Greenwood professor of hellenistic greek and indo-european philology in the victoria university of manchester tutor in new testament language and literature



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Conclusions as By this time we have perhaps dealt suf-

to Semitism. ficiently with the principles involved, and may

leave details of alleged Semitisms to their

proper places in the grammar. We have seen that the

problem is only complicated in the Lucan writings: else-

where we have either pure vernacular or vernacular tempered

with "translation Greek." In Luke, the only NT writer

except the author of Heb to show any conscious attention to

Greek ideas of style, we find (1) rough Greek translations

from Aramaic left mainly as they reached him, perhaps

because their very roughness seemed too characteristic to be

refined away; and (2) a very limited imitation of the LXX

idiom, as specially appropriate while the story moves in the

Jewish world. The conscious adaptation of his own style to

that of sacred writings long current among his readers reminds

us of the rule which restricted our nineteenth century Biblical

Revisers to the English of the Elizabethan age.

On the whole question, Thumb (p. 122) quotes with

approval Deissmann's dictum that "Semitisms which are in

common use belong mostly to the technical language of reli-

gion," like that of our sermons and Sunday magazines. Such

Semitisms "alter the scientific description of the language

as little as did a few Latinisms, or other booty from the

victorious march of Greek over the world around the Medi-

terranean."1 In summing up thus the issue of the long strife

over NT Hebraisms, we fully apprehend the danger of going

too far. Semitic thought, whose native literary dress was

necessarily foreign to the Hellenic genius, was bound to

fall sometimes into un-Hellenic language as well as style.

Moreover, if Deissmann has brought us a long way, we must

not forget the complementary researches of Dalman, which

have opened up a new world of possibilities in the scientific

reconstruction of Aramaic originals, and have warned us of

the importance of distinguishing very carefully between

Semitisms from two widely different sources. What we

can assert with assurance is that the papyri have finally

destroyed the figment of a NT Greek which in any

material respect differed from that spoken by ordinary

1 Art. Hellenistisches Griechisch, in RE 3 vii. p. 633.

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS. 19


people in daily life throughout the Roman world. If the

natural objection is raised that there must have been dialectic

variation where people of very different races, scattered over

an immense area, were learning the world language, and that

"Jewish-Greek" is thus made an a priori certainty, we can

meet the difficulty with a tolerably complete modern parallel.

Our own language is to-day spoken over a far vaster area;

and we have only to ask to what extent dialect difference

affects the modern Weltsprache. We find that pronuncia-

tion and vocabulary exhaust between them nearly all the

phenomena we could catalogue. Englishman, Welshman,

Hindu, Colonial, granted a tolerable primary education, can

interchange familiar letters without betraying except in

trifles the dialect of their daily speech.a This fact should

help us to realise how few local peculiarities can be expected

to show themselves at such an interval in a language known

to us solely from writing. We may add that a highly

educated speaker of standard English, recognisable by his

intonation as hailing from London, Edinburgh, or New York,

can no longer thus be recognised when his words are written

down. The comparison will help us to realise the impression

made by the traveller Paul. [a See p. 243.



A special. N. T. There is one general consideration which

Diction? must detain us a little at the close of

this introductory chapter. Those who have

studied some recent work upon Hellenistic Greek, such as

Blass's brilliant Grammar of NT Greek, will probably be led

to feel that modern methods result in a considerable levelling

of distinctions, grammatical and lexical, on which the exegesis

of the past has laid great stress. It seems necessary there-

fore at the outset to put in a plea for caution, lest an

exaggerated view should be taken of the extent to which

our new lights alter our conceptions of the NT language and

its interpretation. We have been showing that the NT

writers used the language of their time. But that does not

mean that they had not in a very real sense a language of

their own. Specific examples in which we feel bound to assert

this for them will come up from time to time in our inquiry.

In the light of the papyri and of MGr we are compelled to

give up some grammatical scruples which figure largely in

20 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.


great commentators like Westcott, and colour many passages

of the RV. But it does not follow that we must promptly

obliterate every grammatical distinction that proves to have

been unfamiliar to the daily conversation of the first century

Egyptian farmer. We are in no danger now of reviving

Hatch's idea that phrases which could translate the same

Hebrew must be equivalent to one another. The papyri have

slain this very Euclid-like axiom, but they must not enslave us

to others as dangerous. The NT must still be studied largely

by light drawn from itself. Books written on the same subject

and within the same circle must always gather some amount

of identical style or idiom, a kind of technical terminology,

which may often preserve a usage of earlier language, obso-

lescent because not needed in more slovenly colloquial speech

of the same time. The various conservatisms of our own

religious dialect, even on the lips of uneducated people, may

serve as a parallel up to a certain point. The comparative

correctness and dignity of speech to which an unlettered man

will rise in prayer, is a very familiar phenomenon, lending

strong support to the expectation that even a]gra

instinctively rise above their usual level of exactness in

expression, when dealing with such high themes as those

which fill the NT. We are justified by these considerations

in examining each NT writer's language first by itself, and

then in connexion with that of his fellow-contributors to the

sacred volume; and we may allow ourselves to retain the

original force of distinctions which were dying or dead in

every-day parlance, when there is a sufficient body of internal

evidence. Of course we shall not be tempted to use this

argument when the whole of our evidence denies a particular

survival to Hellenistic vernacular: in such a case we could

only find the locution as a definite literary revival, rarely

possible in Luke and the writer to the Hebrews, and just

conceivable in Paul.


Note on It seems hardly worth while to discuss

Latinisins. in a general way the supposition that Latin

has influenced the Koinh<; of the NT. In the

borrowing of Latin words of course we can see activity

enough, and there are even phrases literally translated, like

labei?n to> i[kanon Ac 179; poiei?n to> i[. Mk 1515 (as early as
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS. 21

Polybius); meta> polla>j tau5, etc. But

grammar we must regard as another matter, in spite of such

collections as Buttmann's (see his Index, s.v. Latinisms) or

Thayer's (Hastings' DB iii. 40). It will suffice to refer to

Prof. Thumb's judgement (Hellenismus 152 ff.). Romans writ-

ing Greek might be expected to have difficulties for example

with the article1—as I have noticed in the English efforts

of Japanese boys at school in this country; but even of this

there seems to be no very decisive proof. And though the

bulk of the NT comes to us from authors with Roman names,

no one will care to assert that Latin was the native language

of Paul2 or Luke or Mark. Apart from lexical matters, we

may be content with a general negative. "Of any effective

grammatical influence [of Latin] upon Greek there can be no

question: at any rate I know nothing which could be

instanced to this effect with any probability." So says Dr

Thumb, and the justification of his decision in each alleged

example may be safely left till the cases arise. It should

of course be noted that Prof. Blass (p. 4) is rather more

disposed to admit Latinisms in syntax. Greek and Latin

were so constantly in contact throughout the history of the

Koinh<, that the question of Latinisms in Greek or Graecisms

in Latin must often turn largely on general impressions of

the genius of each language.3

1 Foreigners sometimes did find the article a stumbling block: witness the

long inscription of Antiochus I of Commagene, OGIS 383 (i/B.C.)—see Ditten-

berger's notes on p. 596 (vol. i.). We may here quote the lamented epigraphist's

note, on Syll.2 930 (p. 785), that a translator from Latin might fall into a

confusion between tiquo minus by

&$ e@lasson (1. 57), we take such a mistake as a matter of course; yet we shall see

(p. 93) that its occurrence is very far from convicting a document of Latinising.

2 This does not involve denying that Paul could speak Latin; see p. 233.

3 How inextricably bound together were the fortunes of Greek and Latin in

the centuries following our era, is well shown in W. Schulze's pamphlet, Graeca


Latina
. He does not, I think, prove any real action of Latin on Greek early

enough to affect the NT, except for some mere trifles. Brugmann (Dist. p. 9),

discussing the idiom du

and Thumb's denial of it, and proceeds: "The truth lies between the two, as

it does in many similar cases—I am thinking among others of Graecisms in

Latin, and of Latinisms and Gallicisms in German. A locution already in

existence in Greek popular language, side by side with other forms (a]na> du

kata> du

Hebrew expression as it became known." I welcome such a confirmation of my

thesis from the acknowledged master of our craft.

CHAPTER II.


HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK.


A New Study WE proceed to examine the nature and

history of the vernacular Greek itself. This

is a study which has almost come into existence in the

present generation. Classical scholars have studied the

Hellenistic literature for the sake of its matter: its language

was seldom considered worth noticing, except to chronicle

contemptuously its deviations from "good Greek." In so

suffering, perhaps the authors only received the treatment

they deserved for to write Attic was the object of them all,

pursued doubtless with varying degrees of zeal, but in all

cases removing them far from the language they used in

daily life. The pure study of the vernacular was hardly

possible, for the Biblical Greek was interpreted on lines of

its own, and the papyri were mostly reposing in their Egyptian

tombs, the collections that were published receiving but little

attention. (Cf above, p. 7 n.) Equally unknown was the

scientific study of modern Greek. To this day, even great

philologists like Hatzidakis decry as a mere patois, utterly

unfit for literary use, the living language upon whose history

they have spent their lives. The translation of the Gospels

into the Greek which descends directly from their original

idiom, is treated as sacrilege by the devotees of a "literary"

dialect which, in point of fact, no one ever spoke! It is

left to foreigners to recognise the value of Pallis's version

for students who seek to understand NT Greek in the light

of the continuous development of the language from the age

of Alexander to our own time. See p. 243.


The Sources. As has been hinted in the preceding

paragraph, the materials for our present-day

study of NT Greek are threefold:—(1) the prose literature

22
HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 23
of the post-classical period, from Polybius down, and includ-

ing the LXX; (2) the Koinh< inscriptions, and the Egyptian

non-literary papyri; (3) modern vernacular Greek, with

especial reference to its dialectic variations, so far as these

are at present registered. Before we discuss the part which

each of these must play in our investigations, it will be

necessary to ask what was the Koinh<; and how it arose.

We should premise that we use the name here as a convenient

term for the spoken dialect of the period under review, using

"literary Koinh< and similar terms when the dialect of

Polybius, Josephus, and the rest, is referred to. Whether this

is the ancient use of the name we need not stay to examine:a

the curious will find a paper on the subject by Prof.

Jannaris in CR xvii. 93 ff., which may perhaps prove that he

and we have misused the ancient grammarians' phraseology.

Ou] fronti>j [Ippokleia See p. 243.



Greek and its The history, geography, and ethnology

Dialects. of Hellas are jointly responsible for the

remarkable phenomena which even the

literature of the classical period presents. The very school-

boy in his first two or three years at Greek has to realise

that "Greek" is anything but a unity. He has not thumbed

the Anabasis long before the merciful pedagogue takes him

on to Homer, and his painfully acquired irregular verbs de-

mand a great extension of their limits. When he develops

into a Tripos candidate, he knows well that Homer, Pindar,

Sappho, Herodotus and Aristotle are all of them in their

several ways defiant of the Attic grammar to which his own

composition must conform. And if his studies ultimately

invade the dialect inscriptions,1 he finds in Elis and Heraclea,

Lacedaemon and Thebes, Crete2 and Cyprus, forms of Greek

for which his literature has almost entirely failed to prepare

him. Yet the Theban who said Fi

Athenian with his i@stw Zeu

apart as Liverpool and Manchester! The bewildering variety

of dialects within that little country arises partly from racial

1 An extremely convenient little selection of dialect inscriptions is now

available in the Teubner series:—Inscriptiones Graecae ad inlustramdas Dialectos



selectae, by Felix Solmsen. The book has less than 100 pp., but its contents

might be relied on to perplex very tolerable scholars! 2 See p. 233.

24 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.
differences. Upon the indigenous population, represented

best (it would seem) by the Athenians of history, swept first

from Northern Europe1 the hordes of Homer's Achans, and

then, in post-Homeric days, the Dorian invaders. Dialectic

conditions were as inevitably complex as they became in our

own country a thousand years ago, when successive waves

of Germanic invaders, of different tribes and dialects, had

settled in the several parts of an island in which a Keltic

population still maintained itself to greater or less extent.

Had the Norman Conquest come before the Saxon, which

determined the language of the country, the parallel would

have been singularly complete. The conditions which in

England were largely supplied by distance, were supplied in

Greece by the mountain barriers which so effectively cut

off each little State from regular communication with its

neighbours—an effect and a cause at once of the passion for

autonomy which made of Hellas a heptarchy of heptarchies.

Survival of the Meanwhile, a steady process was going

Fittest. on which determined finally the character

literary Greek. Sparta might win the

hegemony of Greece at Aegospotami, and Thebes wrest it

from her at Leuktra. But Sparta could not produce a

man of letters,—Alkman (who was not a Spartan!) will

serve as the exception that proves the rule; and Pindar,

the lonely "Theban eagle," knew better than to try poetic

flights in Boeotian. The intellectual supremacy of Athens

was beyond challenge long before the political unification of

Greece was accomplished; and Attic was firmly established

as the only possible dialect for prose composition. The

post-classical writers wrote Attic according to their lights,

tempered generally with a plentiful admixture of gram-

matical and lexical elements drawn from the vernacular,

for which they had too hearty a contempt even to give it

a name. Strenuous efforts were made by precisians to

improve the Attic quality of this artificial literary dialect;

and we still possess the works of Atticists who cry out

1 I am assuming as proved the thesis of Prof. Ridgeway's Early Age

of Greece,
which seems to me a key that will unlock many problems of

Greek history, religion, and language. 0f course adhuc sub iudice lis est;

and with Prof. Thumb on the other side I should be sorry to dogmatise.

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 25


against the "bad Greek" and "solecisms" of their con-

temporaries, thus incidentally providing us with information

concerning a Greek which interests us more than the artificial

Attic they prized so highly. All their scrupulousness did

not however prevent their deviating from Attic in matters

more important than vocabulary. The optative in Lucian

is perpetually misused, and no Atticist successfully attempts

to reproduce the ancient use of ou] and mh< with the participle.

Those writers who are less particular in their purism write

in a literary koinh< which admits without difficulty many

features of various origin, while generally recalling Attic.

No doubt the influence of Thucydides encouraged this

freedom. The true Attic, as spoken by educated people in

Athens, was hardly used in literature before iv/B.C.;

while the Ionic dialect had largely influenced the some-

what artificial idiom which the older writers at Athens

used. It was riot strange therefore that the standard for

most of the post-classical writers should go back, for

instance, to the pra

pra

Literary Koinh<. Such, then, was the " Common Greek "

of literature, from which we have still to

derive our illustrations for the NT to a very large extent.

Any lexicon will show how important for our purpose is

the vocabulary of the Koinh< writers, from Polybius down.

And even the most rigid Atticists found themselves unable

to avoid words and usages which Plato would not have

recognised. But side by side with this was a fondness for

obsolete words with literary associations. Take nau?j, for

example, which is freely found in Aelian, Josephus, and

other Koinh< writers. It does not appear in the indices

of eight volumes of Grenfell and Hunt's papyri—except

where literary fragments come in,—nor in those to vol. iii

of the Berlin collection and the small volume from Chicago.

(I am naming all the collections that I happen to have by

me.2) We turn to the NT and find it once, and that is

1 Schwyzer, Die Weltsprachen dess Altertums, p. 15 n., cites as the earliest

extant prose monument of genuine Attic in literature, the pseudo-Xenophon's



De republica Atheniensi, which dates from before 413 B. C. 2 In 1905.

26 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.


in Luke's shipwreck narrative, in a phrase which Blass

(Philology 186) suspects to be a reminiscence of Homer.

In style and syntax the literary Common Greek diverges

more widely from the colloquial. The bearing of all this

on the subject of our study will come out frequently in the

course of our investigations. Here it will suffice to refer

to Blass, p. 5, for an interesting summary of phenomena

which are practically restricted to the author of Heb, and

to parts of Luke and Paul, where sundry lexical and

grammatical elements from the literary dialect invade the

colloquial style which is elsewhere universal in the NT.1

Modern The writers who figure in Dr W.

Attic.” Schmid's well-known book, Der Atticismus,

were not the last to found a literary lan-

guage on the artificial resuscitation of the ancient Attic.

Essentially the same thing is being tried in our time.

"The purists of to-day," says Thumb (Hellenismus 180),

"are like the old Atticists to a hair." Their "mummy-

language," as Krumbacher calls it, will not stand the test

of use in poetry; but in prose literature, in newspapers,

and in Biblical translation, it has the dominion, which is

vindicated by Athenian undergraduates with bloodshed

if need be.2 We have nothing to do with this curious

phenomenon, except to warn students that before citing MGr

in illustration of the NT, they must make sure whether

their source is kaqareu

spoken Greek. The former may of course have borrowed

from ancient or modern sources—for it is a medley far

more mixed than we should get by compounding together

Cynewulf and Kipling--the particular feature for which it

is cited. But it obviously cannot stand in any line of his-

torical development, and it is just as valuable as Volapuk to

1 For literary elements in NT writers, see especially E. Norden, Antike

Kunstprosa ii. 482 ff. In the paragraph above referred to, Blass suggests that

in Ac 2029 Luke misused the literary word a@ficij. If so, he hardly sinned

alone: cf the citations in Grimm-Thayer, which are at least ambiguous, and add

Jos. Ant. ii. 18 fin. mh> prodhlw th>n e]kei?se a@ficin, where departure

seems certain. See our note sub voce in Expositor vii. vi. 376. The meaning

"my home-coming" is hardly likely.



2 See Krumbacher's vigorous polemic, Das Problem d. neugr. Schriftsprache,

summarised by the present writer in Exp T. xiv. 550 ff. Hatzidakis replies with

equal energy in REGr, 1903, pp. 210 ff., and further in an ]Apa

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 27


the student of linguistic evolution. The popular patois, on

the other hand, is a living language, and we shall soon see

that it takes a very important part in the discussions on

which we are entering.


First Century We pass on then to the spoken dialect

Koinh<: Sources. of the first century Hellenists, its history

and its peculiarities. Our sources are, in

order of importance, (1) non-literary papyri, (2) inscriptions,

(3) modern vernacular Greek. The literary sources are

almost confined to the Biblical Greek. A few general words

may be said on these sources, before we examine the origin of

the Greek which they embody.


(1) Papyri The papyri have one very obvious dis-

advantage, in that, with the not very import-

ant exception of Herculaneum,1 their provenance is limited

to one country, Egypt. We shall see, however, that the

disadvantage does not practically count. They date from

311 B.C. to vii/A.D. The monuments of the earliest period

are fairly abundant, and they give us specimens of the spoken

Koinh< from a time when the dialect was still a novelty.

The papyri, to be sure, are not to be treated as a unity.

Those which alone concern us come from the tombs and waste

paper heaps of Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt; and their style

has the same degree of unity as we should see in the contents

of the sacks of waste paper sent to an English paper-mill

from a solicitor's office, a farm, a school, a shop, a manse, and

a house in Downing Street. Each contribution has to be

considered separately. Wills, law-reports, contracts, census-

returns, marriage-settlements, receipts and official orders

largely ran along stereotyped lines; and, as formula tend

to be permanent, we have a degree of conservatism in the

language which is not seen in documents free from these

trammels. Petitions contain this element in greater or less

extent, but naturally show more freedom in the recitation of

the particular grievances for which redress is claimed.

Private letters are our most valuable sources; and they

are all the better for the immense differences that betray
1 On these see the monumental work of W. Cronert, Memoria Graeca Her-

culanensis (Teulmer, 1903); also E. L. Hicks in CR i. 186.

28 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.

themselves in the education of their writers. The well-worn

epistolary formulae show variety mostly in their spelling; and

their value for the student lies primarily in their remarkable

resemblances to the conventional phraseology which even the

NT letter-writers were content to use.1 That part of the

letter which is free from formula is perhaps most instructive

when its grammar is weakest, for it shows which way the

language was tending. Few papyri are more suggestive than

the letter of the lower-school-boy to his father, OP 119

(ii/iii. A.D.). It would have surprised Theon père, when he

applied the well-merited cane, to learn that seventeen centuries

afterwards there might be scholars who would count his boy's

audacious missive greater treasure than a new fragment of

Sappho! But this is by the way. It must not be inferred

from our laudation of the ungrammatical papyri that the

NT writers are at all comparable to these scribes in lack of

education. The indifference to concord, which we noted

in Rev, is almost isolated in this connexion. But the

illiterates show us by their exaggerations the tendencies

which the better schooled writers keep in restraint. With

writings from farmers and from emperors, and every class

between, we can form a kind of "grammatometer" by which

to estimate how the language stands in the development of

any particular use we may wish to investigate.


(2) Inscriptions. Inscriptions come second to papyri, in

this connexion, mainly because their very

material shows that they were meant to last. Their Greek

may not be of the purest; but we see it, such as it is, in its best

clothes, while that of the papyri is in corduroys. The special

value of the Common Greek inscriptions lies in their corroborat-

ing the papyri, for they practically show that there was but

little dialectic difference between the Greek of Egypt and that of

Asia Minor, Italy, and Syria. There would probably be varieties

of pronunciation, and we have evidence that districts differed

in their preferences among sundry equivalent locutions; but

a speaker of Greek would be understood without the slightest

difficulty wherever he went throughout the immense area

1 On this point see Deissmann, BS 21 ff.; J. R. Harris, in Expos. v. viii.

161; G. G. Findlay, Thess. (CGT), lxi.; Robinson, Eph. 275-284.

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 29
over which the Greek world-speech reigned. With the caveat

already implied, that inscription-Greek may contain literary

elements which are absent from an unstudied private letter,

we may use without misgiving the immense and ever-growing

collections of later Greek epigraphy. How much may be

made of them is well seen in the Preisschrift of Dr E.

Schwyzer,1 Grammatik der Pergamenischen Inschriften, an

invaluable guide to the accidence of the Koinh<. (It has been

followed up by E. Nachmanson in his Laute und Formen der

Magnetischen Inschriften (1903), which does the same work,

section by section, for the corpus from Magnesia.) Next to

the papyrus collections, there is no tool the student of the

NT Koinh< will find so useful as a book of late inscriptions,

such as Dittenberger's Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones selectae, or

the larger part of his Sylloge (ed. 2).



(3) Modern Finally we have MGr to bring in.2 The

Greek. discovery that the vernacular of to-day goes

back historically to the Koinh< was made in

1834 by Heilmaier, in a book on the origin of the

"Romaic." This discovery once established, it became clear

that we could work back from MGr to reconstruct the

otherwise imperfectly known oral Greek of the Hellenistic

age.3 It is however only in the last generation that the

importance of this method has been adequately recognised.

We had not indeed till recently acquired trustworthy materials.

Mullach's grammar, upon which the editor of Winer had to

depend for one of the most fruitful innovations of his work,4

started from wrong premisses as to the relation between the

old language and the new.5 We have now, in such books

1 He was Schweizer in 1898, when this book was published, but has changed

since, to our confusion. He has edited Meisterhans' Grammatik der attischem



Inschrifien3, and written the interesting lecture on Die Weltsprache named

above.


2 I must enter here a caveat as to the use of G. F. Abbott's charming little

volume, Songs of Modern Greece, as a source for scientific purposes. Prof.

Psichari and Dr Rouse show me that I have trusted it too much.

3 I cite from Kretschmer, Die Entstehung der Koinh<, p. 4.

4 Cf. WM index s. v. "Greek (modern)," p. 824.

5 Cf Krumbacher in KZ xxvii. 488. Krumbacher uses the epithet "dilet-

tante" about Mullach, ib. p. 497, but rather (I fancy) for his theories than his

facts. After all, Mullach came too early to be blameworthy for his unscientific

position.

30 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.


as Thumb's Handbuch der neugriechischen Volkssprache and

Hatzidakis's Einleitung in die neugriechische Grammatik, the

means of checking not a few statements about MGr which were

really based on the artificial Greek of the schools. The per-

petual references to the NT in the latter work will indicate

forcibly how many of the developments of modern vernacular

had their roots in that of two thousand years ago. The

gulf between the ancient and the modern is bridged by the

material collected and arranged by Jannaris in his Historical

Greek Grammar. The study of a Gospel in the vernacular

version of Pallis1 will at first produce the impression that

the gulf is very wide indeed; but the strong points of con-

tact will become very evident in time. Hatzidakis indeed

even goes so far as to assert that "the language generally

spoken to-day in the towns differs less from the common

language of Polybius than this last differs from the language

of Homer."2


The Birth of We are now ready to enquire how this

the Koinh<. Common Greek of the NT rose out of the

classical language. Some features of its

development are undoubted, and may be noted first. The

impulse which produced it lay, beyond question, in the work

of Alexander the Great. The unification of Hellas was a

necessary first step in the accomplishment of his dream of

Hellenising the world which he had marked out for conquest.

To achieve unity of speech throughout the little country

which his father's diplomatic and military triumphs had

virtually conquered for him, was a task too serious for

Alexander himself to face. But unconsciously he effected

this, as a by-product of his colossal achievement; and the

next generation found that not only had a common language

emerged from the chaos of Hellenic dialects, but a new and
1 [H Ne to>n ]Alec. Pa

(Pallis has now translated the Iliad, and even some of Kant—with striking

success, in Thumb's opinion, DLZ, 1905, pp. 2084-6.) Unfortunately the

B.F.B.S. version contains so much of the artificial Greek that it is beyond

the comprehension of the common people: the bitter prejudice of the

educated classes at present has closed the door even to this, much more to

Pallis's version.

2 REGr, 1903, p. 220. (See a further note below, pp. 233f.)

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 31

nearly homogeneous world-speech had been created, in which

Persian and Egyptian might do business together, and

Roman proconsuls issue their commands to the subjects of a

mightier empire than Alexander's own. His army was in

itself a powerful agent in the levelling process which ulti-

mately destroyed nearly all the Greek dialects. The

Anabasis of the Ten Thousand Greeks, seventy years before,

had doubtless produced results of the same kind on a small

scale. Clearchus the Lacedaemonian, Menon the Thessalian,

Socrates the Arcadian, Proxenus the Bceotian, and the rest,

would find it difficult to preserve their native brogue very

long free from the solvent influences of perpetual association

during their march; and when Cheirisophus of Sparta and

Xenophon of Athens had safely brought the host home, it is

not strange that the historian himself had suffered in the

purity of his Attic, which has some peculiarities distinctly

foreshadowing the Koinh<.1 The assimilating process would

go much further in the camp of Alexander, where, during

prolonged campaigns, men from all parts of Greece were

tent-fellows and messmates, with no choice but to accom-

modate their mode of speech in its more individual character-

istics to the average Greek which was gradually being

evolved among their comrades. In this process naturally

those features which were peculiar to a single dialect would

have the smallest chance of surviving, and those which most

successfully combined the characteristics of many dialects

would be surest of a place in the resultant "common speech."

The army by itself only furnished a nucleus for the new growth.

As Hellenism swept victoriously into Asia, and established

itself on all the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, the

mixture of nationalities in the new-rising communities de-

manded a common language as the medium of intercourse,

1 Cf Rutherford, NP 160-174. The same may be said of the language of

the lower classes in Athens herself in v/B.C., consisting as they did of immigrants

from all parts. So [Xenophon] Constitution, of Athens 11. 3:—"The Greeks

have an individual dialect, and manner of life and fashion of their own; but

the Athenians have what is compounded from all the Greeks and barbarians."

The vase-inscriptions abundantly evidence this. (Kretschrner, Entstehung d.

p. 34.) The importance of Xenophon as a forerunner of Hellenism is

well brought out by Mahaffy, Progress of Hellenism in Alexander's Empire,

Lecture i.

32 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK


and the Greek of the victorious armies of Alexander was

ready for the purpose. In the country districts of the

motherland, the old dialects lived on for generations; but by

this time Greece herself was only one factor in the great

Hellenising movement to which the world was to owe so

much. Besides, the dialects which strikingly differed from

the new Koinh< were spoken by races that mostly lay outside

the movement. History gives an almost pathetic interest to

an inscription like that from Larissa (Michel 41—end of

iii/B.C.), where the citizens record a resolutions from King

Philip V, and their own consequent resolutions:—

Tageuo
n a]pustet to>j tago>j kai> ta>n

pon u[pogegramme

Basileu>j Fi th?i po

xai

Decay of the The old and the new survived thus side

Dialects. by side into the imperial age; but Christianity

had only a brief opportunity of speaking in

the old dialects of Greece. In one corner of Hellas alone did

the dialect live on. To-day scholars recognise a single modern

idiom, the Zaconian, which does not directly descend from

the Koinh<. As we might expect, this is nothing but the

ancient Laconian, whose broad ā holds its ground still in the

speech of a race impervious to literature and proudly con-

servative of a language that was always abnormal to an

extreme. Apart from this the dialects died out entirely.a

They contributed their share to the resultant Common Greek;

but it is an assured result of MGr philology that there are

no elements of speech whatever now existing, due to the

ancient dialects, which did not find their way into the stream

of development through the channel of the vernacular Koinh<

of more than two thousand years ago. [a See p. 243.


Relative Contri- So far we may go without difference

butions to the of opinion. The only serious dispute arises

Resultant. when we ask what were the relative magni-

of the contributions of the several

dialects to the new resultant speech. That the literary

Koinh< was predominantly Attic has been already stated, and

is of course beyond doubt. But was Attic muse than one

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 33


among many elements assimilated in the new vernacular?

It has always been taken for granted that the intellectual

queen of Greece was the predominant partner in the busi-

ness of establishing a new dialect based on a combination of

the old ones. This conclusion has recently been challenged

by Dr Paul Kretschmer, a brilliant comparative philologist,

previously distinguished for his studies on the language of

the Greek vase-inscriptions and on the dialects of the Greeks'

nearest neighbours.1 In his tractate entitled Die Entstehung

der Koinh<, published in the Transactions of the Vienna

Academy for 1900, he undertook to show that the oral

Koinh< contained elements from Boeotian, Ionic, and even

North-west Greek, to a larger extent than from Attic. His

argument affects pronunciation mainly. That Boeotian

monophthongising of the diphthongs, Doric softening of b,

d and g, and Ionic de-aspiration of words beginning with h,

affected the spoken language more than any Attic influence

of this nature, might perhaps be allowed. But when we turn

to features which had to be represented in writing, as contrasted

with mere variant pronunciations of the same written word,

the case becomes less striking. Boeotian may have supplied

3 plur. forms in -san for imperfect and optative, but these do

not appear to any considerable extent outside the LXX: the

NT exx. are precarious, and they are surprisingly rare in

the papyri.2 North-west Greek has the accusative plural in

-ej, found freely in papyri and (for the word te

MSS of the NT; also the middle conjugation of ei]mi<, and the

confusion of forms from –a

butes some guttural forms from verbs in -zw, and a few lexical

items. Ionic supplies a fair number of isolated forms, and

may be responsible for many -w or –w? flexions from -mi

verbs, and sonic uncontracted noun-forms like o]ste

xruse<&. But the one peculiarly Attic feature of the Koinh<;

which Kretschmer does allow, its treatment of original a, in

contrast with Ionic phonology on one side and that of the

remaining dialects on the other, is so far-reaching in its effects
1 Die griech. Vaseninschriften, 1894; Einleitung in die Geschichte der griech.


Sprache, 1896.

2 See CR xv. 36, and the addenda in xviii. 110.

34 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.


that we cannot but give it more weight than to any other

feature. And while the accidence of Attic has bequeathed

to the vernacular much matter which it shared with other

dialects, one may question whether the accidence of any

single dialect would present anything like the same similarity

to that of the Koinh< as the Attic does. We can hardly resist

the conclusion of the experts that Kretschmer has failed to

prove his point. At the same time we may allow that the

influence of the other dialects on pronunciation has been

commonly underestimated. Kretschmer necessarily recognises

that Attic supplied the orthography of the Koinh<, except for

those uneducated persons to whom we owe so much for their

instructive mis-spellings. Consequently, he says, when the

Hellenist wrote xaicheri, his language

was really Boeotian and not Attic.1 It is obvious that the

question does not seriously concern us, since we are dealing

with a language which, despite its vernacular character, comes

to us in a written and therefore largely Atticised form.a For

our purpose we may assume that we have before us a Greek

which includes important contributions from various dialects,

but with Attic as the basis, although the exclusive peculiarities

of Attic make but a small show in it. We shall see later on

(pp. 213 ff.) that syntax tells a clearer story in at least one

matter of importance, the articular infinitive.


Pronunciation At this point it should be observed that


and MS pronunciation is not to be passed over as a

Tradition. matter of no practical importance by the

modern student of Hellenistic. The undeni-

able fact that phonetic spelling—which during the reign of

the old dialects was a blessing common to all—was entirely

abandoned by educated people generations before the Christian

era, has some very obvious results for both grammar and

textual criticism. That ai and e, ei (^) and i, oi and u were

identities for the scribes of our MSS, is certain.2 The scribe

made his choice according to the grammar and the sense,
1 Against this emphasising of Bmotian, see Thumb, Hellenismus 228.

2 On the date of the levelling of quantity, so notable a feature in MGr, see

Hatzidakis in ]Aqhna? for 1901 (xiii. 247). He decides that it began outside

Greece, and established itself very gradually. It must have been complete, or

nearly so, before the scribes of x and B wrote. [a See p. 243.

HISTORY OF THE “COMMON" GREEK. 35

just as we choose between kings, king's, and kings', or

between bow and bough. He wrote su< nominative and soi<

dative; lu

ei]domen indicative, and fil^?j, i@dwmen subjunctive; bou

but boul^? noun--here of course there was the accentual

difference, if he wrote to dictation. There was nothing

however to prevent him from writing e]ce

a]feirhme

there were times when his choice between (for example)

infinitive and imperative, as in Lk 1913, was determined only

by his own or perhaps a traditional exegesis. It will be seen

therefore that we cannot regard our best MSS as decisive

on such questions, except as far as we may see reason to

trust their general accuracy in grammatical tradition. WH

may be justified in printing i!na . . . e]piskia15,

after B and some cursives; but the passage is wholly useless

for any argument as to the use of i!na with a future. Or let

us take the constructions of ou] mh< as exhibited for WH text

in the concordance (MG). There are 71 occurrences with aor.

subj., and 2 more in which the -sw might theoretically be

future. Against these we find 8 cases of the future, and 15

in which the parsing depends on our choice between ei and ^.

It is evident that editors cannot hope to decide here what

was the autograph spelling. Even supposing they had the

autograph before them, it would be no evidence as to the

author's grammar if he dictated the text. To this we may

add that by the time and B were written o and w were no

longer distinct in pronunciation, which transfers two more

cases to the list of the indeterminates. It is not therefore

simply the overwhelming manuscript authority which decides

us for e@xwmen in Rom 51. Without the help of the versions

and patristic citations, it would be difficult to prove that the

orthography of the MSS is really based on a very ancient

traditional interpretation. It is indeed quite possible that

the Apostle's own pronunciation did not distinguish o and w

sufficiently to give Tertius a clear lead, without his making

inquiry.1 In all these matters we may fairly recognise a

1 o and w were confused in various quarters before this date: of Schwyzer,

Pergam. 95; Nachmanson, Magnet. 64; Thumb. Hellenismus 143. We have

36 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.


case nearly parallel with the editor's choice between such

alternatives as ti16, where the tradition

varies. The modern expositor feels himself entirely at

liberty to decide according to his view of the context. On

our choice in Rom, 1.c., see below, (p. 110).

Contributions Before we leave dialectology, it may be

of NW Greek, well to make a few more remarks on the

nature of the contributions which we have

noted. Some surprise may be felt at the importance of

the elements alleged to have been brought into the language

by the "North-west Greek," which lies altogether outside

the literary limits. The group embraces as its main consti-

tuents the dialects of Epirus, Aetolia, Locris and Phokis, and

Achaia, and is known to us only from inscriptions, amongst

which those of Delphi are conspicuous. It is the very last

we should have expected to influence the resultant language,

but it is soon observed that its part (on Kretschmer's theory)

has been very marked. The characteristic Achaian accus.

plur. in -ej successfully established itself in the common

Greek, as its presence in the vernacular of to-day sufficiently

shows. Its prominence in the papyri2 indicates that it was

making a good fight, which in the case of te

already become a fairly assured victory. In the NT te

never occurs without some excellent authority for te3

cf WH App2 157.a Moreover we find that A, in Rev 116, has

a]ste

well be an effort to mend the grammar. It is of course

impossible to build on this example; but taking into account

the obvious fact that the author of Rev was still decidedly

a]gra

omena of the papyri, we might expect his autograph to

exhibit accusatives in -ej, and in other instances beside

teconfusion of this very word in BU 607 (ii/A.D.). See p. 244, and the copious

early papyrus evidence in Mayser, pp. 98 f., 139.



1 Brugmann, Gr. Gramm.3 17. [a See pp. 243 f.

2 See CR xv. 34, 435, xviii. 109 (where by a curious mistake I cited Dr Thumb

for, instead of against, Kretschmer's argument on this point).



3 Jn 1117 x D; Ac 2729 and Rev 914; Rev 44 ti A (WHmg), 71 A bis P semel.

Mr Thackeray says te

HISTORY OF THE "COMMON" GREEK. 37

Kretschmer as a NW Greek feature; but the Delphian h#tai

and e@wntai are balanced by Messenian h#ntai, and Lesbian

e@sso, which looks as if some middle forms had existed in the

earliest Greek. But the confusion of the –a

which is frequent in the papyri1 and NT, and is complete in

MGr, may well have come from the NW Greek, though

encouraged by Ionic. We cannot attempt here to discuss the

question between Thumb and Kretschmer; but an a priori

argument might be found for the latter in the well-known

fact that between iii/ and i/B.C. the political importance of

Aetolia and Achaia produced an Achaian-Dorian Koinh<, which

yielded to the wider Koinh< about a hundred years before Paul

began to write: it seems antecedently probable that this

dialect would leave some traces on that which superseded

it. Possibly the extension of the 3rd plur. -san, and even

the perfect -an, may be due to the same source:2 the former

is also Boeotian. The peculiarities just mentioned have in

common their sporadic acceptance in the Hellenistic of i/A.D.,

which is just what we should expect where a dialect like this

contended for survival with one that had already spread over a

very large area. The elements we have tentatively set down

to the NW Greek secured their ultimate victory through

their practical convenience. The fusion of –a

amalgamated two grammatical categories which served no

useful purpose by their distinctness. The accus. in –ej

reduced the number of case-forms to be remembered, at the

cost of a confusion which English bears without difficulty,

and even Attic bore in po

the other novelties both reduced the tale of equivalent

suffixes and (in the case of -san) provided a useful means of

distinction between 1st sing. and 3rd plur.


and of Ionic. We come to securer ground when we

estimate the part taken by Ionic in the

formation of the Koinh<, for here Thumb and Kretschmer

are at one. The former shows that we cannot safely trace

any feature of Common Greek to the influence of some
1 See CR xv. 36, 435, xviii. 110. Thumb suggests that the common aor. in

-hsa started the process of fusion. .



2 The -san suffix is found in Delphian (Valaori, Delph. Dial. 60) rather pro-

minently, both in indic. and opt. The case for -an (ibid.) is weaker.

38 A GRAMMAR OF NEW TESTAMENT GREEK.

particular dialect, unless it appears in that dialect as a distinct

new type, and not a mere survival. The nouns in –a?j –a?doj

and –ou?j –ou?doj are by this principle recognised as a clear

debt of MGr to Ionic elements in the Koinh<. Like the

other elements which came from a single ancient dialect,

they had to struggle for existence. We find them in the

Egyptian Greek; but in the NT –a?j makes gen. –a?, as often

even in Asia Minor, where naturally –a?doj was at home.1

Kretschmer gives as Ionic factors in the Koinh<; the forms

kiqw2 psilosis (which the Ionians

shared with their Aeolic neighbours), the uncontracted noun

and verb forms already alluded to, and the invasion of the

-mi verbs by thematic forms (contract or ordinary).3 He

explains the declension spei?ra spei

from i/B.c.) as due not to Ionism, but to the analogy of glw?ssa

glw

consideration that the declension –ra -rhj is both earlier and

more stable than –ui?a, -ui




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