[B-Greek] Why we don't find "Reader's Editions" of Classical Greek texts

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Sun May 10 08:41:30 EDT 2009

On May 9, 2009, at 10:55 AM, Mark Lightman wrote:

> 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 don't recall ever having written something that should be  
paraphrased like that. This reminds me more of what the President said  
about objections to the Stimulus bill. But there's a good deal of  
imaginative reconsruction of what I may have said and felt about the  
use of some particular textbook at some point in my student and  
teaching career. What I did say about the concept of a "Reader's  
Edition of the GNT" is this:

"It would appear that we are defining "Reader's Edition GNT" as a  
Greek NT for people who (a) really can't read NT Greek, i.e. recognize  
at sight the inflected forms of verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs,  
and (b) can't cope with a lexicon that lays out the full range of  
potential meanings of Greek words but must rely instead upon someone  
else's selection from a short list of glosses in what is just about  
the weakest of all lexical aids available for study of the GNT, and  
(c) doesn't need a grammar, because it is assumed that the single- 
word  glosses and parsing of words is sufficient to yield the literal  
meaning of the Greek text. I suppose there's something satisfying  
about the lack of any critical apparatus too: it relieves the reader  
from the uncomfortable notion that the Greek text he or she is looking  
at is something other than an editorial composite of manuscript  
evidence. I'd have to say that I think an interlinear would be more  
immediately useful for the person who can't really read NT Greek or  
cope with a real lexicon."

Mark Lightman's heartfelt desire is for a comparable "Reader's Edition  
of Homer's Iliad or Odyssey" -- a Greek text with all the conveniences  
of the Zondervan Reader's Edition of the GNT -- all helps handy on the  
same page as the Greek text, no flipping back to a vocabulary or  
annotations on passages presenting problems to the "reader." I really  
don't think that such an animal exists; Mark says he thinks he has  
found it in the JACT "Triumph of Odysseus" formatting of Odyssey 21  
and 22. I'm quite sure that's comparable to the JACT edition of the  
climactic books of the Iliad, now out of print, a textbook that I once  
used to teach the first semester of a second-year Greek class. This is  
a textbook intended for students who have completed the JACT "Reading  
Greek" course. I find it strange that it should be categorized as a  
"Reader's Edition."

In fact, however, I think that the notion of a "Reader's Edition" is  
alien to Classical Greek pedagogy. The nearest comparable thing would  
be something like the Oxford Book of Greek Verse, an anthology of  
Greek poetry passages from Homer through late antiquity, or, to be  
more precise, the Oxford Classical Texts that provide the Greek (or  
Latin) text of the major literary works of antiquity with a critical  
apparatus; there's a comparable German series, the Teubner texts. Of  
course there are the Loeb Classical Library texts with Greek/Latin  
texts and a facing English version (which makes no pretense of being  
literal) and the comparable (but much more scholarly) French Guillaume  
Budé texts with facing French versions. These are the standard  
resources for adults who have learned Greek or Latin and want to read  
the original text of a major ancient author; they offer no "helps" but  
are based on the assumption that users of these books can read them on  
the basis of their learning. These books should not be confused with  
textbooks prepared to help the student who is still learning the  

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