[B-Greek] Traditional Greek grammar (was: Ephesians 5:5 "TOU XRISTOU KAI QEOU")

R Yochanan Bitan Buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Sat Jul 16 14:11:43 EDT 2005

>> > I will continue to follow the traditional Greek grammar.
>> >
>> > george
>> > gfsomsel
>> This is another topic, but I don't anticipate any further 
>> discussion, and
>> I'll only comment briefly.
>> No one is forcing you to adopt any new theories. As far as I know,
>> traditional Greek grammar has been unable to explain the function
>> Greek
>> word order, and it is a challenging task to attempt to do so. 
>> However, the
>> principle of "left-emphasis" was expounded long before modern 
>> linguistics by
>> Joseph Rotherham in 1878 in his book The New Testament Critically
>> Emphasized. What happened before that, I don't know.
>> Iver Larsen
>I didn't say that some new theories are not in order or that they are
>entirely without value even now.  What I am saying is that it has not
>developed an established foundation on which to base solid
>This may come in time and a few things are no doubt relatively
>established.  Keep debating with those who choose to pursue these
>In the meantime, I'm not abandoning a relatively established body of
>knowledge.  Hippocrates was practicing medicine long before Lister
>is also some time before today.  There have been many advances. 
>Meanwhile there were many missteps, but today we have a valuable
>"science" of medicine.  As with medicine, there is a great deal of
>in the understanding of Greek texts; it is not an exact science.  I'm
>simply concerned with a perceived tendency to abandon established
>to chase some will-o-the-wisp.


To simplify on word order-

Iver and I agree on 'left-special'. He would call all of them the same
function, broadly speaking, while I would divide 'left-special' into
two broad categories, one emphatic/focal like Iver and one
'topicalized', providing some kind of linking or subject material for
relating to the context. I would see many 'topicalized' elements as
preceding 'focal' elements and find that natural within both Greek and
language in general. Helma Dik provides complicated theoretical
backing for those interested in English 'metalanguage' (using language
to talk about language) for Greek. General linguistic theories often
have room for two frontings 'topic' and 'focus' within a sentence.

I think that both Iver and I would see 'right emphasis' as something
of a misnomer for Greek, resulting front left frontings of other


In either case, I don't see the need for hesitation, a person must
read the texts and make sense of them. That is where 'rules' come
from. Just remember that not everyone thinks that left-fronted items
are always the most salient/focal. (I suspect that most linguists
would probably expect Topicalization to be a major function.) 

So read with common sense and an eye on the context. Read alot. And if
you really want to 'enter the world', find some people to communicate
with and use the language. Language slowly self-corrects if one keeps
using while amassing more input (reading ancient texts in this case).
In the 19th century they called that 'sprachgefuhl', language sense.
On doit beaucoup.


Randall Buth


Randall Buth, PhD

Director, Biblical Language Center


and Director, Biblical Studies in Israel

Hebrew University, Rothberg International School

ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il


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