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Monday, December 30, 2013

"A Reader's Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers" (Daniel B. Wallace)

TITLE: A Reader's Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers
AUTHOR: Daniel B. Wallace
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2013, (256 pages).

It is one thing to be able to read the Apostolic Fathers. It is yet another to be able to read the ancient texts in their original languages. It is even better to be conversant in both the Greek as well as the English, in particular, for contemporary eyes and ears. Enters the lexicon that enables modern readers to better appreciate the meaning of the texts in their original. Designed to accompany "The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations," readers with some knowledge of Greek will benefit greatly from this lexicon, which gives alternative renderings of the original Greek in plain English. Some readers of the Bible, especially the New Testament Greek will find the AF very fascinating, and see a stark familiarity in the language used. Like many lexicons, several assumptions frame the scope of the lexicon.

  • The words are limited to those that occur 30 times or less;
  • The text based upon is on the Baker Academic 3rd edition of the AF: Greek texts with English translation;
  • The notation needs some getting used to; like in {First Clement ἐπίσκοπος, ὁ [2] 4 • 76} essentially means: The word 'episkopos' occurs in chapter 42 of 1 Clement twice in the same verse; four times in the chapter; and 76 times in the AF.
  • The Apostolic Fathers covered include: 
    • First and Second Clement;
    • Letters of Ignatius;
    • Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians
    • Martyrdom of Polycarp
    • The Didache
    • The Epistle of Barnabas
    • The Shepherd of Hermas
    • The Epistle to Diognetus and the Fragment of Quadratus
    • Fragments of Papias
  • Verbs used are in their infinitives form in order to distinguish them from the nouns; while nouns are introduced with their articles

With a vocabulary stock of nearly 80% of the New Testament, students of Koine Greek will find reading the AF rather familiar territory. There are three observations I want to make. First, the counting of words occurring within a verse, within the chapter, and within the AF, is an extremely helpful guide to the understanding of the importance of the message being stressed. Very often, the more something is used or stressed, the more readers need to pay attention to the point the writer is making. For example, in 1 Clement 1:3; {ἄμωμος 7 • 17 blameless} is used to describe character. Clement was writing to sanctified living, purity of conscience, and the faithful relationships expected within the family.  Second, the lexicon provides expanded meanings for many of the words used. It is almost like the way the Amplified Bible translates the Bible, where a word is given multiple descriptions in order to nuance the meanings as much as possible. For example, in the Didache is translated as "sexual immorality" in the Michael Holmes's text, but given additional explanations in the lexicon to illuminate the root meaning of the word porneia {πορνεία, ἡ 2 • 5 prostitution, unchastity, fornication} Third, the lexicon is written with the words semi-parsed to enable readers to know the tense and mood. For example, where the words are in the imperative, the lexicon states so.

Indeed, this lexicon cannot be read by itself. It will be most beneficial for those with some knowledge of Greek plus having access to the "Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations" Baker Academic, 2007 edition. Without these two requirements, the lexicon will not be very useful. I find myself transported back to the days I was doing Greek and reading the Greek New Testament with a lexicon. If you are a student of Greek, and feel that the New Testament alone is not enough, try the Septuagint. If the Septuagint is still not enough, try the Apostolic Fathers.

If your love for Greek is re-ignited or if your understanding of the AF is increased, then this lexicon would have worth every penny.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Kregel Academic in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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