5- 8-case systems

In regard to the discussion of the cases, may I cite some of the material 
I use in teaching second year syntax?

"Some of the adherents to the [8-case] system are rather fanatical about
the value of it, but it is only a matter of words. After all, what is the
difference between calling a form a 'genitive of separation' or an
'ablative'? I The principal difficulty with such a system of introducing
an 'ablative,' a 'locative,' and an 'instrumental' when there is actually
no distinction whatever of form, is confusion added to something already
sufficiently complicated.  (Eugene A. Nida, Linguistic Interludes
(Glendale, CA: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1947), 78-79.)

"If it is a matter of logic, then why stop with eight cases? There are a
sufficient number of functional differences for at least twenty-five
divisions.  [Wallace suggests over 100!] In other words, the eight case
system fits neither the formal not the functional pattern of Greek. It one
retains the formal pattern, one is at least consistent on one score."
(Nida, Linguistic Interludes, 79)

"Several grammarians still assert that the Greek of the NT maintains an
eight-case system. Their argument rests on two criteria. First is the
supposition that Greek originally had ablative, locative and instrumental
case forms. Second is their supposed ability to differentiate legitimate
functions of these cases. Regardless of the proto-history of the Greek
language, by the time of the earliest extant remains of Greek these cases
as formally distinct are at best only barely traceable. By the time of
Hellenistic Greek the formal categories are restricted to four or five
distinct inflected cases.  Semantic or functional criteria provide a
dubious argument for eight cases, since by this standard one might well
cite a far larger number of cases than eight.I Formal synchronic criteria
(i.e. treatment of the Greek language as used during the Hellenistic
period, especially as it is found in the Greek of the NT) dictate that
analysis begin with at most five cases." (Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the
Greek New Testament (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992),

Wallace points out that "in Greek it has never been demonstrated that
there were more than five case forms. This may have been true in
proto-Greek, but there are no literary remains to show this." (Wallace,
Exegetical Syntax (1994 draft ed.), 26.) The usual appeal to Sanskrit,
which had eight different forms for the cases, is thus invalid for Greek
which has only five forms. (It can also be argued that on this basis Greek
ought to have nine cases, not eight, since the eight cases in Sanskrit did
not include the vocative. (Wallace proposes this argument; Ibid.)

Also see Moises Silva, God, Language and Scripture, 102-11 for a very 
well written summary of the significance of cases.

Rod Decker
Calvary Theological Seminary
Kansas City, Missouri