amazon.com and really like that reader’s format. I’m guessing it would help keep the words and their definitions in their immediate context. It also looks really user friendly, which is important for non-scholars like myself. Btw, my vote is for the Septuagint.

  3. One way that Burer and Miller could be improved is by including the Special Vocabulary sections that Kubo had at the beginning of each biblical book. Another way is to include the appendices that Kubo had that include the paradigms and a listing of the words that occur 50 or more times. I have found those helpful.

  4. I know the Septuagint would be the toughest, but all my votes go for it. I just have no idea how you’d categorize the usages, since we don’t actually know the authors. Oh, here’s an idea: categorize according to what Hebrew the translation is connected to! Naw, too much work.

  5. Oh, and I’d vote for a Reader’s lexicon for Josephus and a standard lexicon on Josephus like Muraoka did for the LXX and Bauer did for the NT

  6. What are the advantages of using Burer-Miller over A Reader’s Greek New Testament? I would think that if you can memorize down to 30 uses instead of 50, a Reader’s Greek New Testament would be the way to go because you would have both the text in lexicon in one volume.

  7. Love the format and ease of the Burer volume. Septuagint all the way!

  8. I too vote for the LXX…it is LONG overdue. It is so important for students of the NT to read and become familiar with the vocabulary uses of the Septuagint (after those 4 volumes, then you can move to the Apocrypha ;-)

  9. My vote is for the Septuagint!

  10. I know this is a bit self-promoting, but I’ve got an iOS app that does a similar thing if anyone is interested: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/greek-readers-lexicon/id373445457.

    I wrote it because I wanted the functionality in my pocket, not on my bookshelf, and hopefully it’s useful for others too.

    It uses Thayer as the base, which I know is outdated, but I’m all ears if anyone with access to better resources wants to work with me to update the data.

    Sam.

  11. LXX w/o a doubt. Publish volume 2 first (the Psalms).

  12. The Septuagint would be excellent for a readers lexicon. Especially the Pentateuch.

  13. […] Greek grammarian and NT professor Dan Wallace recently posted his endorsement of A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament on his blog. For those who don’t […]

  14. I vote for the LXX too!

  15. My vote is Septuagint, then Josephus, then apologists, then Philo, maybe eventually pseudepigrapha? I have done work with documents like the book of Enoch and the apocalypse of Ezra for which being able to interact with the Greek copies could have been helpful. But the Septuagint is definitely my first and foremost vote by a long shot

  16. Perhaps a Reader’s Lexicon for Jerome’s Vulgate?

  17. […] Greek grammarian and NT professor Dan Wallace recently posted his endorsement of A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament on his blog. For those who don’t […]

  18. Dear Professor Wallace,
    I just ordered the Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers. What a tremendous blessing this work is! I do hope you produce the LXX readers next, but I’d like the other contenders see print sometime soon as well. These works will prove valuable resources for generations.

  19. Septuagint, please.

  20. After ordering the Apostolic Father’s Lexicon, and loving it! I wanted to add to my previous comment above that a “Reader’s Lexicon” of Josephus’ works would be very good and also the other “apocryphal” intertesmental [Greek] writings that were influential in the first Temple period.

  21. My order (based on personal reading interests and historical and theological importance for NT studies):

    1) LXX Pentateuch
    2) Apocrypha
    3) Apologists
    4) Josephus/Philo
    5) Rest of the LXX

    • Also, lets not forget other early Greek fathers. I think some helps with the homilies of Chrysostom would be extremely helpful for modern preachers! I think we would need a good print edition before the lexicon would be helpful though.

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