Book Review: James: A Handbook on the Greek New Testament

Many thanks to Baylor University Press for this free review copy. You may purchase this text here.

Baylor continues its Handbook on the Greek New Testament series with the book of James by A.K.M. Adam. The hopes of the series are to:

“provide a convenient reference tool that explains the syntax of the biblical text, offers guidance for deciding between competing semantic analyses, deals with text-critical questions that have a significant bearing on how the text is understood, and addresses questions relating to the Greek text that are frequently overlooked or ignored by standard commentaries, all in a succinct and accessible manner.”

Adam is a lecturer in New Testament in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. He has written many books on hermeneutics and even a Greek grammar.

Highlights of the Baylor Handbook Series

  • Concise grammar and syntax explanations of the Greek text
  • Linguistic and rare syntax definitions defined
  • Presentation of arguments on key grammar and syntactical issues
  • Explanation and rejection of deponency
  • Translation of each passage
  • Easy to use layout
  • Interaction with recent scholarship
  • Text critical issues explained
  • Accessible to students

Analysis of Adam’s Work

Adam succeeds in providing a clear and concise analysis of the grammar and syntax of the Greek text of James. His writing style is short and to the point but also expands his explanations when needed. This allows the exegete to quickly reference Adam for a quick and detailed analysis of the relevant passage. It is helpful for the person working through the Greek text to not be bogged down by erroneous information related to the grammar and syntax of the passage. I found this refreshing when compared to other recent “handbooks” on the Greek text. Adam does not spend much time explaining the meaning of words unless a discussion warrants. For example, in James 2:1 how one understands τῆς δόξης affects how one understands the genitive construct. He gives two quick possibilities and then gives his conclusion.

Throughout the book he also provides insights into discourse features by often referring to Steven Runge’s recent work, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Discourse features are helpful in understanding the flow of thought in any given passage and it is a welcomed addition to the handbook. For example, in understanding the flow in James 1:16 he cites Runge saying, “…(he) astutely notes that ‘the content verse — both the verb and the address form — contributes little to the propositional content. This lack of contribution may explain the difficulty of determining its connection.’ As such, he proposes treating the contraction as a ‘janus verse,’ looking both backward to the origins of sin and death, and forward to the contrasting creation of goodness in humanity (18).”

Comparison to Recent Works

How does this compare to the other similar series from B&H? I found Adam’s book to be more helpful in the analysis of the Greek text of James. While there is a similar focus in both series’ Adam’s commentary is pointed and concise when needed but also offers more detailed explanation on difficult passages. In his definition’s of words he provides a quick gloss and explanation and the reader does not have to sort through the history of a word to come to a conclusion. Overall, I found the Baylor Handbook to be easier and more helpful to use when studying the text of James.

Conclusion

Overall, I recommend this handbook to anyone who is studying the Greek text of James. The size and layout of the book makes it easy to use when studying a particular passage. Adam recognizes the limit to this commentary to solely focus on the grammar and syntax in an accessible manner to any Greek student. The student using this commentary will not only improve their understanding of Greek but will also be able to understand James more fully.