[B-Greek] Criteria for evaluating NT Greek Intro Grammars

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Feb 19 06:32:24 EST 2004

At 11:07 PM -0600 2/18/04, Joseph Weaks wrote:
>Carl et al,
>I know this comes up alot, the which-is-the-best-intro-grammar
>question, but I wonder if it is worth folks offering not simply which
>grammars are good, but which criteria make for a good grammar. For
>instance, Carl is most helpful by citing difficulties with Machen or
>Mounce. He did not say what makes Funk's so good.

I applaud this very sensible suggestion for a more objective basis for
choosing a textbook for Beginning Greek. I ought perhaps to make clear that
in my 40 years of active teaching of Greek I mostly taught Classical Attic,
very rarely BEGINNING NTGreek--at Washington University we insisted that
those wanting to read Biblical Greek should first take a year of Classical
Attic, after which we offered a flexible-credit tutorial in Biblical Greek,
the teaching of which generally fell to me and which I very much enjoyed.
The only times that I ever taught Beginning Biblical Greek were for
individual students headed to seminaries the following year; on those
occasions I used Machen a couple times and Mounce a couple times. I've
already voiced my complaints about both books many times on this list, on
Machen as recently as yesterday; Mounce's book does have reasonably good
grammatical explanations; my objections were more to his organization of
materials and to what I felt were his sectarian biases written into a
textbook that always seemed unwieldy in a secular university setting.

Finally, after my last formal semester before retirement, I taught a
one-month crash course in Beginning Biblical Greek at Eden Seminary in St.
Louis. I should note that I think the effort to inculcate a basic
familiarity with Greek grammar and syntax in such a crash course is a
deplorable practice that is unfortunately all too common in many
seminaries; it would be far better to make one or two years of prior study
of Greek a prerequisite for seminary enrollment. At any rate, when I taught
that course at Eden seminary I used A.K.M. Adam's _A Grammar of NT Greek_.
I was as disappointed with it as I had been with Machen and Mounce,
disappointed with grammatical explanations that didn't seem adequate but
still more with the sentences--and my complaint was as with Machen, that
the sentences, both Greek-to-English and English-to-Greek were too often
grammatically and idiomatically questionable and, I thought, misleading.

As for the virtues of Funk, I have to admit that I never used it formally
as a teaching textbook because it wasn't available for that course in
January of 2001, and that was the only time I ever had a classroom of new
students beginning Biblical Greek (previously it had been one, two, or
three individual students meeting with me in my office). I didn't comment
on Funk's (grammar's) virtues yesterday because I had done so fairly
recently, along with announcing my posting of an extract from the
introduction to that textbook which sets forth principles and
presuppositions of his teaching method for Beginning Greek. I cite that
message of January 26 below, including a brief excerpt from Funk's
"Personal Word to the Teacher and Student." One of the most significant
features of Funk's textbook is that it explains the relevant English
grammatical structures at every stage much more explicitly than most
primers; another is its solid grounding in linguistic theory which it
explicitly expounds as it moves along. But enough; the extracts indicated
at the end of the Jan. 25 message are adequate, I think, to explain the
methodology that I think is likely to be most helpful to serious beginning
students of Greek.

Before citing the Jan. 26 message, I'd like to add a note from a message on
this subject I posted in 1997 (yes, the topic HAS been discussed openly and
frequently: a search of my B-Greek archives from 1991-2004 brought up 764
messages with "textbook" in them somewhere); I don't think the textbook is
UN-important, but I do think that the teacher and the classroom experience
and student's attitude and commitment are far more crucial than the
textbook itself.

At 2:42 PM -0600 2/16/97, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>In sum, my opinion is that what textbook you use doesn't matter that much
>if the teaching is effective, but the right reference works need to be
>available for consultation on words and grammar from a very early point.
>And I also think that the best thing for beginning students of NT Greek to
>sink their teeth into as early as possible is sequential reading in the NT

At 4:15 PM -0500 1/26/04, Carl W. Conrad wrote:
>It was a little over a week ago that Ken Litwak posted a note (Sat, 17 Jan
>2004 22:09:49 -0800 (PST); "[B-Greek] Stanely Porter on Greek grammars")
>about Stanley Porter's more-or-less blanket condemnation of most current
>textbooks of Greek grammar as hopelessly out-of-date (with the exception of
>"Moulton's Prolegomena and Young'sintermediate grammar." My immediate
>response was that these remarks could not be applied to Funk's
>_Beginning-Intermediate Grammar of Hellenistic Greek_, a textbook that
>really sets the teaching and learning of ancient Greek grammar on a new
>plane altogether--more's the pity that the book is out of print.
>Now I've prepared an extract from the introductory material of Funk's
>textbook which I describe thus in my link to this PDF file: " ... an
>extract from Robert W. Funk's 3-volume textbook of Koine greek, first
>published in 1973 and long out of print. The materials here extracted set
>forth the rationale of Funk's method and sketch the linguistic framework on
>which the textbook and teaching program are organized. I have long thought
>that these are the principles that ought to govern the teaching and
>learning of ancient Greek at any level, whether Homeric, Classical Attic,
>or Koine."
>I've extracted this material and decided to make it public until such time
>as a copyrighted reprint or new edition of Funk's textbook is made
>available because I think the principles set forth in it for teaching and
>learning Greek should be of value to anyone concerned with the pedagogy of
>ancient Greek. As a come-in, I'll cite segments of a few paragraphs from
>pages xxv-xxvi of the "Personal Word to the Teacher and Student":
>	" ... Although in almost daily touch with some Greek text for
>twenty-five years, I find that each time I teach beginning Greek from a
>traditional grammar, it is necessary for me to recommit portions of that
>grammar to memory. There seems to be little correlation between my ability
>to read and understand a Greek text and the ability, say, to reproduce
>nominal and verbal paradigms by heart. I was puzzled by this discrepancy in
>myself, and by the fact that students who appeared to be able to handle a
>Greek text with facility often did poorly on examinations over Greek
>"grammar." The reverse condition has also frequently caught my attention:
>students who appear to know the "grammar" are not always able to read a
>Greek text with correlative ease. In the case of the former, the difficulty
>may have been that the students merely lacked the technical language with
>which to make their functional knowledge explicit. Yet I took it to be the
>case that more often than not those same students aspired to a working
>knowledge of the language and not to a grammarian's portfolio. In the case
>of the latter, knowledge of the "grammar" did not appear to guarantee
>knowledge of the language. It then occurred to me that traditional grammar
>might be something apart from the ability to read Greek, in fact, might be
>an impediment to such ability.
>	"It was with some reluctance that I undertook to reassess the
>status of traditional Greek grammar. A modest acquaintance with modern
>linguistics was enough to convince me that a revolution had taken place in
>the study and learning of language no less than in the study and knowledge
>of mathematics
>	"I have endeavored to indicate the implications of linguistics for
>the study of Greek in the Introduction (§§001-020). There the reader will
>find some of the basic insights afforded by linguistics as I see them in
>relation to Greek. ... "
>The URL is http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/Docs/FunkGramIntro.pdf


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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