Frank Gignac’s Introductory Grammar Revised (Skinner)

Gignac BookI just noticed that Frank Gignac’s useful little volume, An Introductory New Testament Greek Course has been revised and re-released by Catholic University of America Press. The book, originally published by Loyola University Press in 1973, was used by countless students during Frank’s three decades teaching at Catholic University. This book was the vehicle for many students with no previous exposure to Hellenistic Greek to learn the basics quickly. One of the unique features—compared with other contemporary grammars—is how quickly it gets students into the verbal system. Throughout his career, Frank was one of the leading scholars of Koine Greek in the world and possessed a voluminous knowledge of Greek manuscripts as well as the historical development of the language. In truth, he was a classicist and brought this expertise to biblical studies. This broader context, which is often lacking in other modern grammars intended for students in biblical studies, can be detected in the book as well. However, as useful as the book has been over the years, it suffered from an ancient typesetting and numerous errata.  In other words, it DESPERATELY needed to be updated. As a friend and former student of Frank’s, I am thankful that CUA Press has taken the time to produce a work that will ensure that his legacy of generous teaching and advising students can continue.

Also (if you’re interested), I noticed that book is currently available for review over at RBL.


Choosing a Greek Textbook: What Do You Use? (Skinner)

GreekBack during the spring semester I was approached by a rep from Cambridge University Press and asked to review their introductory Greek text by Jeremy Duff, for which they are considering a revision. I’m assuming other colleagues who teach Greek were also approached as this seemed to be a broad initiative to get feedback from Greek instructors about the strengths and weaknesses of their current offering. On the whole I thought the book was decent but not so good that I’d consider switching from what I currently use (which, to be honest, I’m not really that crazy about, nor do I find all that useful). I say all of that to say, to this point I haven’t really found anything that fits exactly what I do with students. I have been assigning Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek for the past eight years or so, but to be honest most of my instruction comes from handouts that I have produced, chapters from different books, and materials from friends and other instructors that I’ve found to be helpful (used with permission, of course). 🙂

I have a few friends who use currently Clayton Croy’s book and I know several others who are planning a switch to Rodney Decker’s new textbook. I’m in the process of investigating both of those books, but for now I am actually soliciting your help. If you currently teach Biblical Greek or are currently learning Biblical Greek with something other than Mounce, please do me the courtesy of telling me what you use and why you find it helpful. I appreciate the help in advance. Thanks!

Two New Exegetical Resources from Broadman & Holman (Skinner)

James EGGNTTwo new volumes in the B&H series, Exegetical Guides to the Greek New Testament have recently been released. According to the B&H website, these are the two of the first three in a projected series of 20 volumes aimed at helping those in the classroom and pulpit better appreciate the message of the Greek text. (A previous volume on Colossians and Philemon was published in 2010).

I have spent the past few weeks reading carefully through each volume and have found them both to be very useful. The first is Chris Vlachos‘ volume on James (2013) and the second is Greg W. Forbes’ volume on 1 Peter (2014). As a professor who teaches courses on NT Greek and exegetical methods, I find works like these to be particularly useful for helping students reinforce out of class what we have done inside the classroom. They will also prove to be helpful for those who intend to make use of the Greek text in sermon and lesson preparation.

1 Peter EGGNTThe format of both volumes is essentially the same. Each begins with an introduction to issues of authorship and date. (To my mind, these discussions are not as important in such resources as philological and linguistic insights, though I assume they must be of importance to the editors of the series.) The volumes then proceed to a section-by-section analysis in which the structure of the Greek is discussed, followed by a grammatical analysis of every phrase, followed by a list a pertinent reading resources and homiletical suggestions.

For years I have used and suggested that students buy the resource affectionately known as “Max and Mary” as an on-the-fly resource for exegetical analysis. These books are like the “Max and Mary” version of individual NT books only with more in-depth analysis. If you are looking for resources that will aid in exegesis, you will find something of value here.


Francis T. Gignac, S.J. (1933 – 2014) (Skinner)

gignacI have just learned of the passing of Prof. Francis T. Gignac, S. J., longtime chair of the Department of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America. During my time at CUA, I had the privilege of studying under Frank and witnessing firsthand his encyclopedic knowledge of ancient texts (especially Greek and Coptic), text-critical problems in NT manuscripts, and the history of the transmission of the NT.

Frank received his D.Phil. from Oxford University in Greek philology in 1964. His doctoral dissertation was published as A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods, Vol. 1: Phonology (Istituto editoriale cisalpino-La goliardica, 1976). The second volume of a projected three volume grammar appeared in 1981. Frank always talked about completing the third volume, but by 2002 when I first met him, most people assumed it would never get finished. Sadly, they were correct. Many beginning Greek students (and all first year Greek students at CUA) were introduced to the language using Frank’s introductory grammar. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that during his career, Frank was among the most knowledgeable scholars of Hellenistic Greek teaching anywhere in the world. During his lengthy career he held teaching positions at Loyola University in Chicago, Fordham University, and the Catholic University of America. In 2008, Frank was honored with a Festschrift entitled, Studies in the Greek Bible: Essays in Honor of Francis T. Gignac (Catholic Biblical Quarterly Monograph Series 44). You can see his CV here.

Frank was a a natural athlete; during his time in England he was on the Oxford rowing team and was always an avid runner. Even in his 70s Frank would run 20 to 30 miles at a time for various events and campus fundraisers. He was an incredibly warm individual and as such, was the perfect “face of the program” with which most students would make first contact at CUA. My last memory of talking to Frank was last year, when I realized he had retired and moved from Washington to live with his confreres due to health reasons. We had a brief email exchange. Prior to that, the last time I spoke to him was after asking him to contribute to the Frank Matera Festschrift back in 2010. In typical “Frank” fashion, he was flattered by the invitation, but since he always considered himself primary a philologist and rejected the idea that he was an exegete, he preferred to write a personal reflection rather than an essay. I always appreciated his scholarly humility. Even at the end of my dissertation defense he actually thanked me for citing one of his articles in a footnote and listing it as an authoritative resource on the subject I was discussing. He impacted so many students and colleagues over the years in such positive ways and his leadership of the department of biblical studies at CUA can only be described as “pastoral.” His loss will be deeply felt by many.

Burer & Miller: A New Resource for My Greek Classes (Skinner)

Burer.MillerToday I received in the mail an exam copy of A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, by Mike Burer and Jeff Miller. I know both of the authors and I remember that I took notice of this book when it was first published back in 2008. However, at the time I was a freshly-minted Ph.D. still in the throes of the job hunt, and I wasn’t currently teaching Greek. By the time I finally landed a full time job I had forgotten all about the book and therefore reverted to what I already knew: I required my Greek students to purchase the reader’s lexicon that I used in seminary and graduate school–Sakae Kubo, A Reader’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975). I have recently seen several friends and colleagues plug this book, so I decided to order an exam copy. While the concept is clearly similar to Kubo’s useful book, I think Mike and Jeff have improved upon a classic in several ways: (1) the book is bigger and this makes the print larger and much more readable (I have always disliked the font in Kubo’s lexicon); (2) their defintions are updated to reflect the glosses in BDAG (2000), where Kubo was based upon an older version of BAGD; (3) the authors have tagged each word with a threefold system of word frequency in (a) the book, (b) the works of a given author (if the NT book in question is part of a wider corpus), and (c) the NT as a whole.

I think it’s safe to say that I will be requiring this from now on. Nice work, Mike and Jeff.

Rodney Decker on the Characteristics of Mark’s Greek Style (Skinner)

Language of the NTI am presently reviewing a volume entitled, The Language of the New Testament: Context, History, and Development (Leiden: Brill, 2013), co-edited by Stan Porter and Andrew Pitts. I have been enjoying the volume so far (though as with many academic monographs of this kind, the contributions are uneven in terms of substance, writing style, and ability to provoke interest). One bright spot has been Rodney Decker’s essay, “Markan Idiolect in the Study of the Greek of the New Testament” (pp. 43-66). I have taught through Mark several times in the past and I am currently in the midst of my course on Jesus and the Gospels. In both classes I discuss the distinctive nuances of Mark’s Greek style but (to this point) I hadn’t found an article to give my students on the subject that is both substantive and concise. Decker’s essay fits the bill. He discusses Markan parataxis, redundancies and dualities, multiple negatives, periphrasis, indefinite plurals, diminutives, use of euthus, the historical present, asyndeton, and anacolouthon. Those interested in such discussions will find Decker’s treatment useful.

Review: Simon Gathercole on the Gospel of Thomas (Part One)

I have been slowly wading through Simon Gathercole’s recent offering on the Gospel of Thomas and, as always, I’m impressed by the breadth of his abilities. In particular, Simon demonstrates such a command of the languages that his research is impossible to ignore. (For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about the work of April DeConick. Though I often disagree with her conclusions, her command of the languages and her exploration of numerous “outside” discussions also makes her work impossible to ignore.)

The book begins with an introductory chapter (pp. 1-16) in which Simon covers the contemporary discussion of Thomas’s composition. He makes a number of observations, but to my mind, two of the most important observations he makes are: (1) too many conclusions about Thomas-Synoptic relations are based upon scholarly reconstructions of Q, many of which are passed off as authoritative (rather than speculative); and (2) there is significant disagreement about Thomas’s relationship to the Synoptic tradition, though in North American scholarship there is a tendency for scholars to suggest that the debate is over. I think these observations need to be made in a book like this one. Since Simon is concerned to discuss the original  language and sources behind Thomas, it is necessary for him to situate his study in the context of current discussions. As I have tried to show in my recent book on Thomas, there is something of a “continental divide” in the debate over Thomas‘s relationship to the Synoptic gospels. North American scholars (many of whom favor Thomas’s independence) have a tendency to assume (and often assert) that the debate is over. European scholars are still very interested in the discussion (and often favor Thomas‘s dependence).

This first chapter is a helpful entree into the first substantive section of the book, which deals with the original language of Thomas. In my next post I will look at Simon’s argument in chapters 2-4.