A Book Set to Transform Commentaries and NT Study

Basics of Verbal Aspects in Biblical Greek

By Constantine Campbell / Zondervan

This book is a very important, although short, book. This book is an introduction to the idea of aspect. Wht is aspect, you might ask? To put it simply, aspect is viewpoint. The difficulties that Greek scholars have faced over the past hundred years or so is in achieving a description of Greek tenses that accounted for all the variety present in the Greek language. For instance, what does the aorist mean, intrinsically? Does it mean “point-like action?” Campbell says no. He gives examples of aorists that do not describe “point-like action.” He argues that such an idea can be part of what an aorist means, but that people who claim the above are confusing Aktionsart with aspect. Aktionsart is an exegetical conclusion, not a starting point. It refers to characteristics that verbs can have regard the nature of the action. Is the action point-like, repetitive (iterative), progressive, ingressive (initiatory), etc. Aspect, however, refers to viewpoint.

The two viewpoints are perfective aspect and imperfective aspect. He makes sure that this concept is not to be confused with the time of the action. Rather, it has to do with how the action is being described. His analogy is that of a reporter describing a parade. Perfective aspect is the view from the helicopter. It is a summary, and it is viewed from the outside. Imperfective aspect, on the other hand, is more vivid. It is the reporter being on the ground level describing the parade as it is happening. He argues, then, that the aorist has perfective aspect. It is a summary tense. The perfect tense, however, is imperfective in aspect (!). The difference is that the perfect tense describes a closer view, like a zoom lense. The pluperfect is also imperfective. However, it is much more remote. Similar evaluations of all the Greek tense-forms are presented in clear, non-jargonic language.

Why is this book so important? It offers a way to understand Greek tenses that makes sense of all the data, not just part of it. Furthermore, is offers clear conceptual categories with which we can understand Greek verbs. My own understanding was much sharpened by reading this book. Also, my ability to critique commentaries has been improved as well. This book will help prevent many unfortunate exegeses that base their erroneous conclusions on faulty understandings of the Greek tense-forms. It will help prevent over-reading the much abused aorist tense.

The reader must be proficient in Greek to get much out of the book. However, it is a perfect book for intermediate Greek students, as it includes a workbook within its pages (and an answer key, but don’t tell anyone!).

The reason why this book will transform commentaries is not so much that his conclusions are wholly original. It is not so much that as that he is able to explain this important theory in easy to understand language, and will thus influence pastors, not just scholars. For anyone who thinks he knows Greek, this book will be a big help.

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Podcast on Leithart and NW Presbytery

Posted by Bob Mattes

There’s an excellent discussion of the NW Presbytery action (or lack thereof) on TE Peter Leithart over at Ordinary Means (HT: Heidelblog). Dr. Scott Clark has some great background links at the Heidelblog link as well. You can catch my summary post on the situation here. For convenience, here are links to the presbytery’s majority report and the excellent minority report. The podcast is about an hour long but provides excellent insights from Jason Stellman into the meeting at NW Presbytery that cannot be directly gleaned from the reports.

I spent some time last night going over the two NW Presbytery reports in some detail. I had said in this post that I would be writing a series of critiques of the majority report, but have changed my mind. It has already been done. The minority report thoroughly covers anything that I would have said. Together with the podcast, the minority report captures all of Leithart’s key errors that place him outside the Westminster Standards and strike at the vitals. In addition, Lane has an index of his posts engaging Leithart’s views on justification here. I have engaged Leithart’s position on final justification here, here, and here; and touched on baptismal efficacy here. In those posts, I draw on early Reformed writers to show the historical errors in both Leithart and, as it turns out, Rayburn’s argumentation.

I’m very disappointed in Rob Rayburn’s excuses for Leithart in particular and Federal Vision in general. His argumentation in the majority report comes right off of the Federal Visionist blogs, and is directly contradicted by the PCA’s Study Report on the Federal Vision and the PCA Standing Judicial Commission’s actions concerning Louisiana Presbytery and Steve Wilkins (SJC Cases 2006-7, 2007-8, and 2007-14), as well as the well-constructed minority report. TE Stellman’s coming appeal to the General Assembly looks very good at this point. NW Presbytery would do well to repent at its next meeting to avoid the embarrassment that Louisiana Presbytery drew on itself, as it is making the same arguments that were rejected in those cases.

As I’ve said before, I respect TE Peter Leithart’s openness, although I certainly disagree with his Federal Visionist theology. He took the initiative to provide his views to his presbytery, and then to follow up by asking, together with TE Jason Stellman, for a committee to study those views in light of the Westminster Standards. Short of simply transferring to the CREC (where he currently works anyway), he’s done all that one can ask, short of simply transferring to the CREC where he would obviously be happier.

Posted by Bob Mattes

Third volume out soon

Of this major new commentary on the Psalms. It is an important commentary. However, like all commentaries, this one should be read with discernment, as the author is an open theist. He is constantly preaching about God’s plan B, and how humans force God to change His plan. Nevertheless, Goldingay has a keen insight into literary structure, and I have gleaned many insights from his work.