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Koine Greek and Classical Greek

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Koine Greek and Classical Greek

Postby Iulianus » Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:56 am

Hi everyone, I just wanted to ask you guys a question. In the second semester of the coming school year I'm going to be taking a class in which we read philosophical texts from both Greek and Latin authors - since technically I'm 'only' a Latinist (Latinity is my bachelor study) the teacher(s) will provide me and others like me with translations of the Greek material (the classicists will be reading the originals).

Now, I don't very much like the sound of that, and, seeing as how I'm currently working through Mounce's Basics of BG I was thinking maybe I could try and read the originals after all. Will knowledge of Koine Greek suffice for this purpose? The course description didn't mention which Greek authors would be read, but I assume Plato and Aristotle. Does the grammar of Koine Greek differ much from Classical? I always had the idea that the main difference was in the vocabulary and changes of meanings of words (comparing it to the difference between Christian Latin and Classical Latin). I'm also thinking it might be a good idea to use the Perseus Vocab utility to work out a list of words used by Plato and Aristotle.

Any help on this matter would be greatly appreciated, If I have to do anything extra I would like to be prepared in advance (I won't have the class until February 2007).

Iulianus
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Postby Iulianus » Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:26 am

I just looked in the course description again, and apparently they must've updated it recently, because the only Greek author on the list is Plato.
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Postby IreneY » Tue Jul 04, 2006 3:35 pm

Welll, grammatically speaking there are no differences to speak of . There are a few differences in vocabulary and pronounciation but I think you'd be more or less ok.

It'll take some getting used to Plato in particular but using Perseus you will probably be ok. Try reading something that Plato was written before the course starts :)
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Postby annis » Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:21 pm

IreneY wrote:There are a few differences in vocabulary and pronounciation but I think you'd be more or less ok.


And grammar, too! Koine lost the entire optative (barring a few crumbs, like μὴ γένοιτο), and regularized some irregular verbs (parts of οἶδα). The optative loss has far-reaching effects.

Iulianus wrote:I just looked in the course description again, and apparently they must've updated it recently, because the only Greek author on the list is Plato.


Aristotle would be much easier reading. I second IreneY's excellent suggestion to read some Plato before the course starts, to get a feel for his style, which is a lot different from BG.
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Postby IreneY » Tue Jul 04, 2006 8:32 pm

whoops! I shouldn't post while just up from a looong sleep!

Annis is of course quite right! :oops:
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Postby Kopio » Wed Jul 05, 2006 6:26 am

I had three formal years of NT Greek in college, and fourth year was extra-biblical Koine (1st Semester) and Classical (2nd semester). We did read some Plato, and I didn't find the grammar or syntax too awfully difficult....it was just figuring out what the heck he was saying....but I guess that could be difficult in any language! Of course we also had it esay, in that we had a Ph.D (from University of Wisconsin no less) and only 4 other students in that class (we were thick as thieves after that year)...it was exceptional. The other thing worth noting...is that I had 3 full years under my belt, including Advanced Grammar and Syntax (of which only about half stuck real good). All in all, I don't think it is too difficult of a transition....just like any other language...read, read, read...

William is right about the optative. In my second year reading course, the teacher promised to let us out early if we correctly read and parsed an optative verb while we moved through the text of the NT. He only had to let out class a few times! We caught on really quick though...and started looking for optatives....then we'd only study up to that point....cuz we knew class would be short!

I would recommend downloading White's First Greek Book and Smyth's Grammar and looking them over AFTER you finish up Mounce...no sense in confusing yourself now.
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Postby ndansmith » Wed Jul 05, 2006 7:45 pm

There are some important differences in vocabulary (which may cause confusion). The Christians co-opted some standard Greek words to stand as technical terms for theology. Here some that my classmate and I tripped over (with hilarious resutls):

πνεúμα
δóξα
δαιμóνιoν
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Postby Iulianus » Thu Jul 06, 2006 1:41 pm

Thanks a lot, everyone, for the many replies. I think I have a much better idea now of what I'm going up against. My plan is as following:

-finish Mounce's BBG
-read through Beyond the Basics (by Wallace) while working my way through a Graded reader of Biblical Greek (Mounce)
-make vocab lists of Plato and committing them to memory
-read through a few Classical Greek Grammars to find out what Mounce and Wallace skipped over (or what just isn't included in Koine anymore)
-read some of Plato

I'm hoping this should do it - please let me know if you have any other suggestions. The only thing I'm now concerned with is time...

Try reading something that Plato was written before the course starts


Good idea; it just so happens that about a year ago I picked up a book with selections of Plato, just for fun... I'll try and dig into that.

Koine lost the entire optative
Thanks for the heads up, I'll have to learn it from Classical Greek grammars then. I did see Mounce mention it in the very last chapter, but it's more of an afterthought, seems like.
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Postby Iulianus » Thu Jul 06, 2006 1:46 pm

Also, while I'm at it, I'd like to ask you guys another question of similar nature.

A few months ago I bought a collection of really old Teubner editions of what was - as far as I can tell - the complete works of Flavius Josephus. If I'm correct this is Greek from around the beginning of the second century A.D. - I'm assuming this is Koine Greek as well? Will I be able to read through this, assuming I will be able to read the Greek NT in a few months?

Thanks again for the replies.

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Postby ndansmith » Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:46 pm

Iulianus wrote:Also, while I'm at it, I'd like to ask you guys another question of similar nature.

A few months ago I bought a collection of really old Teubner editions of what was - as far as I can tell - the complete works of Flavius Josephus. If I'm correct this is Greek from around the beginning of the second century A.D. - I'm assuming this is Koine Greek as well? Will I be able to read through this, assuming I will be able to read the Greek NT in a few months?

Thanks again for the replies.

Iulianus


I would classify Josephus as "Hellenistic" rather than Koine as his Greek is a bit more refined than some of the Biblical authors. Josephus will have a lot of technical millitary terminology, but he is over all a good read.
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Postby IreneY » Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:25 pm

ndansmith is right. Vocabulary may be an issue but, on the other hand (and I know I am being nasty), his grasp of the Greek language is much, much better than that of most Biblical writers/authors/IamnotsureoftherighttermguyswhosewritingformtheBible.
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Postby modus.irrealis » Thu Jul 06, 2006 7:54 pm

ndansmith wrote:I would classify Josephus as "Hellenistic" rather than Koine as his Greek is a bit more refined than some of the Biblical authors.


I always thought Koine Greek was what you're calling Hellenistic. Koine Greek doesn't specificially refer to the Bible does it?
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Postby ndansmith » Thu Jul 06, 2006 10:23 pm

modus.irrealis wrote:
ndansmith wrote:I would classify Josephus as "Hellenistic" rather than Koine as his Greek is a bit more refined than some of the Biblical authors.


I always thought Koine Greek was what you're calling Hellenistic. Koine Greek doesn't specificially refer to the Bible does it?


The terms are often used interchangibly, but I think there is some value in maintaining a distinction. Parts of the Bible are firmly in the "koine" camp (Mark comes to mind), but others (Acts comes to mind) could be better classified as Hellenistic.

In general, I would say Koine is the most basic, cosmopolitan form of Greek. It was the spoken dialect of Greek around the world. Hellenistic is more refined and retains more classical elements of grammar and vocabulary. I think in the end the labels are arbitrary and have no meaning but is useful to us.

Anyone else, do you see a valid difference between the two, or am I blowing this out of proportion?
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Postby annis » Thu Jul 06, 2006 11:03 pm

ndansmith wrote:I would classify Josephus as "Hellenistic" rather than Koine as his Greek is a bit more refined than some of the Biblical authors.


Starting in the reign of Nero a number of educated Greeks decided that it was time to reanimate the language of Glorious Athens, spoken 4-5 centuries before, with the result that obscure pronoun forms and the optative wander zombie-like through prose of this period, sometimes in eccentric ways. In references this will be called "Atticism" and the intellectual period the "Second Sophistic."

While I was not able to find any reference clearly stating that Josephus was writing in an Atticist style, one book from the early 20th century did say his Greek was "pure" (i.e., Attic) and his style is several times compared to that of Plutarch, who is solidly Atticist (Lucian is probably the most famously Atticist author).

I once had a professor of Greek tell me that every new Greek author you read meant learning yet another Greek. I think this overstates the case a bit, but when speaking of the Greek of this period, it's not too far off. Even within the NT there is a wide range in the style of the Greek.

In any case "Hellenistic" Greek can be everything from the colloquial-inspired Koine of informal letters and some parts of the NT, to a rarified and somewhat artificial language based on Athenian Greek no one had spoken in some centuries.


Edit: I should say that there was more to the Second Sophistic than Atticism, but the two go together so tightly that references to one will usually discuss the other.
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Re: Koine Greek and Classical Greek

Postby NTGreek » Thu Jun 02, 2011 8:01 pm

Actually according to A.T. Robertson there is no great wall of China distinguishing Hellenic(literary Koine) and Vernacular Koine Greek in the first century(strictly in regards to vocabulary).

Though Lucian(2d century A.D.) and a few others clearly imitated a by-gone era of Greek(almost like modern authors who imitate Shakespearean English), I strongly do not feel Josephus nor Plutarch belong in that category(since they were writing in contemporary style). :wink:
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