The abundance of tools for studying the New Testament in its original language can be overwhelming. I took my first seminary Greek course in 2014 and have come across many tools since then as a pastor who likes to think he stays abreast of what’s available for exegesis. Below I’ve ranked the resources I’ve found most helpful. We’ll take the matter of owning a Greek New Testament for granted, be it NA28, the Tyndale House edition or what have you. This is written for someone who has taken an elementary Greek course or done some significant self-study on their own and wants to know what exegetical tools to consider.
1. Lexicon: BDAG
BDAG is shorthand for A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition. The letters in BDAG are the initials of the four lexicographers behind the work: Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich. This work is the an essential tool for studying the Greek New Testament. As Edward Hoskyns is quoted as saying: “Bury yourself in a lexicon and arise in the presence of God” (26). This is the gold standard. This is the one book you need to survive on a desert island along with your NA28. It’s by no means perfect (for instance, it is virtually void of numismatic evidence), but it is excellent. If you think Thayer’s lexicon (published in 1889) is good enough, you have a low view of scholarly effort exerted over the past 100+ years.
There are other good lexicons to consider. I regularly consult Louw and Nida, GE, and others. Abbot-Smith is also handy to keep around. (This post from Larry Hurtado convinced me to pick up a copy.)
2. A Grammar: Wallace
I’m not saying other recent grammars aren’t good. But Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics by Wallace just feels so comprehensive compared to others. If someone labels a grammatical construction, Wallace can tell you about that label.
There are other good grammars to consider. Ancient Greek Grammar by von Siebenthal (see my review here), Going Deeper (see my review here), and Intermediate Greek Grammar by Mathewson and Emig are all great. I would put Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar in a separate category, but I also strongly recommend it.
3. Exegetical Dictionary: Spicq
This category includes NIDNTTE, Balz & Schneider, and Kittel. I don’t own Kittel so I can’t speak to its value firsthand. Theological Lexicon of the New Testament by Ceslas Spicq is my favourite because it strikes the perfect balance between being thorough and concise. Balz & Schnieder can be too brief. Silva’s NIDNTTE can be too long. These types of works don’t typically cover every word (Balz & Schneider does), but it’s always nice to be able to open up to an article by Spicq on a word you’re looking at. (I don’t know if it does so 100% of the time, but BDAG will often direct you to Spicq at the end of a lexical entry.)
There is so much out there. I use Moulton and Milligan regularly. There’s NewDocs (see this post for more info). We can’t not mention the Septuagint. Baylor and B&H Academic are both publishing handbooks on the Greek text. Textual commentaries come in handy. There is a treasure trove of useful stuff available for studying the Greek New Testament. These are just my recommendations of what essentials I’ve found most useful. I’ve found it effective to access many of these tools through Bible software, but some are only available in print. Comment below on your agreements, disagreements, or personal recommendations!
Photo by Brent Niedergall.