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Reading greek of the early church fathers?

Posted: October 29th, 2015, 5:53 pm
by Tim Evans
I recently found myself in the Epistle of Barnabas and jumping into the greek a little to help clarify some things (and indeed it did). It seems to me that the greek of barnabas is not that different (if at all?) from biblical greek?

Anyway, this leads to my question, for someone with biblical greek skills, how far forward can someone read until the vocabulary and/or grammar might be different enough that it becomes a problem. For example, to put it practically, can someone who has put the work into biblical greek, just as easily read chrysostom? or later?

Re: Reading greek of the early church fathers?

Posted: October 30th, 2015, 9:22 am
by Barry Hofstetter
Yes, the Greek of the "apostolic fathers" is for the most part a similar style of Koine to much of the NT. It's an easy move for students who want to stay in the realm of "early Christian literature" but want to read something extra-biblical. Chrysostom, on the other hand, is writing much later and to a much different audience (one with centuries of exposure to Christian writing and reflection), and so uses a quite different style. His vocabulary stock is much wider and and his syntax often much more complicated as he uses the language to deal with the several issues contemporary to him. Somebody with just a year or two of Koine would find him quite challenging.

Re: Reading greek of the early church fathers?

Posted: October 30th, 2015, 6:51 pm
by Tim Evans
Interesting. How is Chrysostom different? Assumedly there is a wider vocabulary? Is the grammar different by the time of chrysostom?

Re: Reading greek of the early church fathers?

Posted: November 2nd, 2015, 2:51 am
by tdbenedict
I am now working my way through Chrysostom's Homilies on Romans. Now at pg. 218 of 497 - the man had a lot to say, much of it very thought-provoking. Particularly regarding wealth and poverty.

The vocab is much beyond the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers. Syntax is much also more complex. For what it is worth, I found it at the same difficulty as Plato's Apology, which I read right before turning to Chrysostom's Romans. On the hand, I'm finding Chrysostom's Romans a little less difficult than Josephus' Jewish War.

I would say by all means jump in. I sank for awhile, but feel I am beginning to at least dog paddle!

Re: Reading greek of the early church fathers?

Posted: November 12th, 2015, 1:57 pm
by Andrew Chapman
I was encouraged by C S Lewis's comments on Athanasius's 'On the Incarnation of the Word':
When I first opened his De Incarnatione I soon discovered by a very simple test that I was reading a masterpiece. I knew very little Christian Greek except that of the New Testament and I had expected difficulties. To my astonishment I found it almost as easy as Xenophon; and only a master mind could, in the fourth century, have written so deeply on such a subject with such classical simplicity.
to make a start on it, and have found it to be as Lewis said (not that I have read Xenophon, but it seems clear and straightforward).

There's an edition of the Greek text 'for the use of students' here: ... 481625.pdf

and an OCR'd text from Migne here: ... 0verbi.pdf - you just have to join a few words up.