Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Grammar in the Petrine Epistles and Revelation (Message to a Friend)

I'd like to recommend A. T. Robertson's big grammar (pp. 125-127) for his helpful discussion of Greek style. For instance, one feature of the Petrine epistles that makes scholars think 1 and 2 Peter have two different authors is the difference in style and vocabulary of the two compositions. Furthermore, Peter's writing is filled with vernacular speech, he can be pleonastic, the Apostle uses "picture-words," (see 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:1ff) technical speech, and may even have included ad sensum constructions or solecisms in his epistles. But the Greek is generally good in terms of its quality.

Though I've modified my view of the Greek found in Revelation, I'm inclined to believe that the jury is still out on this issue. A descriptivist approach to the work tends to read John's Apocalypse in the light of the Saussurean distinction between la langue and la parole. From this vantage-point, John's work is not ungrammatical, but fully in accord with communicative situational principles. Nevertheless, David Aune (in no uncertain terms) argues: "The Greek of Revelation is not only difficult and awkward, but it also contains lexical and syntactical features that no native speaker of Greek would have written" (Revelation, cxcix).

Granted, ancient writers such as Dionysius of Alexandria complained about the solecisms and barbarisms as well as the "inaccurate Greek" in Revelation. And modern scholars attempt to discover the reason for so-called ad sensum constructions by contending, inter alia, that Revelation was originally written in Hebrew/Aramaic or possibly the writer was bilingual and "Semitic interference" thus reared its head in the Apocalypse. Aune's discussion is quite detailed and I recommend that you at least consult pp. cc in his introduction. His comments will help you to see why Revelation is considered "translation Greek" along the lines of the LXX. See also David Aune's bibliography on pages clx-clxii. Another recommended work is S. Thompson's The Apocalypse and Semitic Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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