Re: Controlling Greek syntax (was Jonah 1:3 TOU FUGEIN)

Carlton Winbery (
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 11:39:22 +0400

Jonathan Robbie wrote;
>I'm looking for good summaries like this. The grammars I have list the
>function within each grammatical form, e.g., they might give me all the uses
>of the articular infinitive, with and without prepositions, but they don't
>list the 6 ways to express purpose. Does the Nunn book have this kind of

Its cold and sleeting in Louisiana today. That means that everything is
shut down and I am working at home. So I thought I'd share some of my
thoughts relative to Robbie's questions. A good summary of both grammar
(not as helpful) and syntax is a paperback by J. Harold Greenlee entitled I
think _An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek NT_. I lived with that during
college and it helped a great deal. It works on what we call the five case
system. The syntactical observations and categories make much more sense
than Dana & Manty.

>Another thing I'm missing is help in distinguishing forms. The grammars I
>have help you reconstruct the tables for, say, first and second aorists, but
>they don't give you recognition hints to help distinguish similar forms, e.g.:
> Recognizing aorist passive: look for QH with the augment. Future passive
>also has QH,
> but it has no augment, and is followed by S.

Jonathan is right to emphasize parsing. Students who go on to use Greek
master this, while those who do not master this drop by the wayside. The
best way to approach this task, IMHO, is to master the principal parts of
both regular and irregular verbs. There are probably only about 30 truly
irregular verbs that have to be memorized for NT Greek. The others that
seem to students to be irregular are governed by rules of phonetic change
that can be memorized with not too much effort. For this a good Morphology
is the best way, I think. You are aware of Mounce. Brooks and Winbery
have also produced one (1964). I think that I can guarantee that if you
mastered chaper VIII in Brooks and Winbery (verbs are classified by types
determined by the change or lack of change in the verb root between the
first pp and the others) and became familiar with appendix one (a
comprehensive listing of all verb forms in the NT), you would have few
problems in parsing verbs by sight.
>>A number of intermediate grammars are very helpful for this. My own
>>favorite is an old one: H.P.V Nunn, A SHORT SYNTAX OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.
>>(Cambridge University Press, oft reprinted). But almost any intermediate
>>grammar will do.

I find I agree with Edgar on a lot of things and also on Nunn. I have used
it through the years.
>I'm currently using Zerwick, Wallace, Hewitt, Robertson, and
>Blass-Debrunner-Funk. Do these books do the trick, or should I consider
>investing in Yet Another Greek Book?

For Robertson and Blass-Debrunner-Funk, you often have to make extensive
use of the appendixes (not as much in BDF) and gather the material from
various places. Basic grammars are usually organized according to some
logical English order and do not usually present overviews except in
appendixes such as verbs and nouns/adj/pronouns. The one that contains
some good appendixes is van Ness Goetchius (spelled off the top of my
head). As I recall I have used his to make overheads for use in class.
>>If yo follow this out consistently, you will soon have basic syntax at your
>>mind's edge and will save yourself many hours of puzzlement.

I would add to Edgar's point, not to be too concerned about exact
terminology, but basic functions which are found in the language. Sensing
the functions is more important than remembering Robertson's terminology,
etc. I've forgotten more terminology than most, but the basic functions
(purpose statements, etc) tend to stick with you. A good list of
prepositions with their basic functions is helpful. (There is such a list
in Brooks & Winbery, Syntax of the NT, [I get 5% royalty off this] pp.
>I *am* finding that improving my parsing skills is very helpful. Even if the
>programs tell you the parse codes, I just read a lot better when I don't
>have to look these things up. I'm really looking forward to the time that I
>can identify all the forms reliably. (Is there a special ceremony for those
>that reach that point?)
I threaten to fail on the spot any student found in the first year of
grammar with an analytical dictionary. I even dressed down the book store
manager for stocking them on campus. Now they at least have to travel
about seven miles to find them in a Christian bookstore across the Red

Boy, its sleeting hard now. We have about three inches on the ground. We
may not get out for a week. I think I'll move further south.

Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Fax (318) 442-4996
Phone (318) 487-7241