Re: Wallace: Beyond the Basics

Date: Sun Aug 08 1999 - 12:14:36 EDT

Recent comments on Wallace's grammar seem to have focussed entirely on
Wallace's classification of verbs and his categorization of cases. While it
is true that he does seem to create a number of unnecessary classifications,
I think the idea behind the classifications is basically sound, namely, to
properly tag as many different identifiable uses as possible.

Additionally, Wallace's grammar is superior to most other grammar in
discussing the Greek article; it is certainly head and shoulders above the
others when specialized uses of the article, such as the Granville Sharp
rule, are discussed. (I do not agree with Wallace on his application of this
rule to a variety of texts, but his DISCUSSION is the most comprehensive of
any grammar. My disagreements have been expressed elsewhere.)

As for some of the distinctions being unnecessary, I will here make a couple
of observations to illustrate my point, and perhaps even provide material for
further discussion.

I am presently working on a thesis concerning the Greek article, and in my
research I have regularly referred to Wallace's discussion, as I have
included a detailed chart for the use of the article in Attic and New
Testament Greek. In properly classifying and categorizing the different uses
of the Greek article, I have had to carefully consider the different
categories listed by Wallace.

In his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New
Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 216-231, Wallace lists a
number of different categories for the use of the article with substantives,
but many of these categories appear to be examples of simple identification.
The substantive used may in fact be one of great importance (for example, hO
PROFHTHS in John 1:21), but it is still a matter of identification. Thus, I
subsume Wallace's "Par Excellence," "Monadic" and "Welll-Known" categories
under the "Identification" subcategory listed in my chart. (That means three
less categories for the student to memorize!)

It is true that the article may be used with nouns like PROFHTHS in John 1:21
with what might appear to be several different uses (Wallace considers the
article with PROFHTHS in this instance as an example of the par excellence
use and anaphoric [in a "broad sense"]), but it is not certain if this is an
actual use of the article or a coincidental feature that can be derived from
a consideration of the context. It is probably best to categorize different
uses of the article based on what is most likely the primary intention of the
writer/speaker, not on what might have been a secondary intention, or even
something that is merely derived from the context (immediate and/or larger).

Wallace's par excellence use seems to assume that the article is what puts
the noun into a "class by itself," when in fact certain substantives, in
particular contexts, have an inherent sense that speaks of excellence and
uniqueness ("one of a kind," monadic), and which sets them apart with or
without the article. John 1:21 is given by Wallace as an example of the par
excellence use, but in 'aleph the article is absent. Should we view PROFHTHS
in 'aleph any differently than we do in B P66 or P75?

Wallace (Greek Grammar, 228) believes "it is better to see the generic
article as simply distinguishing one class from among others, rather than as
pointing out a representative of the class." He takes this position because
the generic article is sometimes used with plural nouns (ibid., 227-228). But
taking the view that the plural simply "denotes all the objects belonging to
a class" seems quite reasonable (Herbert W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, rev. Gordon
M. Messing [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1956], Greek Grammar, p. 288, sec.
1123), and it does not conflict with Wallace's point about a distinction
between classes. Thus, I would say that when used with a singular noun the
generic article distinguishes one class from another by choosing a
representative of the class, and the plural simply distinguishes the class as
a class.

Much of how we view different uses of the article or how we understand the
Greek verb is quite subjective, and while it is fruitful to discuss the
issues so that we may, ultimately, achieve a greater understanding, when it
comes to evaluating a grammar I look primarily for the depth of discussion.
The actual discussion itself may be questionable or right on, but the
question I ask is, How far did the author go in his consideration of the
issues? In this, Wallace's grammar must rank up there with the best of them.

Greg Stafford

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