Re: Bad Greek (used to be "Grammatical errors in Revelation?")

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 19 1999 - 09:44:39 EDT

At 9:05 AM -0400 5/19/99, Randy Leedy wrote:
>Since Mitchell Gray has raised the point of John's haste in writing,
>I'd like to underscore what I consider to be the value of that factor
>in this discussion. Of course there are those among us who would take
>the Apocalypse as a carefully composed piece in which the scenario of
>the author's being instructed to write down visions as they are shown
>to him is merely a literary device. But I do not hesitate to affirm
>that the scenario can be taken at face value, the visions can be
>considered miraculous, and that John the Apostle wrote the best Greek
>he was capable of writing under those circumstances. (I have no
>difficulty with the hypothesis that the smoother Greek of the other
>Johannine writings results from his use of an amanuensis.) If this is
>so, given the closing warning not to add to or take away from the
>words of the book, I would imagine that John felt no liberty at all to
>polish the language. In fact, as I read the book, the awkwardness of
>the language at points strikes me as contributing effectively to the
>atmosphere of haste and urgency; I don't see that John would have
>wished to alter the language if he HAD felt free to do so. Surely the
>book would be the poorer for being rewritten in such a style as to
>draw the unmitigated approbation of university Greek professors, a
>class not unknown for pedantry (as a member of that class I believe I
>can say such a thing intending no insult--it's a matter of that
>self-awareness I have been stressing).

It seems to me that this argument rests upon a host of assumptions about
the authorship of Revelation that are certainly possible but hardly
demonstrable. I would add, for my own part, that I have no difficulty
believing that the composition of Revelation was indeed occasioned by an
authentic vision by the writer; I am more dubious about the haste and the
state of fear and trembling of the author being the occasion of those
grammatical elements about which we have been carrying on this
'Auseinandersetzung.' I think that's plausible but not really very
probable, and of course, I am simply stating my own opinion on this matter
as you, Randy, have stated yours.

>If this thread is getting outside the B-Greek scope, I'm happy enough
>to drop it for that reason.

I think that, insofar as the thread has shifted its focus onto questions
that are much more fundamentally speculative and that seem to relate much
more fundamentally to faith-perspectives regarding inspiration and
focus really should be on the Greek language and the Greek text itself and
not on history of the canon or theories of inspiration or speculation on
the composition of NT documents. I would like to think, however, that we
have brought to light some better ways of talking about the kinds of
deviation from literary and scholastic Greek grammar that we find in NT

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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