Book Review: II Peter and Jude: A Handbook on the Greek Text, by Peter H. Davids

[Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament series, Martin M. Culy, Gen. Ed.; 2011, Baylor University Press, Waco, TX, 130 pages]

Your starting point for exegesis and exposition in II Peter and Jude

The Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament series is geared toward intermediate and advanced students of Koine Greek “but also for students and scholars who no longer have the luxury of increasing their Greek proficiency within a classroom setting” [p viii].  Its primary focus is on grammar, incorporating elements of up-to-date methods of linguistics, including elements of Verbal Aspect theory, while touching on text critical issues where appropriate.  The series apparently adheres to the UBS4/NA27 as the base text.

There is very little exposition of the text, as this series is designed as a tool to extract proper meaning from the Greek by focusing on syntax and semantics, so the reader is then prepared for exegesis, followed by exposition.  Series General Editor Martin Culy describes these Handbooks as “’prequels’ to commentary proper” [p vii].

The Series Introduction is followed by the Author’s Preface and Intro.  Included at the very beginning is a list of abbreviations utilized throughout both Jude and II Peter.  In addition, there’s a short Glossary, a handy Grammar Index, as well as an Author Index (and a Bibliography, of course).  I’m especially fond of the Grammar Index.  One can go through this by topic and find explanations on concepts on which one is rusty or unfamiliar.  Left-dislocation?  Just go to Jude 10 or II Peter 3:6 for examples and application.

Davids is quite familiar with both books, having written his own expository commentary (Pillar New Testament Commentary) on this “odd couple” [p xvii].

The practice throughout is to select a verse, on up to a few verses, which are translated to English (by author), followed by the Greek text itself (bolded), then a brief grammatical explanation of the selection. This is followed by the author taking a section (usually a clause) of the selection, providing a general grammatical explanation, concluding by taking individual words from the section, providing parsing as well as more technical details, sometimes including brief exegesis. Essentially, it’s a macro to micro approach once the text is first broken down into digestible chunks (keeping in mind the natural flow of the text).

Here’s an example using one word in Jude 1 [p 2]:

τετηρημένοιϛ.  Prf pass ptc masc dat pl τηρέω (attributive).  The second defining characteristic of these people is that they have been and are being kept or guarded, which is important given the threat that Jude will mention later.

While Davids touches on some modern linguistic theory, illustrating its usage (referencing Runge and Levinsohn ), including Verbal Aspect (utilizing Porter), there is not a considerable focus on these innovations.  This is a bit disappointing, as I was hoping for extensive examples, most especially of Verbal Aspect.  But, this is a minor quibble.  The few examples quoting Porter are helpful, and these can be applied to other verses.  I’m hopeful Verbal Aspect will get more traction in Koine Greek studies. 

Here’s a great illustration of its usage in II Peter 1:17, as Davids quotes from Luke in this same series (Culy, Mikeal C. Parsons and Joshua J. Stigall) with reference to εὺδόκησα in its parallel in Luke 3:22:

“This is a good example of why some scholars (e.g. Porter, Decker, Campbell) maintain that the aorist tense, like the other tenses, does not explicitly refer to time, though it is used most often to refer to past events…Here, God is simply portrayed as speaking of his pleasure with Jesus as a whole action or simple event by using the aorist tense/perfective aspect (cf. McKay, 27) rather than as a process (imperfective aspect)…” [pp 59-60].

As one who is self-studying NT Greek, this work (and, I’m assuming, series) is quite useful. It’s a bit beyond my current level, which makes it that much more profitable.  Since this is my first acquisition of the BHGNT series, I’m assuming the rest is fashioned similarly, and with that in mind, I’ll be buying more. I’m particularly eager to acquire Constantine Campbell’s edition on Colossians, as I’m quite confident he’ll provide a thorough treatment of Verbal Aspect throughout (not to mention Colossians is one of my favorite books in Scripture).

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