Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quick Post on Luke's Quality of Greek

Scholars are usually agreed that Luke's Greek is quite refined at times. I don't believe it's correct to view it as non-standard Greek.



Duncan said...

"This raises the issue of the alleged quotation from the septaguint of acts 7:14 where Stephen is supposed to have said that 75 dwelt in Egypt when Jacob cam to his 130th year. It would seem that this matter would be quickly corrected by the Hebrew speaking Jews of his day, so it is more likely that the original speach had the correct number and the text was latter assimilated to the errent lxx number 75. Our present manuscripts are not so close to the first edition of Luke to preclude undetected scribal assimilation to the lxx"

There are obviously alternative opinions.

Edgar Foster said...

I don't endorse everything from either site. The main reason I posted these links, and there are grammars that make the same point, is to show that Luke's Greek is first rate Koine. I don't see how it can be called non-standard Greek.

Duncan said...

A comment from bgreek.

"I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that there are two common perspectives on Biblical Koine: some hold that this is a Greek that should properly be understood synchronically without taking seriously earlier and later phases of the language; others hold that Biblical Koine is a language in flux -- that there is sufficient inconsistency in Biblical Koine that one should have some sense of earlier and later stages of development."

I will investigate further.

Edgar Foster said...


Do research on the Greek used in Acts or Luke's Gospel. I think you'll find that scholars think the Greek is excellent. Even if we compare Luke with earlier writers, his Koine stacks up well.

Duncan said...

So, so far it looks like the highest quality koine is probably Hebrews followed by Luke. Still looking for info on acts.

Edgar Foster said...

That's usually the consensu from Greek scholars. Hebrews contains the nest NT Greek; the writer has even been compared to Mozart because of his proficiency with the language. Luke evidently wrote Acts, and I believe the Greek in that book is also first-rate Koine.

Edgar Foster said...

See Robertson, A Grammar of the GNT, pages 121ff:

"One thing is certain about him [Luke]. He had a good command of the vernacular koinh and even attains the literary koinh in Lu. 1:1-4 and Ac. 1:1-5; 17:16-34. The preface to his Gospel has often been
compared to those of Thucydides and Herodotus, and it does not
suffer by the comparison, for his modesty is an offset to their vainglory. Selwyn thinks that Luke was a Roman citizen, and he
was a fit companion for Paul. He exhibits the spirit of Paul in
his comprehensive sympathy and in his general doctrinal position.
Renan calls Luke's Gospel the most literary of the Gospels. He
writes more like an historian and makes skilful use of his materials and with minute accuracy."

"He not only has a rich vocabulary, but also fine command of the koinh diction. In particular his style is more like that of Paul and
the writer to the Hebrews."

Duncan said...

I found this interesting:-

but the final quotes constitute a warning:-

“It seems that the initial excitement over the papyri parallels to the NT was perhaps overstated. That is to say, as helpful as the papyri have been for our understanding of NT vocabulary stock, we have not found perfect syntactical parallels in the papyri.” —Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 23.
“Biblical Greek is a unique language with a unity and character of its own ... There is a family likeness among these Biblical works, setting them apart from the papyri and from contemporary literary Greek ... We now have to concede that not only is the subject-matter of the Scriptures unique but so also is the language in which they came to be written or translated. This much is plain for all who can see ...” —Nigel Turner, Syntax (Vol. III of A Grammar of New Testament Greek, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1963), pp. 1-9.
“In spite of the exaggerations of earlier scholars ... it is becoming generally recognized today that there is really something unique about the language of the New Testament, and especially of the Synoptic Gospels — something not to be explained wholly by the parallels found in the Egyptian papyri.” —Frederick C. Grant, The Earliest Gospel (New York: Abingdon Press, 1943).
“Adolf Deissmann’s famous dictum that early Christian works were written in popular, colloquial Greek must now be modified to recognize that these writings are written in the professional prose of the day. Early Christian letters are similar to official and philosophical letters, and the gospels are similar to other Greco-Roman biographical literature.” —James R. Adair, Jr., online review of Books and Readers in the Early Church by Harry Gamble, accessed on Sep 1, 2002.
“labeling NT Greek as ‘colloquial’ seems problematic nowadays. The diglossic or polyglossic situation that prevailed in the Greek-speaking world involved more linguistic varieties than ‘colloquial’ and ‘literary,’ and no variety of written Greek would be identical with spoken Greek. Even the concept of ‘NT Greek’ becomes problematic, since the differences between the individual writings of the NT are so conspicuous, and, in spite of all parallels that have been detected, there are certain linguistic features that are attested only in Jewish and Christian texts.” — Jerker Blomqvist, Lund University, online review of Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, published in Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2001.
“Biblical Greek is a peculiar language, the language of a peculiar people.” — Matthew Black, “The Biblical Languages,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible (vol. 1, ed. P.R. Ackroyd and C.F. Evans, Cambridge, 1970), p. 11.
“[T]he New Testament writers used many Greek words with meanings not normally found in the everyday use of the same terms, much like Christians today might use terms like ‘fellowship’ or ‘redemption’ with meanings not normally understood by secular people.” — William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993), p. 195.
“Bible translators ... have often made quite a point of the fact that the language of the New Testament was Koine Greek, the language of the ‘man in the street,’ and hence a translation should speak to the man in the street. The truth of the matter is that many New Testament messages are not directed primarily to the man in the street, but to the man in the congregation. For this reason, such expressions as ‘Abba Father,’ Maranatha, and ‘baptized into Christ’ could be used with reasonable expectation that they would be understood.” — Eugene Nida, Toward a Science of Translating (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1964), p. 170.

Duncan said...

This particular reference caught my eye:-

"The authors go on to explain that in the New Testament the word kyrios “Lord” as applied to Jesus Christ carries “strong connotations of deity,” because this word is used in the Septuagint so often as a way of representing the divine name “Yahweh” (p. 195)."

compared to:-

Duncan said...

Coming back to the point, this page in footnote 16:-

There is a variation in levels of style between parts of the New Testament. Kendrick Grobel writes, “The Greek of the several New Testament authors falls at various points between the literary Koine and that of the marketplace, without quite reaching either extreme.” (“The Languages of the Bible,” in The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, 1971, page 1199). Hebrews, Luke and Acts are distinctly literary in tone, and resemble the Attic style. The least “Attic” are Revelation and the Gospel of Mark. Paul’s epistles fall in between, with much variation in the level of style. For a good brief discussion of style in the New Testament see Henry J. Cadbury, “The Language of the New Testament,” in The Abingdon Bible Commentary (New York: Abingdon Press, 1929), pages 880-84. An older but very thorough study is William Henry Simcox’s The Writers of the New Testament: Their Style and Characteristics (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1890. Reprinted Winona Lake, Indiana: Alpha Publications, 1980).