Re: Greek Lang. vs Theology

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Oct 14 1995 - 16:10:22 EDT

At 11:40 AM 10/14/95, Bill Renner wrote:
>This was a very good list and very useful in understanding the Greek of
>the NT. We seem to have gotten more on the theology question than the
>language question. To me there is two way to look at the Bible. 1. The
>Bible is the word of God and is: the truth. 2. The Bible contains the
>word of God and is: true. How we accept one or the other is a matter of
>faith and you can not argue faith. I accept the number 2. concept and
>respect all that accept the number 1: concept. Do not try to continuly
>try to change my understanding of the Bible and its origins. I do not
>want to step on any ones toes, but *PLEASE* let us see if we can get
>back to the original purpose of the list, that is the translation of the
>Greek in the NT.

Actually I think there are still more ways to look at the Bible than that.
There are those who would NOT hold that the Bible is the word of God and
those who hold that it is NOT truth, and there are several varieties of
stances in between these and those named by Bill above. I don't think that
anyone at any point on the spectrum should feel excluded from the
discussion by virtue of his/her stance toward the Bible.

What we come to this list for is, fundamentally, to discuss the Greek text
of the New Testament (and, occasionally, of the LXX and of ancillary
Hellenistic Greek texts). It's pretty hard for most of us (and by no means
do I exclude myself from this category) to discuss any really significant
NT text without bringing to bear a theological perspective of some sort
(even if altogether negative) that is a factor in how we approach it and
the possible meanings we are willing to see expressed or implied in it .

If that is less than fully obvious, let me just note the obvious fact that
some will not entertain the possibility of a conflict of historical fact
between two NT texts and others will; i.e., one's stance on "verbal
inspiration" or "inerrancy" is likely to have a bearing on how one looks at
a text. Moreover, there are sectarian differences that cannot help but be a
factor when we are looking at texts like 1 Cor 12-14, which some view as
validating a whole category of religious expressions in worship, while
others view it as warning against one or more of these types of expression,
such as, for instance, glossolalia.

We're not going to agree on these issues, and we surely aren't going to
come to an agreement over issues of the so-called "higher criticism." And
we may very well think that the views held by some others on the list are
"hogwash," but we have no business to use that sort of language (as I did
word yesterday in a note that I meant to be off-list and that I deeply rue
having sent inadvertently to the list) in communications on the list. I'm
quite sure that there are those who think my own views are "hogwash" or
worse (I won't speculate as to what!) but I hope that others will be more
careful than I was yesterday and that I myself can be more careful

All in all, I think we can share a lot of valuable information with each
other about the tools of NT Greek scholarship and learning--grammars,
lexica, critical editions, textbooks, bibliography, etc.--but I suspect
we'd do best to avoid theological issues that hinge on a great number of
passages rather than on the right understanding of a single verse or
passage of the Greek text. I would hope that even in such discussion,
however, argumentation can be based upon the textual evidence itself rather
than on the theological perspective with which one approaches that text.

We've had some interesting discussions on source criticism, and I have
appreciated in particular learning, in response to Ken Litwak's question,
what are the really useful books and articles asserting and defending the
different views on the matter. But the discussions of source criticism seem
to become repetitive very quickly, whether it is a matter of being clear on
what is the difference between a hypothesis and a demonstrable fact, or
ganging up as a group against "excesses of the Jesus Seminar" (it does seem
to me that some of the current discussion on the Q hypothesis has dealt
more with the way it has been used and/or abused in the "quest of the
historical Jesus" than with what interests me far more: how it helps or
hinders our understanding of textual relationships between the synoptic

Having said my say, in a cooler and more reasonable fashion, I hope, than I
did yesterday, I'm all for getting the focus of discussion back to the
Greek text of the NT.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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