Grammar may not be trendy, but it's still important

I admit it: I love Greek grammar. Ever since I took my very first Greek class with Dr. Dan Wallace in Fall semester of 1993, I have loved not only Greek language but also information about it. My ardor has never waned, as present students in my classes can readily attest. I still enjoy discussing, defining, and analyzing the original language of the NT text.

Greek grammar has fallen on very hard times as of late, though. Without even considering the battle for semester hours waging on most seminary campuses, just pick up more recent commentaries to see how much ground grammar has lost. Grammatical discussions in commentaries are decidedly passé now as sociological and rhetorical approaches have taken center stage. A commentary which focuses on, say, empire criticism or the next ideological slant du jour will be heralded as ground breaking, while grammatical discussions will get little more than a yawn.

Putting grammar on the sidelines in our biblical and theological work is decidedly wrongheaded. We should remember first and foremost that Christian interpretation reads a text—a text in an ancient language no less—and the primary way we process that Greek text is with the tool of grammar. I don’t think for a minute that exegesis is solely grammatical analysis, nor do I think that commentaries should ignore other issues. I simply argue that Greek grammar is foundational: We ignore it to our peril, but we learn and apply it to our benefit. In the work I am doing on Galatians an important—and early—part of examining any paragraph is a detailed grammatical analysis, with the help of my old friends Winer, Zerwick, Robertson, Burton, Porter, Wallace, and many others. This foray into grammatical issues in Galatians has enriched my knowledge of the text considerably, and it will certainly strengthen the exegesis to follow.