Monday, December 19, 2016

A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament

It's been a few years since my last New Testament Greek class, and I've been working on retaining (or re-obtaining) my language skills this past year. Some books have been more helpful than others, and in my quest for more useful resources I was offered a review copy of A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament from Kregel Publications.

The book is intended for use alongside a Greek New Testament (preferably a reader's edition that gives a translation for uncommon words at the bottom of the page) and a lexicon, although most New Testaments have a functional lexicon in the back. Whereas those other resources are helpful for figuring out what a word may mean, the syntax guide helps readers understand how the grammar and sentence-level structure determine meaning. Just as a foreign exchange student studying English might understand each of the words in the phrase "in a pinch" without grasping the meaning (in a difficult situation), so too a student of New Testament Greek may have an idea of what all the words mean without understanding how they relate to each other to make meaning.

The best way to evaluate a resources like this is to use it. I had A Syntax Guide out on the table with my Reader's Greek New Testament and my Logos iPhone app to help me read through Galatians. I found that prepositional phrases tended to cause me the most trouble, and notes like "διὰ + interval of time = after," "ἐν ἐμοὶ = in my case" and "ὁ δὲ μεσίτης ἑνὸς οὐκ ἔστιν = now a mediator is not for one party only" made reading easier. Other times word order or a pronoun for which I couldn't place the referent noun was throwing me off, but A Syntax Guide set me back on track. Sometimes it's the simple things that slow me down. 

I admit that I'm not very advanced when it comes to reading my Greek New Testament. I'm pretty dependent on external resources like Bible software or a good English translation. A Syntax Guide is a nice tool to have. It's not essential, but in tandem with other resources, it's proven valuable to my own studies.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sardines in my stocking!

Christmas stockings are amazing.  They serve as decorations all December until that one day when they're stuffed to the brim (and over) with treats and goodies. I have forgotten many of the presents I got, but I know what was in my stocking. I can’t remember a Christmas past when my stocking didn’t have almost all of the following:


Candy cane

Assorted Palmer’s chocolates

Assorted fun size candy bars

Chocolate Santa



Can of sardines


You're probably thinking, who would eat that? I admit that it seems a little strange, but I'm not making it up. My dad actually put an orange in there.

Despite my mother’s complaints that sardines made my breath perfectly rancid, I loved them, as did my little sister. They were a special treat because of how rarely we got them and who we got to eat them with: dad. The peanuts and orange were supposed to balance out the chocolate and help fill the stocking without emptying the wallet. My dad told us that when he was a kid, getting fresh fruit in your stocking was a very special treat. I’m glad he passed on the traditional orange while making room for a can of sardines as well.


My own kids usually get smaller presents along with their candy in their stockings. Last year we got Lukas and Abby each a movie that sat at the top of their stockings, and I want to continue doing that each year until my kids consider it as indispensable a Christmas tradition as the oranges that they too find at the bottom of their stockings. I still haven’t introduced them to the pleasure of a good sardine. Maybe this year…

Monday, December 12, 2016

Martin Luther

The year 1517 is widely considered the start of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther penned his 95 theses and nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral.  Since next year will be the 500th anniversary of this momentous occasion, you can expect a lot of attention to Martin Luther in the coming months. It's fitting, then, that Simonetta Carr, author of the excellent Christian Biographies for Young Readers series, has released her tenth title on this Reformer.

You don't have to look far to find a decent biography of Luther. I've watched some on YouTube, listened to countless sermons and lectures available online, read books, and even listened to audiobooks. With so many resources available, what does Simonetta Carr have to offer? Plenty.

First, her biography on Luther is a high-quality work in it's own right. It's a durable hardcover that, when combined with other titles in her series, looks beautiful on a bookshelf. The beauty only starts with the cover. Inside on each of its wide pages are period artwork, historical maps, photos of important places, and Troy Howell's fantastic illustrations of moments from Luther's life. They constantly remind readers that these events really happened to real people. My kids always seem more surprised by reality than by fiction, and their genuine interest and surprise at hearing these facts for the first time always gives me the joy of seeing their wonder.

The writing is aimed at children in the 7-12 age range, but even my 5-year-old stays interested as I read to her and show her the pictures. Carr does not whitewash Luther's history, though she does reserve the more negative information about Luther (such as his harsh language and verbal attacks against the Jews) for the Did you know? section at the end of the book. Given the scope of the book and it's size, it's not surprising that Carr didn't dwell on the more controversial moments of Luther's life.

I wish I had read more biographies when I was a kid. Actually, I wish I had read more, period. As a Christian parent, I want my kids to learn about my faith, and I pray that one day they will embrace it as their own. By sharing these biographies with them, they learn not only from my example, but from the examples of believers throughout history.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.