My review of Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin, by Daniel B. Wallace

21 04 2010

…has been published and is available here.

Posted by Con Campbell


Review of Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin

11 01 2010

Allow me to share the (unedited) conclusion of my review of Dan Wallace’s new book. I’ve already offered a few thoughts about the book here, and the rest of the review will be found in the Themelios journal later in the year. Yes, I know it’s a bit gushing, but it reflects my honest opinion!

It is rare to be invited to review a book that is both a landmark and robust to the point of seeming virtually irrefutable. It is a landmark book because it has in my opinion put to rest the debate about Sharp’s rule, and has shown that it is of enormous importance both to Greek syntax and to theological exegesis of the New Testament. Truly, the humble Greek article reaches the heights of the deity of Christ! The book is robust in that it is difficult to imagine its key conclusions being overturned any time soon, if ever. If such claims appear grandiose, the following is more so: this book will stand the test of time as one of the best contributions to Greek syntax of the twentyfirst century. Dr Wallace is to be congratulated, and all serious students of the Greek New Testament should read his book, and will do so to great profit.

Now, go read the book!

Posted by Con Campbell

Reading Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin, by Daniel B. Wallace

7 12 2009

I’ve been asked by Themelios to review Dan Wallace‘s new book in the Studies in Biblical Greek series, called Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance.

I read about a third (120+ pp) of the book today and thought I’d share what I think so far.

First, who would have thought that a book about one function of one element of the Greek language (the article) would be so enthralling! Wallace demonstrates from the outset that the exegetical and theological significance of the TSKS construction (article-substantive-καί-substantive) is of utmost importance, applying to NT christological texts that (if Sharp’s rule is correct) explicitly call Jesus God. The book is exciting, and well written.

Second, Wallace is thorough, possibly to the extreme. An example of this is the mini-biography of Granville Sharp that is offered in the historical section of the book. I would argue this is not really needed, and will probably not significantly affect the thesis of the book (in spite of Wallace’s claim to the contrary), but it is so interesting that the reader will quickly forgive this indulgence.

Third, the historical survey is very useful, as it answers one question that I’ve held for some time: if Granville Sharp’s rule is both correct and important, why has it been so neglected in Greek grammars and NT commentaries? Wallace convincingly argues that it is basically Georg Winer’s fault. As the preeminent Greek scholar of the nineteenth century, his almost off-hand (and theologically prejudiced) comments on Titus 2:13 set a pattern of neglect of Sharp’s rule through to the present day.

There’s more to be said about what I’ve read so far, but I will save it for the formal review in Themelios.

More to come in one or two future posts.

Posted by Con Campbell

Keep your Greek: Coming to a store near you!

30 09 2009

Readers of this blog may remember my series of posts in January called Keep your Greek.

I’m delighted to report that Zondervan has recently agreed to publish a book by the same title, drawing on the principles I outlined in those posts.

I’ll be expanding the posted material, adding new stuff, and will need to think creatively about how to really help students, pastors, et al, to keep their Greek skills long term amidst the busyness of life.

I’ll keep you posted about new developments, but for now I am keen to hear from you. Lots of the comments on the original posts were helpful, and I want more! Please share your tips, your own experiences (positive or negative), and any ideas you might have for this book. I’d love to hear from you, and will acknowledge your ideas as appropriate.


Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.1

18 05 2009


A well-known senior colleague and I are toying with the idea of writing a commentary on Galatians together. It’s very early days: we’re not even sure if we want to do this yet, but it’s looking promising. We’re thinking of writing a commentary that models how to move from the Greek text to the sermon. In other words, it would be a preacher’s commentary, working through all the steps that preachers need to make to go from text to pulpit.

I’ve started making notes on the first verses of the epistle to give us something to work on as we think through what the commentary might look like. I thought I’d share this as I put it down, and I’m keen to hear your feedback, comments, suggestions, etc.


This is a first draft. I haven’t revised it or edited it. And I haven’t read any commentaries yet.

These are just my first thoughts as they strike me from the Greek text.

With that in mind, comment away!

Galatians 1.1

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ (ἀπ᾿ ἀνθρώπων) οὐδὲ (δι᾿ ἀνθρώπου)

Paul’s opening emphasizes his divinely-appointed apostolicity: he is an apostle not from men, nor through man. The prepositions from (ἀπό) and through (διά) are interesting here. Since apostle is cognate with the Greek verb to send (ἀποστέλλω), being an apostle from men conveys the sense of being sent by men. They are the senders; the apostle is the one sent. But Paul’s point is that he is not sent by men. It is less clear, however, what it would mean for the apostle to be through man. Perhaps the switch to singular man (ἀνθρώπου) from plural men (ἀνθρώπων) indicates the sense of humanity, so that Paul is an apostle not through human decision. So then, the function of the two prepositions and the plural men and singular man is to convey the sense that Paul is an apostle not sent from men, nor through human appointment.

ἀλλὰ (διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ γείραντος αὐτὸν (ἐκ νεκρῶν)),

The negative opening phrase is immediately contrasted by the strong adversative conjunction ἀλλὰ, as Paul indicates through whom his apostolic appointment comes. He is an apostle through Jesus Christ and God the Father—the one who raised Jesus from the dead. What Paul means by this is straightforward. What is curious, however, is the inversion of the order of Christ and God compared to Paul’s normal expression. As illustrated only a few lines on (v.3), Paul’s normal phrasing is something like: ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’. Is anything to be made of his putting Jesus first here, or is it an inconsequential variation? It is difficult to answer such questions with certainty, though a suggestion may be offered. This may be a subtle reference to Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–30); his encounter with Christ brought about his conversion, but also his commission as an apostle. Certainly this is consistent with the content of the second half of Galatians 1 in which Paul describes his reception of the gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ (1.11–24).

To Paul’s mind, his commission from Christ implies the agency of God the Father, which is why his apostleship comes through the Father as well as Christ. Indeed, this is confirmed later in the chapter in which Paul describes the revelation he received from Christ (1.12) and the call of God (1.15). Furthermore, it was God who revealed his Son in Paul (1.15–16).

The subtle reference to Paul’s conversion and calling to be an apostle may also explain one other curious element in this second part of verse one. We find here the only explicit reference in the whole epistle to the resurrection of Christ (τοῦ γείραντος αὐτὸν (ἐκ νεκρῶν)). If Paul seeks to establish the central themes of the epistle in his opening, as he consistently does elsewhere, it is odd that the resurrection of Christ is mentioned in the first verse of this epistle in which there is no further explicit reference to it. It seems most likely, however, that the reason for this reference to the resurrection here is related to Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the way to Damascus. The fact that it was the risen Christ who encountered Paul is of course extremely important. It is Christ’s resurrection that establishes Paul’s entire Christology, as he comes to terms with the fact that Jesus really is the Messiah. By referring to God’s act of raising Christ from the dead, Paul further anchors his apostolic commision in the agency of God through Christ. The Father raised the Son, who was revealed to Paul by the Father as the risen Christ. Through this revelation, Paul was called to be an apostle.

Posted by Con Campbell

Advanced Greek (04)

7 05 2009

greekenglishlexiconjpg4. Lexical Semantics and Lexicography

In our Advanced Greek unit at Moore College, we spent an hour talking about lexical semantics and lexicography. It was really only an introductory overview, but this is what we covered.

a. Lexical Semantics

Lexical semantics has to do with thinking through the theoretical issues to do with lexemes. Moisés Silva’s book, Biblical Words and their Meaning, is an example of a work of lexicology.

Key issues in lexical semantics include: context, ambiguity, lexical choice, lexical fields, and idiolect.

b. Lexicography

Lexicography is the practice of analysing lexemes, and determining their meaning. The standard lexicon for NT study, BDAG, is a product of lexicography.

We explored difficulties in the practice of lexicography, methodological problems, and some ways forward.

My favourite quote regarding the challenges for change within lexicography comes from Frederick Danker:

‘Change spells pain, but […] scholars’ tasks are “not for sissies.”

But more seriously, John Lee offers an ominous appraisal of NT lexicons:

[…] first, there is the legacy of the long tradition of indicating meaning by glosses rather than definitions, which leads to many problems (as Louw and others have shown). Secondly, there is the fact that even the latest lexicons derive their material from their predecessors, and a great deal of it has been passed on uncritically over the course of centuries. Thirdly, there is an aspect that I think is not well known: meanings given in the NT lexicons are contaminated by glosses from the standard translations, going back as far as the Vulgate. There is a fourth tendency which has become evident to me lately: NT lexicons are unsystematic in their control of other discussions, and may or may not take up useful contributions to the understanding of the meaning.


Barr, James. The Semantics of Biblical Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Black, David Alan. Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek: A Survey of Basic Concepts and Applications. Second edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.

Danker, Frederick William. ‘Lexical Evolution and Linguistic Hazard’. Pages 1–31 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Danker, Frederick William. Review of Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament, by E. A. Nida and J. P. Louw, 1992. JBL 113 (1994), 532–33.

Lee, John A. L. A History of New Testament Lexicography. Studies in Biblical Greek 8. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

Lee, John A. L. ‘The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek’. Pages 66–74 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Lee, John A. L. ‘The Present State of Lexicography of Ancient Greek’. Pages 66–74 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Roberts, Terry. ‘A Review of BDAG’. Pages 53–65 in Biblical Greek Language and Lexicography: Essays in Honor of Frederick W. Danker. Edited by Bernard A. Taylor, John A. L. Lee, Peter R. Burton, and Richard E. Whitaker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Silva, Moisés. Biblical Words and their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics. Revised edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Posted by Con Campbell

Conference papers I’m giving this year

4 05 2009

italy-rome-colosseumjpgFor those who may be interested, I’m giving the following papers at the following conferences this year. Come and say hi if you’re around.

In Sydney:

The Paradox of Paul Conference, Society for the Study of Early Christianity, Macquarie University

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

Ephesians 6:10–17 has sometimes proved a conundrum for scholars who seek a coherent reading of the epistle. The main themes of the letter–participation with Christ, salvation, unity, church–do not appear to intersect with the picture of spiritual battle that is found in its closing section. Is 6:10–17 an epilogue that bears little inherent correspondence to the preceding five chapters? Or does it consist of subtle ties that require elucidation? This paper will argue that 6:10–17 is, in fact, inextricably woven from the fabric of the Epistle to the Ephesians. By exploring the notions of eschatology, corporate personality, and participation with Christ, this paper will seek to demonstrate that 6:10–17 not only coheres with the rest of the letter, but is in fact a compelling and masterful conclusion to this magisterial epistle.

In Rome:

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics

Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect

For some time, scholars have questioned the traditional Aktionsart understanding of the Greek perfect tense-form. The understanding that the Greek perfect communicates a past action with present consequences has come under fire from various quarters and for various reasons. While Greek scholarship is yet to reach a consensus on what the perfect does communicate, one issue that has almost reached the level of consensus is that the Aktionsart understanding is flawed. This paper will suggest that, as a community of scholars who are engaged with Greek, now is the time to leave the old behind. We may not yet see eye-to-eye on what the successor should be, but, it will be suggested, we now know enough to agree on this point. Rather than rehearse the various arguments that have been leveled against the Aktionsart approach to the perfect, most of which are easily accessible, this paper will mount a new type of argument against it. The argument is simple: translators choose to translate the Greek perfect “against the rules” most of the time.

Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting: Paul and Pauline Literature

A Disconnected Epilogue?: The Relation of Ephesians 6:10–17 to the Rest of the Epistle.

(same as above)

In New Orleans:

Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting: Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics

Verbal aspect in the Synoptic Gospels: idiolect, genre, and register

The Synoptic Gospels employ verbal aspect with varying patterns. From Mark’s frequent use of the historical present through to Luke’s sparing of the perfect indicative, the Synoptics provide a valuable case study through which to examine the use of verbal aspect within Greek narrative. This paper will explore the nexus between idiolect, genre, and register with respect to verbal aspect as it is employed within the Synoptics.

Posted by Con Campbell