Thursday, December 23, 2010

Scholars Are Not Always Right (No.1)

     We should not blindly accept the definitions that lexicographers assign to Greek
and Hebrew words, or unqualifiedly accept the opinions of commentators, or
assume that the linguistic rules of interpretation and syntax assigned by grammarians
are correct. We should only accept the conclusions that are warranted by the
evidence. This often involves thoroughly investigating the sources that are cited by
the technical reference works. Voluminous quotes from the "authorities" is not what
proves a proposition to be true or false. Scholars are sometimes wrong in their
assessment of  the facts. Consider the following information.

                                        Greek Grammars    

     It is not the purpose of a grammar to invent the rules of language, but to
investigate how a language is used by those who speak it, and to express its
concepts in systematic terms. Prior to the discovery of the papyri and the
accompanying research chiefly done by Adolph Deissmann, it was customarily
assumed by grammarians, lexicographers, and biblical commentators that the
language of the New Testament was "Judaic" or "Biblical" Greek. Or, as one
lexicographer explained, "the language of the Holy Ghost" is found in the sacred
writings and never profaned by common use. (Grammar of New Testament 
Greek, James Hope Moulton, volume 1, page 3, quoting Hermann Cremer in his  
Biblio-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, page vi.) Through the
research of Deissmann, George Milligan and many other scholars it was proven that
the Greek of the New Testament was vernacular Greek, Koine, the common
language of the people in the first century world. They also demonstrated that the
writers of the New Testament, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, were
characterized by a reasonable degree of fluidity in their use of koine Greek.  
Since this is true, one must be aware that the scholarly resources written before
the discovery of the papryi  are often dated, inaccurate, and highly unreliable on
a number of technical points. The older reference works should not be used
without consulting modern scholarly sources.

     A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek, by G.B. Winer,
second edition, 1877, translated and enlarged by William F. Moulton, is a
masterpiece of learning. It was Winer's intent to scientifically investigate the Greek
Testament (Tischendorf's second edition, 1849) in "two distinct aspects...the
province of  lexicography ... and grammar." (Grammar, p.1) Yet, even he labors
under the notion of  a "Hebrew Aramaic New Testament diction." (pages 2-41).
No informed scholar would turn to Winer's grammar as his first choice for New
Testament research. We must use extreme caution when we cite the older (pre
twentieth century grammars, lexicons, and commentaries in order to sustain a
technical point involving syntax and word meaning.

     A. T. Robertson, late professor of interpretation of New Testament at the
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky is a prime example
of a man whose overall knowledge of Greek was immense. He undoubtedly read
Greek literature extensively and was intimately acquainted with Koine Greek
as his 1454 page Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of
Historical Research, containing 23 pages of "Works most often referred to"
evidences. But, even the learned A.T. Robertson had blind spots due to theological
bias. When we study his literature, we would do well to remember that he was a
Baptist, and sometimes his scholarship was clouded by his denominational theology.

      On pages 553-648 of his grammar, Robertson has some excellent technical
material regarding the origin, history, and uses of Greek prepositions. On page 591
he begins a discussion of eis , and on pages 594-595 Robertson states, "Sometimes
indeed eis appears in an atmosphere where aim or purpose is manifestly the resultant
idea." He cites several examples to illustrate the point and then he says, "One may not
doubt also that this is the idea in Matthew 26:28...But it by no means follows the same
idea is expressed by eis aphesin  in Mk. 1:4 and Acts 2:38 (cf. Mt. 10:41), though
that may in the abstract be true. It remains for the interpreter to decide." (Word
Pictures In The New Testament, volume 3, pages 35-36) Professor Robertson's
comments are neither correct nor scholarly. His assessment of the facts is wrong in
this instance. The Greek phrase eis aphesin hamartion is identical in Mat. 26:28
and Mark 1:4. The same is true with respect to Acts 2:38 except for the addition
of the definite article ton and the plural pronoun humon. Eis expresses aim or
purpose in Acts 2:38. The context is decisive. (cf the ASV, NRSV, the 1973
edition of the NIV, and A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature, Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, Second
Edition, 1979, page 229)

Copyright 2010                                                            

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