Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
January 3rd, 2014 by Joel Watts

Review of @KregelAcademic’s A Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers

Daniel Wallace, the most well-versed textual critic of our modern age, has compiled and parsed the most popular words used in Michael Holmes’s third edition of the Apostolic Fathers (Baker, 2007). Wallace’s book, as it says from the very first, is designed to coincide with Holmes’s work. While it may be possible use it elsewhere, it is not recommended.

In surveying some of the online responses as well as private conversations, the one real concern some will have with this book is that it is unlike the Reader’s New Testament produced by various publishing companies. And they are absolutely correct; however, as indicative of the title, it is not meant to be. It is, rather than a reader’s version of a text, a reader’s version of a lexicon. To this end, it not only accomplishes its goal, but provides us with a remarkable path forward in reconsidering how lexicons should be drafted in the future.

This lexicon is not meant to give the full understanding and all of the possible uses of the word. Rather, this is a gloss, a traditional form of reading a book from another language. The gloss gives you but a few possible uses without delivering the complete meaning and historical use of the word. To this end, the editors selected the best critical lexicons, such as Bauer’s, Danker, Liddell and Scott, and Lightfoot.

I will use 1 Clement 1.1 as an example of the above two comments. Because of the nature of posting the review, I will transliterate the Greek, although I note the lexicon does not. In 1 Clement 1.1, periboētos is used. We are told it is used twice in the lexicon and twice in the Apostolic Fathers. Then, we are given the simple gloss: well known, far famed, celebrated. Thus, as we are reading the Apostolic Fathers and we stumble at that word, there is no need to retrieve one of the larger lexicons and digest all of the historical information necessary for more in-depth study. Rather, we now have an immeasurable too to allow us to, as the title of this book suggests, read. As Wallace points out in the Preface, this pattern is repeated for all words appearing 30 times or less in the Apostolic Fathers.

The set up, which some will take issue with, looks more like a vocabulary list. My one complaint here is that the words are in alphabetical order. (Or course, if they were not, I may complain about that instead, admittedly.) I would rather like to have the words in the order as they appear in the verse. This is really nothing more than a personal preference. As an experiment, I read through the Epistle of Diognetus, a personal favorite, with little to no issue. The format of the Lexicon did not trouble me in its reading and I found the time it took to read the short work shortened when compared to having to find the word in one of my larger lexicons. 

This book is not for the novice. You cannot simply pick up a lexicon and know Greek. This is for the student and those who once knew Greek. It is a noteworthy progress in bringing Greek tools to a wider public, however.

 

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Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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