From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue May 28 1996 - 08:18:07 EDT

Sorry to chime in on this so late, but I had to make another quick trip to
North Carolina over the weekend and got back yesterday afternoon to find a
flood of mail; I'm only now noting Edgar's input and Carlton's response,
and I'd like to throw in another 2 mills worth (does anybody use mills
anywhere anymore? Probably not, since the penny itself is practically
worthless). I pondered changing the subject header, but I think these
topics fall as well under this rubric as not.

At 7:41 AM -0500 5/27/96, Carlton L. Winbery wrote:
>Edgar Krentz wrote;
>>While I realize that he did not write any so-called dialect Greek,
>>Philodemus is another native of Gadara, the polis related to Hamat Gader.

That's very interesting, and it's a new fact to me although I must have
seen it before. Philodemus is an extremely important figure both as a
transmitter of doctrines to first-century BCE Rome and as an original and
non-dogmatic (although Epicurean) thinker on a number of subjects. I don't
know whether all the goodies from him that have been found in Piso's {?}
library at Herculaneum have been disclosed or published yet. But it's
interesting that two figures of the significance of Philodemus and Meleager
should have come from a place on the east side of Galilee that most people
know about only in connection with the demoniac called "Legion." I've been
reading and hearing some foolish twaddle about "Palestine" (what's the
largest U.S. state that "Palestine" at its most expansive stretch compares
with?) and how we ought to view all Palestinian Judaism of the first
century CE as substantially un-Hellenized. It seems to me that the question
whether Jesus actually WAS a Cynic sage is a big one, but the possibility
of a Galilean Jewish peasant BECOMING a Cynic sage is hadly something that
can be dismissed out of hand, as is so readily done by those unaware of the
extent, not only of the Hellenization of Palestine, but also of the close
proximity of predominantly Greek-speaking communities and and an
educational system and culture capable of producing significant figures in
the literature of this period.

>>And that leads me to wonder out loud: Is there any Greek that is not a
>>dialect? Attic is in the Fifth century BCE. Which also raises another
>>question for me: Do special lexica for individual authors or small
>>collections, e.g. the NT, help students to understand the grid of possible
>>meanings or obscure it? I am coming more and more to the latter conclusion.
>These are two very interesting questions. I don't think that I have read
>much discussion of either one. Would we consider Hellenistic (Koine) Greek
>a dialect or a matter of spreading Greek in a world that was less Greek
>than Greece. A kind of popularizing the language, comparable to English
>today. Is that properly a dialect (hH DIALEKTOS - *she* can be a tough
>taskmaster), if by that we mean "native language."

What is usually said is that the Koine is basically Ionic dialect with
Attic grammar. While it's true that nothing did more to carry the language
far and wide to new settlements throughout the eastern Mediterranean, what
may be insufficiently realized is that (1) Sicily, southern Italy, parts of
north Africa (Cyrene, Naucratis in Egypt), in fact the whole Mediterranean
littoral, had been colonized even before the classical era, many of them by
Doric-speakers (esp. Sicily & southern Italy); and (2) that Athenian
imperialism after the Persian wars of the early 5th century had done much
to make the language more uniform; surely the itinerant sophists were a
factor in this too. Considering how broad is the spectrum of style--both
lexicography and usage--is within the NT, we probably SHOULD think of the
Koine as considerably colored by local or ethnicly -retained speech
features. I've already mentioned (I think) Theocritus' fascinating 15th
Idyll, a "mime" dramatizing the excursion of a couple women from Syracuse
in sicily to watch an Isis festival parade in downtown Alexandria in the
mid-3rd century BCE: they speak Sicilizan Doric, even in dactylic
hexameters! But the Atticizing movement of the second century CE is a
powerful factor in eliminating those differences, at least among the

>To the second question I would say, reservedly, yes; if the editors of such
>tools have read and worked in the language on a broader scale. Bad things
>can happen either way, etymology is interesting, but when made normative
>for meaning to the ignoring of the context it is detrimental. On the other
>hand meaning that is limited only to the Hebrew background of Paul (W.D.
>Davies) can distort Paul by ignoring his obvious knowledge of the Greek
>world and philosophy. That is not to say that Greek had not had its
>influence even in Jerusalem itself.

I will agree with Carlton wholeheartedly here. I think that the first
response to the etymology question was too dismissive of the worth of
etymology. Personally I am addicted both to etymology in the sense of
word/root histories (including changes in word-meanings) and to
morphological history of Greek that I probably exaggerate their worth and
importance. I will say, however, that I think any limits that are imposed
upon how one learns to read Greek and what one reads in Greek may turn out
to be limitations upon one's ability to read ANY Greek of ANY period--the
more dangerous one becomes as a Hellenist, the more capable one becomes at
the same time--and vice versa!

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:43 EDT