[B-Greek] Beginning Greek Textbooks

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu May 25 11:25:16 EDT 2006

On May 24, 2006, at 12:35 PM, Dave Smith (REL110, 211,212) wrote:

> One of the inductive methods that I have used in the past is Ward  
> Powers,
> Learn to Read the Greek NT. Perhaps Dr. Conrad would comment on  
> this text.
> According to a previous post, this is a category #2 text with an  
> inductive
> method based on modern linguistic principles. Selections of the GNT  
> appear
> in chapter 2, along the same lines that Dr. Conrad mentioned in his  
> post.
> The greatest kernel of wisdom in this thread, which was also from  
> Carl's
> post, is that learning Greek 101 depends a great deal more on the  
> mentor
> that it does on the textbook.

That is only half of what I wrote. The whole: "Ultimately the worth  
of any (ancient Greek) textbook depends NOT upon the textbook so much  
as on the pedagogical skills of the teacher and the industry and  
application of the learner." In my opinion, the industry and  
application of the learner are ultimately far more important than  
even the pedagogical skills of the teacher. Learning is ultimately an  
achievement of the learner; a good teacher can assist it by  
demonstrating key relationships between cognitive groups, but unless  
a learner is aggressively curious and industrious to the point of  
expending time and effort appropriately, there's not much that the  
best teacher can do.

> Here is Power's website for this text:
> http://members.optusnet.com.au/~bwpowers/LTR.htm
> I have also seen used copies of this book on the web. The current  
> edition is
> the 5th. The edition I have is the 4th.

I'm reluctant to characterize Ward Powers' textbook, because I find  
it so excellent in some respects that I am the more disturbed by some  
features that probably bother only myself.

What is probably the best feature of all is the theoretical approach  
and practical application to learning of the morphology, especially  
the morphology of the exceedingly complex range of the Greek verb (I  
think Ward has, in some of our BG correspondence, characterized the  
Greek verb is ultimately simple, but I would never do so myself). But  
I must qualify my high appreciation for that feature by noting two or  
three features to which I take exception:
	(a) While classification of nouns in three declensions is pretty  
much traditional and I accept it, I've never been comfortable with  
classification of verbs as First, Second, and Third conjugations. I  
would prefer to retain descriptive terms such as Omega and Mi verbs,  
or Thematic and Athematic verbs, and to speak of Sigmatic (including  
"liquid" types) and Thematic and Athematic aorists,
	(b) A major objection I have is one that really applies to just  
about every beginning textbook of ancient Greek that I'm familiar  
with: an inadequate account and description of the morphology and  
usage of the middle-passive -- both the MAI/SAI/TAI;MHN/SO/TO forms  
and the -QH- forms of the aorist and future. Retention of the  
obfuscating designation of "deponent" verbs here as in other  
textbooks conceals the real functioning of middle-passive forms with  
their special subject-focus. Also, despite the essentially strictly  
synchronic perspective on Biblical Koine morphology, Ward shows  
paradigms of LUW in an aorist middle (ELUSAMHN, etc.) that simply do  
not exist in Biblical Koine.
	(c) Perhaps a key and unquestionably an idiosyncratic qualification  
of my appreciation for Ward's treatment of Biblical Koine is the  
strict insistence on a synchronic perspective resulting in an  
analytical approach to the morphology (and syntax) that, from my own  
diachronic perspective, conceals what I deem significant aspects of  
Biblical Koine as "a language in flux." I know very well that many,  
perhaps most, students of Biblical Greek could care less about the  
kind of Greek spoken and written before or after Biblical Koine and  
even that spoken and written contemporaneously. It is certainly true  
that much of the NT corpus can be shown to conform to a standard  
complex of morphological (and syntactic) patterns; but it is also  
true that a considerable portion of it does not so conform. Language  
is always in flux while it is being spoken and written for ordinary  
communication and record-keeping and for literary purposes, and  
something I've always believed (along with a few others) is that if  
the Greek of the NT corpus itself is the ONLY Greek one understands,  
one doesn't REALLY understand the Greek of the NT Corpus.

That said, I must repeat in conclusion that, in very many respects,  
Ward Powers' NT Greek textbook is one of the better introductions to  
Biblical Greek.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad2 at mac.com
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/

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