Re: Future conditions (+ general harangue)

Jonathan Robie (
Thu, 24 Oct 1996 10:40:02 -0400

At 07:57 AM 10/24/96 -0500, Carl Conrad wrote:

>Having just perused Wallace's (_GG Beyond the Basics)_ account of
>conditionals, I see that he categorizes the conditions as "Class(es) 1, 2,
>3, and 4." As I've seen this categorization used by posters to B-Greek, I
>know that it must have some degree of currency with NT students.

I think that Wallace's terminology has become popular because
his book has a great layout, lots of examples, cross references to
discussions in other grammars, and very clear writing.

As you point out, 1, 2, 3, and 4 don't describe the use of these
conditionals particularly well, and until Greek to Me comes up with
pictures for the conditionals, I'll never remember them this way.

(I'll skip over your discussion of the future conditions, which is very
valuable, simply because I have little to add, except my thanks.)

>This leads directly into a bone I'd like to pick with grammarians of the
>ancient languages generally and of NT Greek in particular. The more NT
>Greek grammars I see (to a lesser extent, I've seen this with Latin
>grammars also), the more I observe what seems to me an EPIDEMIC of
>multiplication of grammatical categories with a consequence of complicating
>still further a grammar that is already complicated enough

Yes, this is very confusing and overwhelming for us little Greeks. I've been
working my way through Wallace on my own, and I find that I sometimes think I
understand the Greek examples better than I understand his categories.

One interesting question: what exactly *are* these categories. I have heard
different points of view:

1. With respect to tense, Wallace says that there may be a basic unaffected
meaning to each tense, but the many categories are needed to describe the
*affected* meaning, or the meaning in context.

2. Carl, in private correspondence, suggested that these categories may have
more to do with the way we translate into English than with distinctions
made in the original Greek. (Carl: if I'm misquoting you, I know that you
won't be shy to straighten me out!)

I find the distinction vital. If Carl is right, concentrating on the
different categories may keep me from really thinking in the original Greek.
Are there other explanations for the significance of these categories?

What criteria should we use to justify the existence of a category?


Carl has also pointed out that these categories tend to be self-reifying:
once you decide that the category exists for a given passage, that passage
becomes proof that the category exists.

Although Wallace cites Occam's Razor on page 510, he doesn't quote it. I
originally learned it as "Entities should not be multiplied without necessity".
(I'm an object database guy, and "Entity" has a very specific meaning in
theory; I often use this quote in relational vs. object database debates.)

Incidentally, there is an interesting and relevant discussion of Occam's
Razor at Lewis doubts that Occam
really came up with Occam's Razor, and discusses other "razors" that have
been used. One useful razor was proposed by Karl Popper (in Conjectures and
Refutations) "This razor is sharper than Occam's: all entities are ruled out
except those which are perceived."

Which means that I like those categories which express distinctions which I
perceive. But I don't perceive all the distinctions that Wallace perceives.
Maybe each person could come up with their own categories? But this would
not be great for communication...