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Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 27th, 2012, 8:56 am
by Wayne Kirk
I would appreciate the thoughts of list members on the four volume set by Moulton, Howard, and Turner:

A Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 1: Prolegomena
A Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 2: Accidence and Word-Formation
A Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 3: Syntax
A Grammar of New Testament Greek Vol. 4: Style

Is it still relevant? How does it compare to A Grammar of Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (aka ATR) or Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (aka BDF)?

Re: Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 27th, 2012, 11:18 am
by MAubrey
Volumes 1-2 (the older ones) are absolutely excellent.
Volumes 3-4 are mediocre at best and assume a far higher level of Semitic influence in the language of the New Testament than is reasonable.

Beyond that G. H. Horsley describes the situation rather well:

[quote="Horsley, "The Syntax Volume of Moulton's Grammar," New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity Vol, 5., (Grand Rapids, Mich.:Eerdmans, 1989), 54-55"]Turner has in fact what done what may loosely be called a free translation of Mayser (omitting portions in the latter which were irrelevant to NT syntax), The detailed evidenced of the Ptolematic papyri marshaled by Mayser is condensed so heavily in Syntax that we are presented too often with statistics that are meaningless. It must be be emphasized that Turner is not suppressing reference to Mayser and passing off the work as his own research. Rather, he has taken over Mayser's evidence and abridged it in such a way that it is no longer of any value. Further, it appears that evidence about grammatical use in literary texts, derived from earlier writings like Goodwin, has sometimes come across into Syntax in a confusing manner To this Turner has added NT and LXX references at the appropriate points in illustration of each syntactical [sic] feature Yet even here there are disturbingly inaccurate claims about such straightforward matters as NT frequencies. For example, his claim that γάρ 'is very rare in the Johannine writings (Syntax, 331) is simply not true, as is shown by a quick check of Moulton/Geden. It should not be doubted that Turner has put much labour into the book. e.g. the inclusion of variant readings from many MS witnesses, But an independent contribution to NT syntax it is not. As it stands, the book does not serve specialist users satisfactorily and merely bamboozles students[/quote]

Re: Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 27th, 2012, 6:14 pm
by Eeli Kaikkonen
I can speak from experience only about vol. 3; I own it. It's technical and a bit old English (you could say "scholarly"), not easy to read. I read it years ago, when I knew Greek even less than now, and I didn't understand much of it. Compared to Robertson there's probably not so much difference in writing style or difficulty that it would affect your decision.

The real issue is Turner's view about Semitic influence. As far as I know Moulton originally wanted to show that NT Greek is ordinary Koine. Turner, who continued his work, turned it upside down (pun intended). Robertson held the same view as Moulton and did what Moulton didn't have opportunity to do - showed in his grammar how NT Greek is just Koine. (See Robertson 3rd ed., Part I Ch. 4). I don't think this actually affects Turner's categories, definitions etc. but if you want to get a realistic picture of NT Greek within Koine he's not very helpful. When he handles example passages he routinely appeals to Semitic influence. Looking synchronically and diachronically he's alone in his view and isn't recommended for that. This doesn't mean he isn't helpful at all, of course.

As much as I have read opinions of others, vol. 1 is often recommended, vol. 4 is antirecommended. Vol 3 is used often as a reference, vol. 2 is not. I haven't seen vol. 2 and can't say how much it helps in understanding Koine, but I'm inclined to think that it gives more technical and historical than practical knowledge (even compared to other technical grammars). I remember seeing only one reference to vol. 2; if I remember correctly it was in M. Erickson's Systematic Theology and was probably a linguistic fallacy (seeing a certain kind of action in certain kind of accidence, which is similar to history-of-word-usage-tells-what-it-means fallacy.)

BTW, at least vol. 1 can be easily found in electronic format.

Re: Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 27th, 2012, 6:30 pm
by MAubrey
Volume 2 is excellent for what it is: an analysis of the Koine morphological system. There's all sorts of detail in there on specifics that's useful and helpful, but it isn't particularly easy to simply sit down and read it.

Re: Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 28th, 2012, 2:17 pm
by Stephen Carlson
I recall looking at the Syntax volume and not finding it helpful.

Re: Moulton, Howard, and Turner

Posted: March 29th, 2012, 10:34 am
by Wayne Kirk
Thank you, gentlemen. It sounds as though having the complete set isn't worth spending the extra money to acquire them.