Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai: A Handbook on the Greek Text

by | Jun 21, 2023 | Book Review, Septuagint

A Book Review

Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai: A Handbook on the Greek Text by Joshua L. Harper is the latest installment in Baylor’s series of handbooks on the Septuagint, edited by Sean Adams and Seth Ehorn. As with other publications in the Baylor Handbook on the Septuagint series (BHLXX), this book translates and explains the Greek text, specifically in terms of grammar, syntax, and lexicography. This volume covers the Greek versions of Habbakuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai—so grouped because of their canonical arrangement and reasonable size for treatment and publication. After a valuable introduction that explains the book’s approach, the reader will find three separate handbooks full of detailed notes and syntactical labels, appended with a glossary and grammar index.

Rahlfs-Hanhart serves as the Greek text, although Ziegler’s Göttingen text is mentioned where appropriate for text-critical discussions. The Hebrew text is clearly not the primary focus, but the author does highlight and explain areas of significant mismatch between Hebrew and Greek. The text of the Barberini version of Habakkuk 3 is not included, although the author mentions it in his introduction. Regarding reference tools, Harper primarily draws upon the lexicons of GELS, LSJ, and BDAG. For grammars, he cites mainly Muraoka, Smyth, and Wallace. But what is particularly unique is his frequent interaction with some of the church fathers—Cyril of Alexandria, Jerome, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Theodoret of Cyrus. Harper draws from a wide variety of sources to examine the text. I appreciated this combination of ancient and modern insights.

The book’s layout is standard across the series. The text is divided into sections that begin with an English translation and introduction. Individual verses of the Greek text follow, each with its own careful breakdown of words and clauses. Running headers and intuitive use of bold font make reference and usability a breeze. This work is the ideal companion for reading and understanding Habakkuk, Zephaniah, and Haggai in Greek. As pointed out in the introduction, “The process of syntactical labeling is less a game of ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ than it is an opportunity to examine the context carefully to make an informed decision” (xxiii). Harper diligently executes this process throughout, offering valuable contributions for study and interpretation.

Harper has produced another book to add to Baylor’s scholarly and reliable series of handbooks on the Septuagint text that currently also includes 2 Maccabees 1–7, 2 Maccabees 8–15, and Amos. Out of the volumes currently available, this is the ideal on-ramp into the series. Students will likely appreciate both the shortness of the three canonical books and the graded level of difficulty. The introduction suggests that a reader interested in progressing from easier to more difficult Greek follow the reading order of Haggai, Zephaniah, and then Habakkuk. Professors teaching a course on the Septuagint should consider this book, as should any Greek student wanting to expand their reading beyond the New Testament.

If you are interested in learning more about other books in this serious, check out my review of Amos and 2 Maccabees 1–7.


Special thanks to Baylor University Press for a review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way so far as I know.


Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Chief Editor at Positive Action for Christ in Whitakers, North Carolina. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.


Brent Niedergall