Sunday Story

Once upon a time, my little ones, there was an energetic young scholar who saw a gap in the academic reference material, and sought to remedy that blank space. The gap marked the space between parsing guides, syntactical analyses, morphological lexicons, and so on (on one hand) and New Testament commentaries (on the other). The scattered reference guides might be useful on a word-by-word basis, but they didn’t tell how the bits hung together in forming a phrase. And in those days, most commentaries gave only superficial attention to straight-ahead lexicography (as opposed to glossing words), to text-critical work, to even-handed acknowledgement of the genuine ambiguity of verbal expressions.
So the young scholar in question organised a series of grammatical guides for the books of the New Testament. A university press agreed to run the series — a good business move, since there’s more stability to the text, the syntax, and the semantics of the New Testament than to the wind-blown and storm-tossed expositions that scholars build on the foundations of the Greek text, and there will always be students, ministers, and interested non-academic readers who don’t read Greek easily but who want better to understand the gospels and epistles. A good number of scholars set about preparing the first volumes in the series. Yay, happy scholar, happy authors!
But all was not rosy in the land of academic publishing. For reasons the young scholar — by this time, not really ‘young’ any more — never found out, the academic press in question faltered in its resoluation to publish the series. And they didn’t tell [young] scholar-editor-guy until the first manuscript was ready for publication. Ooops.
First author found another press for his commentary, rewrote it to suit the changed circumstances, and that worked out. Second author was alarmed that his manuscript was well along, and now he didn’t have a publisher, and the book wasn’t going to appear in a series. (Commentaries always do very much better in a series; some people like to buy an entire series at once, or as the volumes appear, or the reputation of the whole set enhances the standing of individual books.) Concerned author spoke to another academic press, where a newly-arrived editor thought the series was a swell idea. New editor took on publication of the second author’s book; he green-lighted a new series to go cover the text, syntax, and semantics of the New Testament, tapped a new series editor, and (because this editor knew about the initial idea) asked initial scholar-idea-guy if he wanted to prepare the volume for this new series that he would have done for the first series.
Meanwhile, first-scholar-idea-guy had pretty much given up on the whole idea. It was great to hear that the initiative hadn’t been lost, that the kind of series he had originally envisioned would be published (although there was a certain piquancy to the sweetness of that news). When the new publisher offered getting-older-scholar the crack at his favourite book of the NT, it felt great — but some lingering frustrations about how everything played out haunted his efforts. It felt weird to be working up the manuscript for another’s series.  
After a few years of just poking the manuscript to see whether it would have the good grace to die and leave everyone alone, the very patient publisher and series editor convinced older-scholar to see the book through to completion. It’s not much, a pretty short book about a pretty short epistle, but it survived eighteen years of liminality, serving first one editorial direction, then transforming itself into another; it turned itself inside out to change from improvised-Greek typefaces to Unicode. It learned new terminology. It stewed.
On Friday, older-scholar finally sent the manuscript to the series editor. There’s surely going to be a lot of revising, editing, probably some amplification at certain points — but it has left the nest, and older-scholar is free to start dreaming up projects over which the old project had been hovering darkly, like an asbestos blanket over sparks of energy and imagination. So much to think and do!

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