Re: Wallace: Beyond the Basics

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sun Aug 08 1999 - 08:18:29 EDT

At 4:28 AM -0700 8/8/99, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>I keep getting asked off list "what don't you like about Wallace?" This
>question has a certain dejavu quality to it.
>The best way understand this without a long lecture on Saussure,
>Semiotics and other obscure issues is to do a comparison between Stanley
>Porter's Idioms of NT Greek with Wallace. Take a look at how Porter
>handles the greek case system and then look at Wallace. Note how
>abstract Porter's treatment of the cases is. Note how Wallace gives 35
>or so types of genitives.
>You need to know some linguistics to understand why
>Porter is different from Wallace on the theoretical level but you can
>see the difference without knowing any linguistics at all.

If I may add a relatively brief note to this discussion, I want to say that
I have had some disagreements myself with Wallace's presentation of a few
particular issues--in particular, it has seems to me on occasion that he
(like some others) has unnecessarily invented some grammatical categories
for analysis of case usage and verbal usage that traditional grammarians
didn't find necessary and whose usefulness I am inclined to question.

Nevertheless, I value the book and find it very much worth consulting when
significant grammatical issues in interpretation of NT texts arises. In
view of the massive task it is to undertake a comprehensive presentation of
such a massive areas as Koine Greek Grammar, I don't much like to see
bashing of such major efforts as this. The book is surely a useful one and
a major recent treatment of the subjects involved, and it is clearly the
fruit of many years of successful and respected teaching. Any intelligent
and experienced student of a field like Biblical Greek ought to know better
than either to stand in absolute awe of any "authoritative" work on the
subject or to look cynically down his or her nose at it. Such a work is the
product of human effort and intelligence, and however one ultimately comes
to judge it critically, it deserves respect. We will all have our preferred
grammatical "authorities," but we do well to have some sense of the
precariousness of our own received and even considered judgments on
grammatical matters and we do well also to be cognizant of the centuries of
scholarship and lore of unnamed men and women on whose shoulders the
edifice of understanding we now hold rests (I have a feeling that I've
mixed far too many metaphors here, but I hope what I mean may nevertheless
be clear).

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

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