Re: Greek as a LIVING language - Was: Ancient Greek as a "dead" language

From: Isidoros (
Date: Wed Feb 26 1997 - 04:23:46 EST

On Tue, 25 Feb 1997 19:27:22 Micheal Palmer wrote

>My orthodontist in Louisville, Kentucky (about 7 years ago) was a very well
>educated recent immigrant from Greece. He assured me that exactly the
>opposite is the case. According to him, he could understand VERY LITTLE of
>the koine, and often what he THOUGHT he had understood turned out to be
>Perhaps more of Isidoros' understanding is based on his education than he
>would like to think.

Dear Michael,

there is no doubt that noone is a very good *kriths* of their own
relative understanding in this cosmos, and there is some truth to what
you may be saying in the sentence immediately above. On the other hand,
please do consider that I am precisely a person of quite deep and wide
learning and experience, trained in fact in matters of the GLWSSA, and
so, by this evidence, at lest should be to be able to discern these things
better than many.

I remain on my thesis, and much wonder about your dentist, education or
not. After all, what does a seven (7, you wrote) years old orthodontist
may know about glwssa? He hasn't even his baby teeth changed! (= -:
(that was an... orthodontic smile!!) Ask him to call me so that I can
make a proper... diagnosis, then I can tell you. (Maybe his own teeth
weren't straight when he was a child - that's why he became orthodontist -
so that, when he spoke, his modern Greek pronounciation was crooked,
such that did not quite "match" the Koine he heard properly?! (* -:
(and that was the smile of your orthodontist friend before he had his
teeth fixed!)

>I have also had the experience of having a student from Greece in one of my
>religion classes (not a Greek class). His reaction was the same as my
>orthodontist. He had never studied koine before. When some of the students
>in my Hellenistic Greek class asked him to help them with their homework on
>participles he responded that he could not understand koine.

Gee, Michael! Would you forgive me if I asked whether you checked this
guy, too, in his teeth?! Seriously now (and while I 'm checking meself
in the mouth!) my quess should that you have struck quite rare
aquaintances. (Couldn't be now that you met 2 Greek - out of 2, 100% ? -
atheists (too!) (who had never been to church in Greece- rarely anyway)
and so were not at all familiar with Koine?! Or maybe your student did
not know his Greek grammar? or generally the linguistic technology?
(I hardly know it - in English - myself, and I am serious about this.)
Or, did not know English AND grammar that well, so as to be able to
understand the jargon, let alone explain to another. And if a new arrivee.
Quite plausible, if you think about it.

I really do not know what to say. My observations have been in earnest
and many. But maybe I had come accross 1.000 who were exceptional in
accessing, "very well" as I had said, the Koine of ecclesia from spoken
Greek. Or, do you think the "Spirit"....

>I spoke with
>him on a number of occassions about the relationship between hellenistic
>and modern Greek and he convinced me that there was enough similarity to
>deceive the untrained reader into making some serious mistakes and enough
>difference to prevent reading the New Testament intelligently text without
>special training.

Now, admittedly, Michael, in all respect, that does not seem to me to had
taken that much of convincing!

>Micheal W. Palmer

Before letting go, two things, please.

The one is that I declare I have not any agenda, and I am not interested
in convincing anybody of anything. Nor, do I have any intention of proving
anyone "wrong", and especially Carl Conrad who, if I have not spoken
about it enough, has my respect anmd admiration for the tremendous job
he is doing helping fellows with their syntax and grammar, helping them
learn Greek, and the Koine (I bow for this to Carl, who has also some
sympathy from me for the sacrifice of time, and especially away from
his beloved roses and books). If you double-check with these two
people (and, as I I'll double-check with a dozen at this end but, sorry not
this week, but maybe next (my cup runneth over) then we can get back
to each other and the list - and, as I said. I am serious of *speaking*
with these two people, let me know.

The other thing is that I *have* been thinking, and as I think I have
indicated in passing in one of my posts, that there has been going on
a transformation of the Greek society, and especially in the last
30 or so years (television, tourism, travel, change in family, less
dependence on faith, less frequenting of the ecclesiai) that is affecting
the relationship of an "egergetic" participation of the Greek into the
church Koine (passive exposure too) as there is a change also of the
greek to his modern language (though certainly not of the sort or
the extend John Oaklands spoke re his "Thessalonike" student) such that
would effect too the relationship to the Koine, even if the first set of
changes not to had been taking place. Yet, in spite of the above, my
position essentially was, and remains, until I am convinced otherwise,
that a person today in Greece (still) understands very well the gospels
when read in church, as understands the Acts, and the liturgy - but
of course not in its deeper, esoteric meanings.

EIRHNH (please!)


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:07 EDT