Preparing for Patristic Greek

Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby Charlie Johnson » June 5th, 2011, 2:56 pm

I've been studying NT Greek for several years, and can read most of the NT without difficulty. Now, I'd like to expand to the Greek Fathers. What might I need to know that I don't know already? For example, is there Attic morphology, or do they construct their sentences significantly differently? Is there a guide to Patristic Greek for people who are already familiar with NT Greek?
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby Mark Lightman » June 5th, 2011, 4:21 pm

Some of the Apostolic Fathers write in an Atticizing style, but over all the Greek is not that different from the NT. Bauer's lexicon is great for covering some unfamiliar idioms and cruxes. You may run in to more optatives than you are used to, an occasional dual might show up. λυοντων instead of λυετωσαν. And of course you will have to expand your vocab.

It would not hurt to work through some of the excellent Classical textbooks out there, like JACT or Athenaze or Assimil et. al. But no, there is nothing you NEED to know that would prevent you from reading Patristic Greek. Greek is Greek.
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby James Ernest » June 5th, 2011, 6:36 pm

LSJ, BDAG, and your favorite LXX lexicon will cover most of the vocabulary, but for more precision regarding patristic usage, there's a supplement to LSJ: A Patristic Greek Lexicon, ed. G. W. H. Lampe. Most seminary and university libraries should have it. If you plan to read a lot of patristic Greek and have the $$$, you can buy your own from OUP.
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby James Ernest » June 5th, 2011, 6:50 pm

Also, Charlie, where are you going to start? Rod Whitacre's Patristic Greek Reader (published by Hendrickson, now with Baker Academic [disclaimer (or would it be "claimer"): I work for Baker] gives an excellent set of selections with notes to help you through them. Or you could start with the Apostolic Fathers. I have an idea that there are probably a number of "school editions" of patristic texts--i.e., the Greek text with notes for students--lurking in the archives at places like Google Books and Archive.org--don't know of a guide to those--does anyone else? Bilingual texts in series like LCL and Oxford Early Christian Texts could be useful if you use them carefully. Better yet, if you have any kind of working competence in Latin, be aware that the texts in the Migne Patrologia Graeca come with very decent Latin translations in parallel columns--you could work on your Greek and your Latin at the same time by looking back and forth between the columns. Libraries have the Migne volumes, and they're nearly all available online in Google Books (search for MIscha Hooker's indexes to Greek texts online).
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby Charlie Johnson » June 5th, 2011, 9:20 pm

Thanks, all. James, I haven't decided where to start. I've dabbled with it before. I've read the Didache and some in the Apostolic Fathers. This Fall I'm starting as a research assistant in Villanova University's Augustinian Institute, so I'll be spending plenty of time in Latin. To complement my studies on Augustine, I'm thinking of reading texts on the Trinity by Athanasius and the Cappadocians. I thought they might be more Atticizing, which prompted my question. Also, many of the sermons may include a lot of rhetorical devices, which I have never learned.
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby James Ernest » June 5th, 2011, 10:38 pm

Charlie Johnson wrote:I'm thinking of reading texts on the Trinity by Athanasius and the Cappadocians.


Start with Athanasius, then. Makes sense both chronologically and in terms of difficulty.
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby Barry Hofstetter » June 6th, 2011, 9:21 pm

Charlie Johnson wrote:Thanks, all. James, I haven't decided where to start. I've dabbled with it before. I've read the Didache and some in the Apostolic Fathers. This Fall I'm starting as a research assistant in Villanova University's Augustinian Institute, so I'll be spending plenty of time in Latin. To complement my studies on Augustine, I'm thinking of reading texts on the Trinity by Athanasius and the Cappadocians. I thought they might be more Atticizing, which prompted my question. Also, many of the sermons may include a lot of rhetorical devices, which I have never learned.


On rhetorical devices, Smyth's Greek grammar has a list of them at the end which is very helpful (and especially directed toward Greek). Also, this is an extremely helpful website, Silva Rhetoricae (Forest of Rhetoric):

http://rhetoric.byu.edu/
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby Bryant J. Williams III » June 15th, 2011, 8:28 pm

Dear Charlie,

[Charlie]
To complement my studies on Augustine, I'm thinking of reading texts on the Trinity by Athanasius and the Cappadocians. I thought they might be more Atticizing, which prompted my question. Also, many of the sermons may include a lot of rhetorical devices, which I have never learned.

[Bryant]
I was looking up Origen's Hexapla earlier, as noted by Barry Hofstetter, on http://openlibrary.org. In the search box I input "Tertullian." There over 300+ texts. Tertullian was the first of the Church Fathers to write entirely in Latin. I do not know Latin. I have dabbled in it, but do not know well at all. From what I pieced together from those who know Latin well (Barry can chime in on this) is that Tertullian had already figured out the Latin equivalent for the equivalent Greek term in the debate over the "substance" in the Trinitarian debate. This would be about 130+ yrs before Athanasius and the Cappadocians. Unfortunately, because of his affinities with the Montanist movement, his views were largely disregarded.

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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby RickBrannan » June 16th, 2011, 10:25 am

James Ernest wrote:Also, Charlie, where are you going to start? Rod Whitacre's Patristic Greek Reader (published by Hendrickson, now with Baker Academic [disclaimer (or would it be "claimer"): I work for Baker] gives an excellent set of selections with notes to help you through them. Or you could start with the Apostolic Fathers.


Since you're starting from NT Greek, I second this recommendation. Whitacre's stuff is good and helpful, and the writings of the Apostolic Fathers are the logical next step, both chronologically and in similarity to the NT, if you're progressing into Patristic stuff. Start with Polycarp and some Ignatius, when you're feeling good hit 1 Clement (though it's 65 chapters, so have realistic expectations). Stay away from Diognetus for awhile. I think Hermas' Shepherd is some of the easier Greek in the corpus, but it is long, so don't feel bad about hitting selections from it instead of reading the whole thing.

Holmes' diglot edition (the third edition, also from Baker Academic) is excellent; the Greek and English text is also available in the various Bible software packages out there.

Overall, if you're comfy with the Greek in the NT, I'd say just start reading something and use grammars as reference along the way. Note BDF cites Apostolic Fathers, as does BDAG, so reference searches of those in software packages that include them can be very helpful.
Rick Brannan
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Logos Bible Software
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Re: Preparing for Patristic Greek

Postby mapoulos » June 16th, 2011, 11:48 am

I'd like to give another plug to Whitacre's Patristic Greek Reader. It is fantastic. Unfortunately, there is not much else I have seen has vocabulary and grammatical explanations as you go along (ie, a reader format). Patristic style can be a bit difficult, but I found vocabulary to be the biggest barrier.

Patristic Greek can be much more challenging (depending on the author), but it's a very rewarding experience in my opinion.
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Graduate Student - Greek and Latin
Catholic University of Ameria
ουδὲ χρείαν ἔχει ὁ Θεὸς σκεύων χρυσῶν, ἀλλὰ ψυχῶν χρυσῶν - John Chrysostom
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