Friday, January 3, 2014

Book: A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

Today’s Book is a Greek Lexicon, provided by Kregel Academic.

Unlike my review last week for Rest Not in Peace, this is not a book that I would recommend for nearly everyone. It’s a Greek book, so if you’re not Greek-nerdy, you might just move on. Unless you know a Greek-nerd person, and need a gift idea.

Today, let us look at A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers. This is not really a book that you simply sit down and read. This is, instead, a companion for reading The Apostolic Fathers, and one nice thing from the get-go is that it is connected to the Baker Publishing version. Kregel Academic has not spent the effort to sell their own version, and instead has focused the effort on making the Fathers more accessible.

Now, I should spend some time pointing out why you should read the Apostolic Fathers, so that you understand your need for A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers. After all, if you don’t intend to read a book, you hardly need a specialized dictionary for it, do you?

Here’s why you should read the Fathers: Christianity is not a new faith. It has existed for nearly 2 millennia, and pending eschatological fulfillment, will exist for many more. The Fathers are those who wrote and taught roughly in the first generation after the Apostles. These are the first writings that are remembered by the Church at large and found useful, just not inspired. If you would suggest that the Federalist Papers help us understand the Constitution of the United States, or that post-episode blog posts help us understand TV series, then you get the concept. Just amplify the idea.

Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp all provide us with good insight into how the basics of doctrine were understood in the early church. While they have not written inspired Scripture, they have written helpful material. If you are a serious student of the New Testament Church or the history of Christianity, you need to read the Fathers.

The standard street version of the Fathers is presented in a diglot version with both Greek and English, so it is accessible to anyone. However, a better understanding comes from the Greek text. This is the value of A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers.

How so? Typically, students of the New Testament have learned the grammar of Koine Greek and have learned vocabulary words that occur above a certain frequency in the New Testament. (My classes show I learned to a count of 20, but I’m more comfortable above 30.) The Apostolic Fathers, though, used a slightly different vocabulary in general than the New Testament authors. So, some words are far more prevalent in the New Testament, others more prevalent in the Fathers, and the vocabulary gap can intimidate a reader.

Wallace and his team in A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers have taken the time to index all of the vocabulary of The Apostolic Fathers, 3rd edition by Holmes, and provided a lexicon with all those words that occur fewer than 30 times in the New Testament. These are then presented in the order they appear in each individual work of the Fathers, so some words are repeated from Clement to Ignatius to Papias, while others are only referenced in one work.

The format is simple. A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers is a hardcover, 7x10 book of 256 pages. There is an introduction, and then the lexical work. A lexicon is simply a specialized dictionary, and in this case, it is a Greek-English dictionary. Each Patristic writing (Patristic=from the Fathers) is taken in printed order, and the words are presented as you will encounter them in reading.

A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers does not provide full definition. You’ll want BAGD for that, but Wallace, et. al, have provided frequency counts alongside the simple glosses in the text. These handy definitions are chosen based on context, but the reader can easily cross-reference to a reference work for certainty.

Additionally, one finds that A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers looks like it matches A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. That’s intentional—these are part of a planned series, and both are almost indispensible for the pastor, teacher, or student who is not able to memorize the entire Koine Greek language.

A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers is highly recommended to you as a student of the New Testament. If you would like more information, I commend to you the Author Talks Podcast with Daniel Wallace found here:

Today’s Book was provided by Kregel Academic publishers, who also produce the Philips Commentary Series and the New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament mentioned above.

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