[b-greek] RE: Questions about "The" Septuagint, Koine, and Attic Greek

From: Penner (pennerkm@mcmaster.ca)
Date: Fri Nov 02 2001 - 15:25:01 EST

I'll just offer quick and simple answers:

> 1. Is the Greek of "The" Septuagint of essentially the same
> dialect of The New Testament?

Yes and no. I expect the original audience of the New Testament could
also read anything in the Septuagint, and the Septuagint translators
could have read anything in the New Testament, if it had been available.
That said, there are significant variations of style within the
Septuagint, even larger than the difference between John and Hebrews.
Genesis has simple sentence structure because it follows Hebrew
patterns; Second Maccabees' syntax is complex because it is a Greek
composition (not a translation). The poetry of course has its own

> That is, lets say I've worked
> hard at learning to read the New Testament, and I reach a
> comfortable level with the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.
> How much trouble will I encounter reading "The" Septuagint?

Vocabulary was the hardest hurdle for me for the parts of the LXX that
are translated from Hebrew; these parts are not be a problem if you have
a good dictionary. Sentence structure makes the originally Greek parts
very challenging for one who has only read NT (unless you feel
comfortable reading the letters of Peter).

> 2. How large is the corpus of works we have available that
> are considered to be in effectively the same Koine dialect as
> the New Testament? While I definitely am interested in
> hearing about other works related to Christianity and the
> early church, I am also wondering about secular writings.
> How useful are secular documents in resolving questions about
> how to interpret the biblical texts in the context of everyday life?

Certainly reading Josephus and Philo will be helpful. Eusebius and the
Apostolic Fathers, too. But I'm not sure about non-Judeo-Christian
writings. We read some Plato in our Advanced Greek readings class, but
they haven't helped my biblical interpretation much.

> 3. How different is Koine from Attic Greek? Will it all be
> Greek to me, again? (Not that I really understand Koine all
> that much, either.) I've been attempting to teach myself
> Koine for the last 10 months or so. If I looked into Attic
> Greek at the same time, would I end up confusing myself
> hopelessly? Does knowledge of Attic Greek (or other earlier
> Greek dialects) substantially help in biblical studies (or
> vice-versa, for that matter).

I wish I had learned Attic Greek before NT Greek. It would have given me
a context in which to view the Greek of the NT.

Ken Penner, M.C.S. (Regent College), M.A. (McMaster)
Ph.D. Student, Religious Studies,
Biblical Field (Early Judaism major)
McMaster University
Hamilton, Canada

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