This is how I am using this remarkable book:
I read a few lines of the original. Now, I know Homeric Greek fairly well, but I have not mastered the entire Iliad. Often I can understand a sentence fine, but there may be a word or two that I don't know (or have forgotten.) Sometimes I understand the essence of the sentence, but the precise grammar eludes me, and there are still some passages that I fail to process entirely. So, after reading the original. I scan my eyes over to the Attic paraphrase. So far, in almost every instance, the paraphrase answers my questions, and then I can scan my eyes back to the original, and now I understand it fully. Now, sometimes it works the other way around. I don't quite understand every word of the paraphrase, but since more often than not, I DO understand the original, this helps me unpack the paraphrase. I guess it would be like someone who was learning both Greek and Latin and used a Greek-Latin diglot to improve both languages. I have found very few times where I understand NEITHER the paraphrase nor the original. After reading both texts, I rarely feel like I HAVE to look anything up in English, and that one cannot put a price on.
But beyond the incredible value (to me, anyway) of the text as alternative to Cunliffe and the Loebs and even Geoffrey Steadman, we can raise the question of the value of the paraphrase itself. Would I recommend it, for example, to someone who has no interest in learning Homer but wants some good reading in Attic or Koine? Yes, I think I would, because the paraphrase strikes me as fairly easy Greek and fairly good Greek, a combination which is always hard to find. But I wonder if the text only seems easy to me because I know Homer well, and I wonder if many people might find the artistic value of Gaza less than appealing. It is, after all, a type of translation, and we know that Homer does NOT translate well, into say, English. (Alexander Pope happens to be one of my favorite poets, but I find even his translation of the Iliad awful. I've never found a translation that works for me.) I wonder if some people will find Gaza's prose, compared to the unmatched poetry of the original, disappointingly prosaic. Will some people--maybe folks whose Greek is better than mine--have the same reaction reading Gaza that I do when I read one of those paraphrases into modern English of Shakespeare?
And I should also admit that maybe the reason the Attic paraphrase works so well as a way for me to brush up on my Homer without ever leaving the target language is because I have already read most of the books of the Iliad several times using the traditional methods--looking up words in LSJ, reading the grammatical notes of Benner and Draper, using the Loebs. I wonder how well Gaza's crib would work at the beginning stages of learning Homeric Greek. Is it, that is, a real alternative to grammar-translation or something that one graduates to from grammar-translation?
Well, I am playing the devil's advocate here. I am convinced that this is the single best Homeric resource I have ever seen. But I wonder about the lack of its use. As far as I can tell, the only edition of the text is this one, done just about two hundred years ago. I, for one, have never seen Gaza's glosses referred to in the standard references works, even though he is more useful than, for example the sxolia, because Gaza helps unpack the difficult text rather than adding extra arcane information. I can find virtually nothing about him on-line. And what about the other Byzantine paraphrases of Homer? I cannot find ANY edition of these.
I suspect the lack of Gaza's popularity is a result of the pedagogical bias against using anything other than "real Greek" to teach Greek. Purists, rather than pragmatists, still dominate Greek pedagogy.
To make use of Gaza means one has to trust him to explicate the text via paraphrase. Reading him I get the sense that he deeply understands Homer, that he, like me, struggles and rejoices in the poet. I don't really know WHY Gaza wrote his paraphrase. I can only imagine how much work is was and I thank God for him. I cannot help but feel that he wrote the text, somehow, for people like me in mind.
By the way, you can get the text printed by the Expresso Book Machine for around $15.00 a volume.http://net.ondemandbooks.com/google/QSE-AAAAcAAJ
The font size is larger than the Loebs, though predictibly blurry in spots. To make use of parallel text like this, you really have to have it in your hands so your eyes can scan back and forth.
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.