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Evaluating the Quality of Greek Writings

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  • Evaluating the Quality of Greek Writings

    Originally posted by Gryllus Maior View Post

    Yes, for most modern readers of Mark's gospel in Greek it comes off as rather odd. Not impossible, just difficult and odd. However, under normal circumstances, people don't deliberately write something that is difficult if they intend to communicate something fairly simple. Mark undoubtedly thought that the sentence would be readily comprehensible to his target audience. When we see something like this, it is better assume something is missing in our knowledge base and work to understand it. I personally find such questions encouraging, as it demonstrates that the reader is working at understanding the text.
    I don't think there are many times where one intentionally writes something that they believe will be unintelligible, but it does occur. Sometimes this is by design. We see in scripture "Ὅταν οὖν ἴδητε τὸ βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως τὸ ῥηθὲν διὰ Δανιὴλ τοῦ προφήτου ἑστὸς ἐν τόπῳ ἁγίῳ, ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω," and anything written in Greek on this forum is going to be unreadable by Ἰωάννης.

    Other times, the imprecision is unintended and the consequences of that may be severe or minor. Take for instance the phrase "modern readers of Mark's gospel" in your post. I believe it is clearly meant to distinguish among two groups of modern readers. To one of these groups, the wording of Mark 6:43 will seem odd, and to the other it won't. But the phrase could imply that ancient readers (the phrase otherwise unqualified) would not find it odd. It might also leave one with the impression that one of these groups could be qualified to assess the quality of the Greek while the other would not. This is the sort of unintended ambiguity I referred to.

    I think your statement, "it is better assume something is missing in our knowledge base and work to understand it" is spot on, but perhaps it could be clarified. Is there ever a time when you feel it is appropriate to evaluate the Greek in a passage? What if a reader feels confident that they understand a specific sentence, but ambiguity appears to exist. I think this is reflected in the modern ESV, "And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish" and the (non)modern KJV (note the force of the comma) "And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes." What if other Greek speakers appear to say the same thing in a less ambiguous way (John), "συνήγαγον οὖν καὶ ἐγέμισαν δώδεκα κοφίνους κλασμάτων ἐκ τῶν πέντε ἄρτων τῶν κριθίνων ἃ ἐπερίσσευσαν τοῖς βεβρωκόσιν." or only comment on one portion of the narrative as if they themselves were unsure what the author meant, as could be the case with Luke if he had access to Mark's gospel. Are there any instances where you feel it would be appropriate to comment on the quality of a specific passage or author? (Such considerations being, in my mind, tentative and unassuming rather than prescriptive)

  • #2
    I think that ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω refers not to the intelligibility of the Greek, but to the interpretation of the statement, the identity of the βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως. I like your qualification, "tentative and unassuming..." What I want to avoid is value judgments. In graduate school, I had been taking a course in the Greek orators, Demosthenes, Lysias, et al. I then sat down to read through Revelation in the NT for a research project concerning persecution in the early church. After many pages of high register prose Greek, I was appalled, and it gave me some insight into how such a text might have been received by the educated elite (or even the educated not so elite) back when it was first circulating. It just struck me as really bad Greek, but by the standards of what would have been considered good Greek in ancient times. As a modern reader, I think we need to be a step removed from such judgments, but understand how writing might have been perceived in its original context (to the extent that we are able so to reconstruct).
    Huffabo at puffabo et domum tuam inflabo!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Gryllus Maior View Post
      I think that ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω refers not to the intelligibility of the Greek, but to the interpretation of the statement, the identity of the βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως. I like your qualification, "tentative and unassuming..." What I want to avoid is value judgments. In graduate school, I had been taking a course in the Greek orators, Demosthenes, Lysias, et al. I then sat down to read through Revelation in the NT for a research project concerning persecution in the early church. After many pages of high register prose Greek, I was appalled, and it gave me some insight into how such a text might have been received by the educated elite (or even the educated not so elite) back when it was first circulating. It just struck me as really bad Greek, but by the standards of what would have been considered good Greek in ancient times. As a modern reader, I think we need to be a step removed from such judgments, but understand how writing might have been perceived in its original context (to the extent that we are able so to reconstruct).
      You miss the point. It is not supposed to be “high register” Greek but everyday Koine, with a Semitic flavour to boot ( to increase the torment of your ilk, I suppose). These writings were not for the appeasement of the elite, nor even for their benefit . The elite had their own “quality” Greek texts. You even mentioned some of them.

      Revelation’s Greek is not so much “bad Greek” as it is common Greek. That is why I always say that study of Attic is a fool’s endeavour if we wish to improve our understanding of the works of apostle John and increase our faith in his God. Intact such “study” serves as a hindrance, because those who return to the writings of the apostle after having studied the so-called “classics” have nothing left but unsullied contempt for the fisherman’s documents. They have, in so many words, fallen into Satan’s trap of pride, and are thus condemned by their own arrogance.
      Last edited by Ἰωάννης; 02-17-2020, 11:35 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Gryllus Maior View Post
        I think that ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω refers not to the intelligibility of the Greek, but to the interpretation of the statement, the identity of the βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως. I like your qualification, "tentative and unassuming..." What I want to avoid is value judgments. In graduate school, I had been taking a course in the Greek orators, Demosthenes, Lysias, et al. I then sat down to read through Revelation in the NT for a research project concerning persecution in the early church. After many pages of high register prose Greek, I was appalled, and it gave me some insight into how such a text might have been received by the educated elite (or even the educated not so elite) back when it was first circulating. It just struck me as really bad Greek, but by the standards of what would have been considered good Greek in ancient times. As a modern reader, I think we need to be a step removed from such judgments, but understand how writing might have been perceived in its original context (to the extent that we are able so to reconstruct).
        Your response helped me to understand your meaning better. It has never been my intention to pass judgment on the quality of Greek in a passage. I feel I am unqualified for the task. I hope I have made it clear that what I am usually referring to is clarity, which often differs from what is often considered to be "good" Greek.

        I agree with your assessment of the verse, but I feel that the message was also intended to be somewhat like a coded message where the intended recipients would understand its significance while others would remain in the dark. In this respect, I feel passages like these (with symbolic or prophetic language, "Babylon," etc.) are intended to function in a similar way to Jesus's parables. I didn't convey my meaning adequately in the OP.

        It seems to me it is sometimes necessary to go beyond the reader's reception in instances of textual criticism to evaluate variants like "γέμον[τα] ὀνόματα βλασφημίας" in Rev. 17:3. To what degree do you think it is necessary to be aware of or evaluate the author's register in such instances? Let's ignore external evidence for the sake of discussion.
        Rev. 17:3 καὶ ἀπήνεγκέν με εἰς ἔρημον ἐν πνεύματι. Καὶ εἶδον γυναῖκα καθημένην ἐπὶ θηρίον κόκκινον, γέμον[τα] ὀνόματα βλασφημίας, ἔχων κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ καὶ κέρατα δέκα. Rev. 17:4 καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἦν περιβεβλημένη πορφυροῦν καὶ κόκκινον καὶ κεχρυσωμένη χρυσίῳ καὶ λίθῳ τιμίῳ καὶ μαργαρίταις, ἔχουσα ποτήριον χρυσοῦν ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτῆς γέμον βδελυγμάτων καὶ τὰ ἀκάθαρτα τῆς πορνείας αὐτῆς.

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