Bad Greek -Reply

Date: Sun Nov 03 1996 - 18:38:28 EST

As usual, my apologies in advance if I am being redundant. While I don't agree
with Randy that this construction or that in the NT is bad Greek, I commend
him heartily for attempting to define the concept "bad Greek," which is too
often used very subjectively as a term. I would also suggest that along the
lines of Randy's proposal we might add to the hypothesis that bad Greek is
that which does not occur in good writers of Greek in a given time period.
In reality, I think even this more narrow definition will prove useless in
defining what "bad" Greek is, so I would propose another, somewhat similar
Good Greek is probably that which is found in a good writer etc. Even such a
definition as this will prove to have exceptions, because we can find some
strange things even in the better writers. But the problems with defining
truly bad Greek are several and perhaps multiple. I worry that everyone will
become sick of seeing me bring up the TLG again and again, but one has to at
least do a global search of that data base before pontificating that a parti-
cular construction does or would not occur in a good author. For example, some
time ago Dan Wallace and I were discussing "bad" NT Greek in Mark et al., and
in at least one instance a phrase that Dan considered bad Greek proved to oc-
cur almost immediately in a standard Greek Attic author. I believe it was a
dative of time or some such thing, but don't remember now (Dan, if you're
reading this and you recall the problem, I would invite you to jump in). Even
a TLG search is not truly exhaustive (a number of works in the full database
are not at present included on the CD, and God only knows how many relevant
works are no longer extant), so further searches (PHI papyri etc.) are called
for to establish with a relatively high probability that a particular cons-
truction does not occur elsewhere. Another basic problem with defining bad
Greek is the issue of genre: what is the proper standard for koine vs. Attic?
I have found the NT mostly to be faithful to Attic grammar, and I have yet
to find any Greek scholar who would argue that the NT must be held to Attic
standards; yet this is what is done in practice, at least to the extent that
a given critic really knows Attic standards (Carl, Carlton, Edgar, Edward,
myself and others on this list who have had the privilege of formal study in
classical Greek are all aware of the pitfalls of studying the NT in isolation).
Another major problem in evaluating NT Greek is dealing with translation
Greek (i.e. apparent solecisms that may reflect the writer's desire to keep
the structure of a statement made in another language). All these factors
and others I have not mentioned here make it very difficult to be certain
about bad Greek. One final thought from my conversations with Dan just came
to mind: bad Greek could be defined as that solecism which is due to the in-
competence of the writer; but an apparent solecism by an otherwise good
writer is possibly intentional. That is, one who knows the rules is perhaps
entitled to break the rules.

Don Wilkins (who must be a very good writer of English because he [I] so
often breaks [break] the rules)
UC Riverside

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