b-greek-digest V1 #39
b-greek-digest Saturday, 9 December 1995 Volume 01 : Number 039
In this issue:
Re: Reminders from the list owner: B-GREEK (inerrancy, magazines etc.
Re: 1 Timothy 2:12 possible use of "or" as "that is"
Re: Classical and Koine Differences
Re: Keep going.....
Minor correction re: Bildad
1 John 3:6&9
Re: 1 John 3:6&9
Re: 1 John 3:6&9
Classical and Koine Greek
From: Tony Prete <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 02:17:52 -0500
Subject: Re: Reminders from the list owner: B-GREEK (inerrancy, magazines etc.
Regarding the unwanted mag subscriptions, all they take--at least with
Eudora-- is two clicks on the "Trash" key and they're gone. Complaining
about them just means more posts to delete; trying to cut them off at the
source is, as some have expressed, both frustrating and time-consuming..
Such intrusions are inevitable, I believe, as more and more people salivate
over the sales possibilities of reaching wide audiences at little or no
cost. I'm afraid it will only get worse.
We've all grown accustomed to throwing away unopened junk mail that the Post
Office delivers and to muting commercials on TV. Maybe we'll just have to
learn to do the same with our e-mailboxes. Let's not allow this small
annoyance to distract us from the stimulating and probing exchanges that
characterize the B-Greek forum. Though I mostly just "lurk," I appreciate
the contributors, whether they're discussing some fine point of translation
or just passsing on insider information about such seemingly mundate items
as when the newly revised BAGD will probably be out.
I attended the AAR/SBL convention for the first time this year, and found it
fascinating. For me, B-Greek is like sitting in on an on-going SBL
session.Starting Monday, I'll be in the hospital for about a week (prostate
cancer surgery--prayers gratefully accepted) and one of the things I'll miss
the most is my nightly review of the day's B-Greek posts--subscription
offers and all.
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 05:00:58 -0500
Subject: Re: 1 Timothy 2:12 possible use of "or" as "that is"
In a message dated 95-12-07 18:39:13 EST, firstname.lastname@example.org (David John
>WITHOUT getting into all of the debate associated with 1 Timothy 2:12,
>one possible understanding of Paul's use of "or" in the passage
>is, "I do not allow a woman to teach THAT IS to have authority over men."
>as opposed to it being a logical or, "I do not allow a woman to teach.
>I do not allow a woman to have authority over men."
I did some looking into my research volumes of Greek and couldn't find
anything even remotely similar to treating an OUDE as "that is" as you do
above. This is usually reserved for an epexegetical KAI or other
conjunction, not the negative OUDE which means not, and not, nor, not
even, etc. Sorry.
Professor of Greek at
Logos Bible Institute
13248 Roscoe Blvd.
Sun Valley, CA 91352
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 95 20:35:14 EST
Subject: Keep going.....
I am a new lurker in this discussion group.
I am very excited that you have recently
brought up several passages concerning
women and other topics.
I hope that this discussion group will
continue to keep on going!
I also concur that those on my right
and my left will keep their attitudes
Why? Hey I joined this group after
getting very tired and bored with all
the flame wars in the other newsgroups!!!!
There was too too much hot air over there!
If you want to get nasty join the
Windoze // OS/2 Warp adovocacy war
I appreciate different positions
and really love the satire and sarcasm
offered by some of the people here!
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Windoze 95 is just another pretty face but can it do anything?
Windoze is still snoozin while OS/2 Warp is stil cruisin?
Win 95's joke - "I can really multitask" Ha Ha Ha
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 08:28:58 -0600
Subject: Re: Classical and Koine Differences
At 8:25 PM 12/8/95, Phil wrote:
>Carl Conrad Wrote:
>>Is anyone for Greek?
>Yes, I am. I have a general question about the differences between
>classical Greek and Koine. Could some of those on the list that work with
>both plase give me a fairly concise list of the major differences between
This is off the top of my head, so it won't be complete and perhaps won't
even hit the highest spots, but others will perhaps respond and add to the
list of items I can think of. It should, of course, be remembered that
neither what we call Classical nor what we call Koine is a static or
homogeneous entity; there are dialectal differences, social-level stylistic
differences, concurrent alternative forms of words and constructions in a
language that is always in flux, etc., etc., etc.
But if we take Attic Greek of the 5th and 4th centuries as standard for
Classical (and ignore Homeric and literary Ionic, Aeolic and Doric), then
I'd say, for a general observation, that Classical Greek is more nuanced in
its capacity to differentiate between perceived (or even imagined) shades
of quality, quantity, contingency, and the like. I often tell beginners in
the first class that Attic Greek has one more of each grammatical category
that they're likely to expect in a language: number (dual in addition to
singular and plural), tense (aorist in addition to pres, impf, fut, and the
3 pf tenses), mood (optative in addition to indic, imptv, subj), voice
(middle in addition to active & passive), a full array of participles for
each tense-system and voice, etc. I also tell them that the Greek noun is
pretty easy to learn, but they'll spend years coming to understand the
verbal system (if any of us ever does so completely).
Now many of the distinguishing features of Classical Attic DO survive in
Koine, even if in alternate formations. But here are a few differences:
(1) Ionic spellings (and pronunciations) such as -SS- for Attic -TT-,
primarily owing to Macedonian Ionic-speakers taking the lead in
administration and commerce in the Hellenistic cities at the outset.
(2) Pronunciation differences (most of which don't really show up in
spelling). The vowel/diphthong system has probably gone through most of the
changes to the way vowels and diphthongs are pronounced in modern Greek.
Very likely many of the consonants have also done so (B->V, D->th, e.g.).
(3) A marked tendency for the alpha-endings of the 1st aorist to be used on
2nd aorist stems (ultimately, in modern Greek, even on imperfects).
(4) MI-verbs increasingly assume -W-verb conjugation: e.g. AFIHMI -> AFIW.
(5) The optative mood has more or less ceased to be used in old ways,
survives for the most part in expressions like Paul's MH GENOITO, which
possibly isn't even undestood by the speaker/writer as a verb form but as
an exclamation. As a consequence the subjunctive must function even in
secondary sequence as the optative functioned in Classical Attic. e.g.:
Attic: HLQEN hO ADELFOS MOU hINA TAUTA hHMIN AGGELEIE.
Koine: HLQEN hO ADELFOS MOU hINA TAUTA hHMIN AGGELHi.
(6) The (hINA + subjunctive) clause, used almost exclusively in Classical
Attic to express purpose in primary sequence, has in Koine become a
multi-functional verbal noun almost equivalent to an infinitive or gerund
(in modern Greek it DOES serve as an infinitive).
(7) The use of the articular infinitive expands, particularly with a
genitive article TOU (and normally without the original governing
preposition hENEKA) to express purpose. Even otherwise, the articular
infinitive's capacity as a verbal noun seems to run parallel to that of the
(hINA + subj) clause.
(8) Case usage: constructions found even in Attic become more common, as
PROS + acc. as equivalent to a dative with a verb of speaking for indirect
object; EN + dative to express the instrumental notion, where Attic more
commonly used no preposition and generally limited the use of EN to
locative function. This is a matter of tendency rather than an absolute
distinction between Attic and Koine.
That's a short list of things that come to my mind without checking a
grammar. It is far from complete. One of the more interesting short
histories of the Greek language is an out-of-print little book by the
George Thomson (the mad Marxist British Hellenist of Manchester and
Prague!) entitled, aptly, _The Greek Language_. I'd like to learn of what
others might deem good summaries of linguistic change in Greek.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
From: Nichael Lynn Cramer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 12:22:41 -0400
Subject: Re: Keep going.....
At 8:35 PM 12/12/95, email@example.com wrote:
>I also concur that those on my right
>and my left will keep their attitudes
>Why? Hey I joined this group after
>getting very tired and bored with all
>the flame wars in the other newsgroups!!!!
More to the point, there are probably two dozen mailing-lists out there
that deal with various aspects of theology or "Bible Studies" or [...etc]
whereas this is the only one I know that is --nominally-- devoted to the
_academic_ study of NTGreek. While it is often difficult to keep such
discussions wholly separate it seems not unreasonable to ask those who
really wish to wrangle about such things or to enforce some doctrinal
purity that they find a more appropriate forum and leave this little puddle
to those who want to play here.
Nichael "... and they opened their thesaurus
firstname.lastname@example.org and brought forth gold,
http://www.sover.net/~nichael and frankincense and myrrh."
From: Edward Hobbs <EHOBBS@wellesley.edu>
Date: Sat, 09 Dec 1995 13:23:04 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Minor correction re: Bildad
Bildad the Shuhite was not really the shortest man in the Bible. While
he was certainly taller than Kneehighmiah, he cannot have been as short
and as small as Habakkuk, who stood on his watch, or as Peter, who
slept on his watch. Of course we do not know how big watches were in those
days, but even a very large "railroad" pocket watch could not support
anyone as tall as a shoe (be sure not to confuse a sandal with a shoe,
or you will err on Bildad's height).
From: Lee Attema <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 14:03:04 -0500
Subject: 1 John 3:6&9
I wonder about the proper translation of 1 John 3:6 and 9. Some NT scholars
(S. Kubo, C.H. Dodd and I. Howard Marshall ) believe that the translation of
the verbs (sin) in question must be punctiliar. If this is so then the
verses must imply that the Christian cannot sin. If he sins then he has not
known God. See the Bible Knowledge Commentary for development along that
line. However I noted that Dana and Mantey Intermediate Greek Grammar
referenced 1 John 3:6 from the index and identified the use of the present
as expressing a durative not a punctiliar sense. A.T. Robertson's Grammar of
the Greek New Testament references both 1 John 3:6 and 9 suggesting that the
present tenses are durative and that the present infinitive of sin in verse
nine also has a durative sense. If that is so then the better sense would be
that the Christian does not continue to sin, or the Christian does not
practice sin. Blass and Debrunner in their Greek Grammar of the NT suggest
that the sense of the present tense is often durative but do not cite 1
John. I am a novice at Greek and could use some direction since my "sources"
point in two different directions. Also could anyone suggest better
references for understanding the translation/interpretation of the NT than
the grammars above? Any comment is greatly appreciated.
>> We are all SPIRITUALLY offspring of Satan. If we weren't we
>>would not sin.
>Aahhh... the question I've wrestled with- whose offspring are we? Most
>people would say, we are the children of God. But according to John,
>the children of God cannot sin:
>"The [one] practicing sin is of the Devil, because the Devil sins from [the]
>beginning. For this the Son of God was revealed, that He undo the works of
>the Devil. Everyone who has been begotten fo God does not sin, because His
>seed abides in him, and he is not able to sin, because he has been born of
>God. By this the children of God and the children of the Devil are revealed:
>Everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God; also the [one] not
>loving his brother." (1 John 3:8-10)
>But Paul, in Romans 8:16 insists that we ARE the children of God.
>"The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of
>God" (Rom. 8:16)
>And John wrote:
>"Beloved, now we are the children of God..." (1 John 3:2)
>So there are therefore some who say it is impossible for us to sin once
>we are saved. Yet John, just two chapters before he penned the words
>I first quoted, wrote:
>"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not
>in us... if we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His
>word is not in us." (1 John 1:8,10)
>I see a potential conflict:
>1. We are the children of God (Rom. 8:16,1 John 3:2)
>2. The children of God do not sin (1 John 3:8-10)
>C. Therefore we do not sin.
>The conclusion flatly contradicts 1 John 1:8-10, but the premises are
>true and the form is valid so my argument is sound and the conclusion
>is absolute, right? But it isn't! What's going on?
>1. We are not yet the children of God until we are completely resurrected
>and clothed in righteousness.
> -Disproven by 1 John 3:2.
>2. We are potentially the children of God but not effectively until the
>resurrection. (Suggested by John 1:12)
> -The Bible makes no such potentiality distinction. The language is
>3. By "does not sin" John meant doesn't practice a sinful lifestyle- live
>habitually in sin. This is hinted (some think) by Heb. 10:28.
> -Disproven by the clear language of 1 John 3:9 - "is not able to sin"
>4. Augustinian two-nature theory: one nature, the spirit created by God
>at spiritual birth is the image of Jesus Christ and is that which is born
>of God- IT is the child of God, and cannot sin. The sin nature we still
>retain is Satan's progeny and cannot do anything but sin- when we are
>controlled by the former we are the children of God and we cannot sin
>and when we are controlled by the latter we are the children of the
>Devil and cannot help but sin.
>While this view sounds crazy, it seems to be the only one that makes sense.
>I'm not settled on it though, and would like input.
>"That is: Not the children of flesh [are] children of God, but the children
>of the promise [are] counted for a seed." (Rom. 10:8)
>Paul speaks of a person's heirship being spiritual, not physical, so by
>the flesh we are not the children of God but by the spirit we are. This
>supports the last theory.
>Really, I don't know, and would appreciate input. Thank you.
>Grace College and Seminary
3208 Bute Lane
Richmond, VA 23221
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
From: Rod Decker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 16:06:22 -0600
The usual def. of a periphrastic is a form of 'eimi' with a ptcp. to
express a single verbal idea. (Some simply say a "linking verb" + ptcp.)
What are the thoughts of you who are grammarians and linguists on the
subject? Can a periphrastic be formed with any verbs other than 'eimi'? Has
this changed over the course of classical ... koine usage?
I haven't pursued this extensively in the grammars at this point, but did
run over to the seminary briefly this afternoon and checked a few things.
Porter (_VA_ ch. 10) restricts periphrastics to 'eimi'+ ptcp. He has
another classification for other similar combinations: catenative
constructions, with the finite verb contributing verbal aspect and the
auxiliary maintaining "its integrity as an independent contributor to the
semantics of the clause." He notes the following posiblities for this
construction: 1) verbs of capability, desire, etc. (e.g., 'dunamai',
'qelw', 'dei', 'mellw', 'boulomai'); 2) 'ecw'; and 3) 'ginomai'.
I also noted that Smyth lists 'ecw' as a legit. periphrastic (sect. 599b,
1963), along with 'emellon' (1960), 'ginomai' (1964), and 'fainomai'
(1965). Porter notes that 'ecw' is included as a potential periphrastic
element by Gildersleeve, Goodwin, Kuhner/Gerth, Jelf, Chantrine, and Aerts.
BDF had a very sketchy (& not very helpful!) discussion of periphrastics.
I've not pursued other sources at this point. (I have cross-posted this to
both b-greek and the Gk grammar list [the latter of which has been
seemingly defunct lately--unless I've gotten unsubscribed from it also! :)
Rodney J. Decker Calvary Theological Seminary
Asst. Prof./NT 15800 Calvary Rd.
email@example.com Kansas City, Missouri 64147
From: Jim Stamper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 17:07:43 -0500
I picked up this address from a WWW page. What is the address of the newsgroup?
James H. Stamper
PO Box 666
Woodstock, VA 22664
From: David Housholder <email@example.com>
Date: 09 Dec 95 17:11:19 EST
Subject: Re: 1 John 3:6&9
>>I wonder about the proper translation of 1 John 3:6 and 9. Some NT
>>scholars (S. Kubo, C.H. Dodd and I. Howard Marshall ) believe that the
>>translation of the verbs (sin) in question must be punctiliar
What writings of Kubo, Dodd, or Marshall are you citing here? Are these all
commentaries on 1 John?
writing at 5:09 PM on Saturday, December 09, 1995
From: Carlton Winbery <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 16:38:43 +0400
Subject: Re: 1 John 3:6&9
Lee Attema wrote;
>I wonder about the proper translation of 1 John 3:6 and 9. Some NT scholars
>(S. Kubo, C.H. Dodd and I. Howard Marshall ) believe that the translation of
>the verbs (sin) in question must be punctiliar. If this is so then the
>verses must imply that the Christian cannot sin. If he sins then he has not
>known God. See the Bible Knowledge Commentary for development along that
>line. However I noted that Dana and Mantey Intermediate Greek Grammar
>referenced 1 John 3:6 from the index and identified the use of the present
>as expressing a durative not a punctiliar sense. A.T. Robertson's Grammar of
>the Greek New Testament references both 1 John 3:6 and 9 suggesting that the
>present tenses are durative and that the present infinitive of sin in verse
>nine also has a durative sense. If that is so then the better sense would be
>that the Christian does not continue to sin, or the Christian does not
>practice sin. Blass and Debrunner in their Greek Grammar of the NT suggest
>that the sense of the present tense is often durative but do not cite 1
>John. I am a novice at Greek and could use some direction since my "sources"
>point in two different directions. Also could anyone suggest better
>references for understanding the translation/interpretation of the NT than
>the grammars above? Any comment is greatly appreciated.
I would vote with Dana on this passage, i.e., the presents in 1 John 3:8-10
are durative. A book that has better descriptions of syntactical
categories than Dana & Manttey is Brooks & Winbery, Syntax of the NT, Univ.
Press of Am. 1978. We give more examples from the Greek NT to illustrate
what we see as the possiple references of the language. You may find that
helpful. A new book no syntax has just come from the Baptist Publisher
Holman & Broadman, Richard Young, Intermediate NT Greek. I have it at the
office and have worked through most of it. While he takes into account more
modern linquistic theory, I think that he has made some parts overly
difficult for students just beginning Syntax.
Calton L. Winbery
LA College, Pineville, La
From: "Edgar M. Krentz" <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 17:26:21 -0500
Subject: Classical and Koine Greek
Carl Conrad sent you an excellent posting. To supplement, but not replace
or correct his, here is what I had out to junior seminarians in thke course
NT Methods of Interpretation:
hH KOINH DIALIKTOS: The Language of the New Testament
1. Older [rejected] Views
Years ago scholars educated in classical Greek claimed that New
Testament Greek was "degenerate Attic." Athenian authors wrote most of the
greatest ancient Greek literature within a short period of time (about 150
years). [There is also great literature in Ionic (Herodotus) and Doric
(Pindar, lyric poets).] These scholars confused the quality of literature
with the quality of language; regarding Attic Greek as one cause of the
excellence of the literature rested on a false understanding of language.
Language, in and of itself, has very little to do with the production of
the literature. An extraordinary combination of many factors led to the
complex human situation out of which Athenian drama, history, and
philosophy arose. Structural [comparative] linguists remind us that the
idea of a "decaying language" is rational nonsense. "All languages are
functionally equivalent." (All human minds and experiences are not!)
Athenian authors used a highly inflected language; Shakespeare wrote in an
almost uninflected language. Yet, who would argue Shakespeare was a less
effective writer because of the language he used.
New Testament Greek is also not "Hebrew-Christian jargon or argot," ancient
"Yiddish," a "miraculous language created by divine providence for
revelation," not "Holy Ghost Greek," as it was occasionally called.
Georg Benedict Winer, _A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek
Regarded as a Sure Basis for New Testament Exegesis_ (Tr. W. F. Moulton.
9th Eng. ed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1882), still discussed such ideas
(pp. 1-41). Today they are an intellectual curiosity.
2. Current Views
Most scholars view New Testament Greek as a particular form of the common
or universal Greek (hH KOINH DIALEKTOS, hH SUNHQEIA DIALEKYOS) spoken
throughout the Mediterranean world from ca 330 bce to 330 ce [Somewhat
arbitrary dates: Alexander to Constantine. Some scholars speak of
Byzantine, not Koine, Greek after Constantine. Others date Byzantine
Greek's beginning in the time of Justinian.] During this period the Greek
language was the lingua franca of the ancient Mediterranean world, used and
understood throughout the civilized world, spoken freely on the streets of
Lyon, Rome, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor,
kept his diary in Greek!
The chief causes that brought about the development and expansion of the
Koine were (i) extensive colonization throughout the Mediterranean; (ii)
close political, commercial, and religious ties of the various Greek ethnic
branches; (iii) religious amphictyonies (Delphi, Delos, Olympia, etc.);
(iv) the conquests of Alexander the Great and the empires of the Diadochi.
3. Character of the Koine
a. Called "common Greek" because it was universally used throughout the
b. It was not divided into dialects, as earlier Greek had been; nor was it
the development of a single dialect. While the dominant base was Attic
Greek, elements were also drawn from Doric and Ionic.
c. It is non-literary. There was a literary Greek, a mimetic Greek that
imitated good Attic Greek of the classical period. In general, the more
cultured an author was, the more Atticistic was his writing. This leads to
an amazing variety of styles and "Atticistic" ability. All writers were not
equally Atticistic in every detail. The historian Diodorus Siculus (usually
labelled a koine writer) interchanges EIS and EN, yet comes closer to Attic
usage in his employment of PRIN than does the contemporaneous Atticist
Dionysios of Halicarnassos.
New Testament writers differ widely in their ability to write a literary
Greek with some rhetorical competence. They vary in the complexity of
vocabulary, the mastery of Greek syntax, and other refinements of Greek.
The author of the Apocalypse writes some of the most "common" Greek in the
New Testament; yet he clearly distinguishes EIS and EN. Luke writes some of
the most cultured Greek in the NT, but appears to disregard the distinction
between the two prepositions. Hebrews alone seems to strive to avoid
hiatus, uses NUN DE in the literary sense "but as the case actually is,"
and writes sentences in good periodic style.
It is thus difficult to make a clear division between literary and
non-literary Greek; it is possible to start with the language of the
masses, preserved in the non-literary papyri, and then proceed to authors
who are close to such vernacular language, such as the translators of the
LXX, Strabo, Epiktetos, Musonius Rufus, and the like, and to rule out of
consideration all self-avowed Atticists. On this basis one can describe
some common features of the language.
d. The non-literary character of the Koine is reflected in the
1. It is vigorous, lively, and fresh with the tang of everyday
living, the language of the market place and not the lecture hall: the use
of the historic present; the vivid present tense for a future; the frequent
use of comparitives where superlatives are anticipated; the preference for
direct speech over indirect speech.
2. Clarity: pronouns used as subjects of verbs when they are not
really necessary; frequent parenthetical statements extend sentences;
prepositions are repeated after compound verbs; much use of adverbs;
preference for compound verbs; prepositions used with cases when not really
3. Simplicity. The subtleties of expression used in Attic Greek are
no longer there: the dual is lost; the optative recedes in frequency; the
rich resources of particles and conjunctions are limited to a relatively
small number of connectives.
To sum it up, one may say that the language of the koinhv was robust, but
limited; vulgar, but exalted by simplicity; bare, but colorful; and so
varied as to make most generalizations inaccurate.
e. Variations from classical Attic Greek:
(1) The dual number disappears.
(2) The periphrastic imperfect is common.
(3) The second (strong) aorist begins to take first (weak) aorist suffixes.
(4) The comparative serves for the superlative in growing frequency.
(5) The superlative often has elative sense.
(6) The personal pronoun is more and the possessive pronoun less frequent.
(7) There is increased occurrence of diminutives.
(8) Compound words are more frequent.
(9) The "hanging nominative" is more common.
(10) The accusative grows in usage at the expense of the dative (e.g.,
adverbial accusative over dative of manner).
(11) Prepositional phrases displace simple cases; prepositions are more
fluid in meaning and show a wide variation in use.
(12) The use of instrumental EN is common; in fact, the preposition is used
for many constructions (a kind of universal servant).
(13) The passive grows at the expense of the middle voice. In deponents the
aorist and future passive are more frequent than the middle.
(14) The optative is disappearing.
(15) There is an extension in the use of hINA, which has begun to displace
the imperative and is an alternative for the infinitive in practically
every construction. [It has displaced the infinitive completely in modern
(16) The neuter plural is used with either singular or plural verbs (a
tendency to change by analogy).
(17) The *-MI verbs tend to take on the forms of the *-W verbs; again,
analogy is at work.
(18) Old suffixes are dropped; new suffixes are coined.
(19) The genitive absolute is used more.
(20) The number of loan words from Latin, Hebrew, etc. increases radically.
4. Rise of the Modern View
Johann Winer first enunciated the modern view in his 1824 grammar. F.
Schleiermacher in _Hermeneutik und Kritik_ (1838) said that the writers of
the NT wrote in the language of the people and expressed regret that
grammarians did not adequately take this into consideration (55-59). In
1863 Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Cambridge Professor [later Bishop of Durham],
declared: "If we could only recover letters that ordinary people wrote to
each other without any thought of being literature, we should have the
greatest possible help for the understanding of the language of the New
Testament generally." The discovery of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (and
thousands more) proved him correct.
The study of papyri, datable inscriptions of the Hellenistic-Roman eras,
and ostraca within relatively recent times, coupled with the use of
Byzantine and modern Greek by comparative linguistics, has established the
view now generally held that the books of the New Testament are written in
Koine. G. Adolf Deissmann made the case most persuasively in his writings.
The names of G. Adolf Deissmann, James Hope Moulton, and Archibald T.
Robertson are forever linked to this advance.
The scholar who wishes to understand the basic character of NT Greek in
order to interpret it with confidence must take this point of view
seriously. S/he must inform him- herself about the character of the
language by studying these scholars, using the grammar of Mayser and the
lexica of Moulton-Milligan and F. Preisicke. S/he will familiarize him/
herself with _New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity_ (6 vols in
print), and in general will become familiar with the writers and documents
of non-Atticistic Greek of the Hellenistic-Roman era.
Linguistic Character of NT Greek
Those interested in language and literary analysis might want to
read one or another of the discussions of NT Greek in the history of the
E. C. Colwell, "Greek Language, The," IDB 2. 479- 487 [bibliography].
* Gerard Mussies, "Languages (Greek)," ABD 4.195-203.
N. Turner, "The Language of the New Testament," PCB 659-662 [bibliography].
- --------. _Grammatical Insights into the New Testament_. Edinburgh: T. & T.
Also useful are the first and fourth volumes of MHT, the "Foreword" [pp.
v-viii] and "An Introduction" [pp. ix-xxv] to BAGD, and Deissmann's LAE.
Historical grammarians illuminate this history.
E. Mayser and H. Schmoll. _Grammatik der griechischen Papyri aus der
Ptolem=E4erzeit_. 2. Aufl. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1970.
L. R. Palmer, _The Greek Language_. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities
Press, Inc., 1980. [Difficult reading for a neophyte in the Greek Language]
Albert DeBrunner, _Geschichte der griechischen Sprache_ II: Grundfragen und
Grundz=FCge des nachklassischen Griechisch. (Sammlung G=F6schen Band 114)
Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1954. [vol. I treats classical Greek]
Ludwig Radermacher, _Neutestamentliche Grammatik. Das Griechisch des Neuen
Testaments im Zusammenhang mit der Volkssprache_. (Handbuch zum Neuen
Testament 1, 2. Aufl.) T=FCbingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1925. [Outstanding;
delightful, if the German is not a barrier. Pp. 1-49 are a synthetic
- --------. _Koine. (Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien,
Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, 224. Band, 5.
Abhandlung) Wien: Rudolf M. Rohrer, 1947. [Good description of the
linguistic character of the Greek of the Early Roman Empire; goes far
beyond the NT.]
There is one other area of linguistic study that deserves mention:
Stylistics. It stands on the borderline between linguistic analysis and
rhetorical analysis. MHT 4 is devoted entirely to this, while every good
commentary on a New Testament book pays some attention to this in its
5. The Semitic character of the New Testament
All the writers of New Testament books whom we can name as individuals were
Jewish--with the possible exception of the author of Luke/Acts. Therefore
one should expect that the language of the NT will reflect some Semitic
background. Luther already emphasized this point when he wrote: "One cannot
fully understand the New Testament books without a knowledge of the Hebrew
language. For the New Testament, although it is written in Greek, is full
of Hebraisms and betrays the Hebrew style of writing" (WA 1.525).
Recent scholarship agrees with Luther, though there is immense debate as to
the nature and extent of the Semitisms. The "ideal" student of the NT knows
Hebrew and Aramaic. In any case, the LXX becomes a familiar friend.
Vocabulary and syntax show Semitic in=1Ffluence: paratactic writing,
predicate nominative replaced by eij" + accusative (reflecting Hebrew le ,
One should read a relatively modern discussion of the subject at some time,
e.g. the discussion in MHT 2 or Nigel Turner's views in MHT 4 (though he
overstresses the Semitic character). C. H. Dodd's study, _The Bible and the
Greeks_, balances well the Semitic and hellenistic influences on NT
29 September 1986 [rev. 1990, 1993] Based on material inherited from Paul
Edgar Krentz, New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Tel.: 312-256-0752; (H) 312-947-8105
From: fitchel bandy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 21:27:32 -0500
- --G0D IS GOOD
tn nuepa tou kupiou nuwv
End of b-greek-digest V1 #39
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