Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reading the Gospel of St. Mark in Greek

I don't want to make a habit of specific book reviews on this blog, but this book demanded an exception (and I did work for the publisher for nearly five years). I really like it. I like it enough that I'm posting a review.

It has one small problem: I like it but can't quite figure out what to do with it. Why don't I describe the author's aims? He is trying to present the Gospel of St. Mark in Greek to several audiences. First, obviously, it is meant for students of New Testament Greek who are starting to read the New Testament after initial study, likely two years. Duckwitz, the author, says this style of text has made reading the whole gospel of Mark in one semester of class a reality, which didn't always happen in the past. Duckwitz also says he has used it as a supplemental reader for first year Greek classes.

The next obvious audience, which should be the largest, is people who have no Greek at all but want to read Mark in Greek anyway. I don't know how much this audience would get out of something like Mounce's Greek for the Rest of Us on its own, but certainly with both books at hand this audience should find New Testament Greek quite accessible. For that matter, someone who really wants to read Mark in Greek bad enough should be able to wade through with just Duckwitz's book. In short, this book answers the question "How do I read the Bible in Greek if I don't know Greek?"

Here's how. Its format is going to be familiar to any student of classics. A few lines of text at the top of the page. Under that is a set of vocabulary, which drops high-frequency words after several repetitions. At the bottom of the page are notes. And the notes are really, really full. They explain everything and then some. They explain so much that at the beginning, there are only two or three lines of Greek on each page. To further aid matters, Duckwitz has provided a quick start to reading Greek in the front of the book and a bit of a grammar reference in the back. This is on top of a glossary of high-frequency words. (It even shows principal parts for the verbs—hooray!)

Duckwitz is a professor of classics, and it shows. Flipping randomly to a page, he talks about tricolon crescens in one of the notes. Duckwitz is also aware that he is dealing with a sacred text, and that shows too. On another random page, he states, "Bethlehem claims His birth, Nazareth, the place where He grew up with His family, is His hometown." (Could you imagine the capital H in a book dealing with this strictly as literature? I can't.)

Anyway, give this book a swing if you're curious about the New Testament in its original language. Even if you don't know Greek. It's affordable, informative and a page-turner.

Purchase information:
Duckwitz, Norbert H. O., Reading the Gospel of St. Mark in Greek. ISBN 978-0-86516-776-6. From the publisher.