Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

I don't understand what my textbook is saying about X. Can someone help me?
Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Leonard Jayawardena wrote: July 18th, 2021, 1:30 am What then is your understanding of these two verses?
In its context προ in Colossians is easily interpreted as "before" in rank, not in time. BDAG gives "rank" as a possible meaning for προ, although it classifies this instance under time. For some reason or another most "literal" translations have "is" here, so at least they have not seen it necessary to interpret it as an imperfect "was" or "existed". If the grammar would be clearly normal, i.e. the translators who often have read much Greek would have instinctively understood it as "was", they would probably have translated it so. But I understand this isn't clear cut because many translations interpret it as "existed".

The style of the Col passage feels philosophical, and in my experience that kind of style often leads to using language and grammar more freely (even making it bear burdens it wouldn't bear in more mundane prose). I don't have difficulties to understand Paul meaning both temporal and qualitative precedence here, so it doesn't have to follow strict grammatical rules.

John 8:58 is of course (in)famous because of the theological consequences, and it's difficult to discuss it without wider exegesis and theology. My theology doesn't depend on this so I'm open to hearing actual explanations for how the present tense can here mean the same as imperfect in Koine or perfect in English would mean. As has been argued in some commentaries, if John would have meant just that Jesus existed, why not say so by using the imperfect? And why would the opponents go mad only after this saying, not before it when they mocked Jesus for already implying he existed before Abraham? In the context the present tense and the whole saying is outstanding and the phrase is the closest which could have been used in Greek to make connection to existence of God clear. The problem is made more complex when we remember that they probably spoke Aramaic and what John writes is an approximation, using possibilities (or impossibilities!) of Koine instead of Aramaic.

In any case the biggest problem for me to accept "I was" or "have been" here is not theological, but that nobody has actually proved it. So gimme parallels.

BTW, as you can see, I don't say "I AM" here is directly the name of YHWH. If there's a connection it's more complicated.
Leonard Jayawardena
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

Stephen Carlson wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:17 am I should like to note for the record that Mounce isn’t the author that exegetical insight. It is attributed to Daniel B. Wallace. Please correct your attributions. Thank you.
In my post I didn't say Mounce wrote that particular "Exegetical Insight." This is what I wrote:
Here are further errors I came across in Mounce's Grammar. They occur in Chapter 16, headed "Present Active Indicative," page 130, under "Exegetical Insight."
Actually, this Exegetical Insight is attributed to one Verlyn Verbrugge (the name appears at the end of the "Insight").
Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Leonard Jayawardena wrote: July 19th, 2021, 1:00 am
The error I see in what Mounce has written is that he seems to reject even the grammatical possibility of translating θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος in John 1:1c as "and the word was a god." He seems start with the assumption that θεὸς in John 1:1c is definite and, since a definite θεὸς does not require the article, θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος should be rendered "and the word was God." That looks like arguing in a circle.

I myself take θεὸς in a definite (or qualitative, see below) sense ("and the word was God"), but that is due to exegetical, contextual reasons, not grammatical.

Incidentally, before writing this I checked with Wallace's Greek Grammar and he prefers the word "qualitative" rather than "definite" to describe θεὸς of John 1:1c. His objection to "definite" is that it would mean the identity of ὁ λόγος with θεὸς of 1:1b. Qualitatively, θεὸς denotes identity of essence, not person and could be translated "divine."

If a definite θεὸς in John 1:1c must mean the identity of ὁ λόγος with θεὸς (the Father) in every respect, then I have no problem accepting the word "qualitative," but cannot θεὸς of John 1:1c be definite with ὁ λόγος being that θεὸς in only a representive sense (in the sense of sharing the nature of the Father)?
First of all, you didn't directly address my arguments or even acknowledge them. Second I think the issues with the Greek have been noted and discussed, and the rest is straying into hermeneutics and theology, which is beyond the scope of B-Greek. We (and I mean that inclusively!) need to back it down and stick only with the Greek, though I think little more remains to be said. I notice that Eli has a fairly long missive. I'll wait until that plays out before I lock the thread.
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Barry Hofstetter wrote: July 19th, 2021, 10:11 am I notice that Eli has a fairly long missive. I'll wait until that plays out before I lock the thread.
I'm genuinely interested in the grammar of John 8:58, but as I said (maybe implicitly) I agree with the criticism about what Mounce says as far as the quotations seen here go. I haven't read Mounce myself. If anyone wants to discuss grammatical and linguistic properties of εγω ειμι in John 8:58 I'm happy to continue it in a new thread. I have more to say, especially with regards to the "extending-from-past-present" explanation.
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Leonard Jayawardena »

Barry Hofstetter wrote: July 19th, 2021, 10:11 am
First of all, you didn't directly address my arguments or even acknowledge them.
I didn't do that for the simple reason your statements were irrelevant to my original post stating what I saw as Mounce's error. I thought my last clarification would be sufficient to make clear the intent of my post but since that obviously hasn't happened in your case and you persist with your own "error" (of misunderstanding my post), there is nothing more I can do about it. I give up.
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Barry Hofstetter »

Leonard Jayawardena wrote: July 20th, 2021, 8:37 am
Barry Hofstetter wrote: July 19th, 2021, 10:11 am
First of all, you didn't directly address my arguments or even acknowledge them.
I didn't do that for the simple reason your statements were irrelevant to my original post stating what I saw as Mounce's error. I thought my last clarification would be sufficient to make clear the intent of my post but since that obviously hasn't happened in your case and you persist with your own "error" (of misunderstanding my post), there is nothing more I can do about it. I give up.
I'm sorry that you can't see the relevance.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter, M.A., Th.M.
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Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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RandallButh
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by RandallButh »

OK, two notes, one part of the thread, and one correcting an assumption:
Jesus spoke in Aramaic and his sayings are recorded in Greek, which is already one step removed from the original.
The sentence is technically correct, but not for the reason that many NT students assume. Jesus was almost certainly trilingual, Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek. So yes, he spoke Aramaic. However, in the context of first century teaching, it is not at all clear that he taught in Aramaic. For example, among the couple of thousand story parables recorded in rabbinic literature, a literature that freely uses both Hebrew and Aramaic, there are ZERO parables recorded in Aramaic, even in contexts where surrounding discussion is in Aramaic. This is a datum that has not been adequately processed or addressed in NT studies. Yes, there are technicalities between Hebrew and Aramaic that also point to teaching in Hebrew, but that would go far beyond B-Greek and even most scholarly NT discussion. Maybe it would help to also know that rabbinic literature strove to record a teacher in his original words and that 98% of first century teachings are in Hebrew. (Hillel [from the East] has some Aramaic recordings.)
I would like to see Mounce render the sentence "And Zeus was a god" into Greek.


καὶ (ὁ) Ζεὺς ἦν θεός. [disclaimer: Mounce should be allowed his own answer, but he does not appear to be on this thread.]

You will notice a different word order and optionality on the article. That article with the subject would depend on larger contextual issues. Within the Greek worldview, of course, a reading of the predicate/object as "a god" in the Zeus sentence, as one god among many, is possible. The application to John 1.1 is partial. First, the syntax of John 1.1 would not prohibit an indefinite reading of a Focal noun, in general. But consider, for example, "καὶ ἥλιος ἦν ὁ λόγος." In a worldview that did not know that stars and the sun were the same class of entity, "sun" would be considered definite, yet a Focal noun, "and the Word was the Sun." Readers would need to decide if that was intended literally or metaphorically. The "grammar" would not do that. Now to John 1.1: yes, the natural reading of John 1.1 would treat the fronted noun "θεός" as Focal, that is, the salient information, syntactically marked as special in the sentence/clause. For example, καὶ ἄνθρωπος ἦν ὁ λόγος "and the word was a human being. That would certainly explain a Focal word order. However . . .

It is the Jewish worldview assuming monotheism, no less than the ancient worldview assuming the sun to be unique, that unconsciously and instantly leads to reading "and the word was God/Divine/fully God" [capitalization intended--rb]. That means that the Greek John 1.1 is an accurate and rhetorically moving way to say "The word was God," although one must remember that the historical order is different. The Greek is the source. The English "and the word was God" is simply an explanation in another language, excellent as it is.

How this fits with Mounce I wouldn't know. There are, of course, ways to paraphrase John 1.1 in Greek, but they all lose something, as re-wordings always do. Something changes, that's why it's different. E.g., θεῖος ἦν ὁ λόγος, would be weaker, "the word was divine" [small-"d" intended--rb] just like ἀνθρώπινος ἦν ὁ λόγος "the word was humanesque" would be weaker and less "in your face" than ἄνθρωπος ἦν ὁ λόγος.
Stephen Carlson
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Leonard Jayawardena wrote: July 19th, 2021, 9:24 am
Stephen Carlson wrote: July 19th, 2021, 2:17 am I should like to note for the record that Mounce isn’t the author that exegetical insight. It is attributed to Daniel B. Wallace. Please correct your attributions. Thank you.
In my post I didn't say Mounce wrote that particular "Exegetical Insight." This is what I wrote:
Here are further errors I came across in Mounce's Grammar. They occur in Chapter 16, headed "Present Active Indicative," page 130, under "Exegetical Insight."
Actually, this Exegetical Insight is attributed to one Verlyn Verbrugge (the name appears at the end of the "Insight").
I thought you were talking about John 1:1. My bad. In any case, it's still not Mounce's.
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by Jason Hare »

RandallButh wrote: July 21st, 2021, 1:06 pm καὶ (ὁ) Ζεὺς ἦν θεός. [disclaimer: Mounce should be allowed his own answer, but he does not appear to be on this thread.]
Shalom, Randall.

Why would the PN not be placed before the verb? I would see no issue with καὶ ὁ Ζεὺς θεὸς ἦν. Why would you place the PN after the verb?
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RandallButh
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Re: Errors in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek

Post by RandallButh »

the order could certainly be Contextualized Subject+Focal Predicate nominative+'was'. However, that would not be the most 'default.'
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