I've just returned from a unique experience: teaching Greek in English to Japanese.
My daughter is serving
as a missionary in a church in Sapporo, Japan and my wife and I just made our first visit to observe her in her natural habitat.
We volunteered to help in whatever way we could, and the pastor asked me to teach two sessions on Greek for their leadership
training program. Since I know virtually nothing about Japanese, I wasn't sure how this was going to work.
Most of my teaching starts from what a student knows in English, then uses that as a springboard for understanding Greek.
the record, Japanese are very good at picking up Greek. In the first session, they were able to pronounce Greek words
written on the whiteboard, and they picked up the alphabet very quickly. In our second session, we introduced the principles
of Greek word study. Once again, my translator was able to communicate the concepts very well, and the group responded
Moving to the next stages, grammar and translation, might pose more problems, but I was very encouraged to
discover that you can teach Greek even when you don't know their language.
By the way, I have looked for
reference tools or Web sites that moved directly from Greek to Japanese but have come up dry so far. If anyone knows
of Japanese-Greek resources, please send me the information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do you decide which commentaries are most useful? When your shelves are full and your wallet is empty, the question
pushes to the forefront. Some of the criteria are rather obvious: look at their doctrinal bias, their level of
scholarship, the level of complexity. But I have to admit that I use one other criterion to judge commentaries, one
that is seldom mentioned. Does this writer think like me?
I know -- it sounds egocentric. But it does matter
to me. Does this writer ask the same kinds of questions that intrigue me? Is he impressed with the same sorts
of evidence? Can I follow his logic and trust his judgment?
If the answer is Yes, then I've found a
commentary that I can use with more ease than others, because I can concentrate on the biblical text, rather than constantly
making allowances for differences in the author's viewpoint.
I first noticed that D. A. Carson was more than just
the average scholar when I used some of his work in preparing a commentary on 1 John. Again and again I found myself
saying, "That's right!" And before long, I was willing to trust his opinions even when they diverged from
the way I had been viewing the verse.
Another writer who resonates with me is D. Edmond Hiebert, best known for his
3-volume introduction to the New Testament. When I use his commentaries on the Thessalonian Epistles or the Gospel of
Mark, it's remarkable how he covers all the issues in the text, without extraneous discourses on topics that don't
illuminate the meaning. I especially appreciate Mark: A Portrait of the Servant (Moody, 1974), ISBN 0-8024-5182-9.
just discovered another author who handles Scripture in a way that answers my questions. Though he writes for a more
scholarly audience that Hiebert, Darrell Bock does a masterful job of navigating through the mass of material available on
Luke and Acts. I recently used his volume on Acts in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament series (Baker,
2007), ISBN 0-8010-2668-7. When I finished working through a section, I felt confident that he had worked through all
the relevant scholarship and packaged the conclusions for me concisely and fairly. And I once again found myself agreeing
with his analysis of issues.
Don't get me wrong -- I also need to hear from people who don't
think like me. They'll provide a fresh perspective. And I might be wrong!
But it's nice to find
a kindred spirit, and I'm grateful for these men of God who labor in the text of the New Testament.