Book Review: Dave Black, Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek.

A while back, I was blessed to receive this book from Dave Black. In a comment about it, he told me that the subject of Linguistics was like a vortex, a black hole in which you could easily be sucked into, and once you were in it, there was no turning back.

This relatively short book comprises of 7 chapters of  28 pages, totalling 200 words pages Each chapter ends with a list of resources for further reading, if one desires. It also has a detailed scripture and subject index at the back. The book is addressed to students of the Greek language and pastors.

I am only half way through this book at the moment, and my initial thoughts were that I was struggling with understanding the information given. Linguistics is a new field for me. Though I have an inclination to understand the Greek Language, I struggle to do so, it doesn’t come easily to me. However, the book is very helpful to understand the nature of language and how an understanding of linguistics is needed to understand and translate not only ancient languages, but even our own native languages effectively.

Linguistics helps us to understand the historical, phonological, morphological, syntax and  the contextual semantics of language. This then gives us the framework in understanding the big picture of what is being said, to whom it is being said, and why it is being said. Therefore its emphasis is towards understanding what is spoken; more then it is in what is written. (pg. 12)

It’s extremely important that we understand this emphasis, so as not to fall into error, when studying the Scriptures. Such as we may do when doing a word study. Many of us are guilty of picking up a Strong’s or other concordance, finding a word, and declaring that this is the meaning of it in every situation. The problem with this is that words have a fluidity of contextual meaning. For example, I often say, “I am going to take the beast for a spin.”  So we do a word study on Take, Beast and Spin.

And through that word study, we find out that take means to take hold of something. We all know that beast means a wild animal or a brute of a person, and that spin means to turn around. Therefore a literal word study would translate my words as meaning, I am going to take hold of a beast and spin it around and around. Depending on ones personal background,  this could have a variety of meaning. It could describe a rodeo cowboy breaking in a horse. Or it could mean that I want to find out if I really have enough room to swing the cat. Yet, all of these examples are far from the truth, for the reality is that I meant I was going to take my ute for a drive. For you to truly understand what I said, you need to first know that I am in the middle of renovating some rooms in my house, and within that context, you hear me say to my wife,  “Sweetheart, I am going to take the beast for a spin, and go to the hardware and get a few things.”

And this is what the study of Linguistics does, it helps us to understand the context of what is being said, so that we can truly know what is being said. While I said earlier that I struggled to understand the information in this book; I was having a discussion with someone in our church last Sunday. David and his wife are Global Recording Network representative / missionaries, We started to talk about their ministry to unreached people groups, and the conversation naturally centred around the topic of linguistics.  We discussed how they have to understand the native language, as well as the Greek, to translate the scriptures into a understandable message for those people groups….and I was surprised to find that I could actually hold my own in the conversation and that I had understood more from this book, than what I originally thought.

For anyone who takes the study of God’s word seriously, I highly commend this book to you.

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About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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