Item description for Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament: On the Exegetical Benefit of Grammatical Precision by Denny Burk...
Many New Testament scholars still operate under the mistaken notion that all of the problems of New Testament Greek grammar were worked out in the nineteenth century. This false assumption arises from an ignorance of developments in the field of modern linguistics. In focusing on one significant aspect of grammar, the semantic and/or syntactic value of the articular infinitive, Burk undertakes to move beyond the standard New Testament grammar books. His question is: What does the article contribute to the total linguistic meaning of the infinitive in the Greek of the New Testament? To answer it he uses methods and results from modern linguistic analysis, an approach far different from that of traditional grammar. Burk argues that the article with the infinitive is different from the article with other kinds of words. With other kinds of words the article encodes ideas such as definiteness, substantivization, and anaphora. The article with the infinitive, however, does not denote ideas such as these. With the infinitive the article is a function marker that signifies a grammatical-structural relation that may not otherwise be apparent. Discussing many examples from the New Testament, Burk shows his thesis has benefits not only for our understanding of Hellenistic Greek grammar, but also for our exegesis of the New Testament.
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More About Denny Burk
Denny Burk (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as associate pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Burk edits The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood and speaks and writes extensively about gender and sexuality. He keeps a popular blog at DennyBurk.com.
Denny Burk has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament: On the Exegetical Benefit of Grammatical Precision?
A Great help for Students of New Testament Greek Nov 17, 2006
Earlier this year, I began reading Denny Burk's Articular Infinitives in the Greek of the New Testament: On the Exegetical Benefit of Grammatical Precision. Being a student of New Testament Greek, I was drawn to this book because of it's importance to my own studies. I first heard of this book on Denny's blog. My first year of Greek was one of immense joy. I enjoyed learning the noun cases and declensions, verbs, and even participles. But it was the infinitives that gave me the most trouble. But when I entered second year Greek, their usages became more familiar and much more enjoyable. So I was anxious to begin reading Denny's book, and I must say that it is no let down.
One of the things that I enjoyed the most is the emphasis on linguistics and their importance to this study. Linguistics is an area of study that I have recently been influenced by and one that I feel is very important to my study of koine Greek. The purpose of the book is given by Denny on page 2:
"In this book I seek to ask and answer the following question: What is the semantic and/or syntactic value of the articular infinitive in New Testament Greek? Another way of posing the question would be as follows: What does the article contribute to the meaning of the infinitive in New Testament Greek?" (pg 2)
And how does he go about proving his thesis:
"I conceive of this task as a `linguistic' investigation. By that I mean that I will pursue this study utilizing some of the results and methods of modern linguistic analysis, and approach that can be distinguished from traditional grammar." (pg 2)
It is the method and approach that Denny uses that I find both helpful and enjoyable.
In Chapter 2 Denny outlines the use of the Article in New Testament Greek. Before he can discuss the article with the infinitive, he first outlines the use of the Article in general. This is a helpful chapter, and becomes even more helpful when he begins discussing its usage with the infinitive.
He discusses the use of the Article with the infinitive both without the preposition, as well as with the preposition in chapters 3 and 4. Both of these chapters are very informative and extremely helpful in ones study of the infinitive in the Greek New Testament (there are ample amounts of Scripture references to illustrate Denny's point).
All in all I will say this: this is a well written and easy to understand book. It has been extremely helpful and a joy to read. Thanks for the good work Denny!
Burk Has Succeeded Jul 11, 2006
Dr. Denny Burk of the Criswell College in Dallas, Texas has offered the field of Greek language studies a helpful and insightful treatment on the articular infinitive. Before one thinks that such a task is too large for one work, it should be noticed that he has focused his research on the 324 examples of this construction in the New Testament itself while using examples from the Septuagint to test his thesis. This approach will no doubt be an asset to grammarians and exegetes whose focus is the New Testament.
Burk rightly conveys the need for his study when he points out that most New Testament reference grammars and commentaries do not include the insights brought about through modern linguistics. Heretofore such an incorporation is largely absent. While Burk's work does not propose to generate a new reference grammar, it does propose a linguistic analysis of one important aspect of that grammar--the articular infinitive. This he has successfully done. In this concisely-written work of 141 pages (including a helpful appendix and a number of tables and figures), Burk seeks to ask and answer the following question: "What is the semantic and/or syntactic value of the articular infinitive in New Testament Greek?" or, "What does the article contribute to the meaning of the infinitive in New Testament Greek?" (2).
To answer this question he first argues that the article is a determiner and that determiners have the sole semantic function of marking substantives as definite (128). In his second chapter (pp. 27-46) he concludes that when the article is grammatically necessary, one should not look for the additional semantic significance of determination (44-46). His goal is for his research to successfully demonstrate the article's necessity as a function word in connection with the infinitive. If this is demonstrable, then one would have no reason to argue that the article has its normal semantic force as a determiner (cf. 110, 144). In chapters three (articular infinitives not following a preposition, pp. 47-74) and four (articular infinitives following a preposition, pp. 75-110), Burk gives examples of the New Testament's usage of the articular infinitive in which the appearance of the article is "grammatically obligatory," i.e., the article either marks the case of the infinitive and/or it specifies a particular grammatical function that could not be made explicit were the article absent. In his fifth chapter and five (articular infinitives in the LXX, pp. 111-27), he tests his thesis by exploring 23 so-called exceptions that have been cited in the LXX. In each example Burk shows that these do not, in fact, undermine his thesis as it is argued in the preceding chapters (126-27; cf. 128).
The book ends with what may be the most useful part of his monograph. Rather than leaving the reader to ascertain the implications of the preceding chapters, Burk gives a sketch of just how the implications of his thesis can be carried over into the task of grammar as well as exegesis. In other words, the final chapter is given to demonstrate why his thesis is valuable to New Testament scholars, students, and preachers. First, Burk demonstrates how his thesis impacts Hellenistic grammatical study. He rightly laments that even the best works on New Testament grammar do not incorporate the advances in general linguistics, particularly pertaining to the concept of definitiveness and "how this concept relates to the conventions used in Greek to mark definitiveness" (129). Further, he asserts that his research has helpful implications of both case semantics (131-32) and the interpretation of prepositional phrases (132). Second, he illustrates how his thesis plays out in doing the specific task of exegesis and how it influences interpretation. One sees the benefit (and necessity!) of grammatical precision when interpreting such texts as Mark 9:10, Acts 25:11, Romans 13:8, Philippians 2:6, and Hebrews 10:31. Burk demonstrates how his thesis impacts the exegesis of these sample texts, and interacts with select New Testament scholars on these passages. He shows that an overreading of the presence of the article with the infinitive may lead to unwarranted exegetical conclusions. His inclusion of this particular section is most welcomed and demonstrates the inseparable connection between grammar and exegesis.
Greek grammar is still a discipline in need of advancement, and Burk has illustrated an important area where Greek grammarians have not been in agreement. This lack of agreement is apparent when one peruses the standard grammars as well as many technical New Testament commentaries. It remains to be seen if Burk's thesis will gain traction in the realm of Greek grammar (and more importantly in the commentaries), but what has been put forward is a viable and defensible articulation of the syntactical significance of the article when it accompanies the infinitive in the New Testament.
Barry C. Joslin, Ph.D Assistant Professor of Christian Theology Boyce College of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, KY July 2006