*Not too long ago I was able to secure a review copy of Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell, and I want to thank
Jesse Hillman at Zondervan for the opportunity to review the book.
Author: Constantine R. Campbell
Paperback: 159 pages
In the field of Verbal aspect, there is no end of debate or discussion. With his new book Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (BVA), Constantine Campbell has opened the door for those who have long stood outside trying to get a glimpse and a hearing of what this discussion is all about. Granted, there are areas where one person or another will find that they are in disagreement with Dr. Campbell, but that is to be expected in a field like this. Dr. Campbell has taken the time and recognized that there was a need for a primer like the one he has produced, one in which has long been overdue for the student of Koine who is just getting his feet wet in Greek. While I will not take the time to offer an in-depth review (other have done this, and they have done it quite well), I will discuss the areas of strengths and weaknesses of BVA for the intermediate Greek student and why I think that it is a fine addition for a pastor as well as a seminary student.
This reviewer has been a student of Koine for 4.5 years (3 in undergraduate, and 1.5 in seminary). While learning Greek I was aware of verbal aspect, but it was briefly discussed and then moved away from. As I progressed in my studies, the focus was always on usage of nouns, verbs, participles, etc. and their relationship within a clause and discourse. Many times I was left to wonder why the author of a particular book used the present tense where an aorist would have sufficed. This questioned festered in me and continued to grow. In frustration, I picked up Stan Porters book on aspect and was left lost in his analysis of linguistics and their importance for understanding aspect. Needing a Ph.D. to understand what he was getting at, I put the book down. When I heard of Campbell’s new book, my spirits were lifted and I was sensing there was a light at the end of the aspectual tunnel.
I. Strengths of BVA
1. It is Assessable and Easy to Grasp
One of the problems with reading books on aspect by Porter and Fanning is that they are very technical and have a specialist in mind for their audience. What Campbell has done with his new book is given the student who desires to get involved in the discussion his ticket into the show. He is clear and precise in his presentation, thus allowing the student to begin to grasp the theory of verbal aspect. No doubt there will be some (i.e. see Porter’s blurb on the back of the book) who will disagree with Campbell’s conclusions, but I will ask this: why have they then not attempted to produce a work this assessable for the student? For this reason alone all students of Koine should graciously thank Dr. Campbell for taking the time to write such a book for us.
2. It Has Examples and Exercises to Work Though
The exercises that are included are quite helpful and allow the reader to be able to put theory into practice. Dr. Campbell as explains himself in a clear and concise way, and also has included an answer key at the back, thus allowing the reader to be able to go through the exercises and check his work and progress.
3. It is Geared for the Student and Pastor
If one keeps in mind who the audience is intended to be, then some of the criticisms would most likely end. This book is meant to be a primer and not an in-depth analysis on aspect. Dr. Campbell has already produced two academic monographs that engage the scholar and critic alike. What we have here is a book for us students and pastors alike that brings us into the discussion and allows us the opportunity to learn the lingo and jargon that is espoused in discussions on aspect.
II. Weakness of BVA
1. It Was a Tad Short
The only real weakness that I feel BVA has is its length. At the end of the reading, I was left wanting more discussion and examples. Because there is a slew of books and articles written on aspect, there is most certainly room for more discussion and examples.
At the end of the day, Dr. Campbell has given us a gem of a primer. BVA is a great help for the student desiring to enter into the world of verbal aspect. It is clear, concise, and above all free of most of the technical jargon that makes other books almost impossible for the student to read and interact with. We owe Dr. Campbell a hearty thank you for his work and for giving us students a place at the table of scholars on verbal aspect.
N.B. This is not Campbell’s first book on verbal aspect. In fact, he has written two very fine and accessible volumes on this very topic. They are both published by Peter Lang and are very academinc in nature.