Re: What is "bad Greek"?

From: Randy Leedy (
Date: Tue May 18 1999 - 13:55:27 EDT

Thanks to Carl for an articulate post. Regarding what we learn from
the scrap-heap papyri, I think I'd like to observe that these finds
have tended to validate the legitimacy of NT grammar rather than
denigrate it. I have taken it as a matter of common knowledge among
students of the NT that there was a time when pretty much the whole NT
was looked down upon as "bad Greek." But the spade has uncovered
evidence to rehabilitate that reputation considerably. Now there seem
to me to be two ways of looking at the remaining pockets of
not-yet-paralleled grammar. Either they are genuinely bad (i.e., the
consensus of educated hearers among the intended audience would have
viewed these passages as grammatically unacceptable--is that a
reasonable definition of "bad grammar?") or that we simply have not
yet discovered enough data to validate such language as acceptable.
And it may be that such evidence simply does not exist. The
comparisons to Hemingway, cummings, etc. seem apropos: are we going to
call such writers grammatically unskilled simply because their usage
is idiosyncratic at times? Or do we recognize a skill that actually
transcends mundane grammar.

As to Eph. 1, I hope I can be forgiven for simply failing to feel the
force of any claim that it fails to communicate clearly. Again, when
someone says he finds a passage unintelligible, I think it is good to
keep in mind that he is saying something about himself as well as
about the passage. He may very well WANT to say such and intend his
statement to be taken in both ways. But sometimes I am sure we all
dogmatize prematurely about texts that we have examined carefully
without having examined ourselves with equal care. I am not suggesting
that we refrain from examining the texts ever so precisely; I AM
suggesting that we recognize the constant need of self-examination and
that we reflect a proper self-awareness in our discussions of them.

This can get very interesting psychologically and hermeneutically as
we consider the function of a text as a mediator between
personalities. I don't think I want to get into that discussion beyond
simply acknowledging that, as I think most of us would agree, verbal
communication is an exceedingly complex balance of objective and
subjective elements. But our disagreements will surface very quickly
as soon as we begin to define and describe those elements and that
balance, and that's what I want to avoid. Nevertheless, I hardly see
how a discussion of "What is 'bad Greek'" can proceed without getting
into such topics. So I guess the bottom line toward which I seem to be
working is that I'd better sign off soon!

Randy Leedy

PS to Carl: If you're eating a whole Springtime's worth of weeds, I
don't suppose you'll be hungry again even by Sunday!

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