This week, I finished first year Greek. This is a very exciting personal accomplishment for me because now, with a lexicon (for unknown vocabulary) and some patience, I can translate (with technical skill) any passage in the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint or the Early Church fathers. I’m still missing some knowledge of grammar that would aid me in classical Greek, but I have the basics of Koine. The rest is just understanding syntax, learning exegesis and polish. And, of course, building fluency. It’s still a long road, and I need what I’ve learned to sink into my brain a little more, so I won’t be taking any more Greek until May.
I do have a whole week off of school before hermeneutics starts. A wise person would use it to get ahead on the hermeneutics reading (because there’s a bunch of it), but I’ve never been a wise person, so I’ve been reading for pleasure instead. Here’s what I finished this week.
Basics of Biblical Greek by William D. Mounce. This has been my textbook for two semesters of Greek at seminary. Using it, I have really learned the basics of grammar, and can pick up any passage and technically translate it. (I’m still missing some nuance, but will pick that up in second year Greek.) Mounce’s textbook is user friendly, and he provides amazing support through his website. Don’t just buy the grammar though, if you’re buying the textbook. Buy the DVDs and workbook to really dig in and learn this language. There’s a new fourth edition that just came out last month, and I’m sure it’s probably the way that you want to go, but the third edition is great. (book 42 of 2019)
Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others Collapse by Timothy P. Carney. Carney was inspired to write this book because of the wellspring of agreement that Donald Trump tapped into when he claimed that the American dream was dead. He wanted to see where the American dream was alive and well, where it was dead, and who these early (primary) supports of Trump were. In this journey, he sets forth a plausible theory for why so many of the blue collar and white middle and lower middle class communities have died.
I was drawn to this book because it taps into a conversation that was really publicly displaced in the memoir Hillbilly Elegy (a great book if you haven’t read it). I read that book when it first came out, and found that it explained a lot about the people that were on the fringes of my life, my family and my husband’s family. However, I didn’t know why some branches of family succeed and some fail, and I felt like this book provides some pieces of the puzzle. I also felt, upon reading about the close-knit community of faith that Mormons have, that I understood the memoir Educated, and Tara and her brothers’ upward mobility, a little better as well. I found myself surprised at times by the statistics, and I was certain by the end that the American dream was alive and well. This was a read that really made me think (book 43 of 2019).
The Municipalists—Seth Fried. A paper pushing bureaucrat. An artificially intelligent computer projection with personality. A Metropolis in serious need of saving from an anarchist plot. Combine this all together in an investigative plot and a secret mission, and fun and hilarity ensues.
Or at least it should. Unfortunately, I really struggled to care about the first person narrator in this book. I was thinking about not finishing this book when OWEN, and his hilarious personality burst onto the book and saved it. Through OWEN, I grew fond of the narrator and enjoyed the story, but I would have liked to be able to have had more of his interactions with OWEN. I also would have liked to have seen a little more backstory and world building. I think if I had been more interested in the world that the characters inhabited, I would have enjoyed this book more. (book 44 of 2019)
Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright. This is scholar, and apostle Paul specialist N.T. Wright’s attempt to write a popular level biography of the beloved apostle. It is well done, interesting reading, telling the life of Paul in a way that, for scholarship, is quite conservative. Wright is part of the “new perspective” on Paul, so if you don’t appreciate that line of thought, you will not appreciate this book.
I enjoyed this book, but I sometimes put it aside for days at a time because Wright has a rambling style in his popular writing that I can only enjoy when I am relaxed enough to give it my full attention. My Greek class was kind of giving me fits at some points in reading this book, so my enjoyment level was a little bit lowered from what you might expect. Still, it was enjoyable and I learn some things along the way.
I find it slightly ironic that, the more I age, the more I find myself emerging and becoming the person that I always was. I have a deep love for Wright’s work, but found myself putting aside his books for several years because I was attending a church that frowned on his theological leanings. Perhaps I allowed my true self to be smothered in some ways as I attempted to try on a persona that wasn’t really me. Either way, I’m who I was and yet not, and find that I have come full circle back to Wright and several other writers that I had put aside. There are too many things about this book (and about being comfortable in your skin with who you are) to love. (book 45 of 2019)
The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando. This book is the advice of Fernando, who was a national director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka for thirty five years, to how to focus your personal life as a Christian ministry leader. He has chapters devoted to personal flaws, such as our excessive self-love and lack of desire to deny ourselves, as well as chapters on marriage and children.
Fernando is best when he is discussing his actual family life and giving examples. At other times, he sounds preachy, and like he is resorting to Biblical platitudes. The advice is good, and I gleaned much from his wisdom, but this advice really wasn’t as personal as to leadership and family life as I would have liked. This is probably more in the vein of Brothers, We are Not Professionals and less in the vein of Sacred Privilege, if you have read either of those books. I liked this book, but didn’t love it. (book 46 of 2019)
So, how about you? What have you been reading lately? Any suggestions for me based on my current reads?