[B-Greek] Reader's Editions of Homer and the Greek NT

Mark Lightman lightmanmark at yahoo.com
Sat May 9 10:55:52 EDT 2009

Conrad once made a crack about Reader's Editions.
"Isn't every book a 'Reader's Edition?'  What the hell
else do you do with a book?"  I'm paraphrasing; what
he actually said was funnier than that, but you get the
point.  I'm in the market now for a Reader's Edition of
the Iliad or the Odyssey, having found my Zondervan's
A Reader's Greek NT to still be the single most helpful
NT Greek resource.  Or, at least, the single most
helpful NT Greek resource not named Carl Conrad.
But I realize that I mean "Reader's Edition" in two
different senses.
SENSE ONE:  A Reader's Edition is a text that you 
can read without having to refer to any other text and
without having to flip through pages.  The helps are
right there on the same or facing pages.  Now, a 
diglot is a Reader's Edition in this sense, but helpful
in a different way is a text which has rare vocab
glossed on same page notes.  The dirty little secret
about learning ancient Greek is that 75% of it is simply
learning vocabulary.  For Homer, whose syntax is easy, 
learning vocab is probably 90%.  You can always,
and I do, make your own Reader's Edition by looking
up the words once and writing them in the margins.
In fact, I don't really mind looking up words in Homer,
because  often his unfamilar words are just odd or
compound forms of familar Attic/koine morphemes,
TIPTE for TI POTE and my favorite so far,
STRWPAW for STREPW.  But I think you
are more likely to learn the vocab if the
words are written out in a regular font, not in
your own Greek handwriting.  I certainly found
this true with Hebrew, anyway.
It turns out there IS a Reader's Edition of 
Odyssey Books 21 and 22, done by JACT,
called "The Triumph of Odysseus."
Published before the Zondervan's RGT, the
format is a little different, with the glosses
sometimes under and sometimes on facing
pages. There are no footnotes in the text, so
you're not sure if there is a gloss or not until
you check, but this leaves the text unmarred,
which is nice.  Like Zondervan, and unlike UBS'
Reader's Edition, this one usually give you
several definitions, not just one word glosses, which is
key in building a better vocabulary.
I'm very happy with this text and just
wish there were similar Reader's Editions
of all of Homer.  The only other thing I have
found which is close is, ironically, the book
that Carl himself used to learn Homer back
in the early 20th century, Benner's "Selections
from Homer's the Iliad."   Based
on his recommendation, I bought a used
copy (not the reprint) published in 1906.
Benner glosses right at the bottom of
the page a few REALLY rare words, often
giving you the roots as well.  It would have
been great if he had done this with more
words.  While reading Benner, I had an
image of a young Carl Conrad doing the
same, indignantly crying out "Why, Benner,
what are you doing, giving me these
helps?  I'd rather do the work myself.
What vile product will next spring from this
trend, an interlinear Homer?!?"
SENSE TWO: A Reader's Editon is also
simply a text that you would want to read,
a text with a large readable font and one that
feels good in your hand, lightweight, portable,
not clunky, with a nice binding and attractive
cover.  If you think about it, it's amazing how many
editons of Homer and the Greek NT and other
Greek books do NOT fall into this category.
The most popular edition of the Greek NT,
UBS 4, has a font that is so italicized and 
fuzzy that you can only cleary read it when
you are a little drunk.  I own (and use)
eleven different editons of the Greek NT,
and do you know how many have a nice
font AND feel really good in your hands
while reading?  Zero.  The only Greek NT
which is really flexible and portable is
Zondervan's RGT, and we all know about
its font.  I've gotten used to it, but it's still
pretty horrible.  Can we file a class action
suit against the idiot who first came up with
idea of italicizing Greek?  Even UBS' new
Reader's Edition italicizes OT quotes, as
does the NA 27.  What's wrong with using
quotation marks?  The only Greek NT I have
which has a truly large, nice font is Robinson/
Pierpont, which is close to an ideal Reader's
Editon in Sense 2, but is still a little bigger than
it needs to be.  The fact is, for both Homer and
the Greek NT, editions usually have critical
apparati and notes and long introductions and
glossaries which make the texts heavier than I'd
like.  We want these texts of course, but
we also want a text you can just enjoy reading,
and I think we still don't have one.  As far as a nice
large Homeric font, I have not seen every edition of
Homer, but I've seen many of them, and do you 
know which text has the best font?  That's right,
Benner again.  It's larger and straighter than almost
any font published in the 100 years since it was
published.  In other words, if you want to find the
simplest of all products, an editon of the greatest 
book ever written (apart from the Greek NT) that is
actually nice to READ, you have to go back
to a product that is 100 years old.  Imagine if this
were the case with any other product, if the best
flashlight or the best pair of shoes available was
one hundred years old?
One last question.  I will get my Reader's Edtion of
the Iliad in Sense One soon, when E-books will
solve the problem, but in the meantime, would a 
Reader's Editon of Homer in Sense Two be 
available from Greece?  Does anyone know of 
an on-line Publishing House out of Greece that
might have a nice deluxe edition of Homer with 
a big or even giant font?  And if you go to Greece
and go into Bookstores and Libraries, do they
have many more editons of the Greek NT and Greek
Homers, or do they just use the ones we are
familar with?
Mark L. 


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