Thanks go out to Kathy Russ at Hendrickson for sending me Jerry L. Sumney’s excellent new work Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader. The full length book review is included below and I will post an abridged version of the review later in the week.
Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader, by Jerry L. Sumney. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007. Pp. xxiv + 161. $14.95.
Jerry Sumney’s recent book Philippians: A Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader is an ancient Greek reader targeted towards individuals who have completed one year of Greek and are looking to read an actual text. Sumney certainly has succeeded in providing a thorough, helpful, and attractive reader for the continuing Greek student. Philippians is a useful work for a wide audience including instructors, intermediate Greek students, and even more advanced students looking to tune up their Greek.
The overall approach of this reader is to provide small chunks of material and provide extensive grammatical information for each chunk. Sumney divides Philippians into eight chapters each consisting of Greek passages accompanied by English translations. Each Greek passage is then broken into chunks of three to eight words which are thoroughly analyzed. Morphological information is provided for verbs and the various grammatical elements are discussed. In fact, each new grammatical element is highlighted in a text box along the side which contains further information. For example, anyone who has completed their first year of Greek will certainly recognize a genitive, but Sumney provides further information such as the type of genitive and the possible translations available. Furthermore, the first appearance of a term such as the subjective genitive is accompanied by a text box containing a definition of the term and further examples from Paul’s letters. Additionally, Sumney notes any hapax legomena (words which appear only once in the NT) and words that are rare in the NT or Paul’s letters. These words can be more challenging to translate and Sumney often notes the definition of such words in other contexts and then provides insight as to how they should be translated within the scope of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
The chapters, in addition to containing grammatical information and insights into how scholars translate passages, also contain other valuable information. Each chunk of Greek is accompanied by a brief commentary and each chapter is concluded with a short bibliography for further study. The commentary included is brief which is to be expected from a Greek reader however it is often quite useful. For instance in 1:13 Paul uses the term praetorian and Sumney points out the importance of this term for determining his imprisonment.
Sumney includes further assistance for the continuing Greek student in the form of two valuable appendices. There is a glossary of grammatical terms and more importantly a second appendix which provides a brief but helpful examination of grammatical points covered in the text. While this information could certainly be found in any Greek textbook, its inclusion is certainly convenient.
The usefulness of this textbook is further enhanced by its low cost. It retails for $14.95 and sells for around $10 on Amazon.com. By providing this work at such a reasonable cost its range of use is broadened substantially. Nearly any course in which intermediate Greek is examined would be enhanced by this text. At such as low price using Philippians for a few weeks alongside other intermediate Greek texts is a viable option. The commentary and bibliographic materials allow this text to be useful in any course that examines Philippians alongside other letters, even if it is not a course in ancient Greek. Finally, Sumney’s work is useful for any advanced Greek student looking to improve one’s Greek. I read through the text in a few hours and was reminded of the choices we must make concerning how various clauses and words should be translated. My only complaint about this text is that it was not around when I was an intermediate Greek student!