Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is DA Now Coming Out of Hiding Regarding Luke 1:28?

Here is DA's most recent example of "ignoring anti-catholic" writers like me (click here).
I cited Greek scholars in favor of the meaning of this phrase here as "completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace." The scholars were Blass and DeBrunner (Greek Grammar of the New Testament, and H.W. Smyth, Greek Grammar -- Harvard Univ. Press, 1968). They are cited in footnote number 188 in my book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (Sophia edition), page 178. Svendsen said that he had heard of Blass and DeBrunner, but not Smyth. He proceeded to minimize Smyth's importance and severely criticized me for trying to argue a point of Greek grammar with him (since he knows Greek).
That’s right, and Smyth is a Classical grammar, not a Koine grammar (more on this below). And that’s not exactly what I said about Blass and DeBrunner. What I said is not that I had “heard” of the grammar, but that I was required to read it cover to cover in graduate school—something Armstrong has never done, though he keeps making a fool of himself by bringing up this and other Greek-related points. I was also required to read Turner’s Syntax from cover to cover, among a number of other grammars. Those works are not easy reading.
2. I quickly proved (from extensive Internet searches) that Smyth was a very well-known Greek scholar, whose work is used in many important colleges for Greek courses. Now, the point was that Svendsen had hardly even heard of the guy (if at all) and wanted to pretend he was a nobody.
Spoken like a true neophyte. Just to correct DA again, Smyth is a “well-known Greek scholar, whose work is used in many important colleges for CLASSICAL Greek courses,” not koine. Armstrong’s embarrassing statement has been corrected time and again, but he keeps repeating it. Here is a classic example of what I mean when I say that explaining things like this to him is like explaining the laws of physics to young child. It’s frustrating (not to mention embarrassing) because most people would get the point after one or two explanations. Not Armstrong. He chooses instead to make himself look utterly foolish by reiterating the same absurd points over and over again.

First of all, I did not “pretend he was a nobody.” I assumed (wrongly) that Armstrong was citing someone who was commenting on New Testament Greek. This was not in the context of doing research for a thesis or a book. It was in the context of a free-flowing Internet discussion. Since I knew for a fact that the point Armstrong was trying to make his source say was wrong, I had to conclude either (1) Armstrong was misusing his source, or (2) his source was incorrect. I was being kind to Armstrong for even entertaining option (2) in the first place. I guess I'll never make that mistake again. From this point forth, I will always just assume Armstrong is incompetent with his sources.
That was shown to be clearly false. But what does that show about Svendsen's attitude and competence in the field of Greek linguistics?
It shows absolutely nothing about my competence; but, ironically enough, the question itself shows the incompetence of the questioner. Smyth is not a source that is useful to determine meanings of New Testament words, period. It’s a CLASSICAL Greek grammar, not a koine grammar. The Classical period was several hundred years before the New Testament was written. Armstrong’s statement betrays he is incompetent to speak on this issue. He has no clue what the difference is between a diachronic approach to language and a synchronic approach. He is making the same mistake that Sungenis made in my dialogue with him on heos hou.

How many times must this point be made before DA gets it? I don’t think he ever will, because he doesn’t know enough about this issue to think critically about the absurd points he is making. Smyth’s grammar is listed in koine bibliographies—along with hundreds of other grammars—for those wishing to study Greek etymology, from the Classical period to the Koine period. In such a case, Smyth’s grammar would let the student know what the words used to mean, which gives insight on how they evolved. Much of the language is the same (in terms of word forms), but much has changed as well. Smyth is a good source if you want to know what Plato said; but not a good source if you want to know what Paul said. DA has been informed of this repeatedly, but his refusal to be corrected prompts him to repeat the same silly point every six months or so.
When one acts like they know something that they don't know (in this case, concerning the importance of Smyth), isn't that at least pretentious?
So, let’s get this straight. In koine Greek studies, Smyth’s grammar is little more than a footnote squeezed in amid a listing of hundreds of other Classical grammars tucked way in the bibliography section of a koine grammar. And it is somehow “pretentious” to say that Smyth is not important to the issue at hand; in this case the meaning of Luke 1:28?

More on this in a moment, but first I want everyone to note well how DA—the sophist he is-- attempts to bait and switch here. First, he has changed the issue from whether or not Smyth’s grammar is important to this issue (Luke 1:28, remember?), to whether or not Smyth’s grammar is an important work, period. Is Smyth’s grammar important? Yes; to Classical Greek studies. Is Smyth’s Grammar important to the issue at hand? Absolutely not.

Second, the original issue is the exegesis of a koine Greek word in Luke 1:28. DA introduces into the equation Smyth’s grammar because someone told him (wrongly) that he might find support for his view there. Smyth’s is a Classical grammar. DA has no clue there is a difference between Classical Greek and Koine Greek. That also means he does not understand etymology and the fact that language changes over time. He just finds some “Greek” grammar—doesn’t matter whether it’s Classical, Koine, or even modern Greek for that matter—and cites it in support of his view. When he is corrected on that issue, note well what he does. He changes the issue from his lack of competence in this area to my lack of competence. I’m at fault, you see, because I did not immediately recognize one of the hundreds of Classical grammars that are listed as footnotes in the major koine Grammars. It doesn’t matter to DA that I’ve read the major koine grammars from cover to cover. It doesn’t matter to him that I have four years of formal study under some of the finest koine grammarians and exegetes of our day. None of that matters. What matters instead? The all-encompassing point that anyone who knows what Luke 1:28 says in the Greek MUST AT ALL COSTS be familiar with a footnote reference to a Classical Greek grammar that is used in Classical Greek studies at “many important colleges and Greek courses.” So you see, in DA’s view, the issue is not the meaning of Luke 1:28 after all; the issue instead is whether someone who claims to know what Luke 1:28 says in Greek has heard of one particular Classical Grammarian who is outside the field of koine Greek studies.

Let’s just apply this same rationale to DA’s own studies. Since DA does not know Greek—Classical or Koine—we’ll have to use an English analogy. DA cites Catholic writers in his books. Can he tell us the names of all the sources that these Catholic writers cite in their books? Has he memorized the footnotes and the bibliographies of every book he has read? Obviously not. But does he want us to conclude that that fact somehow renders him incompetent to speak on the major issues found in his primary sources?

But that’s just what DA wants you to believe in this case. I know of other like grammars that are cited more by koine grammarians and are therefore more relevant to the issue than Smith. Would they do? Or does the irrelevant DA makes point rely specifically on Smyth? Smyth’s independent “importance” in this issue is zilch, zip, zero, nada. He brings absolutely nothing to the argument. DA is simply blowing smoke, as always.
3. Svendsen later found out (from James White, I think) that Smyth's Grammar was for classical, not koine, NT Greek. This he thought to be a knockout punch and proof of my ignorance and arrogance, in trying to delve into matters of Greek, where I knew nothing.
And I was right to think that.
4. I publicly apologized to him on the board at that time, for some of my words and attitudes, and for questioning his abilities in Greek.

5. On the other hand, I also pointed out that the whole incident reflected much more badly on him,
Here is why DA’s point #4 is meaningless. When someone “apologizes” for “questioning [my] abilities in Greek,” and then immediately proceeds to question my abilities in Greek (his point # 5), how meaningful was that apology? And does DA learn his lesson of the meaninglessness of using a source that is irrelevant to the discussion? Not at all; he continues:
I also pointed out that the whole incident reflected much more badly on him, since (despite claiming to be an expert on Greek) he had mocked this important, well-known, prominent scholar and hadn't even heard of him, and didn't know that his widely-used work (which is even available online now) was for classical Greek in the first place. He was supposed to know this stuff,
First, I have never claimed I am a “Greek expert.” But more importantly, why, pray tell, was I supposed to know “this stuff”? There is no requirement of studying Classical Greek in order to know koine Greek, much less to keep up with who’s who in a field that is completely outside my field of study. DA keeps pointing to the fact that Smyth is “important,” “well-known,” “prominent” and that his work is “widely-used.” What he keeps forgetting to add here is that Smyth’s importance, prominence, renown, and usefulness extends only to Classical Greek. It does not extend to koine Greek. I have not been trained in the former, and I freely admit it. I have been extensively trained in the latter. If the work in question were Turner, or BDF, or Zerwick, or Greenlee, or Metzger, or Aland, or Silva, or Wallace, or the like, then DA would have a point. As it stands, he has no point.
whereas I (as a non-scholar) had simply made an innocent mistake. And I apologized, whereas he did not.
No, he didn’t apologize. A true apology implies the very next sentence is not going to be the same accusation for which he has just apologized. And his mistake would be “innocent” only if he didn’t persist in perpetuating the same mistake in subsequent writings, including this one. He still wrongly thinks that Smyth is some important voice in the discussion on the meaning of Luke 1:28!
6. The most amusing thing in all this was that Eric's own research associate, Mike Taylor, was utilizing Smyth in some in-depth exegetical research he was doing concerning the Eucharist. So at the very same time I was being blasted as an ignoramus and pretender for merely citing Smyth, Eric's own comrade was citing him! When I pointed out the incongruity and irony of this to both of them, needless to say I didn't receive the warmest reception in world history.
What’s even more amazing is the fact that DA uses this example. Mike Taylor was not using Smyth to make a point—Sungenis was. Mike simply pointed out that Smyth doesn’t say what Sungenis thinks he says. Here’s what Mike wrote:

“For example, he tries (as does Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma) to argue on the basis of the present participle plus estin that Jesus is presently pouring out his blood under the appearance of wine in the Eucharist (Matt 26:28) and that he is also presently giving his body under the appearance of bread (Luke 22:20). Sungenis tries to argue that estin + present participle = 'stictly present' (p. 150) and cites in a footnote a half dozen grammarians that allegedly agree with him. I tracked down one of those grammarians (Smyth) who says no such thing, which makes me wonder if he's fudging on all the others as well.”

Obviously, Mike was simply turning Sungenis’ own argument against him by using a source that Sungenis deemed supported his views. He was granting the legitimacy of Sungenis’ use of Smyth merely for the sake of argument. Here’s what Mike says next:

"Interestingly, he fails to mention Zerwick, perhaps the foremost Cathoilc grammarian, who explictly denies that the eucharistic sacrifice can be established on the basis of the present participle. Zerwick uses both Matthew 26:28 and Luke 22:20 to make just this point. . . . For a good and recent treatment of the participle in Biblical Greek, I recommend D. Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics."

As I’ve already pointed out, Zerwick is a koine Greek Grammarian, and so is completely relevant to the field of New Testament studies. Mike took Classical Greek at Harvard, and used Smyth as his textbook—so he could use the same work Sungenis cites and show how Sungenis misunderstands his own sources. While there are certainly some similarities between koine and Classical (something I've pointed out above), no one can simply use a Classical grammar as a decisive source for New Testament Greek. Here are Mike’s comments to that effect:

"The first thing to note here is that in Biblical Greek, the future participle is a rarity indeed. Therefore, when the participle is used to indicate the future, it is almost always the present participle. This is probably due to the heavy Semitic flavor that one often finds in Biblical Greek. Right away, then, we see that a direct comparison of Smyth to Zerwick is invalid. Smyth’s grammar only deals with classical Greek, whereas Zerwick’s Biblical Greek concerns—you guessed it—Biblical Greek."

And so Mike says the same thing I have been saying. And here is how DA treats that statement:
It's true that he does mention the classical vs. koine Greek distinction, and the implications of that with regard to using Smyth as an authority on the New Testament, but nowhere does he imply that Smyth has no bearing on New Testament grammar at all (let alone that he is a "nobody"). If he believed that, then he would have simply refused to engage the argument (classical Greek being irrelevant to it).
DA apparently doesn’t know Mike Taylor very well. Mike is a master at critical thinking and taking the devil’s advocacy to make his point. He will assume the legitimacy of citing an irrelevant source just to show that you weren’t reading that source correctly to begin with—then he will show that you shouldn’t have been using that source at all. I use that approach all the time. In fact, I used it in my dialogue with Sungenis on heos hou. Sungenis relied heavily on Burton, an older work that used the diachronic approach to Greek studies (more recent Greek Grammarians use a synchronic approach that distinguishes between Classical and Koine). So I met him on his own turf and took pains to show how he was misreading Burton; only then to point out that Burton is not the best source to use for these kinds of studies to begin with.

So, what we are left with at the end of the day is that DA has gone to a lot of trouble to show that Mike Taylor and Eric Svendsen contradict each other on this point (a strategy of deceit that he uses all the time—witness his most recent attempt where he tries to pit me against James White), only to have to admit at the end that (Gasp!) Mike Taylor actually agrees with me and makes the same point I do!

Now, since DA seems to want to violate his New Year’s resolution so soon after making it (I told you he would), and seems to want to discuss Luke 1:28, then I’m sure he’ll also want to address his exegetical incompetence that was brought to the fore by James White. Or will he continue to cower under the cover of red herrings? We’ll see.