Re: Meaning of case

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Fri May 16 1997 - 14:15:18 EDT

                In the midst of final exams and final papers and the like,
I hardly have time to read my email, much less respond to it. But when I
read Micheal Palmer's response about the Greek of the Apocalypse, I felt
compelled to make a brief statement.
        Micheal is exactly correct. The Apocalypse to John is VERY easy to
read. That doesn't mean it uses Greek well or grammatically, it only means
that it has a very narrow range of vocabulary and grammatical forms, and
the errors pose few problems in seeing what was intended. The analogy to
papers by ESL students is quite apt; and if that isn't the explanation for
its Greek, at least it explains why it LOOKS that way.
        May I add that my training was entirely classical; at the
University of Chicago (at least in my days, half a century ago +), no
course in NT Greek was offered, though I did have a graduate course in
Hellenistic Greek grammar (which did not include the NT). Being easy to
read and easy to translate in no way guarantees that the Greek is any good.
        I have been very sorry to see repeated statements on this List that
this or that non-NT Greek author uses bad grammar, or invents his own
grammar, when in fact the problem is with the would-be reader. Much Greek
is difficult for moderns to handle, unless they have much, much experience
with Greek (Thucydides for example is not the easiest Greek to read--but
that is NOT because his Greek is bad!). American high school students of
today often find that Shakespeare is difficult for them to understand; but
the explanation is not that Shakespeare wrote bad English. Perhaps in the
future, relative novices in reading non-NT texts could refrain from
pronouncing on the quality of the authors they are struggling with?--and
admit that they simply don't know enough Greek to grasp the Greek readily?

Thanks again to Micheal for putting it in a nutshell (which I haven't
managed to do).

Edward Hobbs


At 7:18 PM +0000 5/14/97, Clayton Bartholomew wrote:

>I remember a few years ago when I was translating the Apocalypse of John
>reading in the commentaries and grammars that the Apocalypse was a
>grammatical nightmare, full of impossible constructions and syntactical
>barbarisms. But when Richmond Lattimore, a Homeric scholar, translated
>it he didn't find it hard to read. Wonder why?

And Micheal Palmer replied:

When I translated it (both times) I didn't find it hard to read either. I
did find it to be 'full of impossible constructions and syntactical
barbarisms,' though. Specifically, I found it to read much like many of the
papers I have to read which are written by people who speak English as a
second language. They are often quite easy to understand, but they use
English in a way which no native speaker would.

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