[b-greek] Re: Good Greek Grammar?

From: Bradley W. Ellison (ellisonb@zianet.com)
Date: Sat Sep 15 2001 - 15:11:06 EDT

Carl W. Conrad wrote, in part:

1. "Neither the Greek of the NT nor the Greek spoken and written during
the NT era conform uniformly to a single standard of "correct" usage."

This is quite true. Actually, it would be astonishing if it were not
true. Would the koine dialect maintain perfect uniformity from Antioch to
Rome, or from Alexandria to Patmos? The plural "you" in Colorado is "you
guys" (whether the people being adressed are male or female), and in the
southern states is "y'all." Some people say, "I be," whereas English
grammars call for "I am." Even in B-Greek, most of the posts I read use
the word "which," when today the word "that" is considered by some to be
the "preferred" term. Finally, imagine a gentleman from Arkansas travels
to London or Dublin. How much English would that gentleman understand? I
say not much, given the accents, the slang, and even the rate of speech
that the gentleman would hear. But it's English, is it not?

2. "Good grammar vs. Bad Grammar? Should schools be teaching a "standard"
pattern of grammatical usage? If there were no standard, communication
would break down."

There must be a standard. This does not mean, however, that the standard
is inflexible. Over time, any language gradually changes: Beowolf,
Hamlet, Pilgrim's Progress, Great Expectations, The Scarlett Letter, Eye
of the Needle. You get the idea, I'm sure. One concrete example is the
ever popular "ain't." From The American Heritage Dictionary, Second
College Edition: [ain't - Nonstandard 1. Am not. 2. Used also as a
contraction for "are not," "is not," "has not," and "have not." Usage:
"Ain't" has acquired such a stigma over the years that it is beyond
rehabilitation, even though it would serve a useful function as a
contraction for "am not," and even though its use as an alternate form for
"isn't," "hasn't," "aren't," and "haven't" has a good historical
justification.] Written and spoken forms of a given language do change.
But the change is gradual and subject to common usage. Yet there is a
standard applicable to any given time. Use "thee" and "thou" when
speaking today and you'll no doubt be laughed at. Those words are not the
standard today. But they were very much the standard in 1611.

3. "More Serious Incongruencies (Solecisms). 136. _Revelation_ exhibits a
quantity of striking solecisms which are based especially on inattention
to agreement (a rough style), in contrast to the rst of the NT and to the
other writings ascribed to John."

From Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey (revised by Walter M.
Dunnett), 1985 Eerdmans Publishing Co. - Some of the Greek in the
Apocalype seems awkward and even ungrammatical. One should remember that
the author was attempting to put into human language scenes that could not
be described in ordinary terms, and consequently his grammar and
vocabulary both proved inadequate. (p. 384)

4. "Suffice it to say: there's a wide range of style in the NT; some
writers exhibit a usage which seems to indicate that they have learned
grammar and style in a school, while others write a "rougher" style of
Greek. Nevertheless by far the greater part of the GNT conforms to
intelligible and discernible standards of usage for the period; if that
were NOT so, the GNT would not be what it is: the LOGOS of the LOGOS."

Excellent points. Even among the posts I read, I see differences in
writing style and word selection; and this among people who (or is it
whom?) are, I presume, of similar educational background. One significant
writing style bears mention. Currently active sentences are preferred to
passive sentences (this sentence being passive). Yet people often write
passively (this sentence being active). Hey, it helps to have a sense of
humor, no? And I haven't even touched on...

1. figure of speech
2. jargon
3. loan-words
4. colloquialism
5. poetry

...and so on.

Bradley W. Ellison
Holloman AFB, New Mexico

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