Simple lesson based on P.Oxy. 299

Resources and methods for teaching and learning New Testament Greek.

Simple lesson based on P.Oxy. 299

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 23rd, 2014, 4:04 pm

The simple grammatical structure of this letter makes it suitable as a substitution drill exercise. The actual complete text with un-standardised spelling is available from Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri.

The part that I want go use, with standardised spelling is:
Ὧρος Ἀπίωνι τῷ τιμιωτάτῳ χαίρειν.
Λάμπωνι μυοθηρευτῇ ἔδωκα αὐτῷ διὰ σοῦ ἀρραβῶνα δραχμὰς η ἵνα μυοθηρεύσῃ ἐν Τόκα[/color]. καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις μοι αὐτάς.
ἔρρωσο. Παῦνι κδ.


In keeping with the recently discussed desire to enrich New Testament Greek readers mastery of core vocabulary of the broader Koine Greek language, I want is to make it a lesson about professions, the dative case after the verb δοῦναι, and the second person singular aorist subjunctive active.

[That could be expanded to dates, Milesian numerals, denominations of coinage, or names, once those first aims had been mastered. ]

I'm asking for help to think up non-mercantile professions (service professions) where there is no transfer if goods.

Apart from this μυοθηρευτής (μυοθηρευτῇ) - μυοθηρειν (μυοθηρεύσῃ) pair, can anyone suggest other paid professions and their corresponding verb(s)?
Stephen Hughes
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Re: Simple lesson based on P.Oxy. 299

Postby Barry Hofstetter » April 23rd, 2014, 7:46 pm

Isn't μυοθηρεύσῃ third person singular? What is the η doing (I also note that it appears in front of καί in part of the text you didn't use, καὶ Διονυσίῳ προσ[τ]άτῃ Νεμερῶν κέκρηκα(*) (δραχμὰς) η καὶ ταύτας οὐκ ἔπεμψε)? I'm also puzzled by πέμψεις, which looks like 2nd sing. future. I would have written πέμψας... Would that be a spelling variant for the aorist participle, or is it simply an ungrammatical (by even NT Koine standards) use of another main verb form where we would expect something subordinate? Or a spelling error for the future infinitive? I've never spent much time in the papyri... The sense of it is clear, but it reminds me of a note I got when I was working as a janitor at Honeywell from a less than literate colleague "Yer wif cald..."
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Re: Simple lesson based on P.Oxy. 299

Postby Barry Hofstetter » April 23rd, 2014, 8:22 pm

Answering my own post, I just realized that the η is 8... :o
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Should grammar be standardised to facilitate learning / comm

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 24th, 2014, 3:55 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:and the second person singular aorist subjunctive actI've.
Barry Hofstetter wrote:Isn't μυοθηρεύσῃ third person singular?

Yes, now that you mention it, the "he, she, it, they (x3)" is third person. Sorry for my low IQ.

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I just realized that the η is 8

I should make that clear by writing it as η', then.

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
P. Oxy. 299, lines 3-4 wrote:καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις
I'm also puzzled by πέμψεις, which looks like 2nd sing. future. I would have written πέμψας... Would that be a spelling variant for the aorist participle, or is it simply an ungrammatical (by even NT Koine standards) use of another main verb form where we would expect something subordinate? Or a spelling error for the future infinitive?

Picky, picky. The grammar teacher's eye.

It is a common enough and wide-spread construction for a polite or softened command in personal letters at that time in the first century CE. The καλῶς ποιήσεις functions as a stylised "Please". It is regularly followed by the second person (I've checked that number!) future indicative that you see here. If there was only one instance of this formulaic expression and this letter was being copied by scribes of a later age, when this idiom was no longer used, then they would probably have corrected it in one of the ways you are suggesting...

It's a bit off the topic of finding a way to teach proffesions to improve core Koine vocabulary, but the relevant New Testament verse is
3 John 6(b) wrote:οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ.
If it were re-regularised according to the contemporary letter writing conventions, it would read οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψεις ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ. If the papyrus letters of that time were standardised according to the greater Greek language across time and scribal transmission, then I should have standardised the grammar of P. Oxy. 299 as καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψας along with the spelling changes I made for students' convenience.

In keeping with the idea that formal grammar is a subset of the possible grammar of the language, I decided not to change / regularise that. Are you suggesting I should?

Personally, despite the evidence from 3 John 6 about how the construction should be (was) changed into standard literary Greek by copyists unfamiliar with the phraseology, I was thinking of just supplying an ει "if" between the two verbs in brackets. Or perhaps just explaining that an "if" feeling is understood. What's your take on it?

Barry Hofstetter wrote:I was working as a janitor at Honeywell

What sort of company requires their cleaning staff to have doctorates in classics?
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Re: Should grammar be standardised to facilitate learning /

Postby Barry Hofstetter » April 24th, 2014, 5:03 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:Picky, picky. The grammar teacher's eye.

It is a common enough and wide-spread construction for a polite or softened command in personal letters at that time in the first century CE. The καλῶς ποιήσεις functions as a stylised "Please". It is regularly followed by the second person (I've checked that number!) future indicative that you see here. If there was only one instance of this formulaic expression and this letter was being copied by scribes of a later age, when this idiom was no longer used, then they would probably have corrected it in one of the ways you are suggesting...

It's a bit off the topic of finding a way to teach proffesions to improve core Koine vocabulary, but the relevant New Testament verse is
3 John 6(b) wrote:οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψας ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ.
If it were re-regularised according to the contemporary letter writing conventions, it would read οὓς καλῶς ποιήσεις προπέμψεις ἀξίως τοῦ θεοῦ. If the papyrus letters of that time were standardised according to the greater Greek language across time and scribal transmission, then I should have standardised the grammar of P. Oxy. 299 as καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψας along with the spelling changes I made for students' convenience.

In keeping with the idea that formal grammar is a subset of the possible grammar of the language, I decided not to change / regularise that. Are you suggesting I should?

Personally, despite the evidence from 3 John 6 about how the construction should be (was) changed into standard literary Greek by copyists unfamiliar with the phraseology, I was thinking of just supplying an ει "if" between the two verbs in brackets. Or perhaps just explaining that an "if" feeling is understood. What's your take on it?


Very good, thanks, I suspected it was something like this, but I wasn't familiar enough with the construction in the papyri to be sure. I would suggest leaving it as the papyrus has it and then showing how it's done in 3 Jn 6. If we are preparing our students to read (among other things) the NT it's nice to know how the NT writers handle it... :)


What sort of company requires their cleaning staff to have doctorates in classics?


They wanted really intelligent and erudite janitors... Actually, this was the job I got in between grad school (M.A. in Classics) and seminary. About halfway through my time there, I changed jobs internally to a shipping clerk. Working at Honeywell was the best "pre-seminary" degree I could have gotten... They told me I was a fool to leave the company, which had excellent wages and benefits for the time to go to seminary, but not two years after I left, the building in which I had worked was a parking lot.
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Re: Should grammar be standardised to facilitate learning /

Postby cwconrad » April 24th, 2014, 7:01 am

Stephen Hughes wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:
P. Oxy. 299, lines 3-4 wrote:καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις
I'm also puzzled by πέμψεις, which looks like 2nd sing. future. I would have written πέμψας... Would that be a spelling variant for the aorist participle, or is it simply an ungrammatical (by even NT Koine standards) use of another main verb form where we would expect something subordinate? Or a spelling error for the future infinitive?

Picky, picky. The grammar teacher's eye.


Stephen Hughes wrote:
Barry Hofstetter wrote:I was working as a janitor at Honeywell

What sort of company requires their cleaning staff to have doctorates in classics?

A "picky, picky" company. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
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Re: Should grammar be standardised to facilitate learning /

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 24th, 2014, 9:18 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:Very good, thanks, I suspected it was something like this, but I wasn't familiar enough with the construction in the papyri to be sure. I would suggest leaving it as the papyrus has it and then showing how it's done in 3 Jn 6. If we are preparing our students to read (among other things) the NT it's nice to know how the NT writers handle it... :)

I think it is better if beginning students begin their study of Greek with extra biblical (secular / daily life) material for at least a while to appreciate Greek as a real functioning language not a code.

Tell me if I'm reading too much into your "then" by concluding that we are somewhat at least thinking along the same lines.

Besides this use in a personal letter, we see from the formal letter of introduction:
P. Oxy. 292 lines 5-7a wrote:διὸ παρακαλῶ σε μετὰ πάσης δυνά-
μεως ἔχειν αὐτὸν συνεσταμέ-
νον.
that παρακαλώ + infinitive is used in formal letters. These are not new things, but things we knew implicitly all along from our reading of the New Testament letters, and are not relevant to the lesson at hand.

P. Oxy. 299 lines 3b-4a wrote:καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις

To stray even further from the topic of teaching vocabulary...

Another way of thinking about the construction is as something like the imperatival ἵνα + subjunctive construction.

The ἵνα μυοθηρεύσῃ that I've regularized from the footnotes from its original ending in -ει is sufficient grounds based on spelling to conjecture that πέμψεις could be taken as πέμψῃς.

The editors have followed editorial best practice in not footnoting that. Editors' footnotes regularise only so far as to arrive at a standard grammatical form. The future indicative exists, so they leave well enough alone.

[Now, to move from conjecture to speculation. I'm not sure if the language was far enough along towards the messiness of the transitions in verbal system when the loss of distinction between the sigmas of the aorist and future - and the loss of the loss of the future as a distinct form - meant that it wouldn't have mattered whether this was an aorist subjunctive or a quasi-"future subjunctive" (a subjunctive formed on a future stem).]

Either way, this καλῶς ποιήσεις + <second person singular aorist subjunctive> construction is like the Hellenistic kingdom of Bactria - an ancient kingdom, the richest /most fertile part of the Hellenistic world, but now with no successor states, no cultural legacy nor language continuities. A forgotten greatness known only from a few historical references and some unearthed coins.
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Re: Should grammar be standardised to facilitate learning /

Postby Barry Hofstetter » April 24th, 2014, 9:47 pm

Stephen Hughes wrote:I think it is better if beginning students begin their study of Greek with extra biblical (secular / daily life) material for at least a while to appreciate Greek as a real functioning language not a code.

Tell me if I'm reading too much into your "then" by concluding that we are somewhat at least thinking along the same lines.


Well, I was thinking strictly in terms of you using this document as an exercise. But I agree, although my tendency would be to start them with Attic Greek. However, are you familiar with Richard LaFleur (I'm sure Carl Conrad knows him well, or surely knows of him). He has done the same with Latin in a companion volume to the Wheelock primer called Scribblers, Sculptors, and Scribes, which takes such things as ancient Latin graffiti and uses them to illustrate how Latin was used as a living language, not just a literary artifact. So I think you are on the right track. Maybe you could write the Greek textbook equivalent?

Stephen Hughes wrote:
P. Oxy. 299 lines 3b-4a wrote:καλῶς ποιήσεις πέμψεις

To stray even further from the topic of teaching vocabulary...

Another way of thinking about the construction is as something like the imperatival ἵνα + subjunctive construction.

The ἵνα μυοθηρεύσῃ that I've regularized from the footnotes from its original ending in -ει is sufficient grounds based on spelling to conjecture that πέμψεις could be taken as πέμψῃς.

The editors have followed editorial best practice in not footnoting that. Editors' footnotes regularise only so far as to arrive at a standard grammatical form. The future indicative exists, so they leave well enough alone.

[Now, to move from conjecture to speculation. I'm not sure if the language was far enough along towards the messiness of the transitions in verbal system when the loss of distinction between the sigmas of the aorist and future - and the loss of the loss of the future as a distinct form - meant that it wouldn't have mattered whether this was an aorist subjunctive or a quasi-"future subjunctive" (a subjunctive formed on a future stem).]

Either way, this καλῶς ποιήσεις + <second person singular aorist subjunctive> construction is like the Hellenistic kingdom of Bactria - an ancient kingdom, the richest /most fertile part of the Hellenistic world, but now with no successor states, no cultural legacy nor language continuities. A forgotten greatness known only from a few historical references and some unearthed coins.


That also occurred to me. I think we have examples even in classical literature where the ἵνα is omitted, and it would certainly accord better with what we know about phonetic development in the language than positing it as a misspelling of the aorist participle.

Your reference to Bactria is intriguing. I am sure that there is a great deal lost to history that we may never know. Some time ago, I downloaded a book on ancient Italic dialects, most of which are preserved only in inscriptions. It struck me that if Rome had not become so powerful politically and militarily, we might never have known Vergil or Cicero or Juvenal. Did these cultures have a literary tradition? Was there an Oscan poet as great as Vergil whose work, if it had survived, might be just as revered? The same could be true of various ancient Greek dialects... But we have what we have, and it is that with which we concern ourselves. Ooh, I'm getting way too philosophical here, sorry.
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Is διὰ σοῦ a prefiguring of Modern Greek or its birth

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 25th, 2014, 10:51 am

The real point if interest here is the διὰ σοῦ. Is it a spark that glowed for a moment then grew cold, or is this the earliest witness to what would become για σου in the Modern idiom.

BAGS has a special note about this papyrus down the bottom on the second page. I guess it "should" be υπέρ σου down the bottom of the second column.
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Various others have compiled readers.

Postby Stephen Hughes » April 25th, 2014, 11:42 am

I do look at secular texts with my (very few) students before looking at the equivalent New Testament usages. That's teaching Greek in rather broken Chinese.

Dreams of greatness, and being remembered is a young man's game. I'm pretty sure that I don't know the language well enough to write a textbook. Others have compiled papyrus / seicular text based readers. They are very good and useful.

Starting with Attic is good. Our Koine is Attic Koine. Attic and Ptolemaic Koine are really similar.

In my own pen (sheepfold; where I'm responsible), I introduce secular Koine texts first. There are two reasons for that; first for letting the students get an orientation of the place of the New Testament in the language as a whole and second because the sacred texts are better handled with a little competency. The demands of extracting the sacred and eternal truths is less frustrating if the reader has at least a smattering of the language.

Beginning with a language in the situation where proficiency us ecpected is like going to a foreign country knowing none of the language and trying to get by, by learning the language after it was needed. Usually people go to evening classes or something before they travel.
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