Good Greek Grammar?

Harry W. Jones hjbluebird at
Sat Sep 15 05:10:11 EDT 2001

Dear Carl,

Did some of the NT Greek writers make grammatical errors?

Harry Jones

> At 3:42 PM -0500 9/14/01, ross purdy wrote:
> >Matt,
> >
> >I believe you are essentially right. Bad grammar is bad grammar, but good
> >grammar may not adequately describe current usage. Over time, grammar should
> >be updated to common usage. In any immediate context, usage needs to conform
> >to grammar if it is going to be understood in any larger context.  The point
> >is that the one ruling the larger context right at the moment is
> >authoritative...a majority rule. But over time, the chicken is a result of
> >the egg laid...uhhhhmmmm...which egg has been conformed to the chicken
> >having laid it?
> >
> >The purpose of learning grammar is to express ourselves to be understood.
> >But we must understand unorthodox usage to understand others who fail at
> > extra burden...but then again that is what makes language
> >exiciting and wonderful and is to be encouraged.
> >
> >Anyways, koine is essentially a frozen language since it is dead. It is a
> >slice out of time. So a good Greek Grammar should describe its usage
> >accurately to be authoritative, right? In this case, Grammar will rule since
> >it is the only factor that can be dynamic.
> I may be missing the chief point here, but I think that to speak of Koine
> Greek as "a frozen language" is potentially misleading. The Greek spoken
> and written in the era of the NT's composition is by no means homogeneous
> in idiom or usage as is the Attic of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. and the
> 2nd and later centuries A.D. Koine Greek, rather, is fascinating to a
> historical linguist in much the same way as Homeric Greek is fascinating,
> because it bears witness to competing older and newer forms: second aorists
> with alpha endings compete with forms of the same verbs with the older O/E
> endings; hINA + subjunctive clauses are still used to indicate purpose but
> may be simple noun clauses and in some instances seem pretty close to the
> modern Greek infinitive (NA + subj.). Some of what we read in the GNT
> reflects considerably the Greek that was taught in the schools, while some
> does not. This is not so simply a matter of "good" or "bad" Greek but of
> discernible "norms" of usage and degrees of conformity to such norms such
> that texts are sufficiently lucid as to admit of minimal uncertainty as to
> authorial intent. But even such "norms" are not by any means limited: there
> are legitimate alternative ways of expressing ordinary notions.
> >Why would we call an odd usage bad grammar? Because it does not conform to
> >the observed typical patterns. I do not think the one observed exhibiting
> >the odd usage is being condemned for some social indiscretion as much as we
> >are trying to identify a hindrance to understanding what was meant. I guess
> >a good Greek Grammer would help us to understand even bad Greek Grammar, or
> >perhaps we should say an odd usage, since, we want to be able to explain all
> >the phonomena in order to understand it all.
> -- 
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
> Most months: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
> cwconrad at OR cwconrad at
> WWW:

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