Apostolic Fathers' style(s)

From: Edward Hobbs (EHOBBS@wellesley.edu)
Date: Fri Jan 19 1996 - 23:05:39 EST

I've mainly responded to Ken's concerns privately to him; but there is
probably wider interest in this point. In response to Edgar Krentz's
extremely fine post on Greek style, the levels of NT writings, etc., Ken
said that he would have expected that the Apostolic Fathers might have
imitated the style of New Testament writings, just as they had imitated the
LXX style.
        This of course re-states a mistake which Krentz had carefully
dismantled (that there is some sort of identity of Greek between the various
writings of the NT, instead of a VERY great variety indeed); but it also
makes an odd assumption about the dates of these documents. Parts of the
artificial collection called "The Apostolic Fathers" were written earlier
than some parts of the (eventual) collection called "The New Testament."
Certainly the Didache was written earlier than 2 Peter, and probably
earlier than the Pastorals. Certainly the letters of Ignatius are earlier
than 2 Peter, and in the opinion of many, than the Pastorals. Above all,
the documents in the AF collection were written before any such thing as
"The New Testament" existed, even though many or most of its parts were in
some circulation.
        As for the difficulty Ken has had reading Didache and Martyrdom of
Polycarp: As I wrote to him some time ago, I used to have students sight-
read Didache at the first session of any course on the ApFathers, and then
move next session to MPol--these are extremely easy documents. Ken's
difficulties are understandable, for the reason that he has read very
little Greek. My COLLEGE students at Wellesley (yes, in my antiquity I
have moved from teaching MD, PhD, and MDiv students, to teaching BA
students) have already read Sophocles, Plato, usually Homer and Herodotus,
before they ever see me, and believe me, they consider the NT a piece of
cake! They in fact produce a Greek play IN GREEK every spring, and a Latin
play in Latin every fall. (I even got to act in Aristophanes once--I was
the corpse, who nevertheless has lines!)
        Whatever students have not yet read in Greek may seem hard to them.
But unfamiliar does not mean hard or difficult.
        Edgar Krentz made another point which is worth making many times
over: Those who know only the Greek of the New Testament will never know
even that very well. This literature had a context, WHICH NEEDS KNOWING.

        Sorry for the length; but I couldn't resist, after this discussion
went on for so long.

Edward Hobbs

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