Re: exegetical significance

From: Andrew Kulikovsky (
Date: Wed Aug 13 1997 - 19:59:00 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 7:35 AM -0400 8/12/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> >At 02:21 PM 8/12/97 +0930, Andrew Kulikovsky wrote:
> >>Filoi,
> >>
> >>I have a challenge to all the great Greek exegetes on this list.
> >
> >I'm not a "great Greek exegete" or a Greek scholar or anything, but I'll put
> >in my two denarii anyways, and trust the more experienced folks to correct
> >me where I'm wrong. They are generally willing to cooperate ;->
> >
> >>I would like to compile a list of Greek elements that have real exegetical
> >>significance, so that those of us who are relatively new to Greek
> >>exegesis have a good idea of what parts of the text are signicant and
> >>what may simply be attributed to idiom, style or basic syntax.
> Jonathan has already noted that he is wary of a "cookbook" approach. I'll
> go further and say that I think this challenge is ill-conceived, although
> it may do some good if people list some points of grammar and idiom that
> others are not aware of.

Actually I don't think people understood what I was actually asking. I
guess I didn't communicate it very well. I have been doing Greek for 2
years now and I am well aware that every element may possibly have
exegetical significance. I am also well aware of the problems of "a
cookbook approach" but what I really wanted was a list of elements that
*may* be very significant for exegesis but may also be easily missed if
the reader (particularly a beginner) is not aware of them - I guess what
I am asking for is a list of obscure or unusual grammar rules (at least
obscure and unusual when compared with English) that *may* be highly
significant in a particular context. By acquainting yourself wit these
rules (and other basic rules of syntax and grammar) the student then has
a bit of an idea what to look out for when exegeting a passage.

Now people are taught rules like this when learning to parse eg. the
elongated vowel suggests the subjunctive, the S infix suggests future
and with the augment, suggests aorist. QH suggest passive voice etc.

These rules are not globally applicable yet the aid in helping students
to parse.

In there anything wrong with coming up with a similar list for grammar
abd exegesis.

> As I see it, there are two fundamental problems with the idea in the first
> place, and they are closely related. One is the notion that anyone has
> reached some plateau upon arrival at which he/she is entitled to be termed
> an "expert," and the other is the notion that one has ever learned "enough"
> of Greek that one is beyond serious new learning and is now entitled to
> teach. I discussed this once before, it seems to me about a year ago, when
> Jonathan began to employ his "little Greek" designation for the "tyros" or
> "beginners." I said that I have always felt that learning Greek is a matter
> of sharing between more experienced and less experienced devotees of Greek
> (or any other subject, for that matter, but especially is this the case
> with Greek). The best beginning class I ever taught was one wherein the
> students, on their own initiative and long before I was aware of it, met
> regularly on Sunday afternoons and took turns organizing reviews of recent
> fresh material and making up exercises for each other to work on. There's
> hardly a Greek class I've ever had that I haven't learned something from,
> either from a student's calling attention to it or asking a question that
> led to finding an answer that I didn't have at hand. And this is the best
> thing about this List: the opportunity for everyone to learn something more
> about Greek and the Greek biblical texts.

No Carl you have got the wrong idea completely. My comments were a
complimentary way of appealing to those who have far more experience
than I. I have been doing Greek for 2 years you have been doing it for
45+ - so who's in a better position to know rules of grammar that are
significant yet frequently missed?

I'm trying to get into your head!

> The notion that anyone has reached a "plateau" of competence, while not
> altogether fallacious, is not very useful and is sufficiently misleading to
> delude both those who feel that they have themselves reached such a plateau
> and others who think that another person has reached such a plateau. Many
> listmembers believe that the Biblical text is inerrant; I would say that,
> whatever the truth may be about that proposition, I firmly believe that NO
> HUMAN BEING is inerrant, be he or she a "beginner" or a "scholar." Here's
> where my Socratism enters in: however firmly convinced I may be that a
> proposition I set forth about Greek is valid, I really do not KNOW that it
> is valid, and many of my firmest convictions about Greek have apparently
> been shown to be false (for instance, my confidence that the future tense
> was derivative from the aorist subjunctive), and I have found myself moving
> toward radical reevaluations of some of the things I was taught were
> "gospel" about Greek (e.g. the whole system of voices and "deponents").
> Believe me, we are all of us learners, even if some of us have been
> learning far longer than others (I have about 45 years of learning Greek
> behind me and a few more ahead).

Absolutely! I am still learning and I expect to still be learning in 30

> I think that one ought to learn all the basic morphology of nouns,
> adjectives, adverbs, and verbs and set out at once to develop a vocabulary
> base, at which point one might deign to be termed a serious "beginner." But
> the acquisition of idiom and the development of syntactical acumen is a
> life-long task that I really don't think ever reaches any end or any point
> at which one can honestly claim consummate "expertise." And I have a
> suspicion about those who make such claims that they are fraudulent.

expert is a relative term - to me and compared with me, you are an

> I don't want to start an argument, but I really don't believe that there is
> any element in a Greek sentence--any element that bears a semantic
> indication--that doesn't have some bearing upon the exegesis of that
> sentence. If I'm right about that convinction, then there can't really be
> any adequate listing of those grammatical items that are really
> "significant" for exegesis if one assumes that one can exclude other
> grammatical items as "insignificant."

Yes I agree. Nothing is *insignificant*, but some elements are obvious,
some are debatable and other are easily missed because people are
preoccupied with the obvious and especially the debatable.

What I'm after are things that are potentially significant (that
includes everything) and yet easily missed.

To give another example: Carl you once noted that people often state "if
the author wanted to state then they should have used such and such a
tense" but as you pointed out that verb doesn't appear in that tense so
the force of the tense used is reduced because it is the only choice
available to the writer (I think you used OIDA as the example).

> And them's my tuppence on the question.

Thankyou very much. Looking forward to hearing more.


| Andrew S. Kulikovsky B.App.Sc(Hons) MACS
| Software Engineer (CelsiusTech Australia)
| & Theology Student (MA - Pacific College)
| Adelaide, Australia
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