Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Jonathan Robie
Posts: 3777
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:34 pm
Location: Durham, NC

Re: Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Suppose Greek pronunciation varies over time and regionally, and this affects the rhythm of the language.

What evidence do we have from the time and place that the Greek New Testament was written? Are there any ancient grammarians who have addressed this particular point? Are there any early manuscripts that have accentuation or other clues that would tell us one way or another?

On the TextKit thread, someone mentioned that Codex Vaticanus (GA 03) was re-inked in the 10th or 11th century. Wikipedia claims a later date than that, and says that accents and breathings were added by a later hand. Is that true? If that's the case, is any of the evidence we are looking at particularly close to the time and place of the original texts?
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
Posts: 1060
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Post by RandallButh »


We have Greek texts from the Judean Desert dated around 120-130 CE that show the basic Koine vowel system in place [ι/ει - η - ε/αι - α - ο/ω - ου - υ/οι]. And it looks like η (the second to last vowel to collapse) went the way of all flesh during that following century in Athens, dropping the pan-Mediterranean common system to 6 vowels. With some some reasonable linguistics it is possible to extrapolate that length and circumflex accents had already been leveled.

Beyond that, there is not much to be said because the grammarians became sensitive to the Second Sophistic and could talk about idealized Greek as easily as what was actually in common use. At least we know that iota adscript was not pronounced, neither in idealized Greek, nor actual Greek. As late as the 5th century CE educated Greeks could write a reasonable Homeric Greek (remember Nonnus?) but that doesn't mean that people talked like that or even that sermons where given like that.
Posts: 10
Joined: June 12th, 2014, 11:29 pm

Re: Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Post by jeidsath »

I wanted to post once to mention that I'm enjoying these two threads, and also that it is good to reconnect with Jonathan again, whom I met in Kentucky last year, at the σύνοδος ἑλληνική.

Replying to Randall Buth, isn't it interesting that around the time of Justinian[*], new forms of syllable-counting poetry (dodecasyllable) arrive, and replace the previous forms? And that up to this time educated Greeks (and who else ever wrote poetry?) could still write quantitative poetry without errors, but just a little while later their quantitative poetry is full of errors whenever they attempt it?

I recommend a read of Ruijgh's critique of Teodorsson, whom Horrocks followed for his work on the Koine vowel system: ... b_contents

Evidence from other tonal languages (I'm thinking of Japanese) shows that pitch patterns can be surprisingly stable across a wide range of expressions of various stress levels. Stress does not have to wipe out pitch. In fact, many languages have a secondary-stress pattern anyway, and this has been claimed for classical Greek.

However, I believe that Buth is likely correct about our ignorance of the real speech patterns. It's very unlikely that various features of the Attic dialect had such a large spread over time and place as our printed editions make it appear. But that is no argument for replacing our tendentious knowledge with the even greater Medieval ignorance on the subject.

I appreciate the THGNT's spelling reforms, and that they remove an inappropriate leveling that has gone on in our printed editions. But their attempt to do the same with accent is unfortunate given that our evidence is so much worse.

[*] I believe that Maas makes this claim, but I don't have him at hand.
Joel Eidsath
Posts: 1060
Joined: May 13th, 2011, 4:01 am

Re: Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Post by RandallButh »

Yoel, thank you for the Ruigh link.

Of course, Horrock's didn't fully follow Teodorsson even though citing many of his examples.

I've seen some interesting syncopated poetry from the first century, almost Mungo Jerry.

Meanwhile, my suggestions on Focus and βαρύτονος are not taken from medievalists but from observations on how Greeks wrote Greek and fitting that into a system, including a distinction between "marked Topics" (Contextualizing Constituents, without special intonation) and "marked Focus" (fronted salient items, which likely included special intonation).
Posts: 1037
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington

Re: Matthew 5:23 in TGNT - say what?

Post by MAubrey »

Picking up on Randal's point, there does seem to be a question of what the edition seeks to do. From the view of documentation of papyri, it's quite believable that this instances of τις would appear with an accent in papyri.

On the other hand, the idea of a pronoun that has enclitic forms appearing in this particular position post-verbally retaining its accent seems dubious to me. This is an enclitic position for such pronominals and the information structure of the larger discourse supports a non-accented reading.

So, if the documentary evidence supports the accent and that's what the edition prioritizes, great. There's definitely value in that and worthwhile for production in an edition. But there's still very little likelihood that τις would have been been originally spoken with an accent. We're just now in the same position for this particular verse as we are with the artificial accents of αὐτοῦ αὐτῆς αὐτοῦ as Randall stated.

PS - Randall, your Mt 5:25 example with "enclitic" σε is absolutely lovely. That's going in my notes.
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Post Reply

Return to “Syntax and Grammar”