Machen and the language of the streets

From: M. Phillips (
Date: Sun Oct 26 1997 - 20:32:14 EST

At 02:42 PM 10/26/97 -0800, Don wrote:
>Jim's attitude may well be the prevailing one, and there are plenty of
>unusual constructions in NT Greek, but I would maintain that koine--at least
>NT koine--is grammatically correct the great majority of the time, and even
>that where it appears to be incorrect it is probable that the oddity is to
>be explained as translation Greek (Hebrew idiom, etc.) or historical
>development of the language, etc. It is of course quite different from
>Attic, but this is due to differences in audience and purpose, rather than
>inferior grammar. Koine grammars should be descriptive, but sometimes are
>critical of the original text, and the criticism may or may not be justified.

        I am a bit at a loss here. My understanding is that our current
conception of Koine Greek is a scholarly paradigm, imposed of necessity,
since we have no particular knowledge of the language as spoken. While
it's true that we can (de)cipher texts and make educated guesses about
their intentions that lead us to reasonable conclusions, isn't it just as
reasonable to remain aware that we are dealing with imposed paradigms,
rather than facts? If this is the case, then how great a role has
necessity played in our efforts at interpretation, i.e., to meet a text and
decide it must mean A rather than B or C or D, because B, C, and D are
heterodox (for example). In this instance, the paradigm is heavily
weighted toward a particular outcome, regardless of our attempts to be
objective, in certain instances, because those whose objectivity takes them
into waters that go against the flow have been (and are) condemned, whether
in academia, or in common opinion.
        It seems to me that to be aware of the political intrigue surrounding the
paradigm makes the read far less 'given,' and the orthodox read somewhat
suspect. This is not to suggest that the orthodox read is wrong. It is to
suggest that it should be esteemed as a 'best guess' at best, with the
weight of historical scrutiny surrounding it, but, as well, that the weight
of historical scrutiny was driven by a particular (perhaps political)
paradigm (which was not inherited from the authors, but imposed by their

m. phillips

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