David A. Black, and Benjamin L. Merkle, eds. Linguistics and New Testament Greek: Key Issues in the Current Debate. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 288 pages. $29.99 (paperback).
The importance of linguistics in New Testament exegesis has been increasingly acknowledged in recent decades. However, to most students, the concept of linguistics is still overwhelming and unfamiliar, and there are relatively few accessible textbooks that integrate the basics of linguistics with the study of New Testament Greek. In that regard, Linguistics and New Testament Greek is a welcome addition.
Originating from a conference held in 2019, this volume edited by Black and Merkle (New Testament professors at Southeastern Seminary) includes eleven contributions from leading scholars who are experienced in incorporating insights of modern linguistics into New Testament studies. Beginning with Stanley Porter’s survey of “Linguistic Schools” (ch. 1), this book covers key topics such as “Aspect and Tense in New Testament Greek” (ch. 2), “The Greek Perfect Tense-Form” (ch. 3); “The Greek Middle Voice” (ch. 4); “Discourse Analysis” (ch. 5); word/constituent order (ch. 6); “Living Language Approaches” (ch. 7), pronunciation (ch. 8), use of electronic tools (ch. 9), ideals and expectations for Elementary Greek grammar (ch. 10), and “Biblical Exegesis and Linguistics” (ch. 11).
This book provides an excellent overview of the use of linguistic insights for the study of Greek New Testament. Each of the eleven chapters has a distinctive contribution to the construct of this edited volume, and there are a number of commendable chapters. Campbell’s treatment of verbal aspect and tense form (ch. 2) and Pennington’s discussion of the middle voice (ch. 4), in particular, are impressive, as each of these contributors covers a complex and significant issue in a clear and accessible manner. In addition, Merkle’s “Postscript,” which efficiently summarizes the key discussions in the book, serves the reader well by providing useful comparison and integration. Something comparable to Merkle’s summary in his postscript could have been incorporated into the existing Preface as an introduction for the reader. Such an introduction would benefit the reader at the outset, especially given the complexities of some of the topics and the conflicting perspectives among some of the contributors. There are several areas of overlap between the first and last chapters (chs. 1 and 11). However, such overlap is understandable in view of the different positions advocated by the respective contributors (Stanley Porter and Nicholas Ellis).
Overall, Linguistics and New Testament Greek is a useful volume for anyone studying the Greek New Testament and a must for intermediate Greek students. It will be even more beneficial for Intermediate Greek students if they read this volume alongside of Constantine Campbell, Advances in the Study of Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), which covers a set of similar and overlapping topics but has been written by a single author.
Dr. John J. R. Lee is Associate Professor of New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO.