I Peter: A Handbook on the Greek Text arrived in the mail yesterday. It’s by Mark Dubis, and is part of a new series that aims to help students of the Greek New Testament pay careful attention to the Greek itself, informed by the insights of linguistics. I think this is a good idea, as many commentaries are weak at this point. I started reading it yesterday, and have a few initial impressions:
- I love the fact that the series as a whole refuses to divide the tenseforms into endless discrete categorisations: According to the series introduction, this sort of approach “typically stems not from a careful analysis of Greek syntax but rather from grappling with the challenges of translating Greek verbs into English. When we carefully examine the Greek verb tenses themselves, we find that the tense forms do not themselves denote semantic features such as ingressive, iterative, or conative; they certainly do not emphasize such notions; at best they may allow for ingressive, iterative, or conative translations” (xi). This is similar to the sort of approach I take myself – I want students to understand each tenseform, but also to give proper recognition to the pragmatics of context in determining meaning, rather than thinking that they have to somehow discern which discrete category of “aorist” is operative in each instance.
- The series likewise avoids the label “deponent,” rather taking middles to be genuine middles. This discussion is followed up with a helpful warning: “In recognizing that so-called deponent verbs should be viewed as true middles, users of the BHGNT should not fall into the trap of concluding that the middle form emphasizes the subject’s involvement in the action of the verb. At times, the middle voice appears simply to be a morphological flag indicating that the verb is intransitive. More frequently, the middle morphology tends to be driven by the ‘middle’ semantics of the verb itself” (xiii).
- The 1 Peter volume in particular pays careful attention to word order. I’m really pleased to see this, as this is something I’ve been trying to pay attention to with my Greek exegesis students, in looking at 1 Corinthians: if a constituent of the clause is fronted before the verb, why is this the case? (It’s not necessarily for “emphasis”). Dubis especially draws on the work of Stephen Levinsohn and Steve Runge here.
- As one would expect with any sort of commentary, I have the odd disagreement with Dubis’ conclusions or translations within the discussion. For example, I wish he had retained more explicitly the idea of “birth” or “conception” in the crucial opening image, in which it is said that the Father anagennesas us. This image of being fathered by God is taken up subsequently in 1 Peter 1-2, where believers are said to be “obedient children (1:14), “callers on a father” (1:17), “sibling-lovers” (1:22), and “infants” (2:2). But this important image of being born into God’s family is somewhat muted by Dubis’ rendering of anagennesas as “brought us to new life.” But this sort of disagreement is to be expected with any translation or commentary, so does not detract from the usefulness of the book.
All in all, it looks promising, and I look forward to reading more 🙂 (Also, I look forward to seeing a volume on 1 Corinthians!)