Patterson pens forward to revision of classic Greek grammar

David G. Shackelford never imagined that his foray into learning a foreign language—Koine Greek—would lead him more than three decades later to update and republish the grammar from which he was taught.

Thirty years ago, Shackelford was a member of the First Baptist Church of Fayetteville, Ark. The Greek classes he took were taught by the church’s pastor, a young preacher named Paige Patterson, who encouraged Shackelford’s passion for learning the language.

“That was my first exposure to learning a foreign language of any kind,” Shackelford said.

Today, Shackelford serves as professor of New Testament and Greek at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Germantown, Tenn. He recently published a revised and expanded version of William Hersey Davis’ “Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament,” originally published in 1923 by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Respected Southern Baptist scholar A.T. Robertson, Davis’ mentor and Greek instructor, wrote the forward to Davis’ original publication. Shackelford invited his own Greek instructor and mentor to write the forward to the revised grammar. Patterson, now president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, accepted Shackelford’s invitation.

“To those who are considering a textbook that combines the insights of the past with the most up-to-date look at the present status of Greek study for a beginning Greek grammar, you cannot find a better text than this Shackelford revision of William Hersey Davis’ text,” Patterson wrote in the forward.

Shackelford credits Patterson not only with starting him on the journey of learning and developing a passion for the Greek language, but also for instilling in him an evangelistic zeal.

“While he was my pastor, I asked him to help me learn how to witness to others about Jesus Christ,” Shackelford said of Patterson. “We met one evening on Dickson Street by the church—the ‘main drag’ for university students at the time. We knelt on the sidewalk and then walked down Dickson. Paige witnessed to several people as we encountered them, giving them a tract and asking them about their relationship to Christ. He helped me do the same thing.”

“So much did I believe in the importance of grasping Greek for the reading of the New Testament that I taught Greek in most of my pastorates, not only to ministers but also to interested lay people,” Patterson wrote in the forward. “One of the blessings of that was to watch as one young man committed his life to missions and taught for years in a seminary in Mexico City, while still another became the reviser of this edition of William Hersey Davis’ ‘Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament.’ What an incredible joy is mine to see these kinds of developments.”

The new edition’s distributor, Wipf & Stock Publishers, explained that there is a direct “genealogy” of scholarship from Robertson and Davis to Shackelford. The publisher’s Web site described the lineage:

A. T. Robertson (‘A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research,’ 2d ed. 1915) taught in the New Testament department at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville from 1890 to 1934. William Hersey Davis was one of his students. In fact, Robertson remarked that Davis was “the most brilliant student of Greek that I ever had.” Davis taught for thirty years (1920-50) at Southern Seminary and co-authored with Robertson an intermediate grammar, ‘A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament’ (1931). In Davis’s classes was Roy O. Beaman. Beaman taught at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary for twenty-two years. He taught at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary from 1972 to 1992. In Beaman's classes was David G. Shackelford, the editor and reviser of this grammar.

David Allen, dean of the theology school at Southwestern Seminary, noted that the influence of Davis’s book reaches far and wide—and with good reason. Davis’s grammar, Allen said, is organized in a user-friendly manner and it is thorough in its content.

“It was a worthy book on the subject when it first came out,” he said. “Now, this revised and expanded edition simply enhances its value.”

Shackelford includes such revisions as more readable fonts and type sizes, and an updated bibliography. Another addition in the book is especially helpful for pastors as they prepare their sermons, Allen said.

“Shackelford will inject . . . exegetical insights that can be used by the preacher that bring out the special nuance of the Greek New Testament,” Allen said. “I think that’s a real value of this work as well.”

Allen has added Shackelford’s revision of Davis’s grammar in his own library, but he also plans to refer to the book as he teaches preaching courses at Southwestern. This revised edition of the book, he said, is not too simplistic, yet it is student-friendly at the same time.

“I believe strongly that students who are in seminary now and pastors out there in the pulpit are missing something if they don’t use the Greek New Testament as a foundation for their preaching . . . both from the standpoint of what the text means, but also from the standpoint of word studies as illustrations of what the text means,” Allen said.

Shackelford’s 378-page revised edition of William Hersey Davis’ “Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament” is available through Wipf & Stock Publisher, www.wipfandstock.com, for about $30.

Established 1908 Fort Worth, Texas