Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Simplest Explanation of Biblical Greek Is the Best One

Ockham's Razor (the law of parsimony) is a handy tool that can be used in many academic fields. Sorry that it can't be used to literally shave anything away.

But to illustrate how the famed "law of parsimony" works, consider some explanations that have been given for the kind of Greek we find in the New Testament. There was a time when some thought that the form of Greek encountered in Matthew or Revelation was "Holy Ghost Greek." That is, a special type of Greek produced by the Spirit of God. But that position eventually softened and it was then claimed that the Greek of the NT is special (unique) because it contains Hebrew-Aramaic idioms throughout the text.

We now know that the simplest explanation for NT Greek--this is where Ockham's razor comes into play--is that Matthew-Revelation was written in Koine Greek (the common Greek of the day) and not some SUI GENERIS dialect unknown to the Hellenes: the simplest explanation is probably the most likely and best one. However, we don't have to speculate what type of Greek the NT writers used; there is strong textual evidence from the first century era. On page 10 of their well-known grammar, Dana and Mantey inform us that the NT writers employed "the language of the masses," as might be expected.

We have numerous Greek inscriptions and papyri that add weight to this conclusion. We don't need some extravagant hypothesis to explain NT Greek. Ockham's Razor wisely teaches us that all other things being equal (CETERIS PARIBUS), the simplest explanation is normally the best one (don't multiply entities unnecessarily).


Mary Kirkland said...

"The simplest explanation is usually the best one." That can be said for a lot of things.

Edgar Foster said...

I agree. It's generally valued in science too.