Trenchard’s “The Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament”

Warren C. Trenchard, English Grammar to Ace New Testament Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998); 352 pages, $13.98.

Building upon Bruce Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, Warren Trenchard provides his readers with a comprehensive guide to the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. Trenchard divides his book into five sections.

Section One organizes vocabulary according to cognate word groups. Any word in the New Testament that has a “cognate relationship with at least one other word” is grouped together in the section. This section also includes a list of common prefixes and verb, noun, adjective, and adverb suffixes. The comprehensive nature of Trenchard’s guide is demonstrated by the fact that this first section alone is bigger than Metzger’s entire work.

Section Two is a complete frequency list of all words occurring in the UBS4 edition of the Greek New Testament. Unlike Metzger’s alphabetical arrangement within a range of frequencies, Trenchard organizes words according to the exact frequency. The list is divided into groupings of ten in order to allow for ease of memorization.

While Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek includes an appendix of the principal parts of important New Testament verbs, Trenchard’s list includes every principle part of every verb that occurs in the New Testament. Long forgotten are the days when you did not know that the fourth principal part of ἐρχομαι is  ἐλήλυθα.

Section Four is a list of all proper words in the New Testament. The list is arranged according to “Names of Persons,” “Names of Places,” and “Other Proper Words.” The proper nouns in these subsections are listed alphabetically with frequency information to the right in parentheses.

The fifth and final list is a potpourri of other lists (crasis forms, elision forms, proclitics, enclitics, postpositives, prepositions, improper prepositions, number words, masculine nouns of the first declension, feminine nouns of the second declension, masculine and feminine nouns of the second declension, masculine and neuter nouns of the second declension, etc.).

It is hard to offer any sort of critique of a volume like this. It succeeds in its claim to be a COMPLETE vocabulary guide. And yet…a few words must be said.

First, and this isn’t a criticism of the book, despite the excellence of this work, I sense that few professors would be willing to move away from Metzger. His work has become a standard in the field and the glosses he provides have become a common vernacular, if you will, among Greek scholars, professors, and students.

Second, Metzger’s work is trim. It is easily carried from class-to-class … or wedding ceremonies in a suit jacket pocket. (I’m not at all speaking from experience.)

Third, Trenchard’s work is intimidating. Sections one and two can be stand alone volumes. Furthermore, section three’s list of all verbs and their principle parts is unwieldy. It becomes a reference work instead of advice on which principal parts are most important for translating the New Testament. Metzger’s list of the principal parts of important verbs is a manageable list with which all students should become familiar.

Fourth, though Trenchard chunks his frequency list into groupings of ten, there is no good way to identify a specific grouping. With Metzger, one could easy create flashcards according to his labelled groupings (500+, 201-500, 151-200, etc.). In future editions of this volume, I would recommend putting words in groups of 20 with some heading to indicate the range of words within that group. (I recognize that this might mess with his overall organization wherein words occurring the same number of times are arranged alphabetically. Nevertheless, not being able to easily assign groups of words to students for weekly memorization is a substantial downside).

Despite these objections, this is definitely a resource you should have in your library. If you have mastered Metzger’s list of all words occurring 10+ times in the New Testament, then you are ready for Trenchard. Metzger demands that we go a mile, Trenchard exhorts us to go two.

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