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

Paul, Luke, "A Hebrew, the son of Hebrews," he calls "Hebrews."

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Paul, Luke, "A Hebrew, the son of Hebrews," he calls

"Hebrews." himself (Phil 35), and Zahn is no doubt right

in inferring that he always claimed Aramaic

as his mother tongue. But he had probably used Greek from

childhood with entire freedom, and during the main part of

his life may have had few opportunities of using Aramaic at

all. It is highly precarious to argue with Zahn from "Abba,

Father" (Rom 815, Gal 46), that Aramaic was the language

of Paul's prayers. The peculiar sacredness of association

belonging to the first word of the Lord's Prayer in its original

tongue supplies a far more probable account of its liturgi-

cal use among Gentile Christians.1 Finally, we have the

Gentile Luke2 and the auctor ad Hebraeos, both of whom

may well have known no Aramaic at all: to the former we

must return presently. Between these extremes the NT

writers lie; and of them all we may assert with some con-

fidence that, where translation is not involved, we shall find

hardly any Greek expression used which would sound strangely

to speakers of the Koinh< in Gentile lands.

Genuine To what extent then should we expect

Semitisms. to find the style of Jewish Greek writers

coloured by the influence of Aramaic or Heb-

rew? Here our Welsh analogy helps us. Captain Fluellen is

marked in Shakspere not only by his Welsh pronunciation of

English, but also by his fondness for the phrase "look you."

Now "look you" is English: I am told it is common in the

Dales, and if we could dissociate it from Shakspere's Welsh-

man we should probably not be struck by it as a bizarre

expression. But why does Fluellen use it so often? Because

Otherwise, we must join the XwriExp T for Feb. 1905,

p. 206) puts Rev under Vespasian and assigns it to the author of Jn: he thinks

that Prof. Ramsay's account (Seven Churches, p. 89) does not leave sufficient

time for the development of Greek style. We can now quote for the earlier

date the weightiest of all English authorities: see Hort's posthumous Com-

(with Sanday's half consent in the Preface).

1 Cf Bp Chase, in Texts and Studies, I. iii. 23. This is not very different from

the devout Roman Catholic's "saying Paternoster"; but Paul will not allow

even one word of prayer in a foreign tongue without adding an instant transla-

tion. Note that Pader is the Welsh name for the Lord's Prayer. (See p. 233.)

2 Cf Dalman, Words. 40 f.


it translates two or three Welsh phrases of nearly identical

meaning, which would be very much on his tongue when

talking with his own countrymen. For the same reason the

modern Welshman overdoes the word "indeed." In exactly the

same way the good Attic interjection i]dou< is used by some NT

writers, with a frequency quite un-Attic, simply because they

were accustomed to the constant use of an equivalent inter-

jection in their own tongue.1 Probably this is the furthest

extent to which Semitisms went in the ordinary Greek speech

or writing of men whose native language was Semitic. It

brought into prominence locutions, correct enough as Greek, but

which would have remained in comparatively rare use but for

the accident of their answering to Hebrew or Aramaic phrases.

Occasionally, moreover, a word with some special metaphorical

meaning might be translated into the literally corresponding

Greek and used with the same connotation, as when the verb

jlh, in the ethical sense, was represented not by the exactly

answering a]nastre2 But these

cases are very few, and may be transferred any day to the

other category, illustrated above in the case of i]dou<), by the

discovery of new papyrus texts. It must not be forgotten
1 Note that James uses i]dou< 6 times in his short Epistle, Paul only 9 times

(including one quotation) in all his writings. In Ac 1-12 it appears 16 times,

in 13-28 only 7; its rarity in the Gentile atmosphere is characteristic. It is

instructive to note the figures for narrative as against speeches and OT quotations.

Mt has 33 in narrative, 4 in quotations, 24 in speeches; Mk 0/1/6; Lk 16/1/40;

Ac (1-12) 4/0/12, Ac (13-28) 1/0/6 ; Jn 0/1/3. Add that Heb has 4 OT quotations

and no other occurrence, and Rev has no less than 26 occurrences. It is

obvious that it was natural to Hebrews in speech, and to some of them (not

Mk or Jn) in narrative. Luke in the Palestinian atmosphere (Lk, Ac 1-12)

employs it freely, whether reproducing his sources or bringing in a trait of

local character like Shakspere with Fluellen. Hort (Ecclesia, p. 179) says i]dou<

is "a phrase which when writing in his own person and sometimes even in

speeches [Luke] reserves for sudden and as it were providential interpositions."

He does not appear to include the Gospel, to which the remark is evidently in-

applicable, and this fact somewhat weakens its application to Ac 1-12. But

with this reservation we may accept the independent testimony of Hort's instinct

to our conclusion that Luke when writing without external influences upon

him would use i]dou? as a Greek would use it. The same is true of Paul. Let

me quote in conclusion a curiously close parallel, unfortunately late (iv/v A.D.)

to Lk 1316: BU 948 (a letter) ginwj o!ti h[ mh

sou a]sqeni?, ei]dou?, de

Aramaism (Wellh. 29).

2 Deissmann, BS 194. Poreu3 al. Cf stoixei?n.


that the instrumental e]n in e]n maxai49
) and e]n r[a(1 Co 421) was only rescued from the class of "Hebraisms"

by the publication of the Tebtunis Papyri (1902), which

presented us with half-a-dozen Ptolemaic citations for it.1

Grammatical A very important distinction must be

and Lexical drawn at this point between Semitisms con-

cerning vocabulary and those which affect

syntax. The former have occupied us mainly so far, and

they are the principal subject of Deissmann's work. Gram-

Semitisms are a much more serious matter. We

might indeed range under this head all sins against native

Greek style and idiom, such as most NT books will show.

Co-ordination of clauses with the simple kai<,2 instead of the

use of participles or subordinate clauses, is a good example.

It is quite true that a Hebrew would find this style come

natural to him, and that an Egyptian might be more likely,

in equal absence of Greek culture, to pile up a series of geni-

tive absolutes. But in itself the phenomenon proves nothing

more than would a string of "ands" in an English rustic's

story--elementary culture, and not the hampering presence

of a foreign idiom that is being perpetually translated into

its most literal equivalent. A Semitism which definitely

contravenes Greek syntax is what we have to watch for.

We have seen that a]po> ]Ihsou? Xristou? o[ ma

does not come into this category. But Rev 213 e]n tai?j


glaring example, for it is impossible to conceive of ]Anti

as an indeclinable. The Hebraist might be supposed to

argue that the nom. is unchanged became it would be un-

changed (stat. abs.) in Hebrew. But no one would seriously

imagine the text sound: it matters little whether we mend

it with Lachmann's conjecture ]Anti

later copyists, who repeat ai$j after h[me

The typical case of e]ge1 Expos. vi. vii. 112; cf CR xviii. 153, and Preface, p. xvii. above.

2 Cf Hawkins HS 120 f., on the frequency of aai in Mk. Thumb observes

that Kai in place of hypotaxis is found in MGr—and in Aristotle (Hellenismus

129): here even Viteau gives way. So h#rqe kairo>j ki ] a]rrw

The simple parataxis of Mk 1525, Jn 435 1155, is illustrated by the uneducated

document Par P 18, e@ti du fqa


and in the course of our enquiry we shall dispose of others,

like h$j to> quga25), which we now find occur-

ring in Greek that is beyond suspicion of Semitic influences.

There remain Semitisms due to translation, from the

Hebrew of the OT, or from Aramaic "sources" underlying

parts of the Synoptists and Acts. The former case covers

Translation all the usages which have been supposed

Greek. to arise from over-literal rendering in the

LXX, the constant reading of which by Hel-

lenist Jews has unconsciously affected their Greek. In the

LXX we may have abnormal Greek produced by the effort of

Greek-speaking men to translate the already obsolete and

imperfectly understood Hebrew: when the Hebrew puzzled

them, they would often take refuge in a barbarous literalness.1

It is not antecedently probable that such "translation

Greek" would influence free Greek except by supplying

phrases for conscious or unconscious quotation: these phrases

would not become models to be followed by men who wrote

the language as their own. How far such foreign idioms

may get into a language, we may see by examining our own.

We have a few foreign phrases which have been literally

translated into English, and have maintained their place

Without consciousness of their origin: "that goes without

saying," or "this gives furiously to think," will serve as

examples. Many more are retained as conscious quotations,

with no effort to assimilate them to English idiom. "To return

to our muttons" illustrates one kind of these barbarisms; but

there are Biblical phrases taken over in a similar way without

sacrificing their unidiomatic form. We must notice, however,

that such phrases are sterile: we have only to imagine

another verb put for saying in our version of Cela va sans dire

to see how it has failed to take root in our syntax.

Hebraism in The general discussion of this important

Luke. subject may be clinched with an enquiry into

the diction of Luke, whose varieties of style in

the different parts of his work form a particularly interesting
1 My illustration here from Aquila (Gen 11) was unfortunate: of Swete's

Introd. 458 f. Better ones may be seen in Mr Thackeray's "Jer b" (see JTS

ix. 94). He gives me e]sqin tra

28 al—also in the Greek

additions to Esther (C28). Was this from some Greek original of Vergil's consumere

mensas, or was it a "Biblical" phrase perpetuated in the Biblical style?


and important problem.1 I restrict myself to grammatical

Hebraisms mainly, but it will be useful to recall Dalman's

list (Words 20 ff.) to see how far Luke is concerned in it.

He gives as pure Aramaisms (a) the superfluous a]feo>k or


use of ei#nai with participle as a narrative tense. Either

Aramaic or Hebrew will account for (b) the superfluous

e]lqw2 kaqi

Hebraisms are (c) the periphrases with pro

e]n t&? with infinitive,3 the types a]ko^? a]kou

ble e]ge

e]laj ei#pen.4 In class (a), we find

Luke unconcerned with the first case. The third we must

return to (see pp. 225 ff.): suffice to say now that it has its

1 In assuming the unity of the two books ad Theophilum, I was quite

content to shield myself behind Blass; but Harnack has now stepped in with

decisive effect. The following pages will supply not a few grammatical points

to supplement Harnack's stylistic evidence in Litice the Physician.

2 A fair vernacular parallel in Syll.2 807 (ii/A.D.) kai> e]sw e]lqw>n dhmosi<%


3 See Kalker 252, and below, p. 215. Add Par P 63 (ii/B.C.) tir ou!twj

e]sti>n a]na pran eu[rei?n, o{j

ou]d ] au]to> tou? dunh

It is of course the frequency of this locution that is due to Semitic thought:

cf what is said of i]dou<, above, p. 11. But see p. 249.

4 See Wellh. 16. To class (c) I may append a note on ei]j a]pa

which in Mt 2732 (d-text) and 1 Th 417 takes a genitive. This is of course a

very literal translation of txraq;li, which is given by HR as its original in 29

places, as against 16 with dative. (Variants sunan., u[pant., and others are

often occurring: I count all places where one of the primary authorities has

ei]j a]p. with gen. or dat. representing ‘’l. In addition there are a few places

where the phrase answers to a different original; also 1 ex. with gen. and

3 with dat. from the Apocrypha.) Luke (Ac 28 15) uses it with dat., and in

Mt 256 it appears absolutely, as once in LXX (1 Sa 1315). Now this last may

be directly paralleled in a Ptolemaic papyrus which certainly has no Semitism

—Tb P 43 (ii/B.C.) paregenh

In BU 362 (215 A.D.) pro>j [a]] pa

One of Strack's Ptolemaic inscriptions (Archiv iii. 129) has i!n ] ei]dh?i h{n e@sxhken

pro>j au]to>n h[ po

word was the official welcome of a newly arrived dignitary—an idea singularly

in place in the NT exx. The case after it is entirely consistent with Greek

idiom, the gen. as in our "to his inauguration," the dat. as the case governed

by the verb. If in the LXX the use has been extended, it is only because it

seemed so literal a translation of the Hebrew. Note that in 1 Th 1.c. the

authorities of the d-text read the dat., which is I suspect better Greek. (What

has been said applies also to ei]j u[pa34, Jn 1213: the two

words seem synonymous). See also p. 242.

roots in classical Greek, and is at most only a more liberal use

of what is correct enough, if less common. But h@rcato raises

an interesting question. In Lk 38 we find kai> mh> a@rchsqe


"the Palestinian-Jewish literature uses the meaningless ‘he

began,’" a conventional locution which was evidently parallel

with our Middle-English auxiliary gan. It is very common

in the Synoptists, and occurs twice as often in Luke as in

Matthew. Dalman thinks that if this Aramaic yriwA with

participle had become practically meaningless, we might well

find the same use in direct speech, though no example

happens to be known. Now in the otherwise verbally

identical verse Mt 39 we find do

presume to say," which is thoroughly idiomatic Greek, and

manifestly a deliberate improvement of an original preserved

more exactly by Luke.1 It seems to follow that this original

was a Greek translation of the Aramaic logia-document, used

in common by both Evangelists, but with greater freedom by

the first. If Luke was ignorant of Aramaic,2 he would be

led by his keen desire for accuracy to incorporate with a

minimum of change translations he was able to secure, even.

when they were executed by men whose Greek was not very

idiomatic. This conclusion, which is in harmony with our

general impressions of his methods of using his sources,

seems to me much more probable than to suppose that it was

he who misread Aramaic words in the manner illustrated

by Nestle on Lk 1141f. (Exp T xv. 528): we may just as

well accuse the (oral or written) translation he employed.

Passing on to Dalman's (b) class, in which Luke is con-

cerned equally with the other Synoptists, we may observe that

only a very free translation would drop these pleonasms. In

a sense they are " meaningless," just as the first verb is in "He

went and did it all the same," or " He got up and went out,"

or (purposely to take a parallel from the vernacular) " So he

1 But see E. Norden, Antike Kunstprosa ii. 487. Harnack (Sayings, p. 2)

cites my view without approving it. I cannot resist the conviction that

Harnack greatly overpresses his doctrine of Luke's stylistic alterations of Q.

2 Luke "probably did not understand Aramaic," says Julicher, Introd. 359.

So Dalman, Words 38-41. Harnack (Luke, pp. 102 f.) observes that in ch.

1 and 2 Luke either himself translated from Aramaic sources or very freely

adapted oral materials to literary form. He prefers the second alternative.


ups and says." But however little additional information

they may add—and for us at least the "stand praying" is

not a superfluous touch—they add a distinct nuance to the

whole phrase, which Luke was not likely to sacrifice when he

met it in his translation or heard it from the au]to

story he was jotting down. The same may be said of the

pleonastic phrases which begin and end Dalman's list of

"pure Hebraisms." In this class (c) therefore there remains

only the construction with kai> e]ge

narrative yhiy;va, which is (strangely enough) almost peculiar to

Luke in the NT. There are three constructions: (a) e]ge

h#lqe, (b) e]ge h#lqe, (c) e]gen) e]lqei?n. The

occurrences of these respectively are for Lk 22/11/5, for

Ac 0/0/17.2 It may be added that the construction occurs

almost always with a time clause (generally with e]n): in Lk

there is only one exception, 1622. The phrase was clearly

therefore temporal originally, like our "It was in the days

of . . . that . . ." (This is (c), but we could use the

paratactic (a) form, or even (b), without transgressing our

idiom.) Driver (Tenses, § 78) describes the yhiy;va construction

as occurring when there is inserted "a clause specifying the

circumstances under which an action takes place,"—a descrip-

tion which will suit the Lucan usage everywhere, except

sometimes in the (c) class (as 1622), the only one of the three

which has no Hebrew parallel. We must infer that the

LXX translators used this locution as a just tolerable Greek

which literally represented the original;3 and that Lk (and

to a minute extent Mt and Mk) deliberately recalled the

Greek OT by using the phrase. The (a) form is used else-

where in the NT twice in Mk and five times in Mt, only

in the phrase e]ge10 has (b) and

Mk 223 has (c). There are (a) forms with e@stai, Ac 217.21 323,

Bona 926 (all OT citations); and (c) forms with gi15,

1 Once (Ac 1025), e]gen Pe
2 Blass cites Ac 45 D for (a), and finds (b) in 57. Certainly the latter sentence

may be thus construed (see below, p. 70); nor is it a fatal objection that the

construction is otherwise isolated in Ac. See p. 233.

3 W. F. Moulton (WM 760 n.) gives LXX exx. for the (a) and (b) forms: the

only approach to the (c) form is 2 Mac 316, i e . . . h#n . . . o[rw?nta . . . titrw

Here Mr Thackeray thinks h#n=e@dei, "it was impossible not to . . ."


e]a>n ge13, and o!pwj mh> ge16. Now

in what sense is any of this to be called "Hebraism"? It is

obvious that (b) is a literal translation of the Hebrew, while

it is at least grammatical as Greek, however unidiomatic.

Its retention to a limited extent in Lk (with a single

doubtful case in Ac), and absence elsewhere in NT (except

for Mt 910, which is affected by the author's love for kai>

i]dou<), are best interpreted as meaning that in free Greek

it was rather an experiment, other constructions being

preferred even by a writer who set himself to copy the

LXX style. At first sight (a) would seem worse Greek still,

but we must note that it is apparently known in MGr:1 cf

Pallis's version of Mt 111, kai> sunen te

e@fuge . . . , etc. We cannot suppose that this is an inva-

sion of Biblical Greek, any more than our own idiomatic

"It happened I was at home that day." What then of (c),

which is characteristic of Luke, and adopted by him in Ac as

an exclusive substitute for the other two? It starts from

Greek vernacular, beyond doubt. The normal Greek sune

still takes what represents the acc. et inf.: sune

is idiomatic in modern Athenian speech, against e@tuxe na>

e@lq^ which, I am told, is commoner in the country districts.

But e]a>n ge

see AP 135, BM 970, and Pap. Catt. (in Achiv 60)—all

ii/A.D. So was gi15): cf Par P 49 (ii/B.C.) gi

ga>r e]ntraph?nai. From this to e]ge

Luke alone of NT writers seems to have taken:2 the isolated

ex. in Mk 223 is perhaps a primitive assimilation to Lk 61.3

1 Cf Thumb, Hellenismus 123: "What appears Hebraism or Aramaism in

the Bible must count as Greek if it shows itself as a natural development in the

MGr vernacular." Mr Thackeray well compares asyndeta like kalw?j poih


2 An interesting suggestion is made by Prof. B. W. Bacon in Expos., April

1905, p. 174n., who thinks that the "Semitism" may be taken over from the,

"Gospel according to the Hebrews." The secondary character of this Gospel,

as judged from the extant fragments, has been sufficiently proved by Dr

Adeney (Hibbert Journal, pp. 139 ff.); but this does not prevent our positing

an earlier and purer form as one of Luke's sources. Bacon's quotation for this

is after the (a) form: "Factum est autem, cum ascendisset . . descenclit . . ."

(No. 4 in Preuschen's collection, Antilegomena, p. 4). The (a) form occurs in

frag. 2 of the " Ebionite Gospel" (Preuschen, p. 9).

3 Paraporeual
) may be a relic of Mk's original text.


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