LXX and MT, relevancey

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Feb 3 09:10:25 EST 2000

(Note: I've deleted the citation from a list-message that evoked the
following comment because I want to respond to the more central concerns of
this response, at least some of which, I think, have all too much validity,
although others may think otherwise.)

At 8:28 PM -0800 2/2/00, Fish__44 at excite.com wrote:
>I rarely offer my two-cents to this list for this exact reason. I myself
>originally became intersted in Greek thanks inpart to the LXX and what it
>had to offer historically to both the OT and the NT. I have posted a few
>questions sheepishly early on in my b-greek career, hoping that the big
>B-greekers could help guide me in my little b-greek ways, but was cordially
>shunned and left to become a silent partner to musings of Conrad, Gibson and
>few other regulars. Although I appreciate the forum and the interesting
>dialogue I detest the snobery which seems to come out in the most simple
>answer. If not as a teacher enjoying the process of teaching, perhaps as a
>Christian you can enjoy the process of helping a fledgling along. I suggest
>an off-list apology be issued to Grant, and a sense of gratitude be paid to
>the Lord for giving you both the knowledge and the ability to share it with
>Thanks for your time,
>Cameron VanEpps

I'd like to be brief, but as an academic, I probably am incapable of being
brief if I really what to say what I think is relevant about Cameron's
remarks above.

First, although I'm inclined to say something about the list's history,
it's wiser, perhaps, to go straight to the point: what had been pretty much
a "scholarly academic" forum for discussion of just about any question
somehow related to the Greek Bible (and some questions that weren't)
changed sometime in 1996-97 to a list whose 700-800 members world-wide were
predominantly laypersons or non-academic persons interested both in
exploring questions about the Greek of the New Testament and about Koine
Greek at the more elementary level of learning. This wasn't planned, of
course. What happened was that more and more people asked the list
questions about relatively simple Greek constructions encountered in their
reading or even in current coursework they were doing--and their questions
were getting, usually, pretty good answers on list. I've always thought
that this meant we've had pretty patient people here that are used to and
willing to take the time to answer even simple questions (after all, simple
questions are a lot easier to answer than hard ones). Harder questions
continued to get asked, however, and some pretty tangential areas got
discussed on list also.

But one consequence of the rapid growth of the list-membership and the
growing proportion of non-academic or laypersons was an uncomfortably
combative atmosphere wherein some posters were over-aggressive about
pushing their own theological perspectives and others were overly-defensive
about defending their own theological perspectives. Ultimately a form of
list-moderation was established by John David Marotta, who appointed some
list-members to undertake this role, and that has continued; what has
happened is that the focus of ordinary discussion has narrowed down, for
practical purposes to (1) the Biblical Greek text and problems of
understanding the Greek text as Greek, and (2) the Greek language of the
GNT and LXX, its morphology, syntax, and lexicography and attendant
pedagogical matters--how to learn it, where to learn it, textbooks,
reference works, etc., etc.--and at the same time we've tried to discourage
or inhibit direct discussion of theological issues or hermeneutical issues
because the perspectives of list-members range all across the spectrum of
possible assumptions and convictions, so that allowing that sort of
discussion seems to be self-defeating if we really want to help each other
with questions about Biblical Greek and the Greek Bible itself.

Now, to get more directly to Cameron's concerns: (1) Why can't we be more
courteous and helpful to each other in responses to questions arising on
the list? and (2) Why do some pretty trivial matters get discussed pretty
fully, why do some other relatively simple questions get answers that
address all sorts of secondary issues even if they do eventually say
something about the question asked? and (3) Why do some people's questions
never get answered?

Although the reasons are more complicated, I think the basic answer to all
three questions is that we are most of us (I certainly) ornery and
inconsistent human beings--we do the best we can with what we've got, which
often is not enough! Some people see that a question has been posed in a
format that seems to want a "yes" or "no" answer and respond to the
question with a one-word answer; at the opposite end of the spectrum, other
people will answer the question with what seems to be a well-prepared
classroom lecture on the matter in which the answer to the question raised
seems more or less lost; in the middle, some may respond with a recognition
of what the real problem implied in the formulation of the question is and
deal with it directly (personally, I think Carlton is wonderful at this; I
know I belong more in that effusive lecturing category) and concisely.
Another aspect of this orneriness is that everybody comes to their mail at
a different time of day or with more or less time on hand to deal with it,
some even come to a crowded mailbox that's hard to digest, much less
respond to. And also, people tend to respond to questions they find more
interesting. There are lots of good and bad reasons why some people put
questions to the list and never get them answered, and many of them have to
do with the fact that the list is a "leisure-time" activity for all who
participate in it, including the moderators. I'm sorry that we don't do a
better job. I try to keep in my open and as-yet-unarchived current B-Greek
mailbox all recent questions that haven't yet been answered and try to get
to them if time allows; it doesn't always do so, but like everybody else, I
try to do what I can do, and I assume that others do too.

The flap that occasioned Cameron's message above HAS been dealt with
off-list and I do think that the parties involved in it have written to
each other and are corresponding on courteous, even if not cordial, terms
with each other.

In sum, we try to keep the list open, civil, and helpful; we try to curb
the arrogance of some and too-little-helpful responses of others. We really
do try. BUT--we don't always succeed at what we try, and sometimes we don't
try hard enough. We too are ornery--and I do wish that weren't so, but it

Carl W. Conrad
Co-Chair, B-Greek List
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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