New Testament Studies

LXX Scholar Interview: Dr. W. Edward Glenny

It has become one of my favorite tasks for this site to put together a post for my Septuagint Scholar Interview series. It’s always a pleasure to learn more about others who have been active in the field for some time. We are now on the fourth installment, and if you pop over to the interview page using that link up there, you’ll see that I have a few others lined up that should be interesting reading.

Dr. W. Edward Glenny

Dr. W. Edward Glenny

But today we have a great interview with a real, live Septuagint scholar, Dr. W. Edward Glenny. I met Ed several years ago at an IOSCS session at the SBL national meeting, and we have gotten to know each other through that venue ever since. Ed and his wife also spent several months at Tyndale House, Cambridge, where I conduct my research, so he has become a good friend. He is also a fellow member of the steering committee for the brand new Septuagint Studies session at the annual ETS national conference.

For the past four years Ed has been the endowed professor of New Testament Studies and Greek at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. He is one of those rare breeds that holds not one, but two doctoral degrees, both Th.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary and Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota (as you’ll read about below). As you can see by flipping over to his faculty page, Ed has a long list of academic publications, many of which are related to the Septuagint, especially his focus area, the Twelve.

The Interview

Without further delays, let’s hear from Ed.

1) Can you describe how you first became interested in LXX studies, and your training in the discipline?

My first contact with the LXX was through a class on the LXX with Allen Ross during my doctoral program at Dallas Seminary. I audited the course with Dr. Ross, and it was partly because of that course that I wanted to write a dissertation on the use of the OT in the NT for my doctoral program at Dallas. I began to use the LXX in my dissertation at Dallas on the use of the OT in 1 Peter. After I finished that project I felt like I wanted to learn more and improve my language skills further, so I enrolled in a graduate program in classics at the University of Minnesota. I majored in Greek, and my second ancient language was Hebrew. So, with my emphasis on those two languages the LXX was a natural topic for my dissertation at Minnesota, and I wrote on the translation technique in LXX-Amos. That dissertation was published in Brill’s Supplement to Vetus Testamentum series (Finding Meaning in the Text: Translation Technique and Theology in the Septuagint of Amos), and it was really my entry into LXX studies. I was able to spend time at Tyndale House at Cambridge University while I was researching and writing my dissertation on the LXX, and Robert Gordon and some of his students who were working in the LXX were a great encouragement and help to me in my work.

2) How have you participated in the discipline over the course of your teaching and writing career?

I have presented papers in the IOSCS section at the annual SBL meetings, and I have also presented at the triennial international meetings of the IOSCS. I have also had the privilege to write several book reviews, articles, and books on the LXX. In addition to my dissertation I have published three commentaries in Brill’s Septuagint Commentary series, the commentaries on Hosea, Amos, and Micah. Among other articles, I contributed the article on the Introduction to the Twelve in the LXX in Brill’s forthcoming work The Textual History of the Bible. In the days ahead I am looking forward to writing several other volumes for Brill’s Septuagint Commentary series, as well as a handbook on the LXX of Amos for Baylor University Press.

4) How has the field changed since you’ve been involved?

I think that I can give a general answer to this question. The field is becoming more sophisticated and complex, and scholars continue to build on the work of previous generations and go to greater levels of depth in the study of the LXX text. Continued study has resulted in more comparison of the LXX with other contemporary literature and with more detailed studies of the Septuagint itself.

5) For the benefit of graduate students who are potentially interested in

LXX studies in doctoral work, what in your opinion are underworked areas and topics in need of further research? I think that the area of translation technique is one of the most important areas of research that will continue to provide opportunities for work in the LXX for years to come. This is because the study of translation technique is wide-ranging and complex and can be applied to a LXX text in many different ways.

6) What current projects in Septuagint are you working on?

My main LXX project right now is a review of the T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint, edited by James K. Aitken. I published a commentary on LXX-Micah in early 2015, and now my main project is a New Testament commentary (1 Peter). But as I mentioned above I am looking forward to working in earnest on the LXX again in a year or so.

7) What is the future of Septuagint studies?

The future of Septuagint studies is very bright! There are many young scholars working in this area, and previous generations of scholars have provided them with some excellent tools to use in their studies and more LXX resources and studies are being published every year. I anticipate that the field will continue to grow and flourish.

Wrapping Up

Thanks to Ed for being willing to answer these questions! As I mentioned, stay tuned for further interviews in the near future. If you have a suggestion for a later interviewee, or a question you’d like to see added, please let me know in the comments.

A Review of Comfort’s “A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament”

While it may seem a little bit out of my usual strike zone on this blog, I was interested in having a look at the newest edition of Philip Comfort’s A Commentary on the Manuscripts and Text of the New Testament (Kregel Academic, 2015), pp. 448, hardback. My work and research interests are grounded in all things Old Testament, however much of my daily grind involves a fair bit of heavy-duty textual-criticism in the Greek versions of the Bible. Doing research in the Septuagint version of Judges requires that I dive into the manuscript evidence for that Greek translation, and one of the side-effects of doing so is that I am interested in New Testament textual-criticism as well.

This handy volume is billed as “an up-to-date commentary on all the significant manuscripts and textual variants of the New Testament,” and it certainly lives up to its description. It’s cleverly shaped just like your NA27 (or if you’re cutting-edge and nit-picky, your NA28), and so it sits nicely next to your Greek New Testament and, of course, your Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta.

The essential purpose of this book is to provide a passage-by-passage guide to textual reliability, the variants, and specific translation issues that arise in the New Testament. Additionally, Comfort has commented upon the qualities of the manuscripts that make up the textual evidence for the New Testament in order to help the scholar and exegete evaluate significant textual issues. When you come across a variant in the NT text, deciding between readings must be based upon a number of factors. As the famous NT scholars Westcott and Hort stated, knowledge of the documents where the variants are found must precede decisions about the textual variants themselves. These external factors that influence text-critical decisions include the tendencies of the scribe of a particular manuscript (including scribal reception), textual purity (i.e., number of variants compared to other witnesses and/or the supposed autograph), approximate date, region of discovery, and so on. In turn, the internal factors for text-criticism rely upon the so-called “Canons” of the discipline, such as proclivi scriptoni praestat ardua (“the more difficult reading is preferred”). These are briefly but helpfully explained by Comfort on pp. 29-31.

If you have ever undertaken serious NT textual criticism – or even had to write a graduate paper that wades through this area of scholarship – then you already know how useful a tool like this book will be for doing much of this spadework for you and getting huge amounts of data into concise and centralized format.

What’s in the Book

Comfort spends the first two chapters of the book dealing with various textual issues in the NT, and providing his annotated list of NT manuscripts. In chapters 3-9, he then walks through the NT books in chunks as follows:

  • Ch. 3 – Synoptic Gospels
  • Ch. 4 – Gospel of John
  • Ch. 5 – Acts
  • Ch. 6 – Pauline Epistles
  • Ch. 7 – Hebrews
  • Ch. 8 – General Epistles
  • Ch. 9 – Revelation

I was quite pleased and surprised to find that Comfort has also included some interesting and useful material on the Nomina Sacra, and their relevance to textual-criticism (see pp. 31-41, Appendix II). Best of all is that this material is directed towards NT text-criticism and also aspects of the Greek Old Testament where the divine names are also a prominent textual issue.

Reflections

Not specializing in New Testament textual criticism per se, I do not have much negative feedback. However, from that perspective I must say that I found myself wishing there was a Glossary of Terms in this volume. No doubt, Old Testament and New Testament textual criticism operate on similar principles in some ways, but in other ways these tasks are quite different. I think the average reader would likely benefit from a clarification of terms used throughout a book like this. Nevertheless, this book is a must-have for students of New Testament, and considering the fair price it is a worthwhile investment.

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Thanks to Kregel Publications for the complimentary review copy, which has not influenced my opinions.

Review of Porter’s “Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament”

I was glad to receive a review copy of Dr. Stanley Porter’s most recent (latest) new (fresh) book this year, Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice. Stan is the president, dean, professor of New Testament, and chair in Christian Worldview at McMaster Divinity College, among inconceivably numerous other roles. To save some space detailing Porter’s credentials, why don’t you swing over to view his CV to peruse all fifty-seven pages of it.

Needless to say, when Stan Porter says something about Greek, it’s worth listening. Many will know (better than me) about Porter’s close involvement with the ongoing scholarly debates over verbal aspect in Greek, which – like it or not – makes him an important figure in contemporary biblical studies generally. Even in Old Testament studies, I am convinced, Greek remains quite central, considering the importance of the Septuagint to OT text-criticism and interpretation.

Book Outline

The book, which runs to over 440 pages, is structured as follows:

Introduction
Part 1: Texts and Tools for Analysis
1. Who Owns the Greek New Testament? Issues That Promote and Hinder Further Study
2. Analyzing the Computer Needs of New Testament Greek Exegetes
3. “On the Shoulders of Giants”–The Expansion and Application of the Louw-Nida Lexicon
4. The Blessings and Curses of Producing a Lexicon
Part 2: Approaching Analysis
5. Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation
6. A Multidisciplinary Approach to Exegesis
7. Sociolinguistics and New Testament Study
8. Discourse Analysis: Introduction and Core Concepts
9. The Ideational Metafunction and Register
10. Time and Aspect in New Testament Greek: A Response to K. L. McKay
11. Three Arguments regarding Aspect and Temporality: A Response to Buist Fanning, with an Excursus on Aspectually Vague Verbs
12. The Perfect Tense-Form and Stative Aspect: The Meaning of the Greek Perfect Tense-Form in the Greek Verbal System
Part 3: Doing Analysis
13. A Register Analysis of Mark 13: Toward a Context of Situation
14. The Grammar of Obedience: Matthew 28:19-20
15. Verbal Aspect and Synoptic Relations
16. Study of John’s Gospel: New Directions or the Same Old Paths?
17. Method and Means of Analysis of the Opponents in the Pauline Letters
18. 1 Timothy 2:8: Holy Hands or Holy Raising?
19. Greek Word Order: Still an Unexplored Area in New Testament Studies?
20. Proper Nouns in the New Testament
21. Hyponymy and the Trinity
Indexes

Thoughts in Review

There is a lot of valuable material in this volume. In large measure, the essays are distilled from Porter’s previous papers or presentations, but refined and updated. Each of the three parts has its advantages, but I found Part II most fascinating.

Part I is caught up with discussing what might be called “logistical items” in New Testament studies, such as the idea of intellectual property and ancient texts, computer tools, and the ins-and-outs of Greek lexicons. These are helpful essays insofar as they bring up interesting and relevant questions for the biblical studies community. But these chapters will prove most useful, I think, to those already a part of the “guild” rather than students. That said, those students who go on to enter professional biblical studies will do well to have these questions raised for future work.

Part II was, as I said, more interesting, and strikes me as the meat of the book. As the title rightly indicates, the most valuable aspect of Porter’s volume is his application of linguistics to the study of the NT. In Porter’s case, this is done consistently in the vein of Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). The SFL approach in particular is what Porter has done so rigorously for so long, and is what he has found so “fruitful” for NT study (see his CV for proof). SFL has come under criticism by some because it is a basically quantitative approach that does not accommodate languages with highly variable word order, like Greek. For this reason, I was happy to see that Porter does not see SFL as the all-or-nothing for right exegesis, although he does presumably see SFL as the best model of modern linguistics for the tasks he is interested in completing. Chapter 6 however is concerned with, as Porter calls it, a “multidisciplinary” approach to exegesis that blends a variety of approaches to distill the many aspects of a text for contemporary understanding. In this part of the book, Porter basically works from broadest to narrowest, conceptually speaking, working from sociolinguistics through discourse, register, and verbal aspect. All these chapters are very clearly written and I personally found them very useful. The last topic – verbal aspect – as we might expect receives the favor of three full chapters promoting Porter’s taking on “nontemporality” in the Greek verb. Like it or not, Porter provides many compelling arguments for this particular view, which will need to be considered in future work on the topic.

Part III essentially puts some of the theoretical concepts from Part II into action. I was glad that Porter decided to do this, since in large measure there is a pretty hefty amount of undefined linguistics jargon strewn through Part II (especially guilty of this is Ch. 9), and the practical application in Part III clarifies much of Porter’s work. I found the first chapter (13) the most interesting in this section, likely because register is a significant aspect of my own research in the Greek version of the Old Testament. There is much of use in this part of the book, too, to students looking to continue their studies at more advanced levels, since Porter is consistently serving up ideas to pursue. The prime example here is ch. 19, which outlines the under-explored potential of word-order studies in Greek.

Wrapping Up

Needless to say, the great amount of particular goodies in this latest publication by Stanley Porter makes a review like this more prone to highlight generalities. Even so, I hope this brief review provides enough encouragement to get a copy of this book, or at least peruse through it at your institution’s library. If you are involved in biblical studies, there is something (or many things) relevant to you in Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament.

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Thanks to Baker for providing a review copy, which has not influenced my comments above.