The scholarly work of Blass can be characterized by precision, rigorous analysis, and an incredible knowledge of both primary and secondary sources. When many grammarians were merely working from critical texts, Blass determined to go back to the manuscripts themselves. In this way, he is not only able to refer to New Testament texts for evidence for grammatical phenomena, but also the differences in the manuscript tradition. This painstaking focus on the smallest details has given Blass’ grammatical, philological, and textual efforts an enduring quality that has lasted to this day and set him apart from the other grammarians of his day.
With the publication of Pronunciation of Ancient Greek, Blass entered into a debate that continues to this day: what is the correct historical pronunciation of Ancient Greek. Here Blass presents what he terms the true “Erasmian” pronunciation, not referring to the traditional pronunciation in universities and seminaries, used merely for convenience and practicality, but instead, his proposed historical reconstructed pronunciation based on cross-linguistic and historical evidence culled from transliteration of Greek into other languages such as Latin and the spelling errors of the transcriptions and papyri.
While the practice of the traditional pronunciation based on the language of the learners continues to be maintained in the classroom, gaining a grasp of how the pronunciation of Greek developed from the classical period through the time of the New Testament all the way through Modern Greek is crucial for understanding grammatical developments of the language and also textual criticism. Many of the changes in pronunciation directly influenced changes in grammar such as the loss of the optative mood. Moreover, the development of Greek pronunciation is of critical importance to textual criticism. In many cases, knowledge of pronunciation is a sort of prerequisite for understanding how various textual variants developed in New Testament manuscripts. In sum, for both grammar and textual criticism, Blass’ Pronunciation is an essential volume for the student of the New Testament.
In the same breath with Moulton and Robertson the name of Friedrich Blass deserves commemoration . . . One of the innovations of Blass was the citation of textual variants according to the manuscripts rather than according to printed editions, as Winer and Buttmann had done. Blass made liberal use of the LXX and frequently cited the apostolic fathers.
—Frederick W. Danker, Multipurpose tools for Bible Study
[Blass] represents a transition towards a new era. The translation [of his Grammar] by H. St. John Thackeray has been of good service in the English-speaking world.
—A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research
First published in 1898, [Philology of the Gospels] remains a useful resource for textual criticism of the gospels . . . Blass' analysis of gospels texts does not shy from particulars of conflicts among early manuscripts of the gospels, nor from striking sweeping summary statements such as this: ‘We clearly see that there have been very ancient readers who did not shrink from willful alterations of the sacred text, if it did not suit their dogmatic convictions, or if it might give support to opposite tenets.’ But rather than casting doubt on the authority of Scripture, Blass' analysis represents a redoubled effort to hear each author's voice more purely.
—Nathan Bierma, Calvin College
Friedrich Wilhelm Blass was a German Protestant classical scholar who lived from 1843 to 1907. During the course of his life, he published extensively on textual criticism of classical authors, such as Demosthenes, Isocrates, Dinarchus, Aeschines, and many others. In the New Testament he published critical editions of the Gospels and Acts, which eventually became the basis of his work Philology of the Gospels. In Indo-European Linguistics and Greek grammar his major contributions included his monograph, Pronunciation of Ancient Greek, his important Grammar of New Testament Greek, and his revision and significant enlargement of Raphael Kuhner’s classical grammar.