"Grammatical" Categories

From: George Goolde (goolde@mtnempire.net)
Date: Mon Sep 20 1999 - 13:01:21 EDT


It seems to me that we are agreeing that Greek writers used the language
intuitively. We, for whom Greek is neither our first language nor native,
attempt to decode the Greek writings to determine what the original
recipients would have understood them to mean. Aren't these "categories"
simply our expressions of how we go about interpreting any writing in Greek?

For example, we begin with a word that is clearly in the Genitive (or
Genitive/Ablative) case. We immediately eliminate usages which are
substantive (nominative) or objective (accusative) and begin a conscious or
unconscious process of elimination to determine what meaning we find in the
text. The meaning we find in the text is not determined by some
"grammatical tag" that occurs with the word in question, for there are no
such tags, but rather by some system of interpretation, based on
pre-understandings, principles of interpretation, or occasionally even our
theology (imagine!). We then describe our interpretation by attempting to
"name" it with some description that effectively says "This is what I think
this means and it is a legitimate interpretation because it has these
characteristics. . . ." So we summarize all of this and say it is a
subjective genitive, or a genitive of description, or whatever.

This is why I find it a bit strange and unnatural to attempt to discuss the
meaning of a text without addressing how we interpret it. There are no
God-revealed grammatical categories, so each interpreter brings his bag and
baggage to the study table in an honest attempt to decipher the meaning.
As we get to know ourselves and our own process we grow in our skill at
discovering the meaning of the text. And as others -in a kind and
professional way- challenge our process we refine it.

I, too, to mix threads a bit here, am thankful to all of you who have
contributed to my understanding by your comments, ideas, and challenges.
That not only includes chairs but many others from whom I have learned on
the list.


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