Re: Grammatical errors in Revelation?

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Mon May 17 1999 - 00:08:01 EDT

---Jim West wrote:

>At 06:43 PM 5/16/99 -0700, you wrote:

>(2) I'm not so sure that the author of Revelation writes "bad Greek."<

>I disagree. If we, for a moment, forget that the book is found in
the canon of scripture, and grade it simply on its merits as a greek
document, we can surely agree that it does not measure up very highly
as a competent
construction. It is only ideology which keeps us from such an
assertion. In this case, it is the ideology, spoken or not, that since
it is a biblical document it must be good.<

Notice my disclaimer, Jim. I said that "I'm not so sure" the author of
Revelation "writes bad Greek." I'm open to discussion on this issue,
and I am not making a dogmatic assertion. True, I have strong feelings
about Biblical inspiration, but I would hardly call my views any more
ideological than those who try to dismiss the Johannine authorship of
Revelation offhand.

>For years, some have claimed that the Gospel of Mark contains "bad
Greek." Recent research has shown otherwise.<

>Please give examples. I would like to check this supposition out.<

I have found the essay by DA Black entitled "Discourse Analysis,
Synoptic Crticism, and Markan Grammar: Some Methodological
Considerations" to be very enlightening. He reviews a number of
examples that raise doubts about the "bad grammar" of Mark. Especially
noteworthy is his reference to AT Robertson's grammar and the example
of Pindaric construction (Robertson 1934:405). Another essay
discussing the problems of Markan grammar is Dan Wallace's paper: "The
Synoptic Problem." He too shows the crossroads Markan study is at
regarding Mark's grammar and the Synoptic problem.

>While it is true that there are apparent anacolutha in Revelation,
its quite possible that the seemingly "bad Greek" is nothing more than
natural and good

>Whether or not hebraisms or semiticisms are involved has no bearing
on the fact that the greek is poor.<

If the Greek of the NT was influenced by the LXX, it does (See Aune).

>Linguists can either be descriptive or prescriptive in their analysis
of language. If one takes a descriptive approach to Biblical Greek,
then its quite possible that the so-called "bad Greek" of Revelation
is simply la parole. Or, from a sociolinguistic viewpoint,
it could be just good old Hebraism (Cf. Rev. 1:4. Consult Gen. 15:1, 4

>Again, such an effort to explain away really does not explain why
someone writing Greek writes it so poorly. Perhaps the writer is a
semite. Well and good. And suppose he is doing his best- again, well
and good. But the fact remains, attempts to ameliorate
notwithstanding, that the greek is bad.<

For one, such an explanation is fully in accord with the findings of
discourse analysis, literary criticism, and sociolinguistics.
Secondly, the expression APO hO WN KAI hO HN KAI hO ERXOMENOS is often
cited as an example of supposed "bad Greek" contained in the book of
Revelation. DA Black, however, points out that there is nothing wrong
with the expression per se. It conveys its meaning clearly, and that
is the purpose of language. Furthermore, the clause is properly Jewish
since the Divine name was viewed as indeclinable by the Jews. It is no
wonder that the nominative case is used where one would normally
expect the genitive case. Black's discussion can be found on pp. 13-14
of his _Linguistics For Students of NT Greek_.



Edgar Foster
Classics Major
Lenoir-Rhyne College

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