Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby ed krentz » February 22nd, 2012, 5:49 pm

No one has mentioned the grammar by Ludwig Radermacher in the Handbuch zum Neuen Testament [one can read this one for fun] or his work entitled "Koine" of volume 2 of the Geschichte der griechiscehn Sprache in the Sammlung Gösschen. Or L.Palmer's History of the Greek Language. I used to own Kühner-Blass-Gerth, but sold it when I moved into a retirement home. All of the above are worth reading.

And Smyth belongs on your desk, right beside BDAG.

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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby RDecker » February 22nd, 2012, 8:13 pm

cwconrad wrote:Two disturbing trends in the latter are (1) the abandonment of any expectation that seminary students should gain any real competence in Biblical Greek, and (2) the emerging consensus that Biblical software -- and in particular parsing guides and interlinear displays -- are sufficient stand-ins for that real competence in Biblical Greek.


Unfortunately, many seminaries see #2 as the salvation of #1! "Greek" in too many places has become "Logos 101"--and often with the encouragement of Logos. Some seminaries, mine included, have resisted this trend.


The one positive trend has been the emergence of real endeavors such as those spearheaded by Randall Buth and Daniel Sreett to teach the ancient languages as living languages in which students can and should think and communicate with each other; the big question is whether that has any real chance of catching on and spreading in the schools that matter. It may already be too late for that.


I've tried not to get entangled in debates on this here since the majority opinion seems to pretty "fixed." I think it likely too idealistic to have a chance of making any significant impact on seminary training. For a "Greek major" perhaps--but seminaries are intended primarily for ministerial training, so there simply aren't enough hours. A pastoral training major must include not only Greek, but also Hebrew and Bible and theology and church history and ethics and apologetics and homiletics and practical theology. And that's all I'll say about that.

I was partly amused and partly saddened to learn that Rod Decker's discovery of Smyth's grammar was practically an accident, although I think that he would have discovered Smyth sooner or later somehow.


That says most about my earliest training I suppose. To the credit of my doctoral program, my Doctorvater, also the head of the NT dept., was very familiar with Smyth--and corrected my pronunciation of it the first time I mentioned it. (I was calling it "Smith.")

In addition, I think that what's been said about BDF and the fact that (a) it isn't really up to date, and (b) it isn't really a full-scale Hellenistic Greek grammar, are related to another significant fact: for several decades now the authoritative academic voices in NT Greek have been insisting that the approach to Biblical Greek pedagogy and scholarship should be strictly synchronic. And the seminaries have accepted that and have ceased to insist that incoming students have an undergraduate grounding in Classical Greek.


I'm not so sure that's the fault of a synchronic emphasis. The classical pre-reqs had been gone long before synchronic became a buzz word. And in defense of synchronic, I'd point out that such an emphasis is almost always used (if used correctly) in terms of lexical semantics, not morphology and syntax. There, I think, I'd be willing to defend synchronic *priority*--but certainly not synchronic exclusivity.

One consequence of all this is that, even if the funding were available now to underwrite the project of compiling a true Hellenistic Greek grammar, we might very well be hard put to assemble a body of competent teacher-scholars who could put together a Hellenistic Greek grammar even on the scope of Smyth. What I mean by that is a grammar that expounds Koine Greek morphology and syntax with a perspective on both earlier and later Greek morphology and usage, as Smyth expounds Classical Greek grammar with a look backward toward Homeric Greek and forward toward Hellenistic Greek.


That is undoubtedly true.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby RDecker » February 22nd, 2012, 8:21 pm

Jonathan Robie wrote:For perspective - do the classics people wish they had a Danker to work on LSJ?


For a very helpful perspective, see John Lee's fascinating book, A History of New Testament Lexicography, SBG 8 (NY: Peter Lang, 2003). The essays are worth reading carefully. Lee not only evaluates past lexica, but sketches what is needed next. He would agree, I think, with Carl, that it isn't going to happen right away. Lee himself was involved in a major Hellenistic lexicon project, a new Moulton and Milligan before he retired, but unfortunately that project has apparently died. He has spoken at several recent SBL sections on lexicography along with Anne Thompson (currently head of LSJ revision) and Danker, etc.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby RDecker » February 22nd, 2012, 8:25 pm

cwconrad wrote:Users of the hardcover edition consulting entries in the main body of the lexicon will find marks indicating where there is supplementary information in the appended Glare supplement. But the Logos implementation of LSJ-G incorporates the Glare material into the body of the lexicon. Logos is now accessible to Mac users like myself (my chief Biblical software is Accordance, but the Accordance LSJ is not yet available).


From what I've heard recently, the Accordance version of LSJ is finally coming to fruition. I expect to see it available before long. Probably not next week, but this year. I'd be surprised if it were as late as fall, but I've not heard a release date yet.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby Shirley Rollinson » February 24th, 2012, 10:51 pm

It is a rather sobering thought that when Smyth was written, it was intended as a text for High School students.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby Stephen Carlson » February 24th, 2012, 11:26 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote:It is a rather sobering thought that when Smyth was written, it was intended as a text for High School students.


Well, I had Goodwin as my Greek grammar in High School.

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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby ed krentz » February 26th, 2012, 9:50 pm

Ed Krentz:

Smyth actually produced two grammars. His "A Greek Grammar for Colleges" has been updated and published by Harvard U.Press as "A Greek Grammar." He also published "A Greek Grammar for Schools and Colleges" which I used in HS back in the forties. Both were excellent.

Goodwin-Gulick also wrote a good grammar. In the mid-twentieth century students were well served with English reference grammars, e.g. Basil Gildersleeve's two volumes on Syntax, an excellent Grammar of Homeric Greek, and special works on many items.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby Paul-Nitz » March 7th, 2012, 5:55 am

I'm wondering if anyone could compare and contrast Smyth's grammar with A.T. Robertson's.

Thanks very much for the education we've enjoyed through this thread. I was inspired to print and bind myself a large print version of the 1920 edition of Smyth.
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby Jonathan Robie » March 7th, 2012, 7:10 am

Paul-Nitz wrote:I'm wondering if anyone could compare and contrast Smyth's grammar with A.T. Robertson's.

Thanks very much for the education we've enjoyed through this thread. I was inspired to print and bind myself a large print version of the 1920 edition of Smyth.
Image


Robertson and Smyth have opposite virtues.

Smyth is concise, precise, systematically laid out, and very readable.

Robertson has a huge number of examples, many more pages than Smyth, but his explanations are fuzzy and confusing, at least to my poor brain.

So read the explanation in Smyth, then look for examples in Robertson.
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Re: Smyth "A Greek Grammar"

Postby cwconrad » March 7th, 2012, 8:37 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
Paul-Nitz wrote:I'm wondering if anyone could compare and contrast Smyth's grammar with A.T. Robertson's.


Robertson and Smyth have opposite virtues.

Smyth is concise, precise, systematically laid out, and very readable.

Robertson has a huge number of examples, many more pages than Smyth, but his explanations are fuzzy and confusing, at least to my poor brain.

So read the explanation in Smyth, then look for examples in Robertson.


I think Jonathan's characterization is not so much wrong as it is simplistic. It's true that there are many more pages in Robertson's (ATR) grammar than in Smyth's, but they are different in many, many ways. I think that Jonathan's description does a disservice to the virtues of both works.

Robertson's work is focused fundamentally on the Greek of the New Testament, but each chapter begins with a careful survey of the history of the form and/or usage dealt with, setting forth the best of historical linguistic scholarship at the time of his writing, so that his discussion of NT Koine's forms and usages is set in a deliberate and careful diachronic perspective. I think it is true that some of what Robertson wrote is "fuzzy" -- which is to say, it does not give the quick and dirty answer to a question that the impatient student consulting ATR for a definitive solution to an immediate problem is looking for. ATR hems and haws about questions and sometimes offers a tentative view. I'd say that ATR is best read at leisure and a chapter at a time rather than consulted in quest of the solution to a problem arising in the reading of a particular text. ATR is hard to use as a reference grammar, even if it has nice indexes; it's certainly easier to use in an electronic edition (especially the nicely-engineered and hyper-texted versions in software packages like Accordance and Logos), but it's still an awkward work to consult for answers to very specific questions. I'd recommend ATR more for careful reading, chapter by chapter, for an overview of the language of the GNT as it has developed over the course of the history of the language, and I'd take note of the fact that it is dated in its view of some matters (some might consider that a virtue!). ATR uses the traditional grammatical categories even when he objects to them (I've found plenty of evidence in his discussion of voice that supports my argument that we should drop the notion of deponency and understand middle and passive usage in different ways than those that have been taught for ages past).

ATR's focus is the Koine Greek of the NT; his historical survey of older Greek forms and usage is intended to illuminate the distinct forms and usage of the NT Koine. Smyth's grammar on the other hand focuses distinctly on Classical Attic Greek, but it adds notes explaining older Homeric forms and usages as well as variants in the dialects and even in Hellenistic Greek. I would not really call Smyth's work "concise" in the most precise sense of that adjective, but Smyth is not "chatty" in the way that ATR is; Smyth states clearly and precisely what is most useful to understand about forms and usages and sets forth an immense array of information in an extraordinarily well-organized layout. It is rare that one comes across a statement in Smyth that is not lucid and properly nuanced and accompanied by notes regarding apparent exceptions. Moreover, the illustrative texts are well chosen and for each of them a version in excellent English phrasing is offered. Given that Smyth's focus is on Classical Attic, it continues to be surprising how useful its information is to one researching forms and usage in Biblical Greek. Smyth is especially valuable when supplemented by BDF, a grammar which is almost useless to students of Biblical Greek who aren't familiar with earlier Greek.

In sum, ATR is a book to read carefully to learn about the nature of the Biblical Greek language; it's something a serious student of Biblical Greek should own and should read through, but it is not a handy reference book to consult when you encounter a puzzle in a Biblical Greek text that you're reading, and if you attempt to consult it, you'll have the devil of a time finding what ATR has to say about your puzzle. On the other hand, you can go to Smyth and quickly find out where to look in the superbly-organized table of contents and proceed immediately to information that answers your query immediately if not sooner --- and if it doesn't answer it, then the answer may not be found anywhere.
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