New Reading

I met my Doktorvater today! I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “Moving my family halfway across the world to study in a city I’ve never visited with a professor I’ve never met in person was the right decision.” Du Toit is relaxed, welcoming, encouraging, and brilliant.

After our meeting, he gave me a stack of essays and a book—all of which are his recent publications. Looks like I have a bit of reading to do over the next couple of months.

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Only Fitting

It seemed only fitting that I get lunch with my mentor and friend, Dr. David Alan Black before following in his footsteps to a German speaking nation in pursuit of a PhD

I can not begin to express how much he has done for me and how much I have learned from him. I am who I am today because of his humility in the classroom and his unwillingness to settle for less than his students are capable of giving.

We concluded the afternoon with a trip to his library where he gave me two German commentaries:

There was no way he was letting me leave the country without giving me another assignment!

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Cerone’s Travels and PhD Studies at LMU

img_4997-1It just occurred to me, dear reader, that I haven’t mentioned on this blog that the Cerone family is in the middle of a tumultuous time. We have left Bellingham—the remnant of that lost Garden of Eden—to spend a month with family and friends in North Carolina before setting sail . . . er . . . flying to Munich Germany. I have been accepted to study at the Ludwig Maximilians Universität. My first semester will begin in October, but I will be taking two language intensives before beginning. The first will be in August, and the second in September. It will be a busy time of life, to say the very least.

Nevertheless, we’re very much looking forward to this next stage, and we covet your prayers as we prepare for our departure in July. If you are interested in following our journey to Munich, you can follow our family blog at The sixteen legs, by the way, are two adults, two children, and two dogs. We do not have, as some have asked with astonishment, six children.

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Going Deeper with New Testament Greek: A Review

51ZcbZ2h4ML._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_There’s simply no good textbook for third semester Greek. Yes, there are excellent grammars, intermediate grammars, workbooks, and more. Some of the standards, in my opinion, are David Alan Black’s It’s Still Greek to Me, Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Herbert Bateman’s A Workbook for Intermediate Greek, and several others. Each of these works has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. I own them all. I use them all. I was taught in various Greek courses with them all. And I unequivocally recommend each one of them.

But when I started teaching Greek at my local church, I encountered a host of problems. The first was, “How do I teach Greek in a manner that keeps the class interesting for students that want to reap the benefits of knowing Greek but must plod through the difficult task of learning the language’s grammar?”

I accomplished this task by adapting paragraphs from the Greek New Testament to where we were in the course and what I thought the class could handle. I brought in word study resources to teach my students about what they were, how to use them, and how to do word studies while side-stepping the most blatant fallacies. In other words, I had to bring some of the hermeneutical and exegetical principles in the first and second semester Greek that wasn’t necessary in an academic setting. After all, the students paid to take Greek in an academic setting, they had assigned grades, they had degree requirements. In sum, they had a weight of external motivation that could overcome almost any lacking internal motivation.

However, after learning the basics of the grammar and providing insights and incentives along the way, I couldn’t help but wonder what textbook I should use when moving to third semester Greek. I couldn’t rightly ask my students—who were purely internally motivated—to sit down, read, and memorize Wallace’s 30 uses of the genitive. I couldn’t require them to use Bateman’s Workbook. While I dearly love this resource—Bateman himself taught me from it during my Moody days—my church didn’t have access to all the resources needed to effectively use it. In essence, my students would need to have access to a seminary library, or build their own.

What resource would I use to teach exegesis, syntax, and vocabulary in a way that inductively walked my students through substantial New Testament passages? Sadly, I never got to make that decision. We moved to Washington to start a job with Faithlife before I had the opportunity to assemble a variety of texts that would accomplish my purposes.

However, if I were to teach that class today, I would use Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer’s Going Deeper with New Testament Greek. You honestly don’t want to pass up on this resource.

The book retails at $49.99, but you can get it on Amazon for $30. And for everything it contains, the book is a steal!

Each chapter begins by orienting the reader around the importance of the topics discussed. Why is it important to learn about the syntax of the nominative case? Readers are anecdotally introduced to the Colwell’s rule and its importance to the interpretation of John 1:1. Why are tense and aspect important for understanding New Testament Greek? We’re introduced to one commentator’s faulty belief—on the basis of outdated linguistic arguments—that the present subjunctive indicates that Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a permanent instead of temporary affliction (the aorist subjunctive). The content of the chapter is intimately connected with its significance for interpretation.

We cannot overlook the importance of connecting what we’re teaching with why we are teaching it. Sure, some bright students might catch on. But the authors of Going Deeper know we can do better than that, and they do it.

After orienting the reader around the significance of the chapter they are studying, the authors provide us with that chapter’s objectives. At no point do we get lost. The authors tell us where we are and where we’re going.

Now we’re ready to dive into the content of the chapter. If you’ve ever studied Greek syntax, you know that the proliferation of categorized usages of a specific case, tense, voice, mood can be overwhelming. Not only does Going Deeper cut down on the number of specialized uses of, for instance, the genitive, they also provide a helpful taxonomy of how certain usages relate to others. Notice how the authors helpfully classify  the genitive according to adjectival uses, verbal uses, adverbial uses, and the catch all “other uses”:


When learning the syntax for each usage, we find 3–5 examples (in Greek) accompanied by English translations that have the relevant piece of information bolded. The student doesn’t have to guess at which piece of the example sentence is relevant to the discussion.

One of the most valuable sections of the book can be found in the summary of each chapter. There you’ll find a table containing every syntactical usage discussed in the chapter, a brief description/definition, and an example with translation. If I were a student taking a final with this textbook, I’d copy the summary pages, laminate them, and use them for my exam prep cheat sheet.

As if this isn’t enough, Going Deeper provides you with exercises, vocabulary lists that take us down to 15 uses in the New Testament, a Greek reader (selected passages from the New Testament), and reading notes on that passage that walk us through the relevant morphological and syntactical details pertaining to that passage, which takes the form of an expanded version of Robert Plummer’s Daily Dose of Greek.

Finally, don’t forget to read the footnotes. The author’s not only provide relevant details about Greek syntax, they also provide links to free resources to expand your knowledge as well as paid resources like Bible Study Software. It’s abundantly clear that their goal is to teach New Testament Greek and to provide students with every resource they need to learn it.

Though the majority of the work is excellent, there are few places where I have some qualms.

First, in chapter 12 on “Pronouns, Conjunctions, Adverbs & Particles” we find that γάρ is counted among both coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. On page 413, the authors say that, as a coordinating conjunction, it functions to provide further explanation. On the same page, we find them saying, “The most common Greek subordinating conjunctions employed with indicative verbs (in decreasing frequency) are ὅτι (“that,” “because”); εί (“if”); καθώς (“just as”); ὡς (“as,” “like”); γάρ (“because,” “since”) . . . “(413). However, to my knowledge γάρ is exclusively a coordinating conjunction and does not function as a subordinator.

  • BDF, while acknowledging the causative sense of γάρ—as also Going Deeper—lists it as a Causal Co-Ordinating Conjunction (235). No where does BDF list it as a causal subordinating conjunction (239).
  • Robertson lists γάρ as a paratactic inferential conjunction (1190).
  • Wallace lists it as a coordinating conjunction with an explanatory sense (657), but no where includes it in his “Classification of Dependent Clauses” portion of the grammar (658). [edit: Per Rob Plummer’s comment below, Wallace does include γάρ as a subordinating conjunction on page 669.]

It’s important here to make a note about the difference between the discourse and syntactic function of γάρ. Claiming that γάρ is never a syntactic subordinator does not mean that it introduces a clause that functions as a mainline proposition within the discourse. As a matter of fact, Runge lists γάρ as a conjunction that maintains continuity with what has already been said in the discourse, but that it has the constraint of supporting that which has come before it. Runge writes:

In other words, the information introduced does not advance the discourse but adds background information that strengthens or supports what precedes. Black also correlates the use of γάρ with background information, noting a tendency for it to be used with forms of εἰμί and imperfect-tense forms. She states, “Γάρ is used to direct the audience to strengthen a preceding proposition, confirming it as part of the mental representation they construct of the discourse” (Discourse Grammar, 52).

My second qualm with the volume as it stands can be found in chapter 13 “Sentences, Diagramming & Discourse Analysis.” Within the section on “Word Order in Sentences,” we get a peek into the debate over word order. Is Koine Greek primarily a Verb Subject Object language or a Subject Verb Object language?

The authors notes that the traditional understanding of Greek has suggested that it is a VSO language. They then turn to acknowledge that Porter “is right to call this claim into question” (448). After summarizing Porter’s main issue with viewing Greek as a VSO language, Going Deeper concludes:

Such caveats about individual stylistic differences must be kept in mind even as we tentatively make some observations about regular word order in the GNT. Below is a chart which lists possible emphatic orders (i.e., word orders that deviate from the norm). Context must clarify the purpose of the deviation. Possibly a new topic is being introduced, or a contrast is being drawn. Only the literary context can clarify the author’s purpose in deviating from typical Greek word order. The exegete should also consider the possibility that an ancient author is unconsciously varying his style (449).

Unfortunately, there are several things wrong with this statement, the previous discussion, and the subsequent chart. First, the authors of the volume take no firm conclusion on the matter of typical word order. They conclude giving Porter the last word, while noting that variations in an author’s style may affect that particular author’s formulations. But the subsequent chart is largely based on Black’s suggestions for possible emphatic word orders. Black, however, contends for VSO as unmarked Greek word order. So, which is it: VSO, SVO, or some other variation?

This is not an insignificant point. It is impossible for the authors of Going Deeper to provide us with a list of emphatic constructions if they do not tell us what the default construction is.

Important, the default word order is.

Furthermore, the second example in the provided table doesn’t illustrate the suggested emphatic word order:


While the subject is in front of the verb, the direct object precedes both the subject and the verb. How does this affect the suggested word order?

My final qualm, and this is truly nitpicky, is the manner in which the authors conclude their discussion of discourse. After talking about the importance of cohesion and the work that Steve Runge has performed within this area of study, the authors write:

One of the main scholars effectively bridging insights from discourse analysis to non-specialists is Steven Runge, who produced an accessible grammar teaching some principles of discourse analysis. Runge also served as the editor of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament and the Lexham High Definition New Testament . . . . These resources mark discourse features in every verse in the NT. While we have little confidence that pastors will ever use terms like “sequential head,” “conjoining head,” and “alternating head,” we do look forward to helpful insights from discourse analysis finding their way into the preaching of the church” (461).

The last sentence has absolutely nothing to do with the work Runge has produced. These terms are nowhere found in his literature. I understand that it is intended as a summary for the discussion on discourse analysis at large, but in a paragraph about cohesion, it is ironic that this sentence lacks it with the rest of the content!

Despite these critiques, I believe that Going Deeper is a tour de force that will readily be deployed in Greek 3 courses. I know of several professors rewriting their syllabus to incorporate this much needed and welcome work. I, for one, look forward to teaching in the local church and seminary again and using Going Deeper as my go to work.

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Siddhartha: Dover Dual Language Classic

51b1gsiGQ3L._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re looking for another good resource for learning German, you should look into the Dover Classics Dual-Language series. A friend from work pointed them to me and I decided to pick up the dual text of Herman Hesse’s Siddharta

Two great things I’m enjoying  about this particular volume is the familiarity I have with the story (I read it as a Sophomore in High School) and the simplicity of the language. My familiarity with the plot-line and the simplicity of the prose help me concentrate on the words I don’t know instead of being overwhelmed by constructions that require looking up every other word.

So, if you’re looking for another resource to pick up to help with your language acquisition, this one just might be a winner.

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Using “Modern Theological German” in Logos

51olHhTFKGL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_Along with Frau Meier und ihr Briefträger, biblical and theological PhD hopefuls know well Helmut Ziefle’s Modern Theological German: A Reader and Dictionary. Ziefle’s work provides a natural segue from acquiring the language through grammars such as April Wilson’s Learn German Quickly or Hubert Jannach and Richard Alan Korb’s German for Reading Knowledge to the rudimentary ability to translate a passage. What better way to develop a biblical or theological student’s ability to read German than introducing her to familiar excerpts from the Bible and famous theologians? Ziefle’s reader does just that.

As a reader, Modern Theological German curates individual texts and supplies novice readers with definitions to terms or idiomatic phrases they have yet to encounter. At the conclusion of each excerpt, Ziefle tests the translator’s reading comprehension and understanding of grammar with multiple choice questions and sentence translations. Included in the back of the volume is an answer key for all the exercises as well as a dictionary for reference.

The reader, dictionary, and answer key make this one of the friendliest tools available to students of theological German. But in my own studies, I’ve found that owning this resource in Logos Bible Software can make it more accessible for the following reasons.

First, I’ve found that a regular study schedule is crucial for obtaining and maintaining a new language. Weekly, if not daily time spent translating and reviewing vocabulary is imperative. And with Logos, I can create a reading plan for Modern Theological German that will sync with my calendar and remind me to start the next lesson. (You can access my reading plan by joining the Faithlife group Modern Theological German.)

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If you don’t like to clutter up your calendar, you don’t have to use the “export to iCal” option. Instead, check the Logos homepage once you’ve created the reading plan and simply click on your next reading.

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Once clicked, Logos will open the resource to precisely the scheduled reading and indicates where to start and stop.

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With a schedule in place, I can get to work. But one thing I throughly dislike about working with print copies of a language grammar, reader, or workbook is the constant flipping. Flip to the back to check the dictionary. Flip back to the spot I’m working on. Then check my answers in the back of the book.

But with Logos, I can open multiple copies of the same book, which means I can have the reader, dictionary, and answer key open all at once.

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To do something similar with the paper copy of Modern Theological German, you would have to rip the book up into three separate parts, lay them side by side, and hope you don’t lose any pages in the meantime.

And the last thing that I love about using Modern Theological German in Logos is the “Send Hyperlinks Here” feature.

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When enabled, double-clicking a word within the reader will tell Logos to look first in that dictionary before going any where else in the software.

Over the past week, I’ve been able to hone my ability to translate German with this tool without the frustration of missing a scheduled reading or the repetitive and time wasting tradition of keeping my place as I flip back and forth, back and forth within the volume.

If you’re a biblical or theological student learning German for a PhD program—or just because German is an essential language for serious biblical and theological research—this is an excellent resource that will strengthen what you have learned and give you confidence in your studies.

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QOTD: Thomas à Kempis and the Imitation of Christ

51n6qLPL-aL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I decided to do a bit of light reading this morning and picked up Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. The quote below is taken from Book 1, Chapter 3. Therein, he stresses the necessity of piety and the imitation of Christ above all else. The pursuit and acquisition of knowledge without embodying those very truths is vanity.

If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.

I, for one, don’t like the dichotomy between knowledge and praxis. We will always know more than we will assimilate. And as we continue to broaden our own knowledge base and perspectives, we are more likely to be affected by what we learn and thus more likely to grow. Nevertheless, there is the tendency to learn for the sake of false wisdom and for acclaim. And, thus, we would be foolish not to heed à Kempis’ piercing warnings: The Christian is to always be about the business of becoming more like Christ.

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