Re: Romans 12:2a translation

From: Edgar Krentz (
Date: Thu Aug 07 1997 - 15:12:18 EDT

I am respsonding to the basic point Jim West makes below. I find two
questionalbe assumption underlying his response.

(1) Jim speaks as though all NT writers write the same Greek at the same
level of sophistication. Not so. Auctor ad Hebraeos and Luke write a more
educated Greek that Mark. James too.

>This excellent distinction might be valid for classical Greek; but Koine is
>not so consumed with attachment to particular grammatical rules. Koine was
>the language of the commoners and they wouldn't have known such sharp

They may not have known such sharp distinctdions; but they also did not
write or speak without any attention to clarity (SAFHNEIA) or commonly
accepted grammatical conventions (hELLHNISMOS). There is a world of
difference between the writers of the NT and the letters in nnon-literary
Greek papyri from Egypt in matters of orthogrraphy, for example.

>Here again we must remember that the writers of the NT used common terms in
>common ways because they wrote for the common people. The simplest meaning
>is generally the right one.

(2) This paragraph contains a major assumption. I assume that the writers
wrote for people who could read--which automatically put them into that
significant minority who were literate. One needs to read Harris, ANCIENT
LITERACY, and some other such recent volumes to correct Jim's overstatement.

>again- case distinctions might have been sharply adhered to in classical
>greek- but in koine they were not. No one, to put it commonly, is "washed
>in the blood of the subjunctive mood".
>Be wary of attaching to great importance to precise usage of cases.

Another question-begging assertion! Writers of Greek in the first two
centuries vary as much in their attention to grammatical and linguistic
precision as do the writers in the daily newspaper, from the editorial page
to the comic strips.
>>As I noted yesterday with regard to FRONHMA and FRONHSIS, nouns formed from
>>verbal stems with the suffix -SIS generally refer to the process,
>>performance, or action of the verb in question.
>again Carl makes an excellent point. But whether or not this point would
>have been recognized or even admitted by the NT writers is highly
>questionable. First year greek students learn the rules- and second year
>students learn that the rules are regularly broken by koine writers.

Please, do not identify the NT with Koine writers! Vixereunt fortes post
Agamemnona, to (mis)quote an ancient author. Therefore, judge each writer
on his or her own.

>>There's one set of options, at any rate.
>I am not in disagreement with Carl. I would only suggest caution when
>dealing with koine; for the rules were ignored by koine writers when it
>suited them.

The above is true of every great writer. Jim has valid points, but
overstates them, overgeneralizes them. No writers, if they wish to be
understood, can disregard the common conventions and semantics of normal
speech. We need to examine cases. E,g., Hebrews observes the convention
that NUN DE introduces the actual state of affairs after an statement that
is not true. That is not true of every writer of Koine. ALL' hOMWS, huge
generalizations usually are wrong.

But thanks to Jim West for raising the issue.

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