Review of Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Bundle (Logos Bible Software)

As would be expected from anything produced by Steven Runge, this is a most useful tool. It is intended to help readers understand why an author chooses the forms he does to convey meaning. Discourse grammar has become an increasingly helpful approach in the last few years to supplement standard grammars. It does not replace traditional grammars, but supplements them. Occasionally, discourse grammars, including this one from Logos, will see meaning in the wrong places. For example, the illustration of the use of the participle like an indicative verb conveying some meaning that is somehow different from an indicative may be overplayed (repeatedly mentioned in the Introduction). The participle used as an indicative verb is quite rare in the NT, never seems to occur in classical Greek, and is most likely due to Semitic influence. Most of the NT examples occur in the Apocalypse, a book whose author R. H. Charles famously described as “thinking in Hebrew but writing in Greek.” Whether there is any meaning beyond revealing the author’s linguistic capacity is not a given. The same can be said for countless other grammatical phenomena in the NT (e.g., paratactic structure in Mark, anacolutha in Paul, redundant pronouns in John). Nevertheless, used with caution, discourse grammar can be extremely valuable.

On the BDF revision committee (now defunct due to the deaths of Robert W. Funk and Daryl D. Schmidt [chairman of the committee]), the team of scholars discussed for many years how best to approach the revision. One of the approaches was to include a section on semantics as a cross-reference tool so that the user could learn about the features of the Greek NT through two routes: (1) textual route, in which the student reads the text and then uses the grammar to determine meaning of the syntactical phenomena; (2) meaning route, in which the student inquires about things like how to express purpose, possession, commands, etc. This comes close to what discourse grammar does, though discourse grammar has made quite a few advances over the narrowly-defined categories of meaning that grammarians typically work with.

The main body of the six-volume work is discourse analysis of the Greek NT, seriatim from Matthew 1 through Revelation 22. There’s also a helpful introductory volume and a glossary.

Below are illustrated some of the features.

 definitions in introductionDefinitions in Introduction

 display feature--minimalDisplay feature—minimal

 Rom 3.21-26 with minimal display features

Rom 3.21-26 with minimal display features

A few limitations of this approach should be noticed. For example, although μαρτυρουμένη in Rom 3.21 is mentioned as an elaboration, the user is not told what kind of participle it is. Whether it’s adjectival ([the righteousness of God…] which is being witnessed), adverbial (being witnessed), or more particularly concessive (although it is witnessed), is not discussed. Yet how this participle is taken affects the exegesis of the text. Notice that what πάντες in 3.22 and 23 relates to is not mentioned; this requires careful exegesis and a good understanding of Greek syntax to figure out.


Highlighting feature in Rom 3.22

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.22

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.23

Highlighting feature in Rom 3.23

 Rom 3.24--elaboration explained

Rom 3.24—’elaboration’ explained

The problem with this explanation is that not everyone sees the participle as subordinate and thus fitting into ‘elaboration’ (most, in fact, take it as an indicative participle), although see J. Will Johnston, “Which ‘All’ Sinned? Rom 3:23–24 Reconsidered,” Novum Testamentum 52 (2010) 1–12.

Display feature--everything

Display feature with everything checked

Rom 3.21-22 with maximum features displayed

Rom 3.21–22 with maximum features displayed

A wealth of data is here—either visually or at a click of the mouse.

In short, the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament is a tool whose time has come. Used in conjunction with traditional grammars, it can only strengthen one’s understanding of Hellenistic Greek and how the NT authors communicate meaning—every exegete’s dream!

It can be purchased here.

 

Review of Defining Inerrancy

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, by J. P. Holding and Nick Peters, published by Tekton E-Bricks on 22 May 2014, is intended to be a response to Norm Geisler and Bill Roach’s Defending Inerrancy—and so much more. Both have a similar cover and similar title. Defining Inerrancy, however, is a gloves-off defense and affirmation of a version of inerrancy that many are not acquainted with. That is, many except those who are Old and New Testament scholars.

Defining inerrancyDefending Inerrancy

Defining Inerrancy also interacts heavily with Norm Geisler and David Farnell’s The Jesus Quest, a book published just last March. The info on Amazon says that the eBook is the equivalent of 98 pages long, based on the number of “page turns” on a Kindle. A preliminary Word draft of Defining Inerrancy, sent to me by the authors, weighs in at just 74 pages. It’s a one-evening read, but it will be an evening very well spent.

 

Even though only an eBook so far, this little volume addresses some of the most pressing issues within American evangelical circles that have been brewing for more than four decades. And it comes with a Foreword by world-renown Gospels scholar, Craig Blomberg, giving the book instant credibility.

The booklet has fifteen short chapters and no footnotes or endnotes (but some, though not entirely adequate, in-text notes).

Blomberg’s Foreword, in the opening paragraph, lets the readers know that Norm Geisler has recently been attacking his evangelical orthodoxy. As one reads through this book, they will discover that it is in many ways a response to Geisler’s campaign to rid the church of what he perceives to be bibliological heretics. Inter alia, Blomberg gives a laundry list of evangelical scholars who have been the victims of Geisler’s acidic pen: Robert Gundry, Murray Harris, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Darrell Bock, Michael Licona, Craig Blomberg—and even the entire Evangelical Theological Society (a group which, according to Blomberg, Geisler referred to as ‘liberal’ and the “Former Evangelical Theological Society”)! And Blomberg does not mince words. Penultimately, Blomberg commends this book as follows: “…if Geisler has already misled you on any of these topics, read these chapters carefully so that the record may be set straight.”

Indeed, that is an apt summary of the book. The authors set the record straight on Geisler’s increasingly marginalized approach to inerrancy. Many would regard Geisler as the spiritual heir of Harold Lindsell, a man whose books The Battle for the Bible and The Bible in the Balance bitterly divided evangelicals nearly four decades ago. But I digress.

The major issue that Holding and Peters put forth is that within the inerrantist camp are ‘traditionalists’ and ‘contextualizers.’ Traditionalists claim that the Bible should be read essentially literally and that unless there are clear in-text clues that something is to be taken otherwise, the reader is to regard the text as literally true. Contextualizers see things differently. They would argue that genre, comparative literature, and other extra-textual features are often important keys to understanding the meaning of the text. The book focuses on the Gospels and narrative. Here, it is claimed, traditionalists view the narrative in the Gospels as historical, while contextualizers view it as imbibing, at times, in more than one genre. And even then, this does not necessarily mean that such is not historical. Even though many traditionalists would claim that, for example, dominical sayings are always exact quotations of the Lord (known as ipsissima verba), contextualizers claim that this is not only not in keeping with ancient historiographical reporting but also involves exegetical gymnastics that defy logic.

The authors put forth their thesis rather boldly:

“inerrancy requires a contextualization of the Bible as both the superlative literature that it is and as a document; and that the ‘as it stands’ readings frequently (not always) decontextualize the Bible, reading it as a text out of time, and therefore without respect to critical defining contexts during the time of its writing.”

And:

“… the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable, leading us down a path of endless epicycles of explanation, artificialities, and illogic. The end result will be to bring down scorn on the Christian faith and contributing [sic] to its demise in the Western world.”

This should be enough to pique the interest of any reader! As astounding as their statements are, I think they are spot on. But one will have to read the book to see whether they make out their case.

I will simply note two refrains that the authors make. First, though the Bible may be inerrant, our interpretation of it is not. This would seem to be obvious, yet repeatedly they show that Geisler sets himself up as the arbiter of truth—including true, inerrant interpretations. And this is one of the great divides among evangelicals today. Ironically, though there are many near-consensus interpretations of a number of passages among evangelicals, to hold up a particular interpretation as the true interpretation is to place tradition above the text. And this cuts directly into sola scriptura—the sufficiency of scripture as our final authority. Geisler and other traditionalists tend to claim that any view that does not see the Gospel narratives as utterly historical is not compatible with inerrancy. Yet—again ironically—many traditionalists claim that the Church has from its beginning embraced inerrancy. But if so, it is certainly not the same inerrancy that is embraced by traditionalists.

A case in point (not mentioned in the book): several church fathers, whose bibliological credentials on the New Testament at least were unimpeachable, claim that Jesus’ healing of the blind man in Mark 8.22–26 was not historical. This is one of two miracles of Jesus recorded in Mark that are not found in either Matthew or Luke. Both of them involved Jesus using spittle (the other is the healing of the deaf-mute in Mark 7). Jerome says that the story is “not historical, but symbolic.” And Ambrose, the bishop of Milan in the fourth century, saw the spittle as a symbol for the washing away of sins in baptism.

Nevertheless, these hoary authorities of old were probably wrong. It is instructive that through the route of historical criticism these two pericopes have become seen as among the most likely historical events in the Gospels—and for the same reasons that Matthew and Luke probably excluded them and the church fathers spiritualized them. Why was that? Embarrassment. Most Gospels scholars today, both evangelical and liberal and everything in between, regard a saying or act preserved in the Gospels that would be potentially embarrassing to the church, as having the marks of authenticity for this very reason, for no evangelist would create such out of whole cloth.

Second, the authors make the case that elevating inerrancy to the level of, say, the resurrection of Jesus, puts one’s whole belief system in jeopardy. Toward the end of the book, they make this case as follows:

“Blomberg also offers us, Geisler says, the hideous (!) statement that if there were a few genuine contradictions in the Bible, the rest of the text would not be jeopardized and the entire case for belief would not be called into question. Yes, this is one of those dangerous views of Scripture that says that if the Bible is not inerrant, then Jesus did not rise. How far would it go? Would we say Jesus did not even exist if we find there are mistakes in the Bible? Actually, there are some professed former Christians who hold to this position, and their questioning of the Bible started with them having been in a position like Geisler’s as confessing Christians.”

This view—making inerrancy as important as the resurrection of Christ—is part of a mindset that does not differentiate among doctrines. I call it the domino view of doctrine. When one falls down, they all fall down. I have taught for years that it is one of the main reasons why some conservatives become “liberal.” I put “liberal” in quotes because often such people are not really liberal; they are still fundamentalists, just on the left side of the theological aisle. They still see things in black and white, but now are skeptical about the supernatural and anything that smacks of biblical authority. Darrell Bock speaks of such a mentality as “brittle fundamentalism.” And he sees it as shattering when it comes in contact with the sophisticated polemics of the left.

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

In sum, Defining Inerrancy is a book far more important than its size would indicate. It defines not only inerrancy but a yawning divide within evangelicalism. My hope is that traditionalists will not dismiss it out of hand (as they have so many treatments coming from contextualizing inerrantists), but will indeed wrestle seriously with its contents. Sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

A New Twist on the Quadrilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic, or Legend?

The May/June 2014 issue of Touchstone has come out. In it is a provocative and, I might say, Lewis-esque piece of writing by Tom Gilson, the National Field Director of Ratio Christi. Called “The Gospel Truth of Jesus: What Happens to Apologetics if We Add ‘Legend’ to the Trilemma ‘Liar, Lunatic, or Lord’?” this article wrestles with the literary improbability of some author creating ex nihilo a person who is both absolutely powerful and absolutely good. Gilson wrestles with a number of objections, but marches through them and lays out an eminently reasonable case that no author could have created the likes of Jesus of Nazareth out of whole cloth. He may well be on to something. In turn, this argues for historicity. Take a look:

http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=27-03-035-f

Review of Trobisch’s User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28

users_guide

Review of David Trobisch, A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament,
SBLTC 9 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013). Pp. viii + 69; $25.95.

The much-anticipated publication of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition, in December 2012, instantly created a need for a user’s guide similar to what Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland’s The Text of the New Testament, 2nd edition (Eerdmans, 1989), pp. 232–60 and passim, did for the Nestle-Aland 26th edition. David Trobisch answered the call with his User’s Guide to the 28th edition, which appeared in November of 2013.

This User’s Guide however, is significantly different from the material in Aland-Aland’s Text. Whereas the latter is a scholarly introduction to (and unashamedly a promotion of) the NA26, Trobisch’s User’s Guide is significantly simpler and has only 14 pages devoted to the scholarly use of this handbook edition of the NT. The User’s Guide has three chapters (1–54) and three sections of supporting material at the end (55–69). The chapters progress in intended readership from those who have had little or no Greek (chapter 1: “Structure and Intention of the Edition,” 1–25), to graduate students who have learned Greek and have some comprehension of biblical studies (chapter 2: “Exercises and Learning Aids,” 27–39), to a brief chapter intended for use by “researchers and teachers who interpret the New Testament professionally” (viii), presumably including professors and advanced students (chapter 3: “NA28 as an Edition for Scholars,” 41–54).

Although the second chapter is useful for students, the rationale for the first chapter is puzzling. Why would someone without knowledge of Greek want to use a Greek text at all, especially one as concise (due to the myriad abbreviations, sigla, etc.) and scholarly as the Nestle-Aland? And this being the longest of the three chapters, complete with the Greek alphabet, diphthongs, and other elementary material needed to pronounce ancient Greek, it seems to be a waste of space to some degree. Even in this introductory chapter, Trobisch got some facts wrong. For example, he says that γχ is pronounced ‘nch’ as in ‘anchovies’ (9); the text of the NA28 was produced by “an international editorial committee” (2 [italics added]; see also 49), when the title page indicates only that the Münster institute produced this particular edition; and the canon of the shorter reading or lectio brevior “only applies to two readings that are superficially combined” (24), when the consensus among textual critics is that this rule applies to those variants that have more words than the alternative, whether they are a combination of older readings or not (cf. the variants in John 3:13 and Rom 8:1, for example). Nevertheless, some of the material in the first chapter is helpful for students of Greek. I would recommend eliminating this chapter and combining the best features with what is already in chapter 2.

The second chapter includes helpful information about some of the changes between NA27 and NA28, including the dropping of consistently cited witnesses of the second order, how to use the distinct apparatus for the Catholic Epistles, and a discussion on the Eusebian Canons for the Gospels. On this last item, it should be noted that the Nestle-Aland tradition continues to list the numbers in the Canons as Arabic and Roman numbers. Although this is useful as a tool for the modern student in comparing the Gospels, it is unhelpful for those who spend time on the actual manuscripts, since the Eusebian Canons are found in manuscripts entirely by Greek letters (see https://danielbwallace.com/2014/04/13/conversion-table-for-the-eusebian-canons to download the PDF of a conversion table). This chapter takes the student through the NA28 Introduction, Apparatus, marginalia, and various other features of the book, with exercises sprinkled throughout.

Chapter 3 is a useful introduction to a behind-the-scenes look at the decisions made in Münster concerning the format, text-critical decisions and approach, and differences from the previous edition of the Nestle-Aland text. But Trobisch overstates things when he calls this new edition a “thoroughly revised edition” (vii). To be sure, the apparatus has been thoroughly updated, but the only textual differences are in the Catholic Epistles. Trobisch makes both commendations and criticisms of the 28th edition. In the first section which systematically goes through differences between this and NA27, some of the negative features of the 28th come to light—even though Trobisch explicitly addresses limitations of this new edition in the second section, “Limitations of the NA28.”

Gone are any explicit conjectural emendations, whereas the NA27 listed over 100 of them (one of which was followed [Acts 16:12], though both Bruce Metzger and Kurt Aland disagreed with the rest of the committee), and NA28 adds one more to the text (2 Peter 3:10). (At the same time, neither of the variants in these two passages is a true conjecture since there are versions that have these readings. Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament, 4th ed. [Oxford: OUP, 2005] 230, implicitly define a conjecture as having no support in Greek manuscripts, versions, or fathers: the need for conjectural emendation for the New Testament is “reduced to the smallest dimensions” because “the amount of evidence for the text of the New Testament, whether derived from manuscripts, early versions, or patristic quotations, is so much greater than that available for any ancient classical author…”)

NA28 also eliminated the useful subscriptions for the NT books found in previous editions, a most unfortunate decision. They have however retained the inscriptions, though Trobisch says that these, too, got the ax (43).

The number of witnesses cited in the apparatus is significantly reduced, and any comparison with previous editions of the Greek NT by Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, and others is eliminated.

The lack of such valuable features means that students and scholars will need to continue using their NA27 in conjunction with NA28. Trobisch notes that 33 textual changes occurred in the Catholic Epistles (44), though there are actually 34 (see NA28, 50*–51* for the list). A brief discussion of the sea-change in Münster from the “local-genealogical method” (which Barbara Aland once told me was not within the bounds of reasoned eclecticism) to the “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” or CBGM concludes the chapter.

A final criticism of this booklet is that although the author provides links to several sites which host images of NT manuscripts, he overlooks the website for the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org), which has one of the largest collections of high-resolution digital images of Greek NT manuscripts on the Internet, most of which have been photographed by CSNTM in the last twelve years. Included on this site are images of the Chester Beatty papyri, which CSNTM digitized in the summer of 2013, working with the papyri at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.

In sum, I anticipated that this work would be useful for students learning the ropes of NT textual criticism, but the gaps, errata, and proportion leave me somewhat disappointed. Even though there are many helpful features, the work is overall quite uneven. I hope that a second edition which corrects these deficiencies will soon be forthcoming (some of these deficiencies have been corrected in the second German edition of this book), since such a volume is needed for anyone using the Nestle-Aland 28th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece.

Daniel B. Wallace

Conversion Table for the Eusebian Canons

For several years now, the staff at the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (www.csntm.org) have utilized the Eusebian Canons to quickly find their place in Gospel manuscripts. These Canons are found in the inner margin of the Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th edition (as well as earlier editions). They are written in Arabic numbers over Roman numerals. As helpful as this is for those working in the printed text of the Gospels, it is difficult to use when examining manuscripts precisely because one has to convert on the fly numbers to letters if he or she needs to locate where they are in the text efficiently. Of course, determining what passage one is reading is usually fairly easy by simply keying in a few Greek words in sequence and checking what the manuscript says against a printed text in a Bible software program. But at times this can be tricky. For example, if the text is difficult to read or has variant spellings, finding one’s place may require several attempts on the computer. Codex 0322, a two-leaf palimpsest that CSNTM discovered in 2004, yields only a few letters on each page to the eye. But the Eusebian Canons are still completely intact and guided us to recognize the text as Mark 3.17–4.1; and 6.10–22. With that to guide us we were able to discern two or three ‘Western’ readings in this majuscule.

For others who are interested in the Eusebian Canons, I am attaching the document (Eusebian Canons conversion table) that we use when examining Gospel manuscripts. There are three columns for each canon: arabic number, Greek letter, and scriptural reference. I am sure a few errata have made their way into this conversion table, and would invite corrections so that we can improve on it.