Friday, June 04, 2010

Reflections on the intricacies of Greek Grammar

For the last few weeks I’ve been helping a friend with a series of assignments related to Wallace’s Greek Grammar and Basics of NT Syntax. It reminded me of why I sold my copy of “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics”. Actually, I don’t want to come across as being personally negative to Wallace here. I have tremendous respect for Wallace’s erudition and Greek. His books are indeed useful. But, I’m not sure they are useful, or being used, in the best possible way. So back to rant: It was, on my behalf, a matter of looking up all these categories of genitives, aorists, so on ad infinitum. There’s no sense in which these categories remain in my head, and nor am I convinced that they should. Does any seminary graduate, who is not involved in academic work, come to a Greek text and ask such questions. Is there really much difference between an intensive and an extensive pluperfect?

I’m not sure this is the best use of a 2nd year Greek education. Let’s at least acknowledge the fact that Greek speakers rarely looked at a genitive and asked ‘what category of the genitive does this fall into?’. Did they sometimes do that kind of in-depth analysis of their own language? Certainly, as we do in English sometimes when disambiguating or arguing over complex or unclear words. But not in our everyday discourse. Far better, I contend, that we spend 2nd year Greek studies trying to get students deeply into reading Greek qua Greek, and far less on memorising 183 uses of the dative.

2 comments:

mike said...

I like you, Seumas.

Seumas Macdonald said...

Just call it how I see it.