Home » Greek » Review of Decker’s Reading Koine Greek, Part 4

Review of Decker’s Reading Koine Greek, Part 4

In this fourth and final part of my review of Decker’s book, I cover chapters 21-33, the Appendices, and some concluding comments.

On p386, introducing participles, Decker gives the example text “I will be heading to bed right after the game. (This verbal form has a subject, so it is not a finite verb)”. Firstly, this example is of English –ing forms that are not participles. Decker is presenting the view concerning English that heading in this use should be considered part of a tense/mood finite verb construction: future progressive. However I would parse that out differently and say that the English future progressive is formed with the active participle. Secondly, the text in brackets seems to just be a mix-up, it has a subject, therefore by Decker’s scheme, it is a finite verb. Perhaps he meant to write, “it is not a non-finite verb”. This is actually an error in the text (one of very few I have found).

In chapter 27 we get to the Genitive Absolute. In this I think Decker is a little bit behind the eight-ball, since he continues to list (p447) no grammatical relationship to the rest of the sentence as one of the normal elements. However he does note (p448) that this element is the one most often missing, however “[t]he function of the participle is to change the reference of the subject”. In this, even if Decker maintains the idea of absolute, his attention to the actual usage of Koine and familiarity with function and discourse, helps the student to see what a genitive absolute phrase is effecting in the discourse of the text.

I often wonder about the arrangement of textbooks. It’s not until chapter 28 that we reach the Subjunctive mood. Does that reflect usage? Or does it reflect a progression through forms for grammatical-pedagogical reasons. I also found it amusing how many times Decker reminds the student that there is no future subjunctive. No doubt Decker had many a student who regularly keep parsing verbs as Fut Subj!

Likewise, chapter 29 introduces the imperative and optative. A different philosophy of language instruction would probably introduce the imperative earlier. I cannot agree with the suggestion on p490 that third person imperatives should avoid translation with “let…” (in order to avoid the idea of permission) in preference to “must” language. While “let” for permission is common in English, the only option for formal equivalence is the slightly archaic “let…” construction, introducing a necessity construction does not alleviate the issue, it just replaces one misrepresentation with another.”

The optative is rare enough by the Koine period that it rightly takes up little space in a Koine grammar. Decker spares the student by teaching only what is essential for recognising them.

I was interested to read the historical divergence between Goodwin and Gildersleeve in describing Greek conditional statements, on p499, and glad for its inclusion. The section on informal conditions in the following chapter will also be of great help to students.

Another question about sequencing arises when we finally reach the –μι verbs in ch.32. Decker even discusses the question about how much attention they need, and so his decision to leave them towards the end and give a more general survey. While a few –μι verbs are quite important, and quite frequent, they are so only in a restricted range of forms; right through this chapter and the following Decker often gives frequency data for forms of the word appearing in the NT, which assuages the student that for reading the NT and LXX a full knowledge of every theoretical form is not necessary.

Appendices

Decker includes several appendices, all of great utility. He first gives reference charts, which are exactly what you expect them to be. While generally laid out well, I do find that Decker’s idiosyncratic use of extreme abbreviation sometimes makes charts less ‘sight-readable’ than preferable. Similarly, while the Morphology Catalog (App B) could be useful, it just reads like a string of words with arcane abbreviations; I’m unconvinced this is really useful compared to other tools (i.e. computer based ones). App D (the vocative case), and E (Greek numbers and Archaic Letters) are both informative and useful. Especially the frequency data and forms for vocatives in the NT.

Some Concluding Thoughts

It’s difficult to assess a teaching textbook without actually teaching from it. However Reading Koine Greek represents a decisive and new contribution to the Koine Greek textbook selection. It includes up to date insights and approaches from linguistics and Greek research, incorporates and employs frequency data in a pedagogically helpful manner, as well as showing the wealth of experience Decker held in teaching Koine Greek. I hope the text sees widespread adoption. I know I will be using it for reference and to refer others to.


1 Comment

  1. […] Seumas Macdonald of The Patrologist reviews the late Dr. Rodney J. Decker’s book Reading Koine Greek: An Introduction and Integrated Workbook in multiple parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. […]

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