Book Reviews


A Handbook on the Greek Text

William J. Larkin Waco, TX 2009-11-01

This handy volume will help students of intermediate Greek and/or beginning exegesis courses utilize Greek in the exegetical process. For some this will be a helpful next step after a first-year Greek course, and for others it will provide an opportunity to review Greek that has not been used as originally desired.

This is not a commentary in the normal sense of the word; rather it is a “prequel” to commentaries. The focus is on critical, lexical, and grammatical issues and only minimally covers serious exegetical issues in any depth. This emphasizes that although Greek is an important component of exegesis, it is not the only aspect of the process. The volume provides brief classifications of grammatical elements and only occasionally gives any detailed discussion. This introduction also mentions that the series is sensitive to linguistic discoveries and suggests that it accounts for recent studies in verbal aspect. Thus labels of verb tenses such as “ingressive” and “iterative” are mentioned only if contextual features indicate such nuances. Further, based on some recent work in voice, the author rejects the label “deponent,” preferring to view these as real middle voices (pp. ix–xi). This is a curious position. The rejection of deponency is in no way universal nor accepted in the way in which conclusions about verbal aspect are.

Larkin’s own introduction to the volume provides beneficial material for the study of the book. Topics include support for Pauline authorship (in part to justify his appeal to other Pauline letters; p. xix), discourse structure (progress-peak, transitions, parallelism, and chiasm; pp. xix–xxiii), and stylistic features (attributed and reference genitives, hendiadys and doublets, TSKS (the-substantive-kaiv-substantive) constructions [including the Granville Sharp construction], and the prepositional phrase, ejn Cristw'/ [pp. xxiv–xxviii]). A brief discussion of verbal aspect is included. Here a discussion of Stanley Porter’s description of “prominence” is presented in which the aorist tense is used for background, the present and imperfect are used for foreground, and the perfect tense is used for frontground material (pp. xxiii–xiv). Larkin acknowledges that this view is presently not universally accepted, but he feels it explains the data of Ephesians well. This may be the case; however, the question needs to be asked, Is this the best way to account for the data? Larkin wisely avoids the controversy of whether the tenses “grammaticalize” time. Unfortunately some of the more important insights concerning verbal aspect are not mentioned such as the nature of the perfective (aorist) and imperfective contrast.

The body of the book is devoted primarily to a lexical and syntactical description of Ephesians. First, a translation of a passage is presented. This is followed by a brief introduction to the section. Then the components of the passage are discussed. This is done by listing a Greek word or phrase followed by a lexical explanation or grammatical classification. This could be as simple as a one-word grammatical tag, a reference to a lexicon, or mention of some options. This enables the student to read through the text with a grammatical focus. However, there is at least one drawback. Students at the intended level may benefit from more options and from being challenged to think about how to draw one’s own conclusions. Nevertheless a careful and critical use of this tool will satisfy this criticism. In addition, parsing is included.

For the most part the comments are easy to follow and help the reader understand the Greek syntax and the flow of Paul’s thought. At times more detail would have been helpful (see, e.g., 2:8–9), especially for verbs. But minimal detail does serve the purpose of the volume.

In Ephesians 5:18 Larkin follows Daniel Wallace and views ejn pneuvmati as “means” (be filled by the Spirit). Larkin provides a good defense of this option, but it would have been instructive to see the arguments for other views (especially “content,” since that is a common view of this passage). Again this is a constraint of the volume in which its usefulness outweighs the desire for further information.

Concerning Ephesians 4:26 (“be angry and do not sin”), Larkin accepts a “conditional” classification (“if you are angry”); this seems to be the nuance of the translation although not so worded. Larkin rejects Wallace’s suggestion that this should be a “command” (“be angry”), which the latter bases on the grammatical structure seen elsewhere in the New Testament (p. 98). Wallace sees this as a command given in the context of church discipline.

The book concludes with a helpful glossary, a bibliography, a grammar index, and an author index (pp. 173–96). This volume does not replace good commentaries on Ephesians. If used as intended, as a source to help one work through the Greek aspect of the exegetical process, this little volume will be of value both to those trying to improve their Greek and to those who desire to understand Ephesians better.

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Joseph D. Fantin
Dr. Fantin believes an accurate understanding of God's Word will enable the believer to grow in his or her relationship with Christ, to love God and others, to bring Christ's love to a lost world, to build up the church, and most importantly, to glorify God. He is committed to teaching exegetical method in order to help students understand, apply, and teach the Bible in order to achieve these goals. His research interests include the prison epistles, the first-century world, Greek, linguistics, and relevance theory. He and his wife, Robin, have two children: Jillian and David.
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