Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pronunciation of Attic or Koine Greek

A friend once wrote:

In the White-Stafford debate, QEOS is pronounced as thay-ahs. Interesting point on W. In English, hO WN might be uttered as "ho ahn", and this might work for casual, non-scholastic conversation. But, how is the omicron pronounced here? For ANTILUTRON, I've been uttering antee-lootron (without rolling the r, but I've gotten better at that). The rho was rolled too, right?

My [edited] answer:

I would not say that thay-ahs is wrong: it is maybe one way to pronounce the Greek morpheme θεός; but epsilon is short, so that is one reason why I do not pronounce θε as "thay." Biblehub.com has "theh'-os" for the Greek θεός.

Όμικρον (ο) has an interesting phonological history. At one time, it was enunciated differently than Ωμέγα. Donald Mastronarde describes Ωμέγα (ω) as "a long open central-back vowel" which was pronounced like the English "saw." On the other hand, Όμικρον is "a short back mid vowel," vocalized like the 'o' in the German "Gott." But, historically, there evidently came a time when ω was no longer phonemically distinguishable from ο in Greek: that is why the Byzantines made a morphemic/graphemic distinction between Ωμέγα and Όμικρον. And, if you will notice today, some say λόγος with a short 'o" and others treat Όμικρον in the word as a long vowel. Again, either way is acceptable except to the most persnickety purist.

For what it is worth, I purchased a copy of Randall Buth's proto-CD for "Emic Koine." Buth says that ω = ο in Modern Greek--ο is lower than ω in the Erasmian system and in the Allen-Daitz "restored Attic" system, ω is longer and lower than ο. The page found here is also quite helpful:


Lastly, the ϱ (r) was likely trilled, but I haven't traced its history to see if that practice stopped at some point.

Jean Calvin and Zechariah 10:5 (Question)

"Et erunt quasi fortes, (aut, gigantes,) calcantes in luto platearum in proelio; et proeliabuntur, quia Iehova cum ipsis; et pudefient ascensores equorum" (Zechariah 10:5, Jean Calvin's Commentary on Zechariah and Malachi).

"et erunt quasi fortes conculcantes lutum viarum in proelio et bellabunt quia Dominus cum eis et confundentur ascensores equorum" (Biblia Sacra Vulgata at www.academic-bible.com).

I don't have a critical text of the Vulgate at the moment, so I'm wondering why Calvin uses "pudefient" rather than "confudentur" in his commentary on Zech 10:5. Any help would be appreciated.

Friday, October 17, 2014

More Lines of Evidence for the New Testament/LXX Equaling Koine Greek

I am aware that certain scholars either do not take a decided stand on this issue or they suggest that the Greek of the LXX is not (strictly speaking) Koine. The 1905 work by F.C. Conybeare and St. George Stock entitled Grammar of Septuagint Greek states:

"The New Testament, having itself been written in Greek, is not so saturated with Hebrew as the Septuagint: still the resemblance in this respect is close enough to warrant the two being classed together under the title of Biblical Greek" (page 22).

However, A. T. Robertson argues more fervently that the Greek of the LXX is the ancient vernacular of Alexandria. The papyrological corpus seems to favor Robertson's thesis: there is no such animal as "Biblical Greek" (sensu stricto)

This point really should not surprise us since the Koine period evidently lasted ca. 330 BCE-330 CE. During his brief but glorious life, we know that Alexander the Great sought to make Koine a Weltsprache or lingua franca of the ancient world and his desire came to fruition. Why would the LXX have been an exception to this rule? One of the best ways to decide the issue is to compare the LXX with the Greek papyri. One can then see similarities and differences between the two.

Robertson (A Grammar of the GNT) quotes Deissmann concerning the issue of the NT and Koine Greek as follows:

"If we are ever in this matter to reach certainty at all, then it is the inscriptions and papyri which will give us the nearest approximation to the truth" (Deissmann qt. in Robertson, p. 79).

Deissmann continues to build his case by noting that both the LXX and the NT, based on a study of Greek papyri and inscriptions, were translated using "the Greek of ordinary intercourse as spoken in countries bordering on the Mediterranean" and he also observes that this developing common tongue of the Meditteranean people differed in "many respects" from the classical Attic of antiquity (See ibid., pp. 79-80).

As J.H. Moulton concludes in his NT Greek grammar:

"The papyri exhibit in their writers a variety of literary education even wider than that observable in the NT, and we can match each sacred author with documents that in respect of Greek stand on about the same plane. The conclusion is that 'Biblical' Greek, except where it is translation Greek, was simply the vernacular of daily life . . . The NT writers had little idea that they were writing literature. The Holy Ghost spoke absolutely in the language of the people as we might surely have expected He would" (p. 5).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Koine Greek: Quid Est? (With a Note on CASUS PENDENS)

Recent questions have arisen about the nature of the original NT texts and what counts as Koine Greek. To be honest, I have not devoted much time to this question in some time. But I've found old dialogues that might be helpful or that possibly show my progression of thought regarding the question. Here is one of those old discussions:

Dear [Fred],

You have asked for a definition of Koine. As I mentioned, I do not feel comfortable defining it, but would much rather describe it. A number of phenomena are akin to Koine, in this respect. Try to define "justice" or "beauty" in a non-circular way that attracts nearly universal consensus and see what happens. I submit that we face the same challenge when we try to define Koine Greek.

First, however, I will say that Greek was definitely undergoing a change from Attic to "Koine" prior to Alexander's attempt to Hellenize non-Greek peoples and impose a Weltsprache on them. History shows that from the fourth century BCE-fourth century CE, a type of Greek was introduced which differed from the Greek found in Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates or even in Xenophon. Yet, this developing form of Greek was used in different media, like any other language. Thus, one finds a higher register of Koine in Josephus, Philo and Epictetus than might be found in the Greek papyri; but the dialect is the same. It is still Koine Greek, identified by its syntax, morphology,
phonology, and idiomatic use. Whatever one may think concerning the grammatical features of what I am calling Koine Greek, it seems hard to dispute Alexander's influence on Greek and how it began to change as Alexander and his successors sought to bring about a common Weltsprache.

At any rate, I offer two examples for starters to show the nature of Koine Greek. My initial examples will come from Colwell's work The Greek of the Fourth Gospel.

Some (e.g., Burney, et al) who believe that John was originally writen in Aramaic think that the construction classified as CASUS PENDENS evidently found in 27 Johannine passages (Jn 1:12; 1:18; 3:26, etc) is a "Semitic" construction (See Colwell, 37). However, the construction is found in Classical Greek (cf. Xen. Cyr II.3.5; Ec. I.14. See also Gildersleeve's Greek Grammar for examples from Plato,
Isocrates, Herodotus, Euripides and Homer) and it regularly occurs in the Greek papyri. Some examples that Colwell gives are:

1) BGU I, 19 (a lawsuit record dated 135 CE), col. II, lines 4f:

"hOSA PROSHNANTO PA[TRI?] KWN PERI TON PROKEIMENON APO THS EU [D] AIMONIDOS DIAQHKHS . . . TAUTA METEINAI TOIS EKEINOU TEKNOIS. Compare Jn 1:12 with BGU II, 372 (official decree, dated 154 CE), col II, lines 19f "where EAN TIS occurs in the same construction" (Colwell, 38).

Other Greek papyri containing the CASUS PENDENS construction are BGU II, 523 (a letter), P.Oxy. II, 299 (a letter dated 1 CE) and P.Oxy.II, 268, line 2 (a repayment of a dowry, dated 58 CE).

I also recommend Light from Ancient Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986) by John L. White.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Septuagint (LXX): In Which Greek Dialect Was It Written?

No one's ever been able to find a writing that we know was written in Greek that matches the NT style or the things that the LXX and NT have in common that are clearly Semitic in style.

[Edgar's Reply]
Current research seems to place your thesis in some doubt. A work on Greek aspect entitled Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch states:

"Over the last century it has become possible, in the light of the newly discovered evidence of Greek papyri coupled with methodological advances, to demonstrate more and more clearly in various respects the affinities of LXX Greek with the contemporary Koine vernacular of Egypt. This has led in large measure to a resolution of the old dispute.

The method of translation adequately explains the Hebraistic cast of the LXX. It is unnecessary to propose the existence of a special Jewish Greek dialect to explain the abnormalities. Nevertheless, the notion of Jewish Greek continues to find its advocates, especially in the broader sphere of biblical Greek studies. The present work will supply further clear evidence of ordinary Koine characteristics in the translation Greek of the LXX"(T.V. Evans, Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch: Natural Greek Usage and Hebrew Interference. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, page 4).

Evans stresses what other scholars working with the ancient papyri have highlighted and emphasized for years, namely, that the LXX was evidently translated in Koine Greek and it bears many literary marks that inexorably link it with the Greek papyri of Egypt.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Two Journal Articles on Earthquakes (SEISMOI)

Doing a little more research on the Greek word SEISMOS within a biblical context, I've found Moulton and Milligan's study of the ancient papyri to be helpful. Furthermore, James S. Murray reviews literary, epigraphical, and numismatic evidence for urban earthquakes (particularly in Asia Minor and related areas) in "The Urban Earthquake Imagery and Divine Judgement in John's Apocalypse," Novum Testamentum, Vol. 47, Fasc. 2 (Apr. 2005), pp. 142-161.

But one of the most important articles on this subject has to be Richard Bauckham, "The Eschatological Earthquake in the Apocalypse of John," Novum Testamentum, Vol. 19, Fasc. 3 (Jul. 1977), pp. 224-233.

The latter also provides some context to the biblical use of SEISMOS.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Aquinas--Gospel of John 1:14


Part I: Chapters 1-7 translated by James A. Weisheipl, O.P.
Magi Books, Inc., Albany, N.Y.

Lectio 7: καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν

"But if this were so, it would mean that God did not become man, for one particular suppositum cannot be predicated of another. Accordingly, if the person or suppositum of the Word is different than the person or suppositum of the man, in Christ, then what the Evangelist says is not true, namely, the Word was made flesh. For a thing is made or becomes something in order to be it; if, then, the Word is not man, it could not be said that the Word became man. And so the Evangelist expressly said was made, and not 'assumed,' to show that the union of the Word to flesh is not such as was the 'lifting up' of the prophets, who were not 'taken up' into a unity of person, but for the prophetic act. This union is such as would truly make God man and man God, i.e., that God would be man" (170).

(Sed secundum hoc Deus non esset factus homo; quia impossibile est quod duorum singularium, quae diversa sunt secundum suppositum, unum praedicetur de alio. Unde si alia est persona verbi, seu suppositum, et alia persona hominis, seu suppositum in Christo, tunc non erit verum quod dicit Evangelista verbum caro factum est. Ad hoc enim fit aliquid, ut sit; si ergo verbum non esset homo, non posset dici quod verbum sit factum homo. Et ideo signanter Evangelista dixit factum est, et non dixit assumpsit, ut ostendat quod unio verbi ad carnem non est talis qualis est assumptio prophetarum, qui non assumebantur in unitatem suppositi, sed ad actum propheticum: sed est talis quod Deum vere faceret hominem, et hominem Deum, idest quod Deus esset homo.)

"If you ask how the Word is man, it must be said that he is man in the way that anyone is, man, namely, as having human nature. Not that the Word is human nature itself, but he is a divine suppositum united to a human nature. The statement, the Word was made flesh, does not indicate any change in the Word, but only in the nature newly assumed into the oneness of a divine person. And the Word was made flesh through a union to flesh. Now a union is a relation. And relations newly said of God with respect to creatures do not imply a change on the side of God, but on the side of the creature relating in a new way to God" (172).

(Si vero quaeris quomodo verbum est homo, dicendum quod eo modo est homo quo quicumque alius est homo, scilicet habens humanam naturam. Non quod verbum sit ipsa humana natura, sed est divinum suppositum unitum humanae naturae. Hoc autem quod dicitur verbum caro factum est, non aliquam mutationem in verbo, sed solum in natura assumpta de novo in unitatem personae divinae dicit. Et verbum caro factum est, per unionem ad carnem. Unio autem relatio quaedam est. Relationes autem de novo dictae de Deo in respectu ad creaturas, non important mutationem ex parte Dei, sed ex parte creaturae novo modo se habentis ad Deum.)