Re: Paul's knowledge of latin

From: Edgar Krentz (
Date: Tue Feb 23 1999 - 11:14:00 EST

>On 02/23/99, ""=?iso-8859-1?Q?J=FCrg_Buchegger?="
><>" wrote:
>> This is Juerg again,
>> I'm still working on the pauline neologism ANAKAINWSIS etc. and my question
>> is referring to an earlier post by Conrad in which he suggested that the
>> word could have been coined after the latin 'renovare'. Now I wonder
>> - how much latin did a man like Paul probably know?
>> - in his biography (education, locations, every day life etc.), where would
>> have been the necessary places and times etc. to get to know enough latin
>> for Paul, so he would have creativily thought of renovare when introducing
>> Has anybody thought, read or written about Paul's possible knowledge of
>> latin? During my theological studies, my teachers never taught me something
>> in this direction...
>> Any hints? Thanks a lot!
>No, nor have I ever read anything about Paul's possible knowledge of Latin,
>and only in recent years has there been any serious talk of Jesus' possible
>knowledge of Greek, but many now think that's a possibility not to be
>dismissed out of hand. I think it even more likely that Paul knew some
>Latin than that Jesus knew some Greek. I don't know that it can be proved,
>although there's probably some information somewhere on Latin in the
>eastern Mediterranean. It wouldn't surprise me if he learned some Latin in
>Tarsus, inasmuch as his Roman citizenship comes, so I learned somewhere, as
>a consequence of citizenship in Tarsus. While learning of Latin might not
>come automatically with Roman citizenship, at least some official Latin
>permitting him to say "CIVIS ROMANUS SUM" might be presumed, even if that's
>cited in Greek in Acts. I guess the question is the extent and nature of
>Latin literacy in the eastern Roman empire.

The best one might do, it seems to me, is ask about the cities Paul visited
and their linguistic character.

Most of the inscriptions from Philippi, from its foundation to the end of
the second century are Latin, not Greek--though Greek had not entirely
passed out of use. Founded as a Roman military colony, first by Mark and
Antony and later by Octavian, it was a "little Rome" in the East in terms
of language, government, law, etc.

One can say something similar about Corinth, also a Roman colony [though
not military]. Many of its inscriptions of this period are in Latin,
including those of the supervisor of the Isthmian games, still to be seen
in the Corinthian forum.

Paul might easily have picked up a smattering of Latin in the time spent in
Corinth, and a few words/phrases in Philippi.

All a matter of speculation, of course,

Edgar Krentz, Prof. of New Testament
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Tel: [773] 256-0752; (H) [773] 947-8105

Reply to: (office)

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:17 EDT