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Book Review: Keep Your Greek by Con Campbell

I’d like to thank Zondervan for the free copy of Keep Your Greek: Strategies for Busy People. The author, Constantine Campbell is perhaps best known for his work in the area of verbal aspect theory. This book, however, isn’t about that. And we should be thankful! Rather, it is a book that encourages and instructs Greek students to return to tip-top Greek shape and stay there.

Brief Summary 

  1. Read Every Day
  2. Burn Your Interlinear
  3. Use Software Tools Wisely
  4. Make Vocabulary Your Friend
  5. Practice Your Parsing
  6. Read Fast
  7. Read Slow
  8. Use Your Senses
  9. Get Your Greek Back
  10. Putting it All Together

If we could isolate the main imperative of the book, it would be: “Stay in your Greek New Testament.” The rest of the book’s content, then, functions as the participles that show how exactly we should go about staying in our Greek New Testaments and ultimately keep our Greek. Of all the advice shared, perhaps the funniest part was “The interlinear is a tool of the devil, designed to make preachers stupid” (page 19). Of course, Campbell goes on to explain that his comments are to be taken playfully not seriously. The point he is driving at is similar to his caution regarding electronic tools such as Bible Works, Accordance, and Logos. If we use any of these as a crutch, then we will never strengthen our weakest muscles.

As far as honing vocabulary recognition, Campbell suggests using pneumonics and word hooks, i.e. easy ways to remember the words and their meanings. For example, I’ve always remembered ergon by associating it in my mind with ergonomics; the former is the Greek word for work, while the latter is the field that assesses how people and products function within a work environment. Thus, ergonomically sound keyboards and office chairs!

And then there was parsing. Ah! I’m still horrible at parsing participles! Campbell suggests that sometimes as we read that we take time to parse every word in a given section. He insists that our ability will come back, get sharper after some practice, and ultimately assist us greatly in comprehension. He closes the meat of the book by encouraging us to alternate between reading fast (skimming for Greek) and then slow (paying careful attention to as much as possible).

My Thoughts

One of my friends often tells his students half-jokingly, “Sell your personal belongings and buy books.” In this case, however, perhaps I’m not far enough removed from formal Greek class (and I still translate every week for sermon preparation) to see the “sell-your-belongings” value in this resource. I agree with essentially all that is written, but to me it seemed like, “Captain Obvious” information and advice.  I kept reading, hoping that I would find the gold nugget that I was after or stumble upon the secret tip to magically keeping my Greek. That never happened. In one sense, that’s the strength of this book. Campbell is realistic and prescribes nothing more or less than simple hard work for a hard goal. The advice he gives will simply help me get the most of the time that I do have to spend working on Greek. All that being said, the book was a great reminder to stay busy using my Greek. I’ve now scheduled a portion of my morning each day for reading one Greek paragraph.


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Helpful Reading Tools

My wife and I were out at dinner the other night when I saw a mechanic on his evening break, reading a book while using one of these, a Page Boy Adjustable Bookholder (although don’t follow that link for actual purchase; they run for only $5.99 at Barnes & Noble). Since that time, I’ve purchased a Page Boy as well as a Fellowes Wire Study Stand (which go for about $7.99). These excellent tools hold books open and upright on the surface of your desk, allowing you to type, jot notes, etc. while simultaneously keeping your place in the book.

Page Boy:

  • Pro’s: Great for bigger books, moderate ease of page turning, cheaper of the two.
  • Con’s: Works terribly for paper backs, metallic bottom does not slide smoothly on the surface of a desk.

Study Stand:

  • Pro’s: Works for bigger books as well as paper backs, rubber tips allow ease of sliding on a desk, slightly more durable build.
  • Con’s: Eliminates usage of some larger textbooks, slightly more expensive.

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Book Review: Your Church is Too Small

The folks over at Zondervan’s blog Koinonia were good enough to send me a pre-release copy of Your Church is Too Small by John Armstrong, as part of the release blog tour. After reading the book, I knew that my review of the book’s content was going to be fairly negative.

I will review the book in five words and then more extensively.

Five word version: Your “Gospel” is Too Broad

Extended version:

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Christian Philosophers Coming Out of the Closet?

If you’ve seen the Princess Bride, you know the line, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Perhaps the following from Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview does not correspond exactly to the interchange between Inigo Montoya and Vizzini, but nonetheless, it demonstrates an unusual usage of a common phrase. 

Since the late 1960’s Christian philosophers have been coming out of the closet and defending the truth of the Christian worldview with philosophically sophisticated arguments in the finest scholarly journals and professional societies.  

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Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, an Interesting Read for Fundamentalists

I just finished Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (free .pdf here) via the Amazon Kindle application for my ipod touch. I simply couldn’t put this book down. I was drawn to the book because I had never heard of Tom Carson and because being “ordinary” resonates with just about every heart. 

Most of the book highlighted Tom Carson’s (DA Carson’s father) struggles as a church-planter in francophone Canada. The man was a militant witness in a highly Catholic atmosphere, often spending significant time in personal correspondence as well as visitation, passionately pleading with men and women to abandon the false teaching of the Catholic church and embrace Jesus Christ alone for salvation. His family sacrificed significantly in the financial realm, but was never characterized by a spirit of complaint or worry. Even towards the end of his life when his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Tom Carson remained faithful to Jesus Christ and never abandoned his calling as a minister of the gospel. 

Of special interest to me as a fundamentalist…

Being a part of Baptist Fundamentalism myself, I was intrigued to read about T.T. Shields of Toronto and the Baptist Union of that time. Having studied a little bit about the debates and controversy there, it was interesting to hear the episodes again from Tom Carson’s point of view, as well as how DA Carson interpreted the happenings through his more broadly evangelical perspective (he believes it unfortunate that Shields was so offensive and that he didn’t heed the warning of Martin Lloyd-Jones). Interestingly, Tom Carson disagreed with Shields on an issue (trying to force a pastor to take a church if I remember correctly) and ended up losing financial support for a mission-church in french-speaking Quebec. 

Also of note was Tom Carson’s apparent concern for DA in his pursuit of higher education. Shortly after returning from his PhD studies in England, DA Carson was asked to provide his viewpoint on the atonement in an edition of Christianity Today. Carson boldly defended the penal substitutionary view as being the paradigm through which we can understand all the other angles on the atonement. His father was pleased with the article and wrote a note, rejoicing that DA hadn’t shown any signs of liberalism from his training in England. 

Regarding Billy Graham and his campaigns, in one of his journal entries, he didn’t expound much, but indicated that he believed Graham was Jehoshaphat with Ahab.

Have you read this book? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts as well.

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