Spring 2018 Semester Highlight: Advanced Greek Grammar

How does one blog about the interesting things learned in a class called Advanced Greek Grammar? My guesses include: 1) Making it very short, 2) including no actual Greek words, and 3) choosing interesting examples. Here goes my attempt.

Part of this class was writing two research papers on an element of Greek grammar. I think with two examples from one paper I might be able to communicate something of the value and adventure of spending 18 credit hours on Koine Greek. And please, for all of the good will between us, forgive the atrocities that may result from the following oversimplifications—I’m not meaning to teach Greek, only to give an idea of some of the kinds of insights to be had.

The Dative Case

In Greek, one of the ways an author can mark the function of a word is by choosing a specific case ending. Consider the English sentence, “Inigo Montoya tossed the sword to Fezzik.” It is mainly word order that shows “Inigo” as the subject and “the sword” as the object. Flip the word order and “The sword tossed Inigo!” Both word order and “to” show that “Fezzik” is the indirect object. In Greek, the word order is very fluid and so instead “Fezzik” would be in the dative case to indicate that it is the indirect object and any preposition such as “to” is unecessary.

That is just one of a dozen things that the dative case can do. Here are a few examples. In Luke 6:11, “Woe to you who are rich,” is a good example of a dative of disadvantage, “Woe to the detriment of you who are rich.” Syntax studies show what the full force of the dative can be in this context.

Luke 6:1 has a different kind of dative, “…rubbing the heads of grains with [their] hands.” “Hands” is in the dative, not as a simple indirect object, but as an instrumental dative. It’s force can be demonstrated, “…rubbing the heads of grains by means of [their] hands.”

I researched about twelve other uses of the dative case in my paper but I am only hoping to give a glimpse into what digging into the original languages of the Bible can offer.