The Current World of New Testament Greek Scholarship - An Excerpt from Advances in the Study of Greek
Constantine R. Campbell is Associate Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and the author of several books. His newest, Advances in the Study of Greek provides an accessible introduction for students, pastors, professors, and commentators to understand the current issues of interest in the current world of Greek scholarship. In the excerpt below, Contantine explains what this book is about and why it is needed today:
This book is an introduction to issues of interest in the current world of New Testament Greek scholarship.
Those within Greek scholarship often lament that students, pastors, professors, and New Testament commentators seem out of touch with what is going on in Greek studies.
Those outside Greek scholarship often lament that they don’t know what’s going on, nor do they know how to get up to speed. Much of the scholarship is inaccessible to outsiders, since it is highly technical and laden with linguistic jargon and methodologies. Some of the debates about Greek make such topics seem contentious and overly complex. Moreover, it is not always clear what difference Greek scholarship really makes to reading and understanding the Greek New Testament.
This book provides an accessible introduction for students, pastors, professors, and New Testament commentators to understand what are the current issues of interest in this period of paradigm shift(s) and why they matter. After all, the study of Greek ultimately affects everyone interested in the New Testament, whether they are Greek scholars or not.
My aim is that this book will be useful to anyone who is studying Greek at university or seminary level, to their professors, to pastors who use Greek, and to New Testament scholars and commentators. In short, anyone who engages with the Greek New Testament ought to benefit from this book, with the possible exception of Greek scholars themselves. However, I hope that even Greek scholars will benefit, since their expertise is often limited to two or three of the topics covered in the book; they too may profit from an introduction to issues outside their expertise.
What Is This Book About?
As mentioned above, this book aims to introduce issues of interest within Greek scholarship. This is a particular aim and requires some clarification. In colloquial terms, it could be seen as a presentation of the cutting edge. This cutting edge includes issues that have the potential to change the way we think about Greek. It includes issues that set new directions for Greek scholarship or that may overturn previously held ideas about Greek. It also includes issues that shape the way we think about language in general, and therefore how we should handle our questions and discussions of the Greek language. Some of the cutting-edge issues presented here are well known, perhaps due to (in)famous debates about them, and my readers will be looking to understand them and perhaps make some sort of adjudication, if possible. Others are issues that are not as widely known, but should be.
Such a focus on the cutting edge means that this book does not deal with issues that are relatively stable or have not yet been at the center of some kind of cutting-edge discussion. Uncontroversial issues, or areas that have not seen much development in recent years, are not included here. This book is not intended to be a general introduction to Greek, nor even a general introduction to Greek scholarship. The status quo of such consensuses can readily be ascertained through the consultation of informative Greek grammars and the like. Rather, the issues of contention, development, and even revolution are the focus here…
Why Is This Book Needed?
Some readers will require no explanation as to why they should read this book. They are reading it because the answer is obvious to them. Others may require some persuasion. Whether one knows it or not, everyone interested in the Greek New Testament needs to become familiar with the discussions that are included here. These issues are important. They are not esoteric discussions about linguistic mumbo jumbo that have no connection to the interests of normal people. Rather, I have been careful to select discussions that have some kind of direct bearing on the way we read the New Testament.
If you think reading the Greek New Testament is important, then you should regard these issues as important. The matters discussed in these pages exhibit two types of relevance to reading the Greek New Testament:
First, genuine advances in Greek linguistics can lead to new insights into text. These may not be earth shattering, nor will they necessarily revolutionize the exegesis of certain passages or theological formulations. But they will add nuance, depth of understanding, and increased precision. They may open up fresh exegetical possibilities here or there, or clarify which existing possibilities are most likely from a linguistic standpoint. ... Linguistic awareness also aids our discussions about the Greek New Testament; as we become clearer about methodological principles and certain terminology, we are better able to talk with one another about Greek and about Greek texts.
Second, advances in Greek linguistics can correct long-held errors. Such errors might be methodological; others may result from false information; and still other errors might involve wrong readings of certain texts. Regardless, such errors are far too common. Surely it is incumbent on interpreters of the New Testament to correct errors of method or practice
as they become evident. Nor are these topics just passing fads. Within New Testament circles, there seems to exist an inherent suspicion about the “new” when it comes to Greek (though, interestingly, other areas of New Testament research welcome the “new” and are sometimes even preoccupied with it). A common attitude is one that wonders, if we’ve understood Greek the same way for two thousand years, why do we now think we’ve finally understood it?
Can a few scholars over a few years overturn two millennia of agreement? Such an attitude reveals a serious ignorance of history — no offense, if that was you — and all the more underscores the need to read this book! It will be clear from chapter 1 that it is certainly not the case that Greek scholarship has been settled for two thousand years and only now is being
unsettled. In fact, prior to the nineteenth century, there was comparatively little Greek scholarship, and what did exist was deeply incoherent….
From the nineteenth century onward, many advances have taken place — including the overturning of some common beliefs about Greek, the results of which are assumed today. They have not existed since the first century; they’re only 150 years old at best. And yet they are treated as the “traditional” understanding that we’ve always had. Part of the burden of this book is to familiarize the reader with the historical contours of discussion, so that you can appreciate that modern scholarship has not just plucked its ideas and conclusions out of the air. Several cutting-edge issues represent the culmination of more than a hundred years of reflection and debate. (pgs 20-24)
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