Introducing the Cambridge Greek Lexicon

After more than fifteen years of tireless research, a very important project in Greek lexicography is currently wrapping up over at Cambridge. The new Cambridge Greek Lexicon promises to supplant the received authorities in Greek lexicography (including, perhaps, the newest English translation of Vocabolario della Lingua Greca by Franco Montanari, or ‘BrillDAG’). This is not a modest claim, but it is defensible in view of the fact that this new lexicographical work features an entirely fresh methodology in evaluating a given word’s lexical semantics. The truth is that no current lexicographical work in ancient Greek represents a truly innovative step forward with respect to methodology. We rely too heavily on prior works which are methodologically flawed. As John Lee wrote in his monograph, A History of New Testament Lexicography:

New Testament lexicography has failed to deliver the results one might expect from such long-sustained attention. Instead of a commodity that provides accurately described meanings and a reliable summation of the relevant data, we have haphazard coverage of the latter and a considerably flawed treatment of the former. The reasons for this outcome . . . [are] undue reliance on predecessors, an unsatisfactory method of indicating meaning, interference from translations, and an inadequate means of gathering evidence and opinion.

Often what we have with a new lexicon is the incorporation of new data with a corresponding update in the English glosses provided, yet the flawed methodology remains intact. This project, however, promises to offer a methodologically modern lexicon. For example, rather than supplying simple glosses in a traditional format, the editors have chosen to provide descriptive sense distinctions:

Instead of relying solely on existing lexicons, the editors have systematically gone back to the original texts in order to  construct their entries, which has enabled us to identify fresh interpretations and insights. . . There is a strong focus on identification of sense distinctions and a detailed description of them, as opposed to an older methodology in ancient Greek dictionaries where general catch-all single word translations were used, along with a bias in the presentation towards the highlighting of syntactic information, which in practice tends to override somewhat unsubtly the divisions of sense. . . In this lexicon, current English has been used, with great care taken to match the ancient senses with a modern way of expressing them. As a further aid to sharpening understanding, a wide range of contextual information has been included, for instance, the kinds of subjects and objects which occur with a given verb, or the semantic range of nouns that an adjective can qualify.

Very exciting. Go have a look!


Lee, John A. L. A History of New Testament Lexicography. New York: P. Lang, 2003. 177.

Posted in Theology

The Only Jesus There Is

The only historical Jesus there is is the one who has his being in union with the Son of God who is eternally begotten of the Father. Those who pore over the gospels searching for another Jesus (whether their motives be apologetic or critical) pierce their hearts with many pangs, for they study a matter which does not exist.

Webster, J. B. God without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology. T&T Clark. 41.

Posted in Theology, Uncategorized

Rutger Allan: Markedness in Voice Semantics


To summarize, all markedness-criteria point in the same direction: the active voice is the unmarked member in the opposition with the marked middle voice. Since the active voice can occur in environments in which the subject is affected (contextual neutralization), it can be concluded that the active is unspecified as to the semantic feature subject-affectedness. Conversely, the middle voice is semantically marked with respect to affectedness of the subject. As a consequence, event types that do not involve subject-affectedness cannot be expressed by a middle verb. The two major event types that do not involve subject-affectednesss are the prototypical transitive and the stative event type. In the prototypical transitive event, the subject is an unaffected volitional agent, while the object is the sole participant undergoing the effect of the event. In stative events there is no affectedness, since affectedness can only be the result of a change that is taking place or has taken place.

Allan, Rutger. The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek: A Study in Polysemy. Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 2003. 29.

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Jewish-Christian Martyrology and the Shoah

We must believe that all the suffering of Israel, persecuted by pagans because of its Election, is a part of the Messiah’s suffering, just as the killing of the children in Bethlehem makes up a part of Christ’s passion. Otherwise, God himself would appear incoherent regarding his promise to Israel. If Christian theology is unable to inscribe in its vision of the Redemption, of the mystery of the Cross, that Auschwitz (the Shoah) also makes up a part of Christ’s suffering, then we have reached the summit of absurdity. The persecution of God’s Chosen is not a crime like other crimes of which mankind is capable. It is a crime directly linked to the Election, and, therefore, to the Jewish condition. We must be willing to go that far in our understanding of these events.

It is precisely because of this initial “setting aside” of Israel that the nations have persecuted it, regardless of the practical and historical conditions that have resulted from this persecution and regardless of the practical, social, and cultural consequences that must have provoked or explained such attitudes.

The words I have just spoken can only be said, can only be thought, by Christ’s disciples, in their prayer before the crucified Christ. These words can have meaning only for those followers of the crucified Jesus who accept to share his Passion. These words are apart of Christ’s secret which is entrusted solely to his disciples. And when this secret is revealed to the world, it provokes derision, insult, the spittle of disgust. It is ridiculed. This secret—for it truly is a secret—can only be borne in compassion with Christ. This can be recognized only in faith, because it concerns the very idea we have of God. It means pushing the scandal of the Passion to its limit. It evokes, shockingly and provocatively, the meditation of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” It drives the disciple of Christ up against a wall, where he can only listen to the Father’s silence and share this silence with the Son. It compels the disciple to receive Christ’s dead body in his arms. Consequently, it plunges us into the scandal of faith, where our faithfulness itself is tested and its only recourse is Christ’s faithfulness, where the only way to endure such a moment is to trust completely in Christ. Continue reading

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Searching Her Own Mystery

The “problem” of Jewish-Christian relations does not arise as a result of merely practical and pastoral concerns deriving from the Church’s relationship to particular Jewish communities. Instead, it arises as a result of the Church’s own essential nature. This means that the “problem” affects the Church as a whole, in all of its parts and manifestations—“ even in areas where no Jewish communities exist” and where no immediate pastoral issues present themselves. The issue is of such great importance that addressing it properly offers the hope of healing the Church’s own internal divisions. . .

If the Jewish people and the Jewish way of life are in any sense “intrinsic” to the very identity of the Church, as Pope John Paul II claimed in interpreting Nostra Aetate 4, then the Church’s theological vision of herself—in other words, her ecclesiology—must account for this reality. Moreover, this accounting cannot be a mere appendix to a pre-existing and self-contained ecclesiological system, but must entail a reconfiguring of the central pillars of the structure.

And if the inner spiritual bond joining the Church to the Jewish people is to be found in “the person of Jesus Christ, a Jew, crucified and glorified,” then the identity of the one the Church worships and proclaims is likewise formed in part by his enduring relationship to his flesh and blood family. Consequently, the Church’s theological vision of the person and work of Jesus—in other words, her Christology—must highlight and explore the significance of Jesus’ Jewishness.

This means that the Church’s theology of the Jewish people cannot exist as a discrete and compartmentalized topic, insulated from the wider framework of Catholic doctrine. The affirmations of Nostra Aetate 4 reverberate throughout the entire system of Catholic theology—Christology, ecclesiology, sacramental teaching, and all that remains.

Kinzer, Mark, and Christoph Von Schönborn. Searching Her Own Mystery: Nostra Aetate, the Jewish People, and the Identity of the Church.

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The Prayer Book as Regula

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The Large and Mysterious Shape of Sacrificial Action


This isn’t about going back into the deadlocked debates over whether Christ explicitly established one form of ministry to be valid for ever; even in the sixteenth century, Hooker was critical of those who claimed absolute certainty about this. But it is about getting away from a view of the Church that is very seductive and very damaging – and very popular. This is the view that the Church is essentially a lot of people who have something in common called Christian faith and get together to share it with each other and communicate it to other people ‘outside’. It looks a harmless enough view at first, but it is a good way from what the New Testament encourages us to think about the Church – which is that the Church is first of all a kind of space cleared by God through Jesus in which people may become what God made them to be (God’s sons and daughters), and that what we have to do about the Church is not first to organise it as a society but to inhabit it as a climate or a landscape. It is a place where we can see properly – God, God’s creation, ourselves. It is a place or dimension in the universe that is in some way growing towards being the universe itself in restored relation to God. It is a place we are invited to enter, the place occupied by Christ, who is himself the climate and atmosphere of a renewed universe.  Continue reading

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