Response to BibAnsMan

From: Calvin D. Redmond (
Date: Mon Oct 09 1995 - 20:18:13 EDT

        Jim McGuire's message of October 8, "Beginning Grammars," written as a
response to Larry Chouinard, seemed to confuse a number of issues. Perhaps it
will be possible to make the issues more explicit and then if we must,
acknowledge our points of disagreement.

        Concerning the use of extra-biblical material, Prof. McGuire seems to
assume that A. T. Robertson did not utilize extra-biblical material in
understanding the syntax of Koine Greek. I will soon be receiving my Ph.D. in
New Testament from Southern Baptist Seminary, where Robertson taught until his
death. (He actually died while he was teaching, I've been told, and that was
well before I could have caused his distress!) We honor the memory and
accomplishments of Dr. Robertson, and in one of my language seminars, we even
went so far as to visit the grave of Dr. Robertson on his birthday (which
happens to be the same day as my own) as an indication of our respect for him
and his work.

        Robertson reflected the linguistic achievements of the German theologian
Deissman, who aroung the turn of the century began to explore the many Greek
papyrii which had very recently been discovered. Deissman's work demonstrated
to most scholars, whether liberal or conservative, that the Greek of the New
Testament was not a "special Holy Ghost" language used only for the writing of
our sacred scriptures. Instead, Deissman demonstrated (and Robertson agreed)
that the Greek of the New Testament was simply the common (hence Greek word
koine) language of the time among the masses. Robertson's large Grammar of the
New Testament in Light of Historical Research was the primary American
reflection of Deissman's viewpoint. His wonderful and practical illustrations
in Word Pictures stemmed from his knowledge of the secular, non-biblical Greek.
There are essentially two reasons why Robertson's large grammar is no longer
used as widely as earlier: first, because it uses the 8-case system (as does
Dana & Mantey's Manual Grammar), while most Greek grammarians today hold to the
five-case system; and secondly, Robertson's grammar is not well organized, and
it is sometimes difficult to locate material quickly on the issue of concern.
Further, there have been additional papyrii discoveries since the time of
Robertson that might require some modification of some of Robertson's views.

        It seems to me unhelpful to place "context" and "extra-biblical
material" as opposing concepts, and then to place a theological twist on a
grammatical discussion. Both context within the paragraph, the chapter, all the
writings of the NT by that author, and throughout the entire NT, as well as the
use outside of the NT in that time period may be helpful. This, for example, is
why the Moulton and Milligan work from the first two decades of this century,
The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, Illustrated from the Papyrii and other
Non-Literary Sources, was such a fundamental work for scholars both liberal and
conservative . One of the reasons that scholars are re-examining the meaning of
Greek words, both in and outside of the New Testament, is that the twentieth
century has seen the discovery of many more ancient Greek manuscripts. As these
new discoveries are carefully evaluated, it may be found that the "field of
meaning" of a word is larger than thought earlier, and that may require at least
the consideration of whether the older manner of translating a particular phrase
or term might need to be further refined.

        This is different from allowing anything outside of Scripture to dictate
theology. It is instead simply understanding better what Scripture says, so
that we may form our theology in a more biblically correct manner. Prof.
McGuire is correct to criticize those who seek to "level" Christianity to the
equivalent of any other Mediterranean religion of the first century, but this is
a step far removed from seeking to understand the "field of meaning" of a word.
Prof. McGuire is also correct to criticize the Jesus Seminar, which eviscerates
the reliability of the Gospels based on liberal scholars voting with colored
balls. Again, however, this is far removed from the grammatical discussion which
formed the early part of his comments.

        Perhaps this will be helpful. I am new to both B-Greek and the Internet,
so please be gracious to me if I've not behaved "normally." I soon should learn
what "normal" is here.

        In Christ's love and grace,
        Cal Redmond
        Ph. D. Candidate in New Testament
        The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
        Louisville, KY 40280

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