Revelation (Baylor Handbook)

The following review was first published in the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 34/2 (Autumn 2016), pp. 236-38 [http://j.mp/SBET2016Autumn]. I am grateful to the editor of SBET for permission to reproduce the review here.

Revelation: A Handbook on the Greek Text. By David L. Mathewson. (Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament). Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-60258-676-5. xxix + 337 pp. £24.57.

Many valuable resources for students of the Greek New Testament have appeared in the last decade or so. Not only have numerous introductory grammars been published, but also several intermediate grammars, readers and handbooks have been produced for students who wish to develop their Greek skills further (or for those who have studied Greek previously and now wish to revive their knowledge of the language). This spate of publications has coincided with fresh thinking about Koine Greek in the light of linguistic research. The Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament is designed to provide comprehensive grammatical analysis of the Greek text of the New Testament, informed by recent scholarship in linguistics and Greek. Volumes in the series started to appear in 2003, but since 2009 there has been a steady stream of new titles. With a number of high-quality contributions, this series has become a valued resource for readers of the Greek New Testament, whether advanced theological students, preachers or academics.

David Mathewson, Associate Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, has contributed a worthy addition to this series. Mathewson has already written several books and articles on Revelation and/or Greek. This careful analysis of the Greek text of Revelation builds on these earlier works.

Following a short introduction to Revelation and some of the distinctive features of the Greek, Mathewson leads us through the text of Revelation, pericope by pericope. Each section begins with an English translation. Then the Greek text of each verse is analysed, word by word. As usual, in this series, many of the comments are very brief, with a focus of grammatical relationships (e.g., ‘nominative absolute’ or ‘direct object’). Translation of Greek words is not normally provided in the comments, though some words receive a brief explanation. Greek constructions that might be more difficult are explained concisely, and references are often provided to longer discussions in reference works. Some discussions are relatively detailed.

An interesting feature of the Greek text of Revelation is the various ‘solecisms’ (grammatical irregularities, or grammatical ‘blunders’). A notable example is found in Revelation 1:4, where a string of words following a preposition is not in the case expected with this preposition. Mathewson provides a helpful explanation of this phenomenon, pointing to treatments in the works of other grammarians. He also comments on issues such as verbal aspect and discourse analysis.

Mathewson’s handbook (like the series in general) would be a very valuable aid to a student or preacher with a good foundation in Greek who wishes to work through the biblical text in Greek. This book is not a replacement for standard exegetical commentaries. The authors in this series pass over wider exegetical issues in order to focus primarily on grammatical and textual issues. This makes the volumes particularly helpful as readers engage with the Greek text for themselves. Less confident readers of Greek may find the minimalist notes a bit daunting, but it should not take long to become accustomed to them.

Readers may find it useful to compare the Baylor Handbooks with another series that has recently seen several new publications: the Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament, published by B&H Academic. Volumes in the latter series cover some similar ground, explaining Greek constructions in a way that helps readers to work with the Greek text. Some of the EGGNT volumes show significant awareness of recent discussion of Greek (for example, verbal aspect, deponency), while in others this is less evident. The volumes in the EGGNT are rather fuller in their comments and have a little more in common with a traditional commentary. There is currently no volume on Revelation available in the EGGNT series.

As an enthusiast and advocate for reading the New Testament in Greek, I am deeply thankful for the availability of resources such as these. I am grateful for reliable, well-informed, guides for readers of the Greek New Testament, and for the vision of Baylor University Press (and various other publishers) to publish these tools. I trust that Mathewson’s book and others like it will be widely used to foster direct encounter with the Greek text of Scripture. 

Alistair I. Wilson, Highland Theological College UHI

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