[B-Greek] Koine to classical (NAI kai OYXI)

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Tue May 20 12:49:07 EDT 2008

I think that I am on the same page with Mark and enjoy his passion for
reading. As I said, 'read what you want to read'. If you only want to
read the NT, fine, that is a choice. It is a good choice, IF that really
is one's choice. Let's ask ourselves...

If we are true to our modern selves, we probably do want to read outside
of the NT. I assume that Bible readers also read an occasional
newpaper, magazine, or perhaps a historical study related to the NT.
So why not do that in Greek? We have Josephus, Pseudepigrapha,
LXX, and Apostolic Fathers for starters. Hmm, let's see: Jesus visited
Jerusalem for the feast of dedication. Then a read thru 1Mac around
Christmas-time would be helpful background, though that is
translationese from an assumed Hebrew, and 2Maccabees is nice
literary, original Greek.

With Ron and Barry, I think that seeing the wider language helps one
feel and situate oneself while reading the NT or Apostolic Fathers.
(One could add additional features like "pote arksei" 'when will you
begin?' MESH middle with Attic -EI, or AORISTOS -mi with -S-
EDOSAN. Most of the dual can be covered by learning TW 'the'
nom. and acc. and TOIN 'the' gen and dative, for all genders and
stated cases as "dual". Now that's an easy dual introduction!)

But if you don't want to read Xenophon, you have Josephus. If you
don't want Plato, read Philo. (Philo is wordy, that is, verbose, but he
writes as a well-trained Alexandrian. If you want something shorter,
read Epiktetos for a first intro to philosophical Greek.) Remember
that words and structures in a language are like points within
semantic space. They are defined not only as themselves, but
in relationship to the other points in that space. Every language
is different.

For those advocating the reading of grammars, please read
Dionysios O QRAKS. He is a wealth of grammatical vocabulary
and is quite easy to read after you get used to the clipped
"classifieds" style. and very short. (But I admit to thumbing
through Smyth or Goodwin just like a Greek comp
student. Checking rechecking checking. I'm off travelling for
three weeks and will have Goodwin with me because its
lighter and my copy has clearer print. Don't know if I'll use
it but with people speaking ancient Greek one finds that
recourse to reference material is necessary and computer
searches don't always provide the necessary info.)

If you don't want Homeric Hesiod, then you have Apollonius
the Library. (Survey of Greek mythology in prose KOINH.)

But by all means reread the NT. there is nothing like reading the
texts that one wants to read. And DISCUSS the NT in its own
language. Speak to yourself if you have to.
(Don't worry if you need words from outside the NT, if
they are standard 1st century Greek, then that is the language of
the NT, too. Just like if you were in an English Bible study group
discussing a text in English and needing to use words not found
in the NIV-NT.)
When we discuss the NT text in its language, its fabric starts
to be internalized.

You probably shouldn't ask me about Hebrew because I'll play the
part of the man in Macedon and say


Mark egrapse:
> Stick with New Testament Greek.  If you want to "study some classical
  Greek" read (i.e. re-read) Hebrews and the second half of Acts.

  As Buth notes in a post above, the distinction between Classical and
  Koine is overstated.  The forms you have to memorize are almost
  exactly the same (the only differences I can think of is no dual
  in the Koine and Koine TWSAN for
  Classical NTWN in the 3 pl imperative.)  Ancient Greek vocabulary is
  ancient Greek vocabulary; 95% of the vocab you would learn in a classical
  Greek class or from an Attic textbook will be very useful for your NT
  Greek, and conversely, if you memorize the meanings of the 5437 words
  in the Greek New Testament, you will have a better Classical vocabulary
  than your average Classics grad student.  It's true that words develop
  different meanings--KAKOS in Classical Greek could mean "lazy," a
  meaning, I think, not found in the GNT, and this explains why EGKAKEW
  in the GNT means "I become tired."  But when you do your Greek NT
word studies,
  you are going to learn stuff like this.  Virtually every construction that
  you might read about in Smyth or learn in a Classical Greek class
  occurs at least once in the Greek New Testament.

  So, the issue is not what kind of Greek (Classical or NT) your "learn" or
  "study."  The issue is which Greek texts you choose to spend your time
  reading.  It's great that you have finished Mounce!  Now is the time to
  read and re-read the Greek NT!  After that, read the Greek NT with
Zerwick, then
  read the "The Expositor's Greek New Testament" and after that read the Greek
  NT and look up every word you are curious about in Moulton and Milligan's
  "The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament" and after that read the Greek
  NT along with all the variants in NA27 and then after that get "The Precise
  Parallel New Testament" and read the Greek NT along with out all the
  translations and then after that read the Greek NT and whenever you see
  a verb form that you cannot explain look it up in Mounce's "Morphology of
  Biblical Greek."  Then, after that, read the Greek New Testament aloud into
  a tape recorder and play in back and see if you can understand it.

  Then, if you still have time, you will want to read some non-NT Greek and
  so read and re-read the Apostolic Fathers.  Then read the Septuagint, both
  the stuff composed in Greek and the stuff translated from the Hebrew.
  Then, if you still have time, learn Hebrew.  THEN, IF YOU STILL HAVE
  TIME, by all means, read some Xenophon.

  Conrad, who is a heck of a lot smarter than I am, says that
  everyone who wants to read the Greek New
  Testament should first spend their time on Classical grammars and
  in Classical Greek classes and reading Classical texts.  Had we
  but world enough and time, I guess this would be okay.  But we

  Again, congrats on getting through the first year!  You will
  be soon be making great contributions to this post! >

Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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