Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Study of Koine Greek and Hidden Gems

When I first began to study Greek, it was with the
hope of discovering hidden gems that were supposedly located
beneath the surface of the English text. After
examining the Greek Scriptures for some time, one
discovers that "knowing" Greek helps in certain areas
of study; however, it is important to keep in mind that
a knowledge of Greek can be dangerous unless a student
continues growing in his or her knowledge of the language and
matures with respect to Koine or Attic Greek. Additionally,
a little knowledge of semantics and rhetoric will not

I might add that the new student of NT Greek must
avoid being deceived by plausible grammatical claims
that are actually the result of exegetical razzle-dazzle.
Let's consider examples of such Hellenic noise.


Based on the preposition DIA governing IHSOU XRISTOU
and QEOU PATROS, Timothy George (Galatians, New
American Commentary, page 81) concludes that the
Apostle Paul wanted to make two points in 1:1:

"He was claiming that there is no distinction between
the calling of Jesus Christ and the calling of God,
and, further, he was asserting the essential and
eternal unity between the Father and the Son."

George is here following John Chrysostom's exegesis of Gal.
1:1: this post-Nicene Father avers that Paul's use
of DIA in our relevant verse demonstrates that the Son is
homoousian to patri. But can one really base this
grand ontological claim on the mere occurrence of a
preposition governing two nouns? Is this possibly a
case of reading too much into the Greek text? Maybe it

Interestingly, the Expositor's Bible (Vol. 3) states
that the Greek construction crafted by Paul in
Gal. 1:1 declares: "on the one hand, the instrumentality
of the Son in the appointment of His apostle, and, on
the other, [traces] back the authority with which he
was invested to God the Father as its original source"
(page 150).

Compare Eph. 1:1

I will move on to another example.

For years, exegetes, pastors and Biblical translators
"abused" the aorist tense (morphological form) by emphasizing the
once-for-all-time understanding of the Greek tense.
D.A. Carson discusses some of these abuses and
briefly reviews the scholarship that resulted in a
demythologization of the aorist. We now know that the
AORISTOS generally delineates action as a whole and
does not necessarily portray one act for all time
over against the continuous action of the present
tense, although the present tense (imperfective
aspect) may at times depict continuous action (note
how the aorist is also used in John 3:16 where the writer
stresses the Father's love manifested in sending His
only-begotten Son for the sake of humanity). Other
factors such as context and lexis will also help us to
discern the aspect or Aktionsart of a particular verb
instead of loading a certain "tense" with a meaning
such as the one mentioned above.

Lastly, let me just encourage you to learn all that
you can about Greek morphology, syntax, aspect and
Aktionsart. Read large amounts of the Greek text and
this practice will serve to increase your familiarity with the
GNT's teachings. It is also imperative to consider textual settings:
one should read the surrounding verses in order to eludicate what
the Greek of the Bible is possibly saying.

1 comment:

Duncan said...