From: Alan Repurk (
Date: Mon Nov 04 1996 - 12:34:59 EST

Carl W. Conrad wrote:
> At 6:56 AM -0600 11/2/96, Jonathan Robie wrote:
> >Carl Conrad wrote:
> >
> >> I think
> >> then that this is probably the way we should understand these words in the
> >> Greek: the GLWTTA/GLWSSA tends to be the term for the language as written
> >> and understood by Greek-speakers everywhere--certainly in the Hellenistic
> >> era by all educated Greek-speakers, while DIALEKTOS signals the distinctive
> >> speech of different ethnic Greeks in different areas. My impression too is
> >> that Koine is the name of a DIALEKTOS: hH KOINH DIALEKTOS, and I suspect
> >> that the reason Koine is a feminine adjective is precisely because the noun
> >> GLWTTA/GLWSSA is the noun understood implicitly with hH KOINE DIALEKTOS: it
> >> means "the VERNACULAR language."
> >
> >I don't think this agrees with the usage in Acts 2. Each person heard in
> >their own DIALEKTOS (th idia dialektw), and there is a list of the regions.
> >The group included both Jews and proselytes, so I would expect that this
> >means both dialects (*not* equivalent to DIALEKTOS) of Hebrew and of Greek.
> >Cretans and Arabs would probably imply other languages as well.
> >
> >There also seems to be parallelism between verse 8 (akouomen ekastos th idia
> >dialektw) and verse 11 (akouomen lalountwn autwn tais hmeterais glwssais).
> >This parallelism suggests broad equivalence to me, though another
> >interpretation would be that that verse 8 stresses that they are speaking in
> >all the local regional dialects (which would be quite a feat, even here in
> >North Carolina), and verse 11 stresses that this was true even across
> >completely different languages.
> >
> >Here is the quote. I'm enclosing verse 12, which is not strictly relevant,
> >simply because it describes a state in which I spend much of my life, and
> >which seems particularly relevant to b-greek.
> >
> >Acts 2:7 (GNT) existanto de kai eqaumazon legontes: ouc idou apantes outoi
> >eisin oi lalountes Galilaioi;
> >Acts 2:7 (NASU) They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all
> >these who are speaking Galileans?
> >8 (GNT) kai pws hmeis akouomen ekastos th idia dialektw hmwn en h
> >egennhqhmen;
> >8 (NASU) "And how is it that we each hear [them] in our own language to
> >which we were born?
> >9 (GNT) Parqoi kai Mhdoi kai Elamitai kai oi katoikountes thn Mesopotamian,
> >Ioudaian te kai Kappadokian, Ponton kai thn Asian,
> >9 (NASU) "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia,
> >Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
> >10 (GNT) Frugian te kai Pamfulian, Aigupton kai ta merh ths Libuhs ths kata
> >Kurhnhn, kai oi epidhmountes Rwmaioi,
> >10 (NASU) Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around
> >Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,
> >11 (GNT) Ioudaioi te kai proshlutoi, Krhtes kai Arabes, akouomen lalountwn
> >autwn tais hmeterais glwssais ta megaleia tou qeou.
> >11 (NASU) Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our [own] tongues speaking of
> >the mighty deeds of God."
> >12 (GNT) existanto de pantes kai dihporoun, allos pros allon legontes: ti
> >qelei touto einai;
> >12 (NASU) And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying
> >to one another, "What does this mean?"
> Wow! I'm not really sure, but it's possible that we've stumbled onto
> something bigger than we thought (but then again, it's also quite possible
> simply that I have stumbled--and when you put that into Greek, it's
> I had always supposed that this story is intended by Luke to mark the
> reversal of the dispersal of nations from the time of the Tower of Babel
> and the gospel implication that humanity is now re-united in the Spirit
> that makes it possible for all to hear the gospel proclamation in their own
> language. And that may--perhaps most likely is--the sense of the episode.
> But what strikes me for the first time about this passage, now reading it
> in the light of this discussion of DIALEKTOS and GLWSSA, is that this is
> not just an assemblage of ANQRWPOI of every nation under heaven (which
> always struck me as an awesome assertion for any careful historian to make)
> assembledin Jerusalem, but rather it is IOUDAIOI, ANDRES EULABEIS--and
> Now that opening phrase from vs. 5 indicates that we are talking NOT about
> people of every ethnic tribe under the sky but about Diaspora Jews; then
> vs. 11, if "both Jews and Proselytes" is not just a unit within the larger
> list of nationalities but rather a unifying rubric for them all, then the
> entire group is not a universal human group but rather a group of Jews and
> converts to Judaism from a broad spectrum of geographical and ethnic areas.
> I see two possibilities here; perhaps there are more. (1) One is that
> Jonathan is quite right: Luke is using GLWSSA in vs. 11 to mean the same
> thing as DIALEKTOS in vs. 8. In fact, that may be the case anyway, unless
> perhaps we understand GLWSSA as the generic word for language and DIALEKTOS
> as a word for "vernacular" that can overlap in meaning with GLWSSA and
> therefore sometimes be used synonymously. (2) The other is that all these
> IOUDAIOI TE KAI PROSHLUTOI from the Jewish Diaspora who are together here
> in Jerusalem, according to Luke, are in fact not speaking and hearing
> different LANGUAGES, but different DIALECTS of Koine Greek? I should
> perhaps add a third possibility, although I am somewhat hesitant about it
> and it's not really all that much help: that Luke is confused. He appears
> to be confused sometimes about Palestinian geography and sometimes about
> chronology (he has Gamaliel referring to one Messianic pretender who
> probably had not yet appeared at the time he's speaking). What then SHOULD
> we make of this use of GLWSSA and DIALEKTOS here? Maybe there's just no
> difference between the two words in meaning after all. I am intrigued,
> however, by the realization that this assembled populace is not really
> universal humanity, but JEWS of nigh unto every area of the Diaspora.
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University
> One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
> (314) 935-4018
> OR
> WWW:

As usual, I continue to be impressed with the scholarship of these lists.
Thanks everyone so much for the weighty responses. I do not know to what
extent the IODAIOS and B-GREEK membership overlap, but for the benefit of
those who do not receive both lists I wanted to forward these two threads
which I found extremely informative.

> I do not see evidence for the distinction Jim West proposed between
> DIA/LEKTOS and GLW=SSA. Indeed, Josephus seems to use the terms
> interchangeably. Looking simply to the first book of his Antiquities,
> compare these two instances.
> Antiquities 1:33
> ... Sabbath, and the name means "rest" according to the language of the
> Hebrews.
> Antiquities 1:333
> ... Israel, and according to the language of the Hebrews this signifies
> the foe of God's angel.
> In Antiquities 1:117, Josephus uses DIA/LEKTOS for the single primitive
> speech shared by every human before the confusion of the tongues at Babel.
> We should not confuse DIA/LEKTOS with the modern technical term derived
> from it, "dialect."
> Regards,
> Jay
> ***************Quis unquam ab historico iuratores exegit?********************
> Jay Treat manager of the Prep Center, SAS Computing
> 440 Williams Hall voice: (215) 898-9892
> The University of Pennsylvania email:
> Philadelphia PA 19104-6305 www:
> *****************************************************************************
In addition, I have a modest contribution - the word BARBAROS appears to
mean - 'foreign tongue'. From what I have read this term was not considered
to be a disparaging term, but over time appears to have taken on a negative
connotation. Perhaps, 'DIALEKTOS' also over time began to take on the
meaning that we find in the English of 'dialect' ?


1Co 14:11 If, then, I do not understand the force of the speech sound,
I shall be a foreigner to the one speaking, and the one speaking will be
a foreigner to me.


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