Monday, November 10, 2008

Maybe Greek isn't so straightforward after all

A review of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine R. Campbell.

During my seminary studies, now two decades ago, I soon discovered that I loved Greek and hated Hebrew. While Greek seemed straightforward, almost to the point of simplicity, Hebrew was indecipherable, complex, and frustrating. Possibly this was related to differences in instructors and selections chosen to translate and analyze, but my initial impression was that Greek was easy and Hebrew was hard.

Yet, over the years I have come to realize that possibly Greek isn't as straightforward as I first imagined. For example, I have often found that my translations fall flat, and lack much of the color and flair that many commentators appear able to discover.

While I would not suggest that I have now unlocked the key to all of this additional understanding uncovered by the commentators, I have discovered something that may assist in enhancing this process. Constantine Campbell's Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek has opened up a new way of looking at the Greek text. Not once during my seminary study did I hear the term "Verbal Aspect" nor its importance in understanding the New Testament. Rather than trying to describe "Verbal Aspect", I direct you to the author's blog post on Koinonia where he defines it as both viewpoint and subjective choice.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part, consisting of the first five chapters, contains theory and history. The second part, in workbook format, contains numerous examples and exercises, listed by "tense-form" (the author's preference for "tense-form" over "tense" is described on page 24).

1) Print is large enough and clear enough to make reading easy for aging eyes.
2) Bolding is used simultaneously in both Greek and English text to make examples clear.
3) A helpful glossary of terms is provided.

Only one: I get the impression that there was much more that the author wanted to share, but was precluded by either editing or publication deadline.

Recommendation: If you desire to more deeply engage your Greek Testament you will discover that this work will give you a new perspective. I would caution that if your Greek basics are rusty that you brush up some prior to reading this work. I had let my Greek get away from me over the years following graduation, but earlier this year made a commitment to get back into its use. If I had not done so I would have benefited little from this book.

Now that I have discovered that Greek isn't so straightforward after all it might be time for me to take another look at Hebrew. Where did I store that BDB?

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