1 Peter Forbes1 Peter (Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament), by Greg Forbes (B&H Academic, 2014).

Forbes follows up Murray Harris’ Colossians and Philemon volume in this same series with the same approach, format, and clarity of expression as the inaugurating volume. The purpose of this series is to offer analysis of the grammatical, syntactical, and lexical features of every word, clause, and sentence in the NT book it analyzes. Those who would benefit most from these volumes would be intermediate Greek students or those who have been away from their Greek for a while and want to regain their language skills. It does require knowledge of basic Greek grammar and syntactical categories for the various parts of speech, which you would find in a textbook such as Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics.

Forbes begins with a brief introduction arguing for Petrine authorship sometime in the mid-60’s (1-4). He notes a long-standing discussion on aorist vs. present-tense imperatives in 1 Peter and that conclusions are still tentative, but no longer can we say the aorist is used for a command for a one-time action, while the present is used a command for repeated or continual action. Most imperatives in 1 Peter are aorist, and they must all be treated within context and not forced into a single paradigm (5). Lastly he notes some imperatival participles in 1 Peter, on which there has also been much debate, and concludes that those linked syntactically to imperatives should be considered to have imperatival force (7).

Each section begins with a flow of the structure (using the Greek text) and a brief comment on the structure. Forbes then analyzes each phrase in turn, solving any lexical, grammatical, or syntactical issues, frequently citing common resources such as Robertson’s and Wallace’s grammar, NIDNTT, BDAG, TDNT, etc. Each section then concludes with resources for further study on topics that arise in each verse, and homiletical suggestions.

The topical bibliographies are immensely helpful, although the homiletical suggestions may not be as helpful as some would hope. They generally involve a numbered’s list with a statement of the topic of each verse or part of a verse. The result is more an exegetical outline rather than a homiletical outline. For example, for 1:1-2, the first point of four is “The author: Peter (v. 1a).” You could perhaps make a sermon point out of that, given ways that Peter’s life may connect with the lives of those in the congregation (perhaps how he failed to walk in line with the gospel in Antioch, but now he has bounced back to minister faithfully to the Gentiles in the diaspora), but “Peter is the author” just won’t preach. If Forbes writes a second edition, I would love to see these turned into homiletical points rather than subject topics.

At the very end of the book is an Exegetical Outline that spans six pages, which is an excellent resource for those who want to get a good feel for the book as a whole and where their passage falls in a holistic outline.

One aspect of this book that surprised me was its lack of use of verbal aspect, given his discussion of verbal aspect throughout the introduction. It is unclear whether this lack of discussion about aspect is due to Forbes’ preference or that of the publisher or editors. But, for example, he argues correctly (in my opinion) that ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε (1 Pet 1:6) is a futuristic present, “in which you will be rejoice” (23). But why does Peter use the present tense-form here, rather than the future? Forbes does not give a reason. But when language creation consists of choices–in this case, the choice between two tense-forms that can both express a future event–there is significance to the choice that is made.

It seems to me that Peter uses the present tense-form to utilize the imperfective aspect in order to place the readers in the midst of the rejoicing in his subjective presentation of the event, which contrasts with the aorist λυπηθέντας that follows, which expresses their “being grieved” as a remote event with a distinct beginning and end (that is, it is presented as a complete action), even though they are being grieved in the present. Since they are at the present time of his writing being grieved, he could have subjectively portrayed it as unfolding before them (imperfective aspect), but that would only exacerbate their experience of grief by causing them to think about it as something ongoing with no end in sight. I think Peter’s alternation of aspect here is quite strategic and pastoral, causing them to think about their future rejoicing as one they will soon be in the midst of and experiencing, while their suffering is one they can think about as having a distinct beginning and end, even if they are currently undergoing trials.

Another limitation to this volume is its focus on the clause. There is some consideration of the sentence, since each clause is related to that before it or after it if need be. But there is no analysis of discourse above the level of the sentence. In this sense, the series is behind the curve, since discourse analysis has been in full swing for at least 40 years. I have written on here before a review of the Bloomsbury Companion to Discourse Analysis and an extensive (but not comprehensive) annotated bibliography organized by topic. A look at either of these will show the specialization of the field of discourse analysis, which demonstrates its influence and interest in the academic community. In one sense, I cannot blame the series, since it would be an incredible amount of extra work to incorporate discourse analysis into the volumes and it would make them much larger, more specialized, and less accessible to intermediate Greek students. In another sense, I can help lament this omission in the series. But that doesn’t diminish its usefulness to the intermediate Greek student, who must master basic grammar and syntax before moving on to more complex linguistic matters such as discourse analysis. For that reason, this work is still quite useful and should be used by anyone wanting to improve their Greek.

Lastly, how does this series compare to other similar series? Mark Dubis has written a volume on 1 Peter in the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series. I have used this volume before and it is less helpful on syntactical issues because it offers less options and argumentation than does the EGGNT series. However, it is more attuned to modern linguistics and does have sensitivity to issues above the level of the sentence. Yet it still does not incorporate full-scale discourse analysis of any kind. Lastly, there is SIL’s series called Exegetical Summaries, for which David Abernathy has written the 1 Peter volume. This series collates all the exegetical decisions from a multitude of commentaries and English versions but gives no argument or even conclusions from the author on which decisions are better. It is useful for gathering options that one may not consider without some help, but you would need to couple it with either the Baylor or EGGNT series for help sorting through which decisions are best.

If you want to improve your Greek, I do recommend the EGGNT series. Buy the 1 Peter volume today and read it alongside 1 Peter in the Greek a couple verses a day for consistent practice that will pay long-lasting dividends.

Find it here on Amazon.

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