Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book: The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek

Face it: if you are not using your Koine Greek skills every day and twice on Sunday, they are getting rusty and you need help. The help you need is not a larger print NASB or ESV, either. It’s to get the Greek back. Or to learn it in the first place, especially if you are a Christian leader. After all, if one wants to know America’s Founding Documents, one still reads it in the swooped script of the Declaration of Independence and not just in text message-speak.

So, how do you get it back? How do you get it in the first place? If you are pounding through acquiring the Greek in the first place, you know that sometimes a textbook is just not as clear as you’d like. Or that one text explains material in one order, and another is different. Or just that Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics is so big that you cannot find what you need quickly.

Well, help is at hand, and it is in the form of The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek by Douglas S. Huffman. In 106 pages, Huffman runs through all of the basic principles of Koine Greek, from basic declensions through phrase diagramming. This work is short, to the point, and clear.

(picture links to the excerpt!)

How does Huffman accomplish this in so few pages? Simple: there is no vocabulary and little of the historical explanations found in a full-fledged textbook.  The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek is just that: a guide book. If you want in-depth knowledge, this is not for you. It is the Field Guide to Stars that goes in your pocket after reading Astrophysics, Constellations, and Quantum Mechanics.

Huffman provides concise definitions (2 lines) for terms that Wallace spends pages on, and boils all of the material down to its barebones. The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek is extremely helpful for quick reference, and will probably be easier to have tattooed on my arms before any upcoming exams.

Brevity is the soul of wit, however, and not the crux of learning. In the interest of covering everything briefly, Huffman is forced to cover everything briefly. That is, there are scant examples and few extended explanations. The text makes the point quickly and then moves on to the next point.

In all, The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek accomplishes Huffman’s purpose: he did not intend to be your only textbook, and his work should not be that. For those of us wrapping up formal study and working our Greek into day-to-day ministry, this text is quite handy. It is now my first grab when I hit a question. If it’s not here, I grab the booster-seat edition of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, but generally, Huffman has it here.

I recommend The Handy Guide to New Testament Greek to any person with a beginning knowledge of Koine Greek who needs a little help with using that knowledge.

Disclosure: Ok, this is probably the most glowing book review I’ve done in a while, and it’s for a book I got free for the review. So, yes, it looks like I’m shilling for Kregel Academic who sent me the book. What you need to know is this: I had a pre-order in on Amazon for this text, and then got offered the review. What loon pays for a book he’s offered free? Only one who does not have other books to buy. So, free book for the review, but no demand that I like it. I just do like it.

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