For anyone who has had the opportunity to study the New Testament in its original Greek, they will be able to attest to the rich fruit it will yield in shedding much light on the meaning of the text. Grammars are plenty and helpful. Some books focus solely on specific aspects of the NT Greek and can yield even further fruit. Murray Harris has done such a thing. Zondervan has recently published his book Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament: An Essential Reference Resource for Exegesis.
This is not an exhaustive study of every place a preposition is used but rather “it is a study of numerous places in the Greek New Testament where prepositions contribute significantly to the theological meaning of the text.” (p.13) Harris deals with all 17 “proper” and 42 “improper” prepositions in the Greek NT while only discussing those he feels are the most theologically significant.
The first three chapters deal with introductory matters and explain the exegetical guidelines the book follows. A short history of the development of prepositions is given along with the base meaning of each one (Greek students will readily recognize the prepositions diagram on p. 29 from first semester Greek). Realizing that while a word has meaning by itself they (1) do not exist on their own in the text (grammatically they exist as a prepositional phrase) and (2) context is to guide the final choice for the meaning of the preposition. With this in mind Harris lays out four exegetical considerations:
- The primary meaning of the preposition itself (i.e., local/spatial sense) and then its range of meanings when used with the particular case involved.
- The basic significance of the case that is used with the preposition.
- The indications afforded by the context as to the meaning of the preposition.
- The distinctive features of prepositional usage in the NT that may account for seeming irregularities. (p. 31)
The majority of the book is taken up with the 17 “proper” prepositions. Each chapter follows the same basic outline. The base meaning is discussed along with the more flexible meanings or translations when applicable. Most of each chapter examines various significant uses of the prepositions. For those readers who are interested in the current discussion of union with Christ there are several chapters that will be of interest. As the front of the book indicates, Harris utilizes the literary and historical context of passages where it is relevant in order to determine the correct meaning of the prepositional use. One example of this is in chapter 21 and the use of “uper” in 1 Cor. 15:29. The final two chapters of the book deal with the 42 “improper” prepositions with some discussion of theologically significant uses.
As a grammatical book that narrows its focus on prepositions this book is a goldmine of exegetical insight and guidance regardless of whether one takes the positions Harris does. Prepositions and Theology will aid all exegetes who dig into the NT Greek who have a desire to better understand an often tricky aspect of Greek grammar. This is a book that will most benefit second or third year Greek students but will come in handy even for those in their first year. One can only hope that Harris or others might follow the same objective of this book and apply it to other aspects of Greek grammar.
NOTE: I received this book for free from Zondervan in exchange for an unbiased review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.