Bags of Bran

The Combat Shelf
April 16, 2014, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography | Tags: ,

I have recently ended up in a place where I’m going to be preaching to a consistent group of people over an extended space of weeks, and perhaps longer. How that happened is a story that confirms my tendency to spell Providence with a capital “P,” but I won’t rehearse it just yet. What I do need to do is bring forth a steady stream of quality preaching and teaching over an indefinite space of weeks, and with a limited budget of time.

I haven’t begun yet to preach through books of the Bible, though that is my goal as soon as I can hit the ground running, as it were. I preached two weeks, then it was Palm Sunday, then I’m off a week, then I’m planning to start a book. Which book? I haven’t decided just yet, but I’m close. It’s one of those situations where I’m not in a position to say some things, but I can (and must)absolutely say other things, so I think it would be prudent to say those latter things and wait till a more opportune time to say the former things. All of the things need to be said. All of them. I hope to say them, in due time.

But now I perceive that a fun and interesting conversation is in order. What resources are going to make for efficient, quality preparation? I call it my “combat shelf:” a shelf full of resources that never really get put away because I use them all the time.

Note: I’m only about 30% electronic at this point, so I still use plenty of hard copies of books. This is merely a statement of fact, not necessarily an opinion about Logos or Bible Works or any of the other software that ought to come out and challenge the former to drive prices down.

The reader is aware that my endorsement of these books does not mean that I subscribe to every heresy contained in them. I have my own heresies, thank you very much, and I am fairly secure in them.

For now, here are the volumes, besides a couple of Bible translations and a UBS4, that are on my NT combat shelf.

For exegetical work:

Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament, 5th ed. (Rome: Editrice Potifico Istituto Biblico, 1996). Zerwick always has a few gemstones among the gravel. He’s not always right, but he’s usually helpful. He gives glosses for uncommon vocabulary and parses the tough verbs and constructions, not “so you don’t have to,” but to give you a viable option or two on the tricky ones. And, it has a slick plastic cover that repels…snakes. Haven’t encountered a single snake while using Zerwick.

Cleon Rogers and Cleon Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998). More thorough than Zerwick, but not necessarily more cumbersome. It includes some interpretive helps and some references where the reader can go for more information. Unfortunately, books like this probably won’t make it into the digital future, but this particular volume is a dandy.

Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). Every seminarian is married to his Greek syntax book, and I suppose I am no different. But Wallace, for my money, is the most user-friendly, clearest, and most helpful Greek syntax I’ve encountered so far. I still use it in paper format, and my copy is full of those little plastic reference flags.

Walter Bauer, Frederick W. Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). If you’re studying words, you go here. If you don’t go here, many would argue that you’re not really studying words. I happen to have this in paper, though reference works like this tend to be more useful in electronic format. Also very helpful to people writing papers (less so to pastors) are the citations of key articles in his entries. BDAG essentially represents four lifetimes worth of work. It is the gold standard, and it’s already 14 years old!

Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 10th ed., trans. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977). 10 vols. I have this in the electronic version, and though it is a little bit dated and of uneven quality, it is still a standard work. Like anything else that is designed to be exhaustive, there is much chaff with the wheat. But if used carefully, this work repays. It would be easy to get bogged down in a work like this, so I only use it for important or oddball words.

For background curiosities, I tend to consult the introductions in commentaries, as well as:

Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993). This book is worth every penny I spent on it. I’ve used Keener for pretty much every passage I’ve worked through because he does such a good job of giving me an overview of the historical and cultural setting of a passage. Keener by himself is not sufficient for, say, an introductory sermon to a book, but I consult him every time I assemble a sermon in the NT.

So, for now, that is my combat shelf: a handful of reference books that I consult just about every time I crack open the NT. I’m sure it will change with time and use, and as new works come along. I’m certainly open to suggestions!

At some point I’ll be able to comment more knowledgeably on commentaries for individual books.


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