As I preached through New Testament books, I always worked directly with the Greek text (duh — or should-be-"duh"), and I always consulted Henry Alford.
Henry Alford (1810-1871) was a remarkable scholar. He was "one of the most variously-accomplished churchmen of his day -- poet, preacher, painter, musician, biblical scholar, critic, and philologist." Though not exactly where I am doctrinally, he was a lover of the Word, and a meticulous student and scholar of the original text. To consider the massive amount of information that Alford amassed, examined and provided, in the age before computers, photocopiers, or even electric typewriters... it's staggering, simply staggering.
But that was Alford. For instance: what were you doing when you were six? I was watching cartoons. Henry Alford was writing The Travels of St. Paul, and a collection of Latin odes. Further, when Alford
...was scarcely nine he had compiled, in the straggling characters of a schoolboy, a compendious History of the Jews; besides drawing out a chronological scheme in which were tabulated the events of the Old Testament. Prior to the completion of his tenth year he actually produced a series of terse sermons or laconically outlined homilies, the significant title of which was Looking unto Jesus.Unsurprisingly, Alford was made a fellow at Trinity College when he was twenty-four.
Nor was he merely an arid academic. When he was sixteen, Alford wrote in his Bible, "I do this day, as in the presence of God and my own soul, renew my covenant with God, and solemnly determine henceforth to become His, and to do His work as far as in me lies." He was known for his consistent and holy life, as well as his likable, friendly way of dealing with people.
When he was engaged to be married, he decided it would help his bride-to-be if she, too, knew Greek.
So he wrote a 60-page grammar for her.
Alford was quite the polymath. In addition to being a master of Greek, he penned a number of hymns. We read that Alford
would turn with zest, after hours of severe study given to the collation of a Hebrew manuscript or to the examination of the exegetical subtleties of a German commentator on the Greek Testament, to doctoring the hall clock and making it strike the half-hours, to tuning the piano in the drawing-room, or to playing games with his children in the nursery. The wooden front of the organ (which instrument he could play with the hand of a master) was carved according to his own ingenious design and by his own dexterous chiseling.The grand literary opus that concerns us is Alford's Greek Testament (1849-1861). As I said, it's a work of immense thought and study. I still find it highly useful. Much more impressively, when asked who he characteristically turns to for help in the Greek text, I was pleased to hear John Piper answer, "Henry Alford" (still trying to source that quotation).
[UPDATE: Phil Gons found the quotation, thanks to a suggestion by Pilgrim Mommy. It was after Piper's lecture on John Owen. Piper says:
Now that Phil found the quotation, I remember agreeing with Piper: Alford asks my kind of questions, too.]
When I’m stumped with a . . . grammatical or syntactical or logical flow [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford mostly answers—he . . . comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions. (John Piper, “John Owen: The Chief Design of My Life—Mortification and Universal Holiness,” 1:30:11–1:30:31).
I found Alford to be a sound, sane commentator. What I found particularly valuable — even if I didn't end up agreeing with him specifically — was Alford's way of weighing competing interpretations. Alford had the broad grasp of Greek to be able to say, "If Paul had meant to say that, he would have written ___, or ___." He really wrestled with the Greek text as given, and forced me to enter into the writer's mind and thought-processes in choosing how to express himself. Understand the author, and you understand the voice of God. I found Alford useful to that end.
All that being the case, since Alford had (surprisingly) never yet been issued in electronic form, I recommended to the Logos Bible software folks that they consider it. I was delighted when they immediately responded by looking into the project — and now it's under way!
At present Alford's Greek Testament is in pre-production, during which time interested parties pre-order. This assures Logos that the considerable cost of production will be covered by purchases.
I slammed in my order as soon as I got the notice.
Thought at least some of you might want to know. If you're interested, go for it!
(Hmm... wonder who ordered first: Piper, or me?)