Re: Accents in NT Greek

From: Carlton Winbery (
Date: Sun Apr 11 1999 - 01:03:06 EDT

David wrote;

>I would appreciate your learned advice on the relevance of accents to NT
>Greek. Some questions/thoughts of my own to start the ball rolling:
>a. The NT autographs (almost certainly) did not have accents. Certainly
>the earliest manuscripts we have do not have accents. Therefore any
>amibuities in words because of different pronunciation and therefore
>different accents are not resolved in the autographs and in our earliest
>copies of them.
>b. Accents certainly make it easier to read the NT in Greek. So do lower
>case letters for that matter. I am glad I do not have to manage with upper
>case with no spaces between words. However, in getting the benefit of
>these aids, one in obviously relying on the editors for textual comment to
>resolve ambiguities.
>c. When accents appeared on the scene in NT manuscripts (7th century???)
>the scribes would have made some interpretations to resolve the placing of
>accents. Would they have had more information than we have?
>d. How many true ambiguities are there in the NT because of uncertainty as
>to the placement of accents?
>e. Do we really need accents for the purposes of studying NT Greek? What
>should students of NT Greek be taught regarding them? Do we all need to
>wade through Carson's book on accents?
>I apologise if this topic has been dealt with recently. I am new to the
>list again.
Yes, we have discussed this before without much resolution. Those who favor
Wenham's grammar usually argue that beginner students should not be
burdened with the rules of accent.

I favor teaching students the basics of Greek accent from the beginning.
Often the accent furnishes one more clue to the grammar (indeed as
interpreted by the editors). Now since the accents were mostly not in the
original, it can be argued that we should learn to read Greek without them,
but would that apply also to word division, chapters and verses (in
Revelation, I would like to redo the verses and chapters). We have to
remember that we are teaching mostly beginners. When we have a chance to
take them further, then we should. We should explain to the advanced
students how to tell from the text rather than depending on the editor the
difference between O TI and OTI.

My practice is designed to gently help the students come to understand
accents. I do not count off for accents unless the student does not attempt
to put them. I make them recite early on the basic general rules and the
rules for nouns, verbs and infinitives. It seems to help in the learning
process and that's what I care about.

Carlton L. Winbery
Fogleman Professor of Religion
Louisiana College
Pineville, LA 71359

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