Wednesday, April 26, 2006

William Kelly

I was recently sent this excerpt from F. F. Bruce's memoir, In Retrospect: Remembrance of things past. He comments on the nature of 'knowing' Greek vs being acquainted with New Testament in Greek.

William Kelly mentioned here, and one of the early Brethren, edited Darby's works, but should be recognized for his own commentaries. His partial translation of the NT is published in the Kelly/Darby Parallel New Testatment. William Kelly's writings are available online here. My older brother now attends a Kelly Brethren assembly.

        Here is F. F. Bruce on language and lexicons.

          As for lexicons, those by Brown-Driver-Briggs, Buhl and Baumgartner serve me well in the Hebrew field, supplemented by M. Jastrow’s Dictionary for post-biblical Hebrew. Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon deals primarily with classical Greek, but no student of the New Testament can afford to ignore classical usage.

          I have met students who claimed to ‘know Greek’ on the basis of their acquaintance with the Greek New Testament; even if that latter acquaintance were exhaustive, it would no more amount to a knowledge of Greek than acquaintance with the English New Testament would amount to a knowledge of English.

          There is a story told of A. S. Peake writing a Greek word on the blackboard of his Manchester classroom, and one of his students saying, ‘You needn’t write it down, Doctor; we know Greek.’ To which he replied, ‘I wish I did.’ To know a language, even an ancient language, involves having such a feeling for its usage that one can tell, almost as by instinct, whether a construction is permissible or not, or whether a translation is possible or not. Translation is not simply a matter of looking up a word in a dictionary and selecting the equivalent which one would like to find in a particular passage.

          It is this manifest mastery of Greek usage which makes William Kelly’s New Testament commentaries, especially those on Paul’s epistles, so valuable. ‘And you know what is restraining him now,’ says the RSV of 2 Thessalonians 2: 6, following some earlier interpreters. This construing of ‘now’ with ‘what is restraining’ Kelly describes as a solecism, pointing out that the ‘now’ is ‘simply resumptive’. Kelly is right. But how did he discover that the construction of the adverb with ‘what is restraining’ is a solecism? No grammar-book or dictionary would tell him that; it was his wide and accurate acquaintance with Greek usage that made it plain to him, an acquaintance which is the fruit of long and patient study.
        F. F. Bruce, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1980), p. 293.

        More about F. F. Bruce another day. His book has excellent reviews.

        1 comment:

        Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

        Kelly wrote some great books.

        I think a lot of people pick up a small amount of Greek and get very overconfident in their claim to understanding the New Testament.

        A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

        Every Blessing in Christ

        Matthew