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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 66, 2018

B. H. McLEAN, Hellenistic and Biblical Greek: A Graduated Reader (New York: Cambridge University, 2015).
Pp. xxxiv + 509. US$39.99.

McLean’s volume, inspired by Allen Wikgren’s Hellenistic Greek Texts (1947), consists of sixty-seven carefully chosen textual excerpts ranging in length (c. 20–100 lines) and complexity (isometric and compositional examples), arranged in eight parts according to their reading difficulty. Each text is amply annotated with details of source text, date, provenance (if known), related texts, and grammatical details of vocabulary and syntax.

The real value of McLean’s work is the selection of texts, which provides valuable exposure to the variety and complexity of Hellenistic Greek. The examples selected move the reader far beyond the Biblical and early Jewish and Christian material typically found in an intermediate-advanced reader. The extensive non-canonical material avoids the acute difficulty of students’ common knowledge of translations and also subverts dependence on computer software. The array of papyrus letters (Part 4), magical texts (Part 5) and epigraphic inscriptions (Part 7) will inevitably whet the appetite for more. Drawing on his earlier research in epigraphy, M. offers several helpful avenues for considering dialectical differences within the corpus. Online materials listed on ix–xi are readily downloadable from the accompanying CUP website, and consists of an electronic document of 143 pages containing an additional thirty-six textual excerpts unevenly covering the eight parts of the volume.

It is disappointing however that, in a reader of this nature, the texts are not identical to the critical editions, not in the admirable sense of including the readings from original texts such as the Chester Beatty papyrus for the Pauline corpus (6), but that editorial changes have been made to texts in order to “facilitate rapid reading” (8). It is not clear from McLean’s discussion what these editorial changes entail. McLean is to be commended however, for his advocacy of “Hellenistic” pronunciation (8–11), which will indeed enrich and enhance the experience of reading Greek. This phonological shift is a welcomed relief to the abrasive non-historical traditional “Erasmian” pronunciation(s).

This volume would be ideal for intermediate level students who desire to contextualize and broaden their exposure to Hellenistic Greek. More advanced students would likely need to supplement their reading with the editiones principes of relevant texts.

Review by
Michael P. Theophilos
Australian Catholic University, Melbourne