Philemon Zachariou wrote:Mike,
I am sure it must have occurred to you that any increase in the consistency of the confusion of η and ι in later (Hellenistic) times might have something to do with an increase (a) in population and therefore in the written records, (b) in the greater numbers of semi-literate writers who “learned” common spelling practices from their equals, and (c) in the numbers of records salvaged/discovered and available to us today. Had the climatic and geographic conditions in Athens been the same as in Egypt, chances are that heaps of papyrical writings would have likewise been discovered in Athens in the manner they were in Egypt. Not only climate, but also human vice (wars, vandalism, theft, carelessness), and other factors must have all contributed to the loss of ancient records. Without the classical stone inscriptions we would have had even fewer records available today. I would not be misled by a "popularity" vote in terms of the greater number of occurrences in the consistency of the confusion of η and ι in post-classical times. The term “consistency,” in fact, seems to cloud the picture, for the fact remains that η and ι were already confused in the classical period to the extent that even Socrates found the matter grave enough to make “a big deal” out of it. Thus, the equalization of ει, η, ι in classical Greek, regardless of numbers (or degree of consistency), is an established fact a linguist cannot ignore. That confusion germinated and grew in classical times and, naturally in due time, mushroomed. In the light of evidence, applying a pronunciation to η other than in reading classical and NT Greek is arbitray.
Your "established fact a linguist cannot ignore" has been rejected as utterly false by dozens of linguists. If there's any established fact, it is that virtually all linguists say that you're wrong.
This paragraph feels like a bit of a cop out to avoid actually dealing with the language data. Gignac deals with issues of literacy and writing ability his entire analysis takes factors such as the quality of the papyri into account. So yeah, those issues you listed did occur to me and they occurred to the linguists have devoted large portions of their lives to this topic and the evidence and their analysis, which contradicts your claims, took those issues into account. You write as if you think that Greek phonology was always homogenous--which in and of itself is utterly false (and is still false today--see Pontic, Cappadocian, etc.). Even if we imagined that you were correct about the pronunciation of Greek in Greece in the post-classical period (and you're not--and Threatte has amply demonstrated in his Grammar of Attic Inscriptions--keyword there is "Attic"), the language demonstrated phonological variation throughout the post-Alexandrian empires. And the fact remains that (in reference to the title of your book) Jesus lived far closer to Egypt than he did to Greece.