Re: Observations on Ancient Greek Voice (LONG!)

From: Rod Decker (
Date: Thu May 29 1997 - 13:10:20 EDT

>Rod's formulation above stimulated me to write the following--though I
>recognize that his formulation is more carefully done than I imply in
>what follows.

Thanks for leaving me a little bit of "wiggle room" in your intro! :-)
I did delib. phrase my query as "in the hellenistic/koine Greek of the NT"
and not "NT Greek" to imply that I do recognize the NT language belongs to
a larger corpus.

>I am writing to protest one little linguistic habit that seems to show up
>often in dicussions on b-greek: the simplicist identification of the Greek
>of the NT as [THE] Koine.

Well said, and I would not disagree.

>I have problems with this for two reasons. (1) There is immense variety in
>the Greek of different writers in the NT.... (2) There are many other writers
>who write Koine Greek...

Also agreed. And I also realize the Edgar (and a few others on the list)
have read far more extensively in this broad, koine corpus than I have.

>In the light of that I wonder whether one ought not more circumspectly
>avoid such global generalizations as Rod makes in the last sentence of
>the first paragraph above...

I assume you refer to my statement that "The result is that middle forms
are very little different in meaning from active forms." My meek (and
'circumspect'?) defense is that I'm not intending to argue this conclusion.
As a matter of fact, I've had some curiosity in this re. for some time, but
have never pursued it to a resolution. Carl's post was helpful to me, and I
hoped to elicit some more specific comment on the position that I
summarized (which, yes, I have tentatively _assumed_ to a certain extent in
the past). (Guess that I succeeded in eliciting comments!)

>Rod and I might differ, for examaple, about whether the middle form
>HUPOTETAGMENA in Heb 2:8 is a true middle in form and sense. In 2 Pet
>2:22 I would interpret LOUSAMENH as a true middle, as I would the
>QERMAINOMENOS in Mark 14:54.

A list of "true middles" would be interesting, but I don't have time to try
to construct one just now. Has anyone compiled such a listing of NT
passages in which the context makes it clear that a "true middle sense"
must be read?

>I would have less trouble if Rod had written that in the NT the frequency of
>true middle usage of middle forms seems to be declining.

Let me try. :) "In the NT the frequency of true middle usage of middle
forms seems to be declining." I guess my question is, how much has it

>But I would like to see one examine, let us say, two books of Strabo to see
>if the same is true there. That is, is the non-use of middle a mark, not of
>the Koine in general, but of the level of sophistication in Greek proficiency,
>marking off the writers of the NT as not members of the upper elite. [I think
>that the very fact that they write puts them somehow or other into a class
>above the lowest.]

Yes, I think that would be interesting--and I'd welcome the results. That
was my primary query of Carl: what has been the diachronic change in this
regard? You have cast it more narrowly in terms of variation within the
Koine itself. I wonder what variation there is within the (wide) range of
"classical" texts. How does that range compare with the range of koine
usage? Is this one of the distinguishing features of Koine as a whole? Or
is it a peculiarity of only some writers?

Issues of this sort remind me of the need to listen to those who have a
much broader background in Greek lit. as a whole--which some of us simply
don't have, either because we've not had time to read that widely yet, or
because of our own particular training, background, etc.

Your suggestion re. the possible explanation for such a decline in the NT
sounds reasonable to me.

Thanks, Edgar!



 Rodney J. Decker Asst. Prof./NT Baptist Bible Seminary Clarks Summit, PA

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