The Kind of Review I’ve Been Waiting For (Skinner)

Sarah HeromanBack in May my seventh book was released. It was written primarily for students and non-specialists and the goal was to take the fruits of modern scholarship and make them truly accessible to those without formal training in biblical studies. We’ve all seen those books written by scholars that are supposed to be for laypeople, but when you open them they have little chance of actually connecting with the intended audience. Since I consider myself a teacher first and foremost, I wanted to produce a book that would do for readers what I do for my students in person. So far the book has been well-received by other professors but I have yet to hear from someone in my intended target audience, until now……

This past week while vacationing with my family, I saw this review from Sarah Heroman in which she describes reading my book as “life changing.” I assume this is hyperbole, and while my writing goals are often more modest than changing someone’s life, I don’t actually mind the description of my work. 🙂  Here’s an excerpt from her review:

His writing is clear, and the use of analogies at the beginning of a new topic is helpful. Even better, once he’s done describing the analogy, whether it’s watching the movie Toy Story, or his wife’s feelings about the end of a great fiction series, his switch into academic language is not jarring. You get the sense that the author is a good classroom teacher- one who truly wants his students to get the topic and will meet them where they are without a condescending tone……

While reading, I found myself making connections and moving along a trail of thought only to find it confirmed at the end of the chapter/paragraph. That’s damn good writing right there, and it works on two levels. One, obviously- it helps guide the reader to the conclusion the author is making and two- it makes the reader believe in their ability to think/process/learn. Now I feel smart, or at the very least, not dumb. I think I can tackle Bauckham with less frustration.

I cannot tell you how encouraging it was to read this review, not just because it was so positive but mostly because it came from someone inside my intended audience. Also, if I’m being completely honest, this book is the one thing I’ve written over the past ten years that I am proudest of having written. If you know someone who wants to learn how to read the Bible with perspectives informed by the best scholarship, please consider recommending my book, Reading John. Also, many many thanks to Sarah Heroman for reading the book and taking time to review it!

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!

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.