Nature of Koine v. Classical?

First, let me correct an omission in my previous post summarizing 
current views of the nature of the Greek of the NT. The fourth view, 
and perhaps the most common one, I forgot to include (hanging head in 
shame!). Add this to my summary:

4. Biblical Greek is translation Greek (the original being Semitic, 
either Aramaic [Torrey, Black] or Hebrew [Segal, Manson]).

I will also, in response to several private email msgs. I received 
requesting the same, post separately summaries of the Porter vol. of 
classic essays. The first should follow this one and summarizes 
Deissmann's article. Others may follow in the next week or two.

In response to Bart Ehrman's (a scholar whom I have read and respect, 
esp. in the area of textual criticism) questions...

1. Criteria to differentiate various levels of Greek
Good question, and one I wish I could answer! That's not an area that 
I'm qualified to address. My comments are based on what I've read in 
the grammars and journals over the past years. Wallace has brought it 
all together nicely in his forthcoming grammar, so I used his 
categories. I have previously used two categories rather than three, 
but his explanations make good sense to me. His summary makes 
reference to: R. G. Hoerber, "The Greek of the NT: Some Theological 
Implications," Concordia Journal 2 (1976): 251P56; A. N. Jannaris, 
"An Historical Grammar Chiefly of the Attic Dialect," Hildescheim: 
Georg Olms, 1968 reprint, pp. 4-8; and Bruce Metzger, "The Language 
of the NT," Interpreter's Bible, 7:43P59. New York: Abingdon, 1951.

Without reproducing several pages from Wallace, let me include his 
introductory summary: "Most of the books of the NT were never 
intended as literary works--thus, it is unfair to compare them to 
works intended to be literary. On the other hand, it is unfair to 
compare them to receipts, wills, laundry lists, business documents, 
memos, legal documents, even personal letters written by soldiers 
from the field; for they were written, for the most part, for an 
audience, not just a private individual--and they were usually 
intended to be red aloud. Further, their subject matter, and their 
frequent apologetic tone dictate that parallels cannot easily be 
found in the paryri." (p. 12 of the '94 draft MS, pre-pub.)

2. Re. the clarity of Koine
Perhaps "explicit" is the better ("more clear"?) word? Would it have 
been more clear to a Classical Greek speaker? No, it wouldn't have 
been necessary or probably even though of. The point is, in light of 
the historical origins of the Koine, that the speakers were not all 
native Atticists. Many spoke Greek from a multilingual perspective. I 
see the Koine as making statements more explicit, often redundant by 
Attic standards I suspect. Yes, my perspective is that of one trained 
in the Greek of the NT and who is not intimate with Attic and other 
forms of Classical (and/or earlier) Greek. Those of you who are 
proficient in those areas will be in my debt if you can help clarify 
or correct my ideas from your perspective. I am the first to admit 
that I am not "someone deeply
engrained in the whole of Greek literature" and be assured that I 
don't consider that observation to be a slur at all--it's very 
accurate. Whatever I say about Classical is going to be second-hand 
fodder. Be forewarned! :)


Rodney J. Decker
Assistant Professor of Greek and Theology
Calvary Theological Seminary, Kansas City
(94-95 sabbatical explains the Univ. of Wisc. address!)