Anyone who makes a serious and substantial contribution to the understanding of the New Testament, renders a public service, for if religion is the foundation of morality, by the knowledge of God is the welfare of the people. As a book the New Testament stands alone and supreme, simple in its profoundness, and profound in its simplicity. It is the record, in twenty-seven Writings, of the origin, nature and progress of Christianity, and in the quality of its influence it has done more for the world than all other books together.

We are more than fortunate to have this Book in a Version made immortal by William Tyndale, and we are grateful to have it also in the Revised Versions of 1611, and 1881-1885. But the fact remains that they who are entirely dependent upon a Version must miss very much of the glory and richness of these Writings. Provided there is spiritual appreciation, he who can read the New Testament in the language in which it was written stands to get the most out of it. But, of course, all cannot do this; although the accomplishment is by no means the preserve of the linguistic scholar. Yet the average reader is not wholly cut off from the treasures which lie in the Greek of the New Testament, for these have been put within our reach by means of Grammars and Lexicons, the special purpose of which has been to aid the English reader. So far as my acquaintance with these works goes, I do not hesitate to say that this Expository Dictionary more completely fulfils this design than any other such effort, in that it is at once a Concordance, a Dictionary, and a Commentary, produced in the light of the best available scholarship.

Without encumbering his work with philological technicalities and extra-biblical references, Mr. Vine puts at the disposal of the English reader the labours of a lifetime bestowed devoutly upon the New Testament.

To several of the features of this Dictionary I would like to call attention.

First, it shows how rich is the language of the New Testament in words which present shades of the meaning of some common idea.

A good illustration of this is found on pages 203-207, under COME, and its related thoughts (e.g., APPEAR, pp. 64-67). Here, including the compounds, upwards of fifty words are employed to express one general thought, and the employment of any one of these, in any given passage, has precise historical or spiritual significance. If this root idea is followed out, for example, in its bearing on Christ's Second Advent, it is profoundly important to apprehend the significance respectively of erchontai, heko, phaino, epiphaino, parousia, apokalupsis, and epiphaneia.

Second, this Dictionary indicates the doctrinal bearing which the use of chosen words has. A case in point will be found on page 60, under ANOTHER. The use of allos and heteros in the New Testament should be carelully examined, for "another numerically" must not be confounded with "another generically." Mr. Vine points this out in John 14:16. When Christ said, "I will make request of the Father, and He shall give you another Helper (allon Parakleton)," He made a tremendous claim both for Himself and for the Spirit, for allos here implies the personality of the Spirit, and the equality of both Jesus and the Spirit with the Father. See also Mr. Vine's reference to the use of these words in Galatians 1:6,7. For an illustration of how one word can have a variety of meanings see pages 270-271, under DAY. Unless such expressions as "man's day", "day of the Lord", and "day of Christ", are distinguished, one cannot understand the dispensational teaching of the New Testament. In this connection, the R.V. must be followed in 2 Thess 2:2.

Third, this Dictionary shows how very many New Testament words are compounds, and how important are prepositional prefixes.

I think it was Bishop Westcott who said that New Testament doctrine is largely based on its prepositions; in any case the importance of them can scarcely be exaggerated. These added to a word either emphasise or extend its meaning, and many such words have become Anglicized. For illustration take the three words anabolism, katabolism, and metabolism. These words are used in relation to biology and physiology. The root word in each is ballo, to cast, or throw, and each has a prepositional prefix; in the first, ana, up; in the second, kata, down; and in the third, meta, with. Metabolism tells of the chemical changes in living cells, by which the energy is provided for the vital processes and activities, and new material is assimilated to repair the waste; by a proper metabolism or "throwing-together" of the substances of the body, health is promoted. This building up of the nutritive substances into the more complex living protoplasm is anabolism, or "throwing-up;" and the want of this results in katabolism, or "throwing-down" of protoplasm. Now, two of the three words occur in the New Testament. For metaballo see p. 180; and for kataballo, p. 172, in both cases all the references are given (see Preface, p. 8, par. 4).

For the possible range of prefixes to one word, see pages 203, 204; COME, with eis, and ek, and epi, and dia, and kata, and para, and pros, and sun; and two of the eleven compounds are double, No. 4 with epi and ana; and No. 8 with para and eis. These illustrations are sufficient to show the scope and simplicity of this work and consequently its immense usefulness to the English reader.

Fourth, this Dictionary is compiled in the light of the new knowledge which has come to us by the discovery of the papyri. During the last fifty years this light has been brought to bear upon the New Testament with precious and priceless results. In olden days in Egypt it was a custom not to burn waste paper, but to dump it outside the town, and the sands of the desert swept over it, and buried it, and for centuries a vast mass of such rubbish has lain there. However, in 1896-1897 Dr. Grenfell and Dr. Hunt began digging at Oxyrhynchus and discovered a number of papyri, among which was a crumpled leaf, written on both sides in uncial characters, which proved to be a collection of Sayings attributed to Jesus, Logia which Dr. J. Hope Moulton believed to be genuine. These and very many other papyri were classified and edited and one day when Dr. Deissmann was casually looking at a volume of these in the University Library at Heidelberg, he was impressed by the likeness of the language to that with which he was familiar in his study of the Greek New Testament. By further study the great discovery was made that New Testament Greek is not the Attic of the Classics, nor is it "a language of the Holy Ghost" as one scholar called it, but it is the ordinary vernacular Greek of that period, the language of everyday life, as it was spoken and written by the ordinary men and women of the day, tradesmen, soldiers, schoolboys, lovers, clerks, and so on, that is, the koine, or "Common" Greek of the great Graeceo-Roman world.

In illustration of this, look at Col 2:14, which has several words which are found in the papyri; and take one of these, Cheirographon, handwriting. This means a memorandum of debt, 'a writing by hand' used in public and private contracts, and it is a technical word in the Greek papyri. A large number of ancient notes of hand have been published and of these Dr. Deissmann says, "a stereotyped formula in these documents is the promise to pay back the berrowed money, 'I will repay'; and they all are in the debtor's own hand, or, if he could not write, in the handwriting of another acting for him, with the express remark, 'I have written for him'". In such a note-of-hand, belonging to the first century, and with reference to a hundred silver drachmae, one named Papus wrote on behalf of two people who could not write, "which we will also repay, with any other that we may owe, I Papus wrote for him who is not able to write."

Now, this expression occurs in the New Testament twice, in the parable of "The Lord and his Servants", "have patience with me, and I will pay thee all", and in Paul's note to Philemon concerning Onesimus, "if he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account, I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it."

In the famous Florentine papyrus of A.D. 85, the governor of Egypt gives this order in the course of a trial,--"Let the hand-writing be crossed out," which corresponds to the "blotting out the hand-writing" of Col 2:14. Many such illustrations might be given, from which we see that the papyri have a distinct expository value.

In Lexicons previous to this discovery are to be found lists of what are called hapax legomena, words which occur once only, and many of which, it was supposed, were created by the Holy Spirit for the conveyance of Christian truth, but now all or nearly all such words have been found in the papyri. The Holy Spirit did not create a special language for Christianity, but used the colloquial tonque of the time; He employed the cosmopolitan Greek. This fact has radically affected our approach to the New Testament, and although, in view of the magnitude of this Dictionary, it has been impossible to do more than make a reference here and there to this learning (e.g., pp. 7, 8, 59), yet the whole is produced in the light of it, and so represents present day scholarship.

I might have made reference also to etymological, cross-reference and other values in this work, but perhaps enough has been said to indicate its scope and usefulness. Mr. Vine has done a great service to the non-academic reader of the New Testament, and those also who are most familiar with the original tongue may learn much from these pages.

W. Graham Scroggie, D.D. (Edin.)

 Last modified: Sun May 19 18:31:31 1996