Book Review: Exegetical Gems From Biblical Greek

Serious students of the Bible often invest a great deal of time and energy in learning and holding on to the Biblical languages. Resources which assist students of the New Testament to retain and apply their Biblical Greek are sought after. Merkle’s Exegetical Gems aims to be such a resource. The book summarizes thirty-five Greek grammatical issues and seeks to describe their significance for New Testament interpretation by exploring key texts.

I found Merkle’s offering useful in its concise descriptions and explanations of these grammatical issues more than as a source of ‘exegetical gems’. He briefly explores alternative interpretations of various texts and details the grammatical options before stating his interpretive conclusion. However, the key deciding point is most frequently decided by context more than grammar. This is as it should be but is less supportive of the driving thesis behind the book.

The texts he explores represent a diverse set of passages from the Gospels (mainly Matthew), Pauline epistles and Hebrews. Some key texts explored include:

-Romans 5:1 ‘since we have been justified through faith, we have (or let us have) peace with God’.

-Ephesians 5:21-22 ‘Submit(ing) to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Here Merkle argues that Αἱ γυναῖκες (Wives), in verse 22, although nominative is to be read as a vocative, and this is indicative of the beginning of a new section. This was an interesting argument, but I found myself convinced that both paragraphs which follow the ὑποτασσόμενοι of 5:21, one addressing Αἱ γυναῖκες and the next addressing Οἱ ἄνδρες (plus others which follow, e.g. Τὰ τέκνα, Καὶ οἱ πατέρες) also refer backward as well as forward.

-1 Timothy 3:6 ‘He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil’ explores the genitive τοῦ διαβόλου (as subjective or objective).

-John 1:1 where he explores why the Word ὁ λόγος has the article and θεὸς is anarthrous, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

-Matthew 16:24 where an understanding of verbal aspect is explored. This verse contains two aorist imperatives (ἀπαρνέομαι and αἴρω) and one present imperative (ἀκολουθέω). Merkle argues that interpretations which argue from the verb tense-forms that Jesus is teaching that we must decisively come to the point where we deny ourselves and take up our cross and then keep following Jesus (continuous discipleship) are not based on a right understanding of verbal aspect.

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek may prove a particularly useful resource for the Biblical Greek classroom with its concise explanations of various dimensions of the language and its interpretation and the key examples from key New Testament texts.

I thank the publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

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