AT Robertson & "Liberal" Grammars

From: Calvin D. Redmond (
Date: Wed Oct 18 1995 - 11:46:17 EDT

Jim McGuire wrote in reference to remarks of last week,,

<Furthermore, if you are a doctorate (sic) candidate you should well be <aware
of the tendency today to denigrate A.T. Robertson's works because <they are "too
conservative" in this regard. Many liberal theologians <will find some other
speculative works more exciting.

I have studied Greek at three different seminaries (Western Conservative
Baptist, which is very conservative; Princeton, which represents "mainstream"
scholarship; and at Southern, which is moderately conservative). I have NEVER
heard Robertson denigrated for any reason, let alone because it is "too
conservative." At all three institutions, Robertson's accomplishments were
recognized. The reasons his work is not as widely used as in the early and
mid-century relate to its organization, its 8-case system, new manuscript
discoveries, and changes in the paradigm of linguistics. At Princeton, his
categories of conditional sentences were still used and explicitly referenced by
"mainstream" scholars to teach students.

I am puzzled by the charge that "Many liberal theologians will find some other
speculative works more exciting." In my experience, the differences between
conservatives, moderates, and liberals stem not from grammar but from underlying
assumptions concerning the authority of the text. I do not perceive Greek
grammars as being "liberal" or "conservative," but instead as being either
accurate or inaccurate in their presentation of the language, and either
effective or ineffective in teaching Greek. I have also found that some
"liberals" are very sound in their knowledge of Greek! For example, as much as
I disagree with many of the conclusions of Bultmann, I have seen from reading
his commentaries on John and 2 Corinthians that his knowledge of the Greek
language was excellent. I also found the Greek language instruction more
rigorous at Princeton than the other two, more conservative seminaries I have

It might be surprising to some that in Robertson's later writings, he espoused a
view of authority that some have argued comes much closer to "authoritative in
matters of faith and practice" than to the contemporary definition of
"inerrancy." (See essays on this topic in Robeson B. James, ed., The Unfettered
Word (Waco, TX: Word, 1987). I have not studied this with sufficient attention
to form an opinion.
I have not encountered a "speculative" grammar. The speculation and (sometimes)
undue influence from extra-biblical sources usually comes after the process of
translation in the exegetical and hermeneutical process. It seems to me that if
one finds words like gnosis and plhroma common to both the New Testament and
Gnosticism, it is not wrong ask whether there is a relationship between the two.
(If there is a relationship, I believe that Gnosticism "borrowed from" the NT.)
Similarly, if one finds that Paul uses Stoic expressions, the study of Stoicism
might be helpful to understanding Paul.

Finally, I have become much more careful about using terms like "liberal,"
"moderate," "conservative," and "fundamentalist" than I was 15 years ago. These
are all relative terms; Western Conservative Baptist Seminary would look at
Southern and perhaps say it is "liberal" in comparison to its own views;
similarly, Princeton Seminary considered itself conservative in comparison to
Yale and Chicago.

Cal Redmond
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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