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Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

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Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Tue Jan 04, 2011 7:36 pm

Hi guys. I need some help please: I was checking out a web site, and one of it's 'claims' is:

''Prior to the twentieth century scholars had never come across any document that was written in the same type of Greek as the Bible. So they assumed the Bible was written in a special language; a language made specifically and only for the Bible itself. But at the turn of the twentieth century, so many original Greek manuscripts were pulled from the sands of Egypt that the mass of material was measured in the tons. And it wasn’t long before archaeologists realized these tons of materials were all written in the very same Greek as the Bible itself.'' http://theunhiddenbible.org/

What the author goes on to claim, is that NT manuscripts were translated using classical Greek meanings, rather than Koine Greek meanings and so the Bible translations we have today, contain many errors that obviously cause the original meaning to be lost.

Upon trying to check out these things I noticed this book being recommended on some web sites : 'A Grammar of Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research' A. T. Robertson. Has anyone checked this book out? I'm wondering if this book would verify what the above website claims? Any help regarding this would be most appreciated.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Markos » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:29 am

No. The discovery of the papyri helped us pin down some nuances of a few Greek NT words, but they do not fundamentally alter our understanding of Ancient Greek in general or the Greek NT in particular. And anyway, several translations including the NIV and the NASB do make use of the papyri and/or lexcons (BDAG) that do so.

I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:22 pm

Markos wrote:No. The discovery of the papyri helped us pin down some nuances of a few Greek NT words, but they do not fundamentally alter our understanding of Ancient Greek in general or the Greek NT in particular. And anyway, several translations including the NIV and the NASB do make use of the papyri and/or lexcons (BDAG) that do so.




Thanks for your help Markos.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby LSorenson » Wed Jan 19, 2011 3:56 am

You can download Robinson in a MS Word format from http://www.letsreadgreek.org/resources. An html version of it (in an entire file) can be found at

http://www.letsreadgreek.org/resources/robertsongrammar/wordcleaner/robertson_greekgrammar.html

This path will change some time in the future, but it is there for now.

The discoveries of the papyri told us that the Greek of the New Testament was not 'Special' Greek. Before then, many of the words in the Greek New Testament were hapax legomena (ἅπαξ λεγόμενα), words which were hitherto unattested in any Greek literature (Attic, Homeric). The papyri show us that the language of the New Testament was that of the common folk -- 'Street Greek', not that of erudite literature and not Attic.

Look at Robertson and read the relevant chapter.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Sat Jan 22, 2011 10:40 pm

LSorenson wrote:You can download Robinson in a MS Word format from http://www.letsreadgreek.org/resources. An html version of it (in an entire file) can be found at

http://www.letsreadgreek.org/resources/robertsongrammar/wordcleaner/robertson_greekgrammar.html

This path will change some time in the future, but it is there for now.

The discoveries of the papyri told us that the Greek of the New Testament was not 'Special' Greek. Before then, many of the words in the Greek New Testament were hapax legomena (ἅπαξ λεγόμενα), words which were hitherto unattested in any Greek literature (Attic, Homeric). The papyri show us that the language of the New Testament was that of the common folk -- 'Street Greek', not that of erudite literature and not Attic.

Look at Robertson and read the relevant chapter.



Thank you so much. I've downloaded Robinson and saved it. :wink:
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby refe » Fri Apr 15, 2011 4:12 pm

Wallace has a great history of Koine Greek and what we know about it in his intermediate grammar Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. It also includes a discussion of the level of Greek found in the various books of the New Testament, which he believes range from vulgar - or 'street-level' as someone else put it - such as the writings of John, conversational as in most of the writings of Paul, and literary Koine (not to be confused with Classical Greek) which you can find in Luke's writing, as well as 1 Peter, James, and Hebrews.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Andrew Chapman » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:42 pm

According to Adolf Deissmann, who is the man usually credited with showing the significance of the papyri to the study of the New Testament - his Light from the East can be found on archive.org - the first purchase of papyri made in Egypt was in 1778. Considerable numbers came into the museums in the period 1820-1840, and then there were major finds in the rubbish dumps of El-Fayum, and Oxyrhynchus (Behneseh) from 1877 onwards.

In 1929, J.H. Moulton (deceased) and George Milligan published their 'Vocabulary of the New Testament: Ilustrated from the papyri and other non-literary sources'. Milligan's General Introduction gives what seems like a very good and succinct account of the matter. He says that Deissmann's thesis (that the language of the New Testament is the common Greek of the period) had been anticipated by others from 1859 onwards, but little attention had been paid to their views.

One important example of the value of the finds is the word γένημα (Mark 14:25 etc). Before the papyri finds, this word was unkown outside the New Testament, and if you look it up in Thayer's Lexicon for example, you will see a suggestion that it may be a result of scribal error, and that it should have read γέννημα. The latter comes from γεννάω, whereas the former, of which many examples were found in the papyri, is said to come from γίνομαι.

There are at least three volumes of selections of the papyri in the Loeb Classical format, with English translations on the facing page. The editors were Hunt and Edgar.

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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:55 pm

CoxRox wrote:Hi guys. I need some help please: I was checking out a web site, and one of it's 'claims' is:

''Prior to the twentieth century scholars had never come across any document that was written in the same type of Greek as the Bible. So they assumed the Bible was written in a special language; a language made specifically and only for the Bible itself. But at the turn of the twentieth century, so many original Greek manuscripts were pulled from the sands of Egypt that the mass of material was measured in the tons. And it wasn’t long before archaeologists realized these tons of materials were all written in the very same Greek as the Bible itself.''

The quoted passage is quite correct (except maybe for the "tons"; and except for "prior to the twentieth century"--the big finds came towards the end of the 19th).

As is Andrew's excellent post.

Of course that's not to say the literary or stylistic quality is uniform throughout the various NT books, as refe points out; the same goes for the papyri. But they're all (the Apocalypse apart) written in more or less the ordinary Greek of the time (which is why it's now called koine, "common").
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:11 pm

I haven't checked this post for a long time and see there are some replies. Many thanks for the feedback. :)
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Markos » Tue Dec 10, 2013 9:34 pm

mwh wrote:
CoxRox wrote:Hi guys. I need some help please: I was checking out a web site, and one of it's 'claims' is:

''Prior to the twentieth century scholars had never come across any document that was written in the same type of Greek as the Bible. So they assumed the Bible was written in a special language; a language made specifically and only for the Bible itself. But at the turn of the twentieth century, so many original Greek manuscripts were pulled from the sands of Egypt that the mass of material was measured in the tons. And it wasn’t long before archaeologists realized these tons of materials were all written in the very same Greek as the Bible itself.''

The quoted passage is quite correct...


When I said in my earlier post that the claims in question are not correct, I was not referring to this quoted passage, but rather to what CoxRox quoted further down:

What the author goes on to claim, is that NT manuscripts were translated using classical Greek meanings, rather than Koine Greek meanings and so the Bible translations we have today, contain many errors that obviously cause the original meaning to be lost.


There are tons of things wrong with this statement. First of all, it is not clear what he means by "the Bible translations we have today." Again, versions like the NASB and the NIV make full use of the papyri. Secondly, even at the time of the KJV, "Koine Greek meanings" were sufficiently known from the massive amount of extant Koine writings apart from the papyri. Third, again the papyri do not, in any case, SIGNIFICANTLY alter any of the meanings of Greek words known before the late 1800's. As for Andrew's example:

Andrew Chapman wrote:One important example of the value of the finds is the word γένημα (Mark 14:25 etc). Before the papyri finds, this word was unkown outside the New Testament, and if you look it up in Thayer's Lexicon for example, you will see a suggestion that it may be a result of scribal error, and that it should have read γέννημα. The latter comes from γεννάω, whereas the former, of which many examples were found in the papyri, is said to come from γίνομαι.


There was never any question what γένημα means. In fact, γένημα and γέννημα are merely dialectical variants used interchangeably in the manuscripts and Gospel parallels. I once made the public, on-line challenge to show me one place where Thayer's pre-papyri definitions have been fundamentally altered by the papyri. Nobody has been able to come up with one. I'm willing to be to be proven wrong.

What bothers me about the statement made above is that it implies that the received versions of the Bible need to be fundamentally improved/replaced based on supposed "new discoveries." This is one of the things used to undermine the authority of the traditionally received versions Bible and to replace them with the subjective speculations of scholars, but it really has no basis in fact. Luther's Bible or the KJV do NOT "...contain many errors that obviously cause the original meaning to be lost." They have no need for revision based on the papyri, as far as I can tell.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:20 pm

Fair enough, I'd say (except insofar that genhma/gennhma are not so much dialectal as orthographic variants), if perhaps a little tendentious. I was careful to endorse only the quoted passage. It's all too easy to exaggerate the difference the papyri make to the understanding of the NT texts; which is not to say they make none. The real importance of Deissmann's work was to show definitively that the language of the Bible is not some unique God-inspired NT-specific species of language but just the ordinary language of the day. I think most everybody now accepts that?

This is not to be confused with the question of what difference actual New Testament papyri make to the constitution of the texts. That is a more controversial matter. Markos' post, with its stark opposition between "the authority of the traditionally received versions" and more recent scholars' "subjective speculations," suggests that he is among those who resist attributing authority to the older NT manuscripts discovered since the "traditionally received versions" were produced. These earlier manuscripts (which are still being published) sometimes present significant differences from the manuscripts used for King James version and others.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Andrew Chapman » Wed Dec 11, 2013 8:15 am

Markos wrote:In fact, γένημα and γέννημα are merely dialectical variants used interchangeably in the manuscripts and Gospel parallels.


BAGD says about γένημα:

The word is a new formation in Hellenistic Greek from γίνεσθαι and has no affinity with the class γέννημα.


BAGD says it is used of vegetable produce, whereas γέννημα is used of the offspring of men and animals. Likewise, Thackeray (LXX Grammar, p.118, section 7, 38) says the two are 'carefully distinguished'. But I haven't studied it in depth.

The papyri show that the word was used for wine: 'οἴνου γένημα' and 'οἰνικὸν γένημα'. Although it seems fairly obvious that the γένημα τῆς ἂμπέλου of Mark 14:25 is wine, many in the non-alcohol consuming churches still think that this is grape juice. There is perhaps something to be said for the translation 'produce of the vine' rather than 'fruit of the vine' to clarify that this is not what we now call fruit juice. It's a marginal point in a way, but one that arguably has an important effect on church life.

Markos wrote:I once made the public, on-line challenge to show me one place where Thayer's pre-papyri definitions have been fundamentally altered by the papyri. Nobody has been able to come up with one. I'm willing to be to be proven wrong.


That's very interesting. My reason for interest in this topic was that I kept reading that the papyri finds had made Thayer's lexicon out-dated, so I thought I would have a look at the evidence. Have just made a start with Deissmann so far.

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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Wed Dec 11, 2013 2:17 pm

Thank you for the continued input regarding this subject. From what I can gather, it seems that the alleged 'mistranslations' are subtle word differences that seem to have a bearing on doctrinal issues. The website I linked to in my OP lists 3 examples:

dikaios
theostuges
arsenokoitai

There is a brief overview of the words here: http://www.goldenrulebible.com/why-this ... tion-.html

I would be very grateful for anyone's feedback regarding the claims in the above link.

Many thanks in advance. :D
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Markos » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:20 pm

Andrew Chapman wrote:BAGD says about γένημα:

The word is a new formation in Hellenistic Greek from γίνεσθαι and has no affinity with the class γέννημα.


BAGD says it is used of vegetable produce, whereas γέννημα is used of the offspring of men and animals. Likewise, Thackeray (LXX Grammar, p.118, section 7, 38) says the two are 'carefully distinguished'. But I haven't studied it in depth.


Hi, Andrew,

LSJ says that γέννημα in the plural can mean "fruits of the earth." More to the point, in the Byzantine text Mt. 26:29 has γεννήματος whereas the parallels in Mark and Luke have γενήματος.

I'm not denying that formally one means that which is begotten (γεννάω) and the other means that which is produced (γἰνομαι.) But (1) in the real world this distinction does not hold up. (2) This distinction was known and argued before the papyri. In fact, Thayer himself makes this very point about the origin of the two words.

CoxRox wrote:Thank you for the continued input regarding this subject. From what I can gather, it seems that the alleged 'mistranslations' are subtle word differences that seem to have a bearing on doctrinal issues. The website I linked to in my OP lists 3 examples:

dikaios
theostuges
arsenokoitai

There is a brief overview of the words here: http://www.goldenrulebible.com/why-this ... tion-.html

I would be very grateful for anyone's feedback regarding the claims in the above link.

Many thanks in advance. :D


The question of whether one wants to replace a translation like the KJV with a new version that replaces "sin" with "missing the mark" and "grace" with "favor" is really a theological decision. My only point is that the papyri has nothing to do with this. You could have done this, if you wanted to, even if none of the papyri had surfaced.
I am writing in Ancient Greek not because I know Greek well, but because I hope that it will improve my fluency in reading. I got the idea for this from Adrianus over on the Latin forum here at Textkit.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Wed Dec 11, 2013 10:13 pm

Again, Markos is right on this. genhma and gennhma are etymologically distinct but the semantic differentiation is effaced and the difference becomes simply orthographic. And of course translations of one and the same Greek text may differ, and the way they do often reflects doctrinal or other ideological commitments. (That's why we learn Greek, to free ourselves of translations!)

That said, there can be no doubt that Thayer's lexicon is outdated, precisely because it was prepared without the advantage of the papyrus documents.

And another issue entirely is the question of what authority is to be ascribed to the earliest NT manuscripts (i.e. papyri), which those who believe in the authenticity of the so-called byzantine text would like to downplay. (There's a separate thread on this.) NT manuscripts differ from one another in their texts, and passions run high as to their relative "authority."
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Thu Dec 12, 2013 2:14 am

I've just taken a look at the goldenrulebible link that CoxRox provides. The opening sentence is tendentious in the extreme, and the examples don't really hold up. The opposition set up between "righteous" and "benevolent" for dikaios is fabricated; theostughs could equally well be active or passive; and arsenokoiths is literally someone who sleeps with males (not necessarily boys, not necessarily rape). There are controls on the meaning of words, the nature of which this enterprise does not properly recognize.
It's not wholly misguided in principle. The 17th-century translations and their descendants now have an archaic ring that is quite alien to the Greek, and it would be good to get away from "righteous," a word scarcely in use today except in "self-righteous"—but not to replace it with "benevolent"! But it needs to be both more honest and better informed.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby jayvyn » Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:41 am

NT was originally written in autograph which is the greek writing during those time. But the scribes copied that and became manuscript. During that time Koine Greek was their common language because of the conquest of Alexander the Great.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Markos » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:40 pm

mwh wrote:...there can be no doubt that Thayer's lexicon is outdated, precisely because it was prepared without the advantage of the papyrus documents.


Hi, Michael,

Just as a point of order, do you have any examples where Thayer's definitions need to be revised based on the papyri?
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:17 pm

No, sorry, Markos, I don't. I don't use it, and I really can't imagine why anyone should (magnificent achievement though it was in its day), when there are now much more up-to-date ones, as well as studies on the subject (hardly any of which I've read). So you're free to accuse me of talking through my hat if you wish. :) You are of course right to insist that the documentary papyri have not exactly revolutionized our understanding of the meaning of NT words and their usage (contrary to some of the wilder claims), but it would be imprudent to ignore the evidence they have to offer, since they so significantly expand the evidential base for ordinary language use of the period.

A recent publication that came to my attention just this morning is Giovanni Battista Bazzana, New Testament Studies and Documentary Papyri Interactions and New Perspectives, in «Papyrologica Lupiensia» Bollettino del Centro di Studi Papirologici 22 (2013), Pensa Multimedia, Lecce, pp. 254.
I haven't seen it, and won't, and have no idea what it says, but you might care to track it down.

Best,
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby CoxRox » Fri Dec 13, 2013 5:13 pm

Thanks again for your replies and feedback. I think I can rest assured that the various Bible translations I read, are conveying an accurate meaning of the original Greek. :wink:
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Qimmik » Wed Dec 18, 2013 3:31 am

γένημα τῆς ἂμπέλου Is this just a translation of Hebrew p'ri hagofen "fruit of the vine" which is part of a blessing before drinking wine, as p'ri ho'oretz "fruit of the earth" before bread (pardon my Ashkenaz pronunciation)? Not that I know much more Hebrew, apart from being able to read the characters, except ma nishtanoh ha lailoh hazeh.
Last edited by Qimmik on Wed Dec 18, 2013 2:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:43 am

And used in the Septuagint, as I think I noted in another thread.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Andrew Chapman » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:02 am

I have just read the section in Deissmann's Light from the East on what had been learned about the meaning of New Testament words from the papyri, inscriptions and ostraca (fragments of pottery). Here are my notes, nothing to prove a new meaning of a word, although the begging bag meaning of πήρα is potentially important I think:

98 ἀρχιποίμενος (1 Peter 5:4) used for a shepherd overseer (of sheep)

103-6 λογεία (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) is from λογεύω not λέγω (as Thayer believed), and was in secular use for collections.

109 πήρα (Matthew 10:10) may be a collecting bag, used by itinerant beggars.

110 ἀπέχω used for receipts for payments. cf. Matthew 6:2

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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:22 am

I know close to nothing about NT Greek. Just wanted to point out that in the Odyssey, when Odysseus is disguised as a beggar in Ithaca, he carries a πήρη (normal Ionic for πήρα) (ν 437, ρ 197, 357, 411, 466, σ 108), which is some sort of wretched and ragged bag.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby jaihare » Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:57 pm

Qimmik wrote:γένημα τῆς ἂμπέλου Is this just a translation of Hebrew p'ri hagofen "fruit of the vine" which is part of a blessing before drinking wine, as p'ri ho'oretz "fruit of the earth" before bread (pardon my Ashkenaz pronunciation)? Not that I know much more Hebrew, apart from being able to read the characters, except ma nishtanoh ha lailoh hazeh.


Yes. τὸ γένημα τῆς ἀμπέλου (don't know why you wrote ἂ instead of just ἀ, but that's OK) means "wine," and probably had a connection in the mind of a first-Century Jew to the blessing בורא פרי הגפן borei pri ha-gafen. Contrast this to ὁ καρπὸς (or, οἱ καρποὶ) τοῦ ἀμπελῶνος (fruit of the vineyard), which refers to the grape itself and not to wine.
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Re: Are these 'claims' about Koine Greek correct?

Postby mwh » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:29 pm

On the main question (and Andrew's good post), another point to bear in mind is that Deissmann's epoch-making work was written in the very early days of papyri, in the 1890's. The amount of available evidence has multiplied many times over since then, so his findings can be vastly expanded. There will be more recent studies (this is not my field, but I've come across one or two); I referenced a recent one in a post above. There's also a series called "New Documents illustrating early Christianity." Understanding of contemporary societal conditions has moved on considerably too.
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