From: Chuck Tripp (email@example.com)
Date: Thu Feb 07 2002 - 23:23:04 EST
Hello Randall, thank you for your response the other day to my question on
'where to go from here' in my greek studies. First off, i downloaded at
work an mp3 file that someone provided the link to of Matthew 16 using
modern pronunciation. I played it a few times while I was working at my
desk. The result was quite different from what I expected. As you have
explained, many of the vowels and dipthongs have an 'ee' sound. On the
first playing I think I only recognized one or two words. After reading the
text and playing some more I could recognize quite a bit more.
I have a couple of questions on what you have been writing about. One thing
that is kind of amazing to me is that Paul and the other writers of the N.T.
seem to be able to spell really well. To my mind, English is one of the
simplest of languages from a spelling point of view (I know people will try
to say it is complicated), yet a spell checker will frequently highlight
words for me. My question is this: is good spelling in the N.T. the result
of well educated scribes that perhaps the N.T. writers dicted their work to
or to perhaps the spelling being corrected shortly thereafter or were all
the N.T. writers educated enough to have nailed down fairly well the
spelling. What I mean by good spelling is this: the N.T. writers were
following spelling conventions rather that spelling phonetically.
My second question is this: can one assume that the spelling conventions
represent real differences in pronunciation at the time the greek alphabet
was adopted? I often wonder what the language sounded like.
----- Original Message -----
From: Randall Buth <ButhFam@compuserve.com>
To: Biblical Greek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 3:55 AM
Subject: [b-greek] Meet 1cGreek:Ben Kosiba
> Meet 1c Greek, Israel
> Here is the promised follow up to the Gemellus
> letter. It is a fascinating little window into the land
> of Israel 100 years after the gospel events. Technically,
> this is second century Greek, though one may take
> comfort in knowing that some of the persons involved were
> born in the 1st century. As for the time, beggars can't be
> choosers. We are just glad to have whatever we can
> get from the period.
> It was written in Judea by a certain Soumaios during the
> Bar Kochba revolt between 132 and 134 CE (This was a
> year before the Romans changed the province name from
> Judea to Palestine. The geographical name had been 'land
> of Israel' cf. Mt. 2.21.) Speculation about who this Soumais
> was has ranged from Shim`on Ben Kosiba himself
> (a.k.a. 'Bar Kochba') to a non-Jewish Greek compatriot.
> This latter is the most probable historically, as will be
> seen by the phraseology of the letter. Cassius Dio, the
> Roman historian [c. 160CE-230 CE] wrote:
> "And many others even from outside nations were joining
> them [the Jews-RB] through eagerness for gain"
> (Historia Romana 69:13.2)
> POLLOI TE ALLOI KAI TWN ALLOFULWN
> EPIQUMIAi KERDOUS SFISI SUNLAMBANONTO
> [just like 'NT Greek' except for the Attic SFISI 'to them'
> and perhaps the more formalistic/backgrounded word
> order reserving the verb for the end]
> This letter is not preserved as well as Gemellus .
> An editor needs to judiciously fill in missing pieces of
> words. They are marked with [ ] in the text below.
> I have followed the transcription of Baruch Lifshitz in
> Aegyptus 42 (1962: 241). Line numbers represent 'sense
> units' and do not correspond to the papyrus.
> 1 SOU[MAI]OS
> 2 IWNAQHI BAIANOU KAI MA[S]ABALA
> yonates son of bayanos and masabala
> 3 CAIREIN
> to be happy (=greetings)
> 4 E[P]HDH EPEMSA PROS UMAS A[G]RIPPAN
> since i-sent to you agrippa
> 5 SPOUD[ASA]TE PEMSE MOI
> hasten to-send to me
> 6 S[TE]LEOU[S] KAI KITRIA
> poles and citrons
> 7 A[UTA] D'ANASQHSETAI
> and they will-stand-up [=will need to arrive]
> 8 IS [K]ITREIABOLHN IOUDAIWN
> for the citronhappening of-the-jews
> 9 KAI MH ALWS POIHSHTAI.
> and do not otherwise do
> 10 EGRAFH D[E] ELHNISTI
> and this-was-written in greek
> 11 DIA T[O OR]MAN MH EURHQ[H]NAI
> on-account-of to-be-eager not to-be-found
> (=I had no desire)
> 12 EBRAESTI G[RA]YASQAI .
> in hebrew to write-out
> 13 AUTON AP[O]LUSAI TACION
> him send-off quickly
> 14 DI[A T]HN EORTHN
> on-account-of the feast
> 15 KA[I M]H ALLWS POIHSH[TA]I
> and do-not otherwise do
> 16 SOUMAIOS
> 17 ERRWSO
> be healthy
> First, a brief historical note:
> The reference to "of the Jews" in line 8 sounds like
> a non-Jew writing. This might be further supported
> by the comment about not writing in Hebrew,
> something that a foreigner probably had a weaker
> control of than Greek, even if fighting in a southern
> Judean army. He may have needed help to
> write in Hebrew.
> Comments on interesting forms and structures:
> 4 EPHDH for EPEIDH 'since' probably represents fast
> speech rather than a full itacism [epidi]. Slow speech of
> standard EPEIDH at this time was [epide']. This may be
> compared to something like English "I went to the store."
> In fast speech 'to' is pronounced [ta or t' ]. Further support
> for the lack of itacistic H=I can be found in HTA being
> used correctly, elsewhere in this letter and in general in the
> Dead Sea area Greek papyri.
> EPEMSA for EPEMYA is a common colloquial spelling
> that does not affect the phonemic structure of the language.
> 5 SPOUD[ASA]TE is correct for SPOUDASATE the
> 2p imperative. I point this out because of alternative
> spellings for 2p that follow.
> Of more interest is the form PEMSE. This is the
> infinitive 'to send', normally spelled PEMYAI. It is a
> good example of the AI/E interchange in Koine Greek.
> By chance it was not exemplified in the Gemellus
> letter, but it is widely attested throughout the
> Mediterranean. [NB: PEMSE is most probably not an
> imperative, PEMYON, which would be unexpected
> after 'hasten' and would unexplainably use the
> continuative imperative ending -E.
> 6 STELEOUS are normally axe-handles or the like,
> while here they apparently refer to 'lulav' palm
> 7 ANASQHSETAI for ANASTHSETAI. The use of
> Qeta in place of Tau was easy at this time because
> Qeta itself was still a 'stop' [i.e. not a fricative], just like
> the 't' in English "top". Tau on the other hand, was like
> the 't' in English "stop" [i.e., an unaspirated stop]. These
> sounds (FEI, QETA, CEI) were starting to weaken at this
> time under the influence of the already fricativized
> (BHTA, DELTA, GAMMA). This is backwards from
> standard erasmian. The Allen-Daitz system keeps all
> six of these 'stops'. Myself, I follow the lead of the voiced
> fricatives, knowing that the voiceless ones were in the
> process of changing during the Koine period, ending up as
> fricatives from Eusebius' time, likewise in modern and
> in erasmian.
> 8 IS for EIS should be recognizible by now. There are
> as many examples of EI for I and I for EI as one would
> want to collect from early Hellenistic Koine right up to
> modern Greek. Note the following, as well:
> KITREIABOLHN used -EI- while KITRIA line 7
> used -I- .KITREIABOLH is an otherwise unattested
> word in Greek and refers to the Jewish Feast of
> Tabernacles, where citrons were carried.
> IOUDAIWN Historically, this probably points
> to a non-Jewish writer. See discussion at the beginning
> of the comments.
> 9 ALWS for ALLWS. Length was not a phonemic
> part of the spoken language during the Koine period,
> so this spelling is not surprising. See line 15 where is
> is spelled ALLWS, as in standard Greek spelling.
> POIHSHTAI for POIHSHTE, subjunctive 2p used
> in a negative command. Notice the ending -AI.
> An ending [-tay] did not exist in Greek for the 2p. This
> is simply one of the ubiquitous examples of writing
> AI for the sound E, just like E was written for AI in
> PEMSE/PEMYAI above.
> 10 ELHNISTI for ELLHNISTI . see comment line 9.
> 11 T[ OR]MAN is a very probable reconstruction for the
> active continuative infinitive "to rush" "start" "be eager".
> A noun "T[HN OR]MAN
> would be a dialectical oddity for H ORMH and TO
> ORMHMA wouldn't fit.
> 12 EBRAESTI , a dialectical form for EBRA-ISTI. The
> A and I were kept separate in standard pronunciation and
> are marked with diairesis (two dots) in standard
> Historically, this probably points to a non-Jewish writer.
> See discussion at the beginning of the comments.
> GRAYASQAI is interesting as a middle for 'to write'
> 13 APOLUSAI is also interesting as a middle imperative
> 15 POIHSH[TA]I again, for POIHSHTE .
> Another example of AI being written for the sound E.
> In sum, this letter provides a very interesting historical
> window into the life and times of the period. As for
> language, it shows examples of EI=I and AI=E in
> spelling. Just for the record, elsewhere in the Babata
> archive (124-130 CE, Dead Sea area) are further
> examples of W=O and OI=U. For some examples,
> see Living Konie Greek for Everyone, v. 1, pp.
> 175-184 (www.biblicalulpan.org). Thus, the equations
> EI=I, AI=I, W=O and OI=U are not to be thought of
> as limited to Egypt, Israel or anywhere in the
> Mediterranean. They are panhellenic Koine.
> I am writing as a teacher. If someone wants to ask
> 'but couldn't A explain this or B explain that, so that we
> could speculate on an 'erasmian' use of symbols?', I can
> only respond, "not in the light of contemporary documents,
> either locally or abroad, nor in the light of previous periods
> of the language and following periods of the language."
> Experience brings the necessary background to
> distinguish static from pattern. There are certainly
> points where one is not completely certain in this
> particular letter. E.g. It is possible that
> EPHDH was pronounced [epipi], I just don't feel it is
> the most probable here. If someone wants to object to
> the direction and tenor of this presentation, they would
> do well to read a few hundred ancient documents first:
> all the Dead Sea Greek papyri, and a sample of
> inscriptions from Asia Minor, Greek writings in the
> Roman catacombs, papyri from Egypt, and our major
> NT manuscripts from the 2nd century and following.
> I am not alone in arriving at such "definite" conclusions.
> Listen to Blass-D-F Greek Grammar of the NT
> (par. 23, p. 13): "The phonetic leveling of EI
> and I betrays itself by the rather frequent confusion in usage
> in the early Hellenistic period, in Attic inscriptions from
> ii BC end, in Egyptian papyri from iii BC mid. The
> possibility is accordingly precluded that even Lk and Paul
> employed the correct historical spelling of I and EI; how
> they actually wrote is unknown to us."
> The "possibility is precluded" is academese for "next to
> impossible" or "impossible".
> Lest someone feel discouraged by that, I would recommend
> turning it around: If Luke and Paul were not bothered by a
> confusion of EI and I, and the early Christian community
> could live with it, we should be able to live with it. The
> 'silver lining' in this is that we keep EI clearly distinct
> from H.
> For the record, I am happy to use 'standard Attic'
> orthography for our texts. Spelling standards are useful
> and make reading easier (like in this English email),
> as long as we don't hide ourselves from what lies
> underneath in the phonemic sound system.
> Randall Buth, PhD
> Director, Biblical Language Center
> and Lecturer, Biblical Hebrew
> Rothberg International School
> Hebrew University.
> B-Greek home page: http://metalab.unc.edu/bgreek
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