Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

cwconrad
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Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by cwconrad » February 17th, 2015, 9:44 am

http://www.accordancebible.com/Extrabib ... reek-Texts
I apologize for the fact that the item I refer to is in part a blurb selling Biblical software modules, but that's not why I am calling attention to it. Rather, I think, the case for reading extrabiblical Greek texts needs not only to be made but to be promoted -- and where this blurb tends to fall short, in my opinion (and I am a user of the software program promoted by it), is in its almost exclusive focus on Jewish and Christian extrabiblical texts, whereas I would push the envelope far more expansively to encompass the kinds of Greek texts explored in our subtopic, "Other Greek Texts".

Three reasons are offered for the value of studying extrabiblical Greek texts:
(1) Extrabiblical Greek writings improve our own understanding of biblical Greek.
2) Extrabiblical Greek writings give us insight into the mindset and popular beliefs of people in New Testament times.
(3) Extrabiblical Greek writings are invaluable for the serious student of history.

I was particularly amused by the opening paragraph setting forth the first reason -- it reminded me of the dismay I felt on surveying some of the English-to-Greek exercises in Machen's primer:
When I took introductory Greek classes, we had two kinds of practice sentences to translate: simple sentences from the New Testament, and simple sentences made up by the writer that never actually occurred anywhere in ancient literature. Some of the made up sentences were rather odd in hindsight such as "βάλλει τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ λίθου” ("He throws his clothing on the stone”)—what? I’ve seen a much better trend in some Greek intro workbooks in recent years in which the authors include actual sentences from other Greek writings such as the Apostolic Fathers, the Septuagint, Josephus, or even the Enchiridion.These works give a greater context to the language and help us sharpen our understanding of koine Greek. They give us good practice.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Stephen Carlson
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 17th, 2015, 4:21 pm

cwconrad wrote:I was particularly amused by the opening paragraph setting forth the first reason -- it reminded me of the dismay I felt on surveying some of the English-to-Greek exercises in Machen's primer:
When I took introductory Greek classes, we had two kinds of practice sentences to translate: simple sentences from the New Testament, and simple sentences made up by the writer that never actually occurred anywhere in ancient literature. Some of the made up sentences were rather odd in hindsight such as "βάλλει τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ λίθου” ("He throws his clothing on the stone”)—what? I’ve seen a much better trend in some Greek intro workbooks in recent years in which the authors include actual sentences from other Greek writings such as the Apostolic Fathers, the Septuagint, Josephus, or even the Enchiridion.These works give a greater context to the language and help us sharpen our understanding of koine Greek. They give us good practice.
It occurs to me that this opinion ("no made up sentences -- only use attested ones") is exactly contrary to the "Living Language" approach, where students are encouraged to hear and produce sentences made up on the fly. The major difference is that it is oral instead of written.
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Stirling Bartholomew
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Stirling Bartholomew » February 18th, 2015, 1:21 am

Ed Krentz wrote:
Fred did his Ph. D. at the Universiity of Chicago under Gertrude Smith with a dissertation on expressions of grief in Greek tragedy.
Not sure what reading Greek Tragedy is worth for anyone involved biblical studies. Personally I took up Greek Tragedy because I was exposed to the Grene-Lattimore Sophocles at an early age. It's not easy going on your own. Reading with someone else online didn't really help me that much since you read at different speeds and people from half a world away don't have the same problems you do.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 18th, 2015, 6:52 am

1. It's one thing to read made up sentences that are unlike anything any Greek author might have written (except perhaps a schoolboy who's been a bit to much into the Falernian), it's quite another to write sentences which are then corrected according to actual Greek models.

2. Reading Greek tragedy is always profitable, curmudgeonly criticism aside!
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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cwconrad
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by cwconrad » February 18th, 2015, 7:03 am

Stirling Bartholomew wrote:Ed Krentz wrote:
Fred did his Ph. D. at the Universiity of Chicago under Gertrude Smith with a dissertation on expressions of grief in Greek tragedy.
Not sure what reading Greek Tragedy is worth for anyone involved biblical studies. Personally I took up Greek Tragedy because I was exposed to the Grene-Lattimore Sophocles at an early age. It's not easy going on your own. Reading with someone else online didn't really help me that much since you read at different speeds and people from half a world away don't have the same problems you do.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_William_Danker wrote:Professor Danker received his formal training at Concordia Seminary wherein he satisfied requirements for a B.D. degree with a dissertation on the function of the Hebrew word הֶבֶל (hebel) within the book of Qoheleth. He then undertook his PhD studies at the University of Chicago, Department of Humanities, in classical studies, with special interest in Homer, Pindar, and the Greek tragedians, finally writing a dissertation on “Threnetic Penetration in Aeschylus and Sophocles.”
I don't think it was ever argued that this work was done with any notion of its bearing on biblical studies. The undergraduate colleges of the Missouri Synod Lutheran churches, from which the Concordia seminarians in St. Louis were largely drawn, stressed a classical Greek and Latin program of studies. When I came into the Classics Department at Washington University, there was a tradition of Concordia seminarians taking upper level courses in Greek and Latin with us while pursuing their M.Div. at the seminary, and several of them, like Ed Krentz, took graduate degrees with us. I steered a couple of them through doctorates myself. These guys, including Krentz and Danker, weren't studying Greek for the sake of biblical studies; rather, biblical studies were an integral part of their study of the Greek language and the literature composed in it.
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

Shirley Rollinson
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Shirley Rollinson » February 18th, 2015, 8:30 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:
cwconrad wrote:I was particularly amused by the opening paragraph setting forth the first reason -- it reminded me of the dismay I felt on surveying some of the English-to-Greek exercises in Machen's primer:
When I took introductory Greek classes, we had two kinds of practice sentences to translate: simple sentences from the New Testament, and simple sentences made up by the writer that never actually occurred anywhere in ancient literature. Some of the made up sentences were rather odd in hindsight such as "βάλλει τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦ λίθου” ("He throws his clothing on the stone”)—what? I’ve seen a much better trend in some Greek intro workbooks in recent years in which the authors include actual sentences from other Greek writings such as the Apostolic Fathers, the Septuagint, Josephus, or even the Enchiridion.These works give a greater context to the language and help us sharpen our understanding of koine Greek. They give us good practice.
It occurs to me that this opinion ("no made up sentences -- only use attested ones") is exactly contrary to the "Living Language" approach, where students are encouraged to hear and produce sentences made up on the fly. The major difference is that it is oral instead of written.
One of the favorite types of homeworks for some of my students is "wacky sentences" - who can make the wackiest sentence given the current state of their grammar and the vocabulary for the week.
αἱ ἀδελφαι βαλλουσιν την κεφαλην του προφητου ἐκ της συναγωγης.
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Thomas Dolhanty
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Thomas Dolhanty » February 18th, 2015, 10:15 pm

Shirley Rollinson wrote:One of the favorite types of homeworks for some of my students is "wacky sentences" - who can make the wackiest sentence given the current state of their grammar and the vocabulary for the week.
αἱ ἀδελφαι βαλλουσιν την κεφαλην του προφητου ἐκ της συναγωγης.
Wow! Dangerous ἀδελφαι! Of course if ὁ προφήτης had been on the job, he would have noted that ὁ ἄγγελος εἶπεν τὴν κεφαλὴν τοῦ προφήτου καὶ οὐκ τὴν κεφαλὴν τῶν προφητῶν – and stayed home that day.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 21st, 2015, 8:05 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:1. It's one thing to read made up sentences that are unlike anything any Greek author might have written (except perhaps a schoolboy who's been a bit to much into the Falernian), it's quite another to write sentences which are then corrected according to actual Greek models.
I am every day listen to student is and speak something like English. There are some people who feel that allowing students to communicate as much as possible, and that by doing so they will somehow self-correct. It seems that that approach rarely works. There also needs to be a lot of active correcting and interactive help to get things somewhere close to native speaker speech.

Honestly, it is very difficult to get something even close to "real" Greek.
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Stephen Hughes
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by Stephen Hughes » February 21st, 2015, 8:10 am

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Stirling Bartholomew wrote:Not sure what reading Greek Tragedy is worth for anyone involved biblical studies. Personally I took up Greek Tragedy because I was exposed to the Grene-Lattimore Sophocles at an early age. It's not easy going on your own. Reading with someone else online didn't really help me that much since you read at different speeds and people from half a world away don't have the same problems you do.
2. Reading Greek tragedy is always profitable, curmudgeonly criticism aside!
Perhaps that is something that needs to be put to the test. Just from noticing the frequency of references in the dictionary, the amount of over-lapping vocabulary and the similarity of style, it would seem that other genres would have to be considered more similar, but then again something different is a good way to understand what place the NT had in the textual scene of that time.
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(Menander, Γνῶμαι μονόστιχοι 108)

ed krentz
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Re: Why Study Extrabiblical Greek Texts?

Post by ed krentz » February 21st, 2015, 1:20 pm

One does not study extra-biblical Greek because it directly contributes to NT interpretation—though it can.

Rather reading scads of ancient Greek gives one an instinctive feel for ancient Greek word order, enlarges one's understandiing of the possible nuances of Greek terms, and increases one's understanding of the world into which the apostles went. Take the term pistis, for example. We regularly take it to mean "faith or belief". But read Epictetus and you will come across the term in the sense of "oath of allegiance" (sacramentum in Latin) or in the sense of "fidelity." In judicial orators pistis is the regular term for proof.

Reading Musonius Rufus will increase your understanding of slavery in that world or of the position of women. Diogenes Laertius will expand your understanding of ancient philosophy, while Plutarch's "Advice to a Newly Married Couple" will lead you appreciate 1 Peter 3 on the role of women more.

Demosthenes De Corona will illuminate your understanding of the "cloud of witnesses" in Hebrews 12. And reading ancient orators and rhetoricians will enable you to know hoe to evaaluate such sentences as Hebrews 1:1-4 and Hebrews 2:10. Knowing rhetorical terminology will help you evaluate the homoioarkton and the aposiopesis in Hebrews 11, or knowing what a priamel of value is to more fully understand 1 Corinthians 13.

In short, one will understand shy the Greek of Sirach is not really excellent Greek in structure, while the 27 adjectives about sophia in Wisdom of Solomon is given asyndetically, and how Sophis Salomonis modifies the tradional four cardinal virtues.

The perceptive, extensive reading of ancient extra-biblical Greek beyond NT and LXX will give one more security in reading biblical texts. It is essential for understanding the early Christian apologists such as Justin Martyr or Diognetus. Essential for understanding Origen of Alexandria. And cap this off by reading Basil on the values of classical Greek authors.

Ed Krentz
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Edgar Krentz
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Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

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