Review: The Minister and His Greek New Testament

The Minister and His Greek New Testament: by A.T. Robertson

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“There is no theologian who is not first a grammarian.”

This book is a collection of twelve essays about the subject of New Testament Greek. There is a wide variety in these essays. The most famous essay forms title of the collection. It is both an admonishment and an encouragement for ministers to dig into the original language of the New Testament.

The preacher cannot excuse himself for his neglect of Greek with the plea that the English is plain enough to teach one the way of life… We shall have many more [English translations]. They will all have special merit, and they will all fail to bring out all that is in the Greek. One needs to read these translations, the more the better. Each will supplement the others. But, when he has read them all, there will remain a large and rich untranslatable element that the preacher ought to know. (p. 18-19)

He is no theologian who is not first a grammarian. (22)

If the blind guide leads the blind, they will both fall in to the ditch. One simply has to know his parts of speech if he is to keep out of the ditch, and avoid dragging his followers after him. Schisms have arisen around misinterpretations of single words. Grammar is a means of grace. (21)

“Grammar and Preaching” is also in a similar vein.

Several other essays deal with very specific textual issues: “Notes on a Specimen Papyrus of the First Century A.D.,” “The Use of ‘huper’ in Business Documents in the Papyri,” “The Greek Article and the Deity of Christ,” “The New Testament Use of ‘me’ With Hesitent Questions in the Indicative Mode,” and “The Grammar of the Apocalypse of John.” These were interesting, but of limited application.

He gives a survey of of what you’ll find as you dig deeper in “Pictures in Prepositions,” and “Sermons in Greek Tenses,” in which every preposition and every verb tense is illustrated, and you get a taste for the rich meaning found in these specific bits of grammar.

Finally, three essays are more biographical in nature. John Brown of Haddington is famous for having taught himself Greek out on the mountains watching sheep. Robertson concludes:

It is a romantic story that puts to rout all the flimsy excuses of preachers to-day who excuse themselves for ignorance of the Greek New Testament or for indifference and neglect after learning how to read it… The example of John Brown of Haddington ought to bring the blush of shame to every minister who lets his Greek New Testament lie unopened on his desk or who is too careless to consult the lexicon and the grammar that he may enrich his mind and refresh his soul with the rich stores in the Greek that no translation can open to him. Difficulties reveal heroes and cowards. Every war does precisely that. The Greek New Testament is a standing challenge to every preacher in the world. (108)

Erasmus gets a couple of pages, and then the collection concludes with “Broadus as Scholar and Preacher.” This was a very enjoyable short biography of Broadus, who was Robertson’s own teacher. Robertson compares him with others:

Broadus was more like Spurgeon and Maclaren than any of the others. He lacked Spurgeon’s intensity of experience in a continued pastorate, but he surpassed Spurgeon in Biblical learning and general culture. Broadus had the homely wit of Spurgeon and the scholarship of [Alexander] Maclaren with all of Maclaren’s charm. (139)

One is reminded of more recent Pastor/Scholars, and his example is very inspiring. Robertson also edited The Life and letters of John Broadus. It is always a delight to read a student’s admiring recollection of his teacher, especially a student such as Robertson!

In all, I recommend this collection of essays. As others have said, it is a great inspiration to dig into the original language of the New Testament, both by direct argument, and by biographical example. Every preacher or teacher should read this through.

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One thought on “Review: The Minister and His Greek New Testament

  1. Pingback: The Modern Minister and the Biblical Languages | ἐνθύμησις

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