Born Washington, D.C. 1934, lived in Hyattsville, MD, New Orleans, LA, St. Louis, MO, currently resident in Burnsville, NC
School: BA Tulane (History) 1955, MA Tulane (Classics) 1956, Ph.D. Harvard (Classical Philology) 1964. Fulbright study in Munich at Ludwig Maximilians Universität 1956-7.
Teaching career: Instructor Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa, NC: 1957-58, French, German, History); TA at Harvard (Latin composition, Greek Lit)1960-61), Washington University (St. Louis, MO: 1961-2001, Greek, Latin, Greek Mythology, New Testament Introduction); Eden Seminary (St. Louis, MO: 2001: NT Greek). Retired since 2001.
List-member of B-Greek discussion list since 1994, Co-Chair since 1998.
A lifetime of learning Greek: I remember as a little boy seeing a page of printed Greek text of Homer's Iliad and admiring the beauty of the font and swearing to myself that I would learn how to read that some day.
I began my formal study in September of 1952 at Tulane in a class of four with a grad student fresh out of Louisville Baptist Seminary (Joe Billy McMinn, of blessed memory) who started our little class of four off at reading the gospel of Mark with a wretched textbook that we used only as a reference for morphology as we moved inductively through the Greek text learning new forms and constructions as we came to them in the order of appearance; he explained the morphology to us phonologically and historically and introduced us to the big grammar of A.T. Robertson. The next year we moved from NT Koine to Homer -- what a shock -- and worked through several books of the Iliad in the splendid old Benner text that is, fortunately, still in print. McMinn used the Homeric text as an opportunity to explain to us the archaeology of the Greek language -- how Homeric γαῖα became Attic γῆ, how Homeric ἀγαθοῖο became Attic ἀγαθοῦ, how proto-Greek σελάσ-να became Attic σελήνη and Lesbian Aeolic σέλαννα. My third year involved yet another shock as the reading focus turned first to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and then to Sophocles' Oedipus Rex. I guess that this arduous disorientation/reorientation into and out of different stages of ancient Greek accounts for my sense of the necessity for a diachronic perspective on the Greek language.
Grad school at Harvard was challenging but also immense fun. The survey course in Greek literature required grad students to work through the Ph.D. reading list while attending lectures on the author being dealt with; it was the need to work through twelve books of the Iliad and twelve of the Odyssey in one month that threw me into mastering vocabulary and reading competence, while at the same time my Greek composition exercises that were supposed to be in Attic dialect were full of dative plurals in -οισι and -εσσι and genitive singulars in -οιο. But the composition was fun too; at the time I felt like it was equivalent to working out a Sunday NYT crossword puzzle; I'll not forget attempting to put the NYT editorial endorsement of JFK for president in 1960 into Ciceronian Latin or to put a chapter of Nabokov's Lolita into Platonic Greek.
Working as a TA at Harvard while doing dissertation research in 1960-61 was particularly challenging; I had to teach Beginning Latin composition once a week and meet with two small tutorial groups of undergrads reading through a play of Sophocles or Euripides. It was during this year that I first became aware that teaching Greek was as much a process of learning from students as it was sharing one's own learning with them. For forty years in the Washington University Department of Classics I ultimately found my greatest pleasure in teaching Beginning Greek and doing seminars in advanced Greek and Latin literature.
Koine Greek was not something that originally interested me, although the pastor of my New Orleans church gave me my first copy of Nestle-Aland back in 1952 and I did read it. I got "thrown" into Biblical studies when I was pushed into teaching a course entitled "Greek classics and Old Testament" and its followup course, "Greek Philosophy and New Testament." This too became a matter of expounding to a class what I was myself in the process of learning and thinking about. It was fun, and eventually it got me into doing the tutorial classes in NT Koine for the very few students in a secular Washington U. who were preparing for seminary; for many years I had a tiny group of one or more students working through a primer of Koine (it was in the course of this process that I came to despise Machen's primer (and Mounce's primer too) and to despair of any really good NT primer. When I finally discovered Funk's BIGHG, it was already out of print. Eventually we insisted that pre-seminary students do one year of Attic Greek first, after which I would work with them in a tutorial class reading selections from the chief categories of NT text -- Syntopic gospels, John, Pauline letters, Hebrews, and sometimes some LXX texts. This is what ultimately got me, during the last decade of my teaching career -- the 1990's -- into B-Greek, where I first encountered people like Edward Hobbs, Stephen Carlson, Jonathan Robie and others too numerous to mention. Being a co-chair of B-Greek has been, on the whole, a very gratifying and rewarding experience for me: I've learned so much from it myself and I feel it has also allowed me to do the kind of teaching that I no longer do in a classroom. I've made friends, some of whom I have since met in person and others whom I feel I know, if only through the digital words we've exchanged; I've made some enemies too, but that comes with the territory of co-chairmanship of the list. It has also been an instrument through which I have explored and refined my perspectives in the focal research interest of my retirement years, ancient Greek voice. Moreover, apart from those frustrating momentary failures of instant recall (names, mostly, but technical terms too frequently), it's probably the major activity that has stalled off Alzheimer's.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
ἄτοπον, ἔφη, λέγεις εἰκόνα καὶ δεσμώτας ἀτόπους.
ὁμοίους ἡμῖν, ἦν δʼ ἐγώ. Plato, Rep. 7 (515a)