Coptic for students of Biblical Greek

Are you learning Koine Greek, the Greek of the New Testament and most other post-classical Greek texts? Whatever your level, use this forum to discuss all things Koine, Biblical or otherwise, including grammar, textbook talk, difficult passages, and more.
Post Reply
C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1248
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Coptic for students of Biblical Greek

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Sun May 15, 2016 7:31 pm

Having read a number of popular books that deal with the Nag Hammadi Library, I have often wondered how much effort it takes to become proficient in Coptic. I downloaded a pdf of COPTIC IN 20 LESSONS and read through the first eleven lessons. The author[1] appears to be the north american expert on the subject with a full grammar and other publications. He states that the 20 Lessons represent one academic year worth of study at the end of which one should be able to read the Gospel of Mark in Coptic. Keep in mind that B. Layton taught at Yale. Were not talking about the average NT student at your local seminary. When Francis Watson was discussing the Coptic fragment that has been misnamed "the gospel of Jesus wife" he asked an Egyptologist to take a look at the fragment. It appears that person who compiled from modern sources the "the gospel of Jesus wife" was in fact not particularly skilled in matters of syntax. This controversy isn't the subject of this post.

What are the potential benefits of becoming familiar with the basic morphology and syntax of Coptic for a student of Biblical Greek? The translation of the Greek NT into Coptic represents an early witness to how the NT was understood in Egypt. In other words, the translation functions as a commentary on the Greek text. It also functions as a witness to the state of the Greek text.

B. Layton notes that the vocabulary is about 25% borrowings from Greek. The syntax however is not anything like Greek. Students who have never wandered outside of Greek and Latin stand to gain from being confronted with a really different syntax, different not only from Koine, LXX but also Hebrew.

A few years ago I obtained Peter J. Williams Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels. Texts and Studies. Gorgias Press, 2004. I learned enough Syriac to follow the argument. I found this to be a worthwhile investment of my time. Syriac however is only one large step from biblical Hebrew. Coptic is a foreign language. You start with nothing but the the Greek alphabet and sizeable portion of Greek vocabulary.

In the process of learning another ancient language from a totally different language family you gain insight into the languages you have already studied. Being able to study translations from Greek to Coptic gives you a particularly useful window into the source language of the translated text. Emmanuel Tov has written several works on this theme in regard to using the LXX to study the Hebrew Bible.





[1]COPTIC IN 20 LESSONS: Introduction to Sahidic Coptic With Exercises & Vocabularies
Bentley Layton PEETERS 2007

The following is ripped unedited from wiki:
Bentley Layton (born 12 August 1941), is Professor of Religious Studies (Ancient Christianity) and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Coptic) at Yale University (since 1983). He is a Harvard-educated scholar who has been central to the late 20th-century Rediscovery of Gnosticism, which was the title of the international conference he hosted at Yale in 1980 and the volume that came of it. His interests lie in the History of Christianity from its origins until the rise of Islam, Gnostic studies and Coptic.
With a summa cum laude thesis on the Nag Hammadi Gnostic Coptic Treatise on the Resurrection, which he presented in a critical edition in 1978, he has moved on to present critical editions of other texts: The Hypostasis of the Archons, Or, The Reality of the Rulers..., serialized in Harvard Theological Review 67 (1974) 351—425 and 69 (1976) 1—71, and others. His most accessible book is The Gnostic Scriptures: A New Translation with Annotations (Garden City: Doubleday & Co., 1987), which presents some of the enigmatic literature of gnostic Christianity for nonspecialists. He sets his selection of gnostic scripture, the writings of Valentinus and his followers, and related writings that display gnostic tendencies within the broader context of Early Christianity and Hellenistic Judaism, with generous introductions and plentiful annotations.
For specialists, Layton's Coptic grammar is a standard text. He catalogued all the Coptic manuscripts in the British Library. He is a board member on the Harvard Theological Review and the Journal of Coptic Studies.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

MarkAntony198337
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 95
Joined: Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:27 am

Re: Coptic for students of Biblical Greek

Post by MarkAntony198337 » Wed Jun 08, 2016 12:07 am

ἀπόλλυται
Last edited by MarkAntony198337 on Sat Jun 11, 2016 1:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1248
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Coptic for students of Biblical Greek

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Wed Jun 08, 2016 9:35 pm

Well this is only tangential to biblical greek, in that some of the texts from Nag Hammadi are translations from greek, the most famous being the Gsp. Thomas. Just put in a library request for two recent technical works on the Gospel of Thomas by the same author, Simon Gathercole. He is not on the same page with Pagels-Ehrman ... H.Koester ...


Title: The Gospel of Thomas Introduction and Commentary
Author: Simon Gathercole
ISBN: 9789004190412
Publisher: Brill
Year Published: 2014

Title: The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas: Original Language and Influences.
Author: Simon Gathercole
ISBN: 9781107009042
Publisher: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Year Published: 2012

I am using Gsp. Thomas as reading material since the secondary literature is plentiful.
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Post Reply