Book Review: An Intepretive Lexicon of NT Greek

Beale, G. K., Daniel J. Brendsel, and William A. Ross. An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Grand Rapids, 2014), 96 pp.

Many Koine Greek lexicons and grammars have been written over the years. Walter Bauer, et al, produced a thorough and landmark lexicon, which was updated to the third edition fifteen years ago. In 1988, Nida and Louw also produced a lexicon, though theirs was not so much a thorough compilation of options as it was an exploration of each word’s semantic range. A good number of other lexicons and grammars have taken unique angles at the study of Koine. In a recent softcover lexicon, three Greek scholars give the world a helpful aid for some of the smallest pieces of the language.

This Interpretive Lexicon by Beale, Brendsel, and Ross succeeds as an aid for discerning logical relationships between propositions for the purpose of better exegesis.[1] The subtitle unsubtly lists the subjects of this lexicon. Prepositions, adverbs, particles, relative pronouns, and conjunctions are organized and examined through the authors’ lens.

On page 18, the authors assert, “[i]t is only an attempt to categorize the relationships ordinarily represented by a given word when such a word appears in the text.” At only 96 pages, the Interpretive Lexicon is hardly exhaustive, but that is just the point. This book is a lexical aid for those who study Koine Greek. It is keyed to both the 2nd and 3rd editions of BAGD/BDAG, Dan Wallace’s grammar, and Murray J. Harris’ Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament. Beale and his fellows have both interpreted and built upon these other works in order to present a synthesized aid for studying some of the trickiest pieces of Koine. While the authors relied on these other texts for much of their content, Beale and his team interpreted their findings and synthesized them in one book. Beale, et al, even suggest that the reader regularly refer to BAGD/BDAG, for example, in order to fully understanding a word’s options.[2]

One of the highlights of the Interpretive Lexicon is its utility. It makes a clear distinction between references to the 1979 BAGD edition separately from the 2000 BDAG edition of the same lexicon. It also makes clear references to terms and ideas from Wallace’s and Harris’ works. Without these, the Interpretive Lexicon would be far less useful.

But the Interpretive Lexicon’s most significant contribution is its system of grammatical labels. The Introduction provides their table of labels, breaking down categories of labels, subcategories, and so on. The specific labels also have parenthetical page number references to chapter 8 of yet another monograph on Koine Greek, Semantic Structure by Beekman, Callow, and Kopesec. In addition, Thomas R. Schreiner’s Interpreting the Pauline Epistles is frequently reference in support of their category labels and description choices in the footnotes. The convergence of so much excellent thinking on Koine Greek has produced a relatively concise, helpful table from which Beale, et al, draws their labels for the various uses of the examined prepositions, etc.

Here is the first entry from the table, located under the “Coordinate Relationships” section. It is an item labeled “Alternative,” abbreviated as “Alt.” It is defined as “The relationship between propositions representing two or more differing possibilities or choices arising from a situation (83).” Finally, the example is given, “E.g., ‘I can watch a movie or I can play golf.'”

These abbreviated forms of the labels are used throughout the lexicon proper to identify the various use or uses of each entry. In addition, the references to Wallace and Harris make this an excellent starting point when working with a passage that uses any of the terms included in this lexicon.

By way of comparison, it reminds me somewhat of Bruce Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek. What Metzger did for relating Greek words to their roots and suffixes and so on, Beale, et al, do for words and particles that relate one proposition to another. Perhaps the Interpretive Lexicon’s closest analogue is Douglas S. Huffman’s 2012 Handy Guide to New Testament Greek: Grammar, Syntax, and Diagramming. Huffman’s book is a 106-page attempt at introducing the reader to every kind of item encountered in Koine Greek, and it is a fine introduction to the language. The Interpretive Lexicon, by contrast, has a narrower focus, and so is free to delve deeper into its subject matter.

In all, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek is an excellent softcover lexical aid for students of Koine Greek. I would probably use this with students who have already completed their introductory Greek course(s) as a supplement to Wallace as my main textbook.

Link to Amazon.

Link to Half.com. (The cheapest option at the writing of this review at $8.01.)

Link to Barnes & Noble.

[1] p. 6.

[2] p. 20, for one example.

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