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?

[Fred]
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

Taken from COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF ST. JOHN (Aquinas)

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.)

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Did the Incarnate Son Undergo Change? (Thomas Torrance's Answer)

I sent this discussion to a former professor of mine concerning T.F. Torrance's view of God, time and immutability as well as the Trinity doctrine. Wanted to share it with some of you also, who might benefit from a general knowledge of Torrance's Incarnation
views.
______________________________________________________

Hi xxxx,

I'll try to provide a brief summary of Torrance's book entitled The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996). All subsequent references (page numbers) will be taken from his monograph.

Torrance writes that God's being is dynamic (non-static) and thus "unique divine becoming" (237). But how is it possible for God to be "dynamic unchangebleness"?

The author contends that God has always been Father, Son and Holy Spirit "but not always Creator" (ibid). The Supreme Being produced the cosmos EX NIHILO "in the unlimited freedom of his love" ungrudingly, uncoerced, that is, A SE ESSE (ibid).

Yet when God brought the universe into being through His own Word or Utterance (FIAT LUX), he did not undergo any change at this point (Torrance argues). The cosmos is, in fact, a demonstration of God's immutable and unchangeble nature. Although it is not an
after-thought, the universe emanates from His "divine life and love" (ibid).

But the "absolutely new [divine] event" (says Torrance) is the Incarnation (238). For while God has always been Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the creation is putatively awe-inspiring evidence of His immutable nature, the living deity of the Bible has
not always been incarnate. The LOGOS (the second Person of the Trinity) "became" flesh (hO LOGOS SARX EGENETO) and we beheld his glory: the Son of God possessed the DOXA of an only-begotten son (MONOGENHS hUIOS) and this glory (DOXA) was manifested many times throughout the course of his earthly ministry.

Yet there is a sense in which the Incarnation is also a symbol of God's unchanging nature or essence. Despite God the Son's "crucifixion" and subsequent resurrection to life again--despite the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those 120 persons gathered at Pentecost in 33 CE--God remains invariant. With Him, the disciple James declares, there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow (James 1:17 NWT). On the other hand, Pentecost might represent a change with respect to the divine life. Torrance notes:

"The transcendent Spirit of God had always been actively present in the world immanently sustaining its continuing relation to God the Creator, but what happened at Pentecost manifested a change not only in the form of his activity but in the mode of his immanence which it is difficult for us to conceive or express. It certainly illuminates for us the changed situation between God and man brought about by the incarnation, but at the same time it brings home to us the fact that what happened at Pentecost was not only quite new in the experience of mankind, but something incomprehensibly new in the life and activity of the eternal God and the mode of his presence to all flesh"(ibid).

To conclude, the upshot of Torrance's analysis of the creative activity of God and the INCARNATIO CHRISTI is that he believes the Triune God is neither the "Unmoved Mover" (Aristotle) nor the "Moved Unmover" (Whitehead) [1] or, I might add, the "Most Moved
Mover" (Pinnock). No, YHWH (according to Torrance) is the Self-moved God, who is immutable with respect to His nature but infinitely mobile, absolutely free, and inexhaustibly new vis-a-vis His divine activity (239).

I now close with this quote from Torrance, who also seems to argue that God is somehow in time as well as eternal. Speaking of the living God, Torrance writes:

"He is the Self-moved God who is transcendently and majestically free to become one with us in our creaturely existence and even to enter into the depths of our misery and alienation, while remaining he who he always is as the mighty living God, and who is therefore perfectly free and able to redeem and save us from our bondage and degradation" (ibid).

Best regards,
Edgar

[1] Colin Gunton describes Whitehead's God as the "Moved Unmover." Torrance also appears to prefer this terminology.