[B-Greek] the best Metalanguage to understand the Greek NT? (was "2 Peter 1:1")

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Fri Apr 23 08:58:25 EDT 2010

On Apr 23, 2010, at 7:33 AM, Mark Lightman wrote:
> Yancy wrote
> <Someone said once that the best commentary on the NT is the LXX.>
> It's certainly is one of the better NT commentaries, and I like the fact that
> it is not in English.  

No, nor in ordinary Greek either. But it is the source of a good deal of the
language and expressions used by NT authors and therefore one of the more
important resources for an interpreter of the GNT.

The saying reminds me of what a mentor of mine once said: the Iliad and
Odyssey are the best commentaries on Vergil's Aeneid; one cannot fully
appreciate Vergil's achievement without a deep familiarity with the Greek
text of the Homeric poems.

> But I have been thinking a lot of late that the Modern
> Greek NT is not only the best commentary of the NT, but it is also the
> best "Metalanguage" for understanding the Greek NT.  I know it is just
> a "translation" (or is it?) but compared to the Metalanguage of
> NT Greek Linguistics, it is (a) easier to understand (b) prettier (c)  less of
> a "traitor" in that it more accurately describes what is going on in
> the Koine Text.  Here's what the Metalanguage of Today's Greek
> Version says about DIKAIOSUNi TOU QEOU in 2 Peter 1:1:
> η αγαπη του Θεου...δωρισε την...πιστη  (H AGAPH TOU QEOU DWRISE THN PISTH)
> Compared to the Metalanguage of NT Greek Linguistics, the Metalanguage of the
> Modern Greek NT is also shorter, and it solves George and Eddie's problem of
> avoiding English altogether.  Do you see my point?  In other words, if you
> HAVE to learn a Metalanguage to understand what the Greek NT means
> (and I'm not convinced that you do) why not learn how to read the Modern
> Greek NT instead of learning how to read Hoyle, which would take you about
> the same amount of time?

A curiously facile suggestion, this. It mixes apples not with oranges but with brussels sprouts.

(1) There's more than one Modern Greek version of the GNT; the versions that exist are
no less interpretations of the original than are the various translations of the GNT into
other target languages. Every version depends upon a solution to the text-critical problems,
and every version depends upon a resolution of alternative understandings of those passages
that are in any way ambiguous.

(2) Using Koine Greek or even Modern Greek as the language of reference for descriptive
terms and explanation of the structure and usage of Koine Greek is as reasonable as using
any modern langauge, perhaps even more reasonable. But the notion that any one translation
of the GNT fills the need for an explanation of HOW and WHY a given text is to be understood
in one or another particular way confounds explanation with translation. Mark may want to
throw away lexica and grammatical reference works and continue to pooh-pooh the utility 
or relevance of Linguists working in Biblical Greek, but others may be inclined to think
this is going down a blind alley.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

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