Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text by Wesley G. Olmstead

Matthew 1-14: A Handbook on the Greek Text by Wesley G. Olmstead

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book when I pre-ordered it. At first, I liked it, but it proves to have a few negatives as you go on with it. Obviously, this review contains my subjective opinion based upon my own needs as a reader of the GNT. It is not intended to reflect upon Olmstead, who had his own reasons for writing as he did and interacting with his own choice of reference works.

-I’m not sure if Olmstead is following NA28 or the SBLGNT. It appears at times to be one or the other but not one exclusively, and the SBLGNT is not of much value other than to quote a GNT that is free to distribute.
-It is difficult to use as a “handbook” because it points back to previous pages rather than explaining it for that particular verse (p. 344).
-The first volume even points the reader to the second volume at least three times (these turn out to be not a big deal, and Olmstead could have omitted them with no loss of knowledge).
-Points back to parts that point you back to another part, i.e., p. 313 points you to p. 27, which points you to p. 12, and after all that page-flipping still doesn’t address what he originally sent you searching for: “on ὁ δέ followed by a participle, see 2:9 on ἀκούσαντες.”
-Multiple times per page, Olmstead does this. On p. 313 alone, 10 times he tells the reader to look elsewhere
-Brutally maximalist grammar with far too much reliance on the work of Steven Runge and the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. See p. 8 on transformational grammar and hypothetical sentences; this is referenced throughout the first volume after this mention

It will be a long time until I sit myself down to read through the second volume, and to be fair, this is the first complete volume in the Baylor Handbook on the GNT that I’ve read cover-to-cover. I have referenced the volumes on Mark, the Epistles of John, and the Apocalypse, so perhaps much of my dislike is due to editorial activity and not Olmstead’s choices. Either way, to end on a positive note, I must commend Olmstead on his treatment of the so-called historical present, and I saw that David Bentley Hart’s translation of the New Testament is in the bibliography, which was nice to see; the way Hart addressed the historical present in his translation is the same so far as I can tell. And in the end, this book is worth buying; there is still a lot here, even if it’s not the most accessible.

View all my reviews

Spit & Touch

I try to read one page from the Greek New Testament in the mornings, and the last bit of my reading stood out to me today. Mark 7:31-37:

Καὶ πάλιν ἐξελθὼν ἐκ τῶν ὁρίων Τύρου ἦλθεν διὰ Σιδῶνος εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ὁρίων Δεκαπόλεως. 32 καὶ φέρουσιν αὐτῷ κωφὸν καὶ μογιλάλον καὶ παρακαλοῦσιν αὐτὸν ἵνα ἐπιθῇ αὐτῷ τὴν χεῖρα. 33 καὶ ἀπολαβόμενος αὐτὸν ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου κατ̓ ἰδίαν ἔβαλεν τοὺς δακτύλους αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰ ὦτα αὐτοῦ, καὶ πτύσας ἥψατο τῆς γλώσσης αὐτοῦ, 34 καὶ ἀναβλέψας εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἐστέναξεν καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ἐφφαθά, ὅ ἐστιν διανοίχθητι. 35 καὶ ἠνοίγησαν αὐτοῦ αἱ ἀκοαί, καὶ ἐλύθη ὁ δεσμὸς τῆς γλώσσης αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐλάλει ὀρθῶς. 36 καὶ διεστείλατο αὐτοῖς ἵνα μηδενὶ λέγωσιν· ὅσον δὲ αὐτοῖς διεστέλλετο, αὐτοὶ μᾶλλον περισσότερον ἐκήρυσσον. 37 καὶ ὑπερπερισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες· καλῶς πάντα πεποίηκεν καὶ τοὺς κωφοὺς ποιεῖ ἀκούειν καὶ ἀλάλους λαλεῖν.

Imagine how appalled most of us Christians would be if they saw Christ healing in such a manner in 2020? And before you interject to defend yourself, the situation is not different and I urge you to grab your New Testament and read how many of Christ’s healings came through physical touch and what kinds of ill people he was touching.

ὦ γενεὰ ἄπιστος…

Mark 7:19

7:19 ὅτι οὐκ εἰσπορεύεται αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν καρδίαν, ἀλλ̓ εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν, καὶ εἰς τὸν ἀφεδρῶνα ἐκπορεύεται, καθαρίζον πάντα τὰ βρώματα.

καθαρίζον πάντα τὰ βρώματα. This is an interesting example of how the difference in grammatical gender can cause a different understanding and much confusion. In the Byzantine Text as seen in the Patriarchal Text above, καθαρίζον is present active participle nominative neuter singular of καθαρίζω, and due to it being neuter, we get the understanding of “purging/cleansing all foods” and is apart of what Jesus is explaining to the disciples. However, the non-Byzantine reading (I have seen it in the Alexandrian and Caesarian Text-types, which is not difficult to find) is καθαρίζων, being masculine rather than neuter, and thus referring back to Jesus in verse 18 (which begins, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς·) and leads to the understanding that the words are not a part of what Jesus is explaining, but rather a comment by St. Mark, namely that Jesus in explaining the parable is “cleansing all foods” (the participle is present tense); and this is the reading Origen, St. Gregory The Wonder-Worker, and St. John Chrysostom have, καθαρίζων.

The Patristic witness leads me to conclude two textual options: 1. The Byzantine text has the wrong reading here, and it should be the masculine, or 2. The Byzantine text has the original reading here, and the Text that Origen and St. Gregory used had been corrupted. A problem that comes to mind is that if St. Chrysostom used the Byzantine Text (as most people say), then why does his Byzantine Text read καθαρίζων and our current Byzantine Text(s) read καθαρίζον? I need to find time to look through von Soden’s manuscripts (K, Kx, Kr etc.) to see the texts for myself to go further here; at any rate, the UBS5 apparatus does inform us that the Byzantine Text is divided on this reading whereas Byz2005 doesn’t (my Byz2018 is in a box in another Province, so I cannot check it at the moment). But also we could think of the wording as constructio ad sensum, which is what David Bentley Hart (who translated from the Critical Text, thus καθαρίζων) appears to have done: “purging away everything that has been eaten?” (UBS5 has a Greek question mark at the end, as Hart translated.)

A few words about how we see this played out in Orthodox translations. First, we ignore The Orthodox Study Bible here because its New Testament is unfortunately translated from the Textus Receptus. Secondly, The Holy Apostles Convent Evangelistarion mistranslated this passage; they translated from the Patriarchal Text thus: this He said making all the foods clean. We read in the notes that the translator arrived at this translation probably under the influence of Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament or A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament and from misidentifying the neuter καθαρίζον for the masculine καθαρίζων. However, the translator does support their translation by appealing to St. John Chrysostom (as discussed above). And finally, the EOB New Testament has both readings, but the translator put the correct reading—καθαρίζον, according to the Greek of the Patriarchal Text—in the footnote, “thus purging all foods” and added a question mark in the main text, as found in the Critical Text(s).

Footnotes can be found here.

Update: Byzantine Textual Commenatry

Sorry for the long delay in posting, but I have an update regarding my last post. In May, I emailed Dr. Maurice Robinson, and in July, he got back to me:

Dear Dr. Robinson,

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!
I recently read an interview from 2016 where you said that you were two years into making a Textual Commentary. That sent me searching. I found an article from 2014 mentioning it, and then I found a blog post from 2019 that contains some of your Textual Commentary. Are you still working on that Critical Text and Commentary? Am I able to get a copy of those somehow? Thank you for your time.
Fr. Thomas Sandberg
Dear Fr. Sandberg,

>I recently read an interview from 2016 where you said that you were two years into making a Textual Commentary.

That was during the periods 2014-2018 until I retired and relocated. It has been on hiatus since then while constructing a dedicated office space in my garage. I am now about to resume work on it shortly.

>That sent me searching. I found an article from 2014 mentioning it, and then I found a blog post from 2019 that contains some of your Textual Commentary.

That is all that is currently available. The remainder is reserved for publication by those who have supplied the research funds. Also, all that is completed at present are reassigns where the NA Greek text is supported only by 1, 2, or 3 named MSS.

>Are you still working on that Critical Text and Commentary?

As noted, yes, and probably for the next 10 years, assuming I live that long and remain healthy.

>Am I able to get a copy of those somehow?

Unfortunately, no, due to the restrictions relating to those who are funding the project.


Byzantine Textual Commenatry

Χριστὸς Ἀνέστη!

As many of my readers know, I am working on a commentary, or rather I am making notes on whatever I feel like as I read through the Septuagint and Greek New Testament. So, often I thought that there needs to be a Textual Commentary like Metzgers, but one for the Byzantine Text-type.

I keep hearing the editors of The Tyndale House Greek New Testament are working on a Textual Commentary for their work, and that recently got me searching again. First, I found an interview with Maurice Robinson from September 2016, where he mentions that he is already two years into the project of a Textual Commentary. Next, I found this article from 2014, where it details that Robinson is also making a Critical Text, and it says that his Critical Text and Textual Commentary will take five years to complete, so 2014 + five years brings us to 2019. And what do you know, the next thing I found was what appears to be a blog post from January 2019 that has around thirty pages of the Textual Commentary that I’m looking for.

I sent Dr. Robinson an email today, but if any of my readers know more about this, or where to find the Commentary, send me a message. Thanks.

Two Wolves: A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Eckhart Tolle

I’ve been a critic of Eckhart Tolle for quite some time now. And in an attempt to broaden my understanding of his teachings, I even once attempted to read one of his books, 2005’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. (I find the point of this book odd, as Tolle himself already told you what your life’s purpose was on page ii of his 1997 The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!”).

I never finished it. I just couldn’t. And I seem to have lost the book now; however, I do have some notes I took—my impressions of what I had read, what I skimmed through, and what I’d seen on YouTube:

“Tolle → Gnostic-lite Hindu theosophy”

Which I clarified and expanded upon with:

“white, suburban, Gnostic, faux-Hindu, lower case ‘t’ theosophical New Age/Self-Help BS that redefines (without giving the reader the old nor “new” definition) Christian & psychological terms. Very black and white with no philosophy.”

I know, I know, I could explain myself better, but really, why bother? And it is not necessary. Not necessary because on Tolle’s own website Roman Catholic Priest Richard Rohr makes the issue very clear for Orthodox Christians when he says, “In Tolle’s world, Jesus is not central.”

Not much left to say after that.

The Patristic Period

I read something inaccurate today: The patristic period (AD 95–750) is the time of the fathers of the church, when the exegesis of Scripture texts was in its primitive formation. This period spans from Clement of Rome to John of Damascus, embracing seven centuries of biblical interpretation, from the end of the New Testament to the mid-eighth century, including the Venerable Bede. This reminded me of a similar timeframe given for the Church Fathers in the Introduction to the edition of St. John of Damascus’ The Fount of Knowledge in the Catholic University of America Press’ The Fathers of the Church series (volume 37). In there we are told “The Fount of Knowledge is one of the most important single works produced in the Greek patristic period, of which it marks the end . . . And it is the last work of any theological importance to appear in the East.”

For Roman Catholics, this position, of course, must be held to counter the Orthodox theology of St. Gregory Palamas, who is, of course, a Church Father. So, in the Orthodox Church, the patristic period at the very least is AD 95-1359. But then what about Elder Joseph the Hesychast? Ok, so then AD 95-1959. But then what about St. John of Shanghai? Ok, so then AD 95-1966. But what about Elder Ephraim, who is still alive and whose spiritual father is Elder Joseph? Ok, so the AD 95-2019. I think the point is clear: the patristic period has never ended for Orthodox Christians. Orthodox Christianity isn’t a “museum Faith,” it is vibrant with the uncreated energies of God.