A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament: Preface

Author's Bias: Unknown

The need most keenly felt by present-day teachers of the Greek New Testament is for an accurate and comprehensive compendium of grammar which is adaptable to the average student. This need we have attempted to supply in the following pages. The book is not offered as an exhaustive treatment of the grammatical phenomena of the Greek New Testament, for its scope and design would not permit it to be such. It is intended to give to the student a comprehensive survey of the chief features of the grammar of the Greek New Testament in simple outline form, as an introduction to a more detailed and inductive study. Our chief effort has been to bring the best Greek scholarship within reach of the average student, and produce a textbook which, while being easy to comprehend, would adequately meet his needs. To this end we have made the method of presentation largely deductive, but the conclusions offered have been based upon more than a decade of careful inductive effort. In all our work of preparation we have sought to keep before us the average Greek student rather than the technical Greek scholar, at the same time endeavoring to make the book sufficiently accurate and thorough to stand the most severe tests of technical scholarship.

The primary consideration which induced the authors to undertake the production of this manual was their own experience in seeking to find among the number of great treatises already in existence on the grammar of the Greek New Testament a work readily adapted to class-room use. That we need at this time another exhaustive treatise on the grammar of the Greek Testament is doubtful; that we need a practical and adaptable textbook is beyond question. Just here is where we have sought to make a worthwhile contribution.

The foundation of scholarship, upon which it has been our privilege to build, is immense. The grammatical phenomena of the Greek New Testament have been attracting scientific attention for nearly, if not quite, three centuries. We have been able to trace the history of definite effort in this field back as far as 1650m when Caspian Wyss published the results of his investigations. Antedating his work was that of Salamanda Glass, but his accomplishments seem to have been but of slight consequence. The honor of the first published work to which we could at all accommodate the term grammar belongs to George Pasor, whose work appeared in 1655, through prepared much earlier. From Pasor we must skip a period of one hundred and sixty years to 1815, when P. H. Haab published at Tübingen his Hebrew-Greek Grammar of the New Testament.

The title of the last-mentioned book is indicative of the type of work which up to this time had been done on the Greek of the New Testament. It was largely an attempt-and of course a vain attempt-to conform the linguistic phenomena of the New Testament to the vague principles of Semitic grammar. The true light, in the full glow of which we now labor, dawned in 1824. Its earliest gleams found entrance through the mind and work of Johann Winer, whose Grammar first appeared in 1824. Winer’s work was epoch-making in the highest degree. A grateful multitude of New Testament students are ready to join A. T. Robertson in his admiring declaration that "in a true sense he was a pathfinder" (Grammar, p. 4). He introduced a revolution into the study of the Greek New Testament by adopting and substantiating the premise that Biblical Greek, and particularly that of the New Testament, was not a special "Holy Ghost" language, nor a conglomerate of Greek words and Semitic grammar, but the ordinary colloquial tongue of the day, spoken throughout the Graeco-Roman world. This idea has remained since his day an axiom in the study of the Greek New Testament.

As one scans the history of the period he gains the impression that progress after Winer’s day was strangely slow. Much work was done here and there, the greater part of it based on Winer’s fundamental premise, but none of it developed into any very definite production. It was 1860 before another conspicuous publication appeared. At about this date Buttmann’s Grammar came from the press. A short while afterward (1864) there was published a work which has not received considerable attention, but which unquestionably has some real merit. It was a brief treatment of the Syntax and Synonyms of the New Testament, by William Webster, a Cambridge scholar. Further progress was made by Blass, whose Grammar was published in 1896, and S. G. Green, whose Handbook to the Grammar of the Greek Testament has served many classes well as a textbook, but is rather too elaborate and detailed for the most effective class-room use. E. D. Burton’s New Testament Moods and Tenses, which first appeared in pamphlet form in 1888, then in book form in 1893, was a notable contribution to one phase of the study.

The greatest and most fruitful field for investigation which Greek New Testament scholarship has ever known is found in the Greek papyri. Chief honor for the effective exploration of this vast source of information on behalf of the Greek Testament belongs to Adolf Deissmann and J. H. Moulton. The earliest work of Moulton was his Introduction to the Study of the New Testament Greek, which was first published in 1896. His Prolegomena appeared ten years later, and his Grammar (vols. ii and iii, the Prol. being vol. i) is now in process of publication. It is a posthumous publication, for Moulton met a tragic and premature death during the early years of the World War. For the enormous and delicate task of editing Moulton’s Grammar from the notes which he left, the world of New Testament scholarship owes a great debt of gratitude to W. F. Howard, M.A, B.D. Deissmann’s Bible Studies and Philology of the Greek Bible are his works of greatest linguistic interest.

A chapter of incalculable import in the history of the grammar of the Greek New Testament transpired when Gessner Harrison had in his Greek classes in the University of Virginia the young ministerial student John A. Broadus. Harrison was a highly accomplished Greek scholar, and far advanced beyond his own era in understanding and use of the modern linguistic method, as is evidenced by his great work on Greek Prepositions and Cases. From him young Broadus acquired an incentive and equipment which made of him a mighty teacher and peerless scholar in the Greek New Testament. It was possibly regrettable that he published no work of his own of the Greek Testament, but the fruit of his labor has ripened into a most glorious yield in spite of that fact. The priceless heritage of his vast scholarship fell into worthy and competent hands in the person of his student and son-in-law, A. T. Robertson, that towering genius and masterful scholar who stands today without a rival at the forefront of the Greek scholarship of the world. In 1908 he first attracted the attention of New Testament students with his Short Grammar of the Greek New Testament, and then in 1914 appeared that stupendous work, so far superior to every preceding effort in the entire field, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research. This book is, and is probably for a long time to remain, the unrivaled standard in its realm. To this colossal work the authors of this book are indebted more than to all their other sources combined. What a benediction it would be to all the coming generations of New Testament students if this great scholar could yet find it possible to give us a translation of the New Testament, and what a loss it will be if we must be deprived of it!

Among the works on elementary Greek devoted to the New Testament, two of the earliest to hold the field in America were those by Harper and Weidner, and Huddilston. In recent years an elementary Greek text and brief work on syntax have been contributed by H. P. V. Nunn, a Cambridge scholar. The best textbooks on elementary Greek at present in the field are those by W. H. Davis and J. G. Machen.

This brief historical review makes it quite obvious that extensive and highly efficient efforts have already been bestowed upon the grammar of the Greek New Testament-and a considerable number of minor works have not been mentioned. Major works may also have been omitted through oversight or ignorance. But in all this aggregation of scholarly treatises there is no work satisfactorily adapted to class-room use. It is our hope that we offer here a book which will fill that need. We have sought to select and present with the greatest possible clearness the matters essential to a working knowledge of the language of the New Testament. The primary principles we have set out in large type and plain language. Matters of detail and the comparison of the opinions of leading scholars we have presented in smaller type, hoping that instructors and students will not regard the smaller type as a suggestion to skip anything, or an intimation that the matters so presented are of minor importance. As a matter of fact, the material in the small type represents the author’s widest research and most diligent effort.

We have adopted the simplest language possible in an adequate statement of grammatical principles. As far as could be done in conformity with our own judgment we have followed the terminology of Robertson and Moulton, in the firm belief that they come most nearly offering to English-speaking students a terminology which can become standard. Where the two have differed we have usually given the preference to Robertson, though not invariably. Of course, we have found instances in which we believed there were sufficient reasons for differing from them both, in which cases we have in honesty followed our best judgment. We have had a fundamental principle in selecting terminology: to use terms which are simple and expressive, and easily apprehended by the average student. It has been our policy to avoid coining new terms. Those already familiar in Greek grammatical usage have been employed as far as possible.

In our discussion on Cases we have taken the advanced position that the cases should be approached from the viewpoint of function rather than of form, and that there were in reality eight cases in Greek. From the time that we began with the eight-case hypothesis we have found no evidence in Greek literature to confute it, while we have found ample evidence to confirm it. a decade of patient and wide research has established for us a conviction on this matter which is inescapable. We invite any who think it gratuitous to treat the cases from this viewpoint to ascertain whether it harmonizes with the original Aryan case divisions, and whether it contributes to simplicity and accuracy. It is our conviction that it does.

In the sections on Prepositions, Conjunctions, and Particles, which deal with the extensive and elusive field of connectives, several new meanings illustrated by various and vivid examples are set forth. An inductive study of these connectives was begun several years ago. An unusual use of a connective was carefully noted and its apparent meaning was written into a notebook or on the margin of whatever document was being studied. Later on these connectives were reexamined, and their meanings were classified in the light of the inductive evidence thus derived. The papyri proved to be most helpful in this study. The discoveries of new meanings for οΰν, in particular, are of exceptional interest and value. It was a coincidence that in our independent research we arrived at the same conclusions that Professor Moulton did as to άν having the force of ever in most passages.

The illustrations have in the main been taken from the actual text of the Greek New Testament, but have been in some cases slightly altered for purposes of brevity and greater clearness. The discussion throughout has been based on the WH. Text, and kept free from technical problems of textual criticism, with which the student at the stage of training contemplated by this book is rarely acquainted. We have sought to put the material in convenient outline form, and if we have made a distinctive contribution to this important field of science, it is chiefly a better organization of the material already produced.

To be used for study supplementary to the textbook, we have provided at the beginning of each section a list of references to Robertson’s Grammar and Short Grammar, and Moulton’s Prolegomena. The instructor would do well to assign one reference in each section as required parallel reading. Every student should be urged to own a copy of Robertson’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research.

This book is an unusual degree a cooperative product. The names of the two chief contributors appear on the title page, but many other proficient hands have wrought faithfully upon it-too many to mention by name. Nevertheless, for every aid received we record our most hearty thanks. It is but just that we should acknowledge here our constant use of the unpublished grammar notes of Professor C. B. Williams, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, who, while in the chair of Greek New Testament in the Southwestern Seminary, was the honored preceptor both authors. The fact that this material was not in published form has prevented any very definite reference in the text of the book. At the cost of great labor and painstaking care, the paradigms of conjugation were prepared by Professor L. R. Elliott, Librarian and Instructor in Biblical Greek in the Southwestern Seminary. Mr. John W. Patterson has rendered most valuable aid in the preparation of the vocabulary. To Mr. C. W. Koller, Fellow in the New Testament department of the Southwestern Seminary, we are grateful for the valuable suggestions and assistance, while to Messrs. W. L. Moore and J. R. Branton we record our thanks for careful and effective proof reading. A large part of the typing of the manuscript has been done by Mr. E. P. Baker, who brought to the task a personal knowledge of the Greek language which in the nature of the case was indispensable.

A task which has been sometimes tedious but ever intensely interesting is at last completed. We would place the book in the hands of the average student of the Greek New Testament, with the hope and prayer that it may secure for him access to the rich treasures of scholarship, and thereby to the deep mines of religious truth and inspiration which lie imbedded in the original text.

H. E. Dana, Seminary Hill, Tex.

Taken from Dana/Mantey, A MANUAL GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT, ©1927. Electronically reproduced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. (

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