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.

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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…