Review of “Going Deeper with New Testament Greek.”

Review of Going Deeper with New Testament Greek by Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer. Published by B&H Academic, 2016.going deeper

Going Deeper with New Testament Greek (a.k.a Going Deeper) is a collaborative work of Andreas Köstenberger, Benjamin Merkle, and Robert Plummer. All three are professors of New Testament in Southern Baptist seminaries, and Köstenberger is widely published in the fields of New Testament Studies and Biblical Theology.[1] Plummer and Merkle are not as prolific as Köstenberger in terms of published works (few are), but they have collaborated further on the forthcoming Greek for Life: Strategies for Learning, Retaining, and Reviving New Testament Greek. Plummer is also well-known to students and teachers of Biblical Greek through his production of the “Daily Dose of Greek,” a daily, two-minute video that examines a verse in the Greek New Testament (My wife gets really annoyed when Plummer sounds the “subjunctive alarm” during these videos).   

As the title suggests, Going Deeper is designed to take students who have completed the basics of New Testament (NT) Greek to the next level. In the preface, the authors identify their main audience as students and teachers of NT Greek. The lay-out of the overall book and each chapter definitely cater to the needs of the target audience. The number of chapters (15) corresponds to the most common number of weeks in an academic semester, and each chapter is set up to introduce, explain, and provide practice for the chapter’s contents. Of all the intermediate Greek grammars I have seen, Going Deeper is by far the most user-friendly for students and teachers. It appears the authors brainstormed the most helpful features of existing NT Greek learning resources and incorporated them into Going Deeper. Much like Mounce’s Basics of Biblical Greek, each chapter starts out with an exegetical insight (titled “Going Deeper”) to show the practical benefits of learning the chapter’s material. Like Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, the different grammatical concepts are divided into categories with explanations and biblical examples that are formatted (usually bold lettering in the Greek and English translations) to easily identify the concept in the example.

While the above features are helpful, what makes Going Deeper uniquely useful as a teaching/learning tool is that each chapter also contains practice exercises, vocabulary lists, and a Greek reader. In many NT Greek courses, each one of these features requires its own separate resource that teachers then have to synchronize. The authors of Going Deeper have done all this work already so that each chapter not only lays out the grammar with easy-to-study summary charts, but also coordinates relevant vocabulary, practical exercises, and NT readings.

Other strengths: 1) Going Deeper includes a helpful appendix of noun and article charts that correlate the category names in popular grammars (Porter, Wallace, Black, etc). If the category is covered in Going Deeper, it is in bold type. This information is helpful because one of the frustrating aspects of intermediate Greek is learning the different categories of a given case only to find out that different grammars have a different number of categories and sometimes different names. This appendix provides a handy cross-reference for that terminology. 2) Going Deeper covers some topics that are not always included in an intermediate grammar. There is a chapter on text criticism, discourse analysis and sentence diagramming, word studies, and a final chapter on continuing with Greek. While these topics are not given in-depth treatment, they are sufficiently introduced to give seminary students and pastors the needed familiarity to be well-rounded in knowledge and in practical application of Greek in ministry (The sentence diagramming and word study chapters are especially relevant to sermon preparation).

Weaknesses: 1) Going Deeper doesn’t provide new research or insights into NT Greek. The material on grammar is similar to existing texts and interacts heavily with Wallace – though many other grammars receive frequent citation. This criticism of “nothing new” is not the same as “not up to date.” Going Deeper includes references to many recently published academic works. 2) Going Deeper gives a good sampling of the essentials of intermediate NT Greek, but doesn’t go too deep into any one area. If you are looking primarily for a reference grammar, you would be better served by other texts.

These weaknesses are mostly a product of the authors’ goals to provide an accessible and easily-digested grammar for students. A single grammar text cannot do everything in one volume, and Going Deeper excels in what it sets out to do. Köstenberger, Merkle, and Plummer have produced a teacher-and-learner-friendly intermediate NT Greek grammar. As said above, Going Deeper with New Testament Greek is the most user-friendly NT Greek grammar I have encountered. If I ever have the pleasure of teaching intermediate Greek, Going Deeper will be my main text.


End Notes

[1] Full disclosure: Andreas Köstenberger was my Ph.D. advisor, and I took Ben Merkle’s seminar on the Pastoral Epistles at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. However, this review was not written in consultation with either person. I tried to keep my opinions as unbiased as possible.

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