Re: 1st year Greek grammars & workbooks

From: Ronald Ross (
Date: Sun Feb 16 1997 - 03:01:24 EST

Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church wrote:
> Within the next fews weeks I plan to teach beginner Greek to a group of
> men in our church. I've done this before using Machen's grammar and no
> workbood, and Goetchius' grammar and workbook.
> I am open to seriously considering alternatives. I would appreciate any
> feedback. I have looked at Mounce's grammar and workbook and Summer's.
> Anybody have input on either of these, or on something else? Thanks.

Of these two, Mounce's is the only one I'm familiar with. My reaction
to it is mixed. On the one hand, I find it very user friendly,
attractively laid out, etc. When I got my copy, I sat down and read the
first 10 chapters effortlessly. But I found myself at odds with many
things the book says. Because it is now 1:45 A.M., I will mention only
one as an example, although I have made notes on numerous others. On
page 111, talking about relative clauses, he says:

"The term 'relative clause' refers to the relative pronoun and the words
that follow it. If you place a comma before the relative pronoun and
after the last word of the clause, the enclosed phrase should make
sense. In fact, this kind of partitioning is a good practice when
learning to translate."

There are more than one problem here. First, "relative clause" is
defined too narrowly. There are plenty of relative clauses that do not,
in fact, begin with a relative pronoun. Another problem is the notion
that if you isolate a relative clause it should make sense all by
itself. Relative clauses are by definition dependent clauses, and so do
not make sense by themselves in most languages: The man [who married my
sister] is crazy. The relative clause is enclosed in brackets, and
certainly does not make sense by itself. Mounce gives the example:
"The man [who is sitting at the table] is my pastor" (I have used []
where Mounce uses italics). Certainly Mounce would not claim that "who
is sitting at the table" makes sense by itself. Thirdly, the notion
that the student should adopt the practice of enclosing relative clauses
in commas is a very bad practice indeed. Many languages have
restrictive and non restrictive relative clauses. I do not know if
Greek has non restrictive relative clauses, but restrictive ones abound
in Greek. It is precisely the NON restrictive relative clauses that go
between commas, and NOT the more common and universal restrictive ones.
By recommmending that the student enclose all relative clauses in
commas, Mounce abolishes the written distinction between the two kinds
and radically changes the meaning and the function of the restrictive
relative clauses. If, as I suspect, Greek does not have NON restrictive
relative clauses, the practice recommended by the book would convince
the student that that they are the ONLY kind Greek had.

While I think Mounce's text would be an enjoyable one to use, problems
such as this one do detract from it.

Ron Ross

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