Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

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Bernd Strauss
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Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Bernd Strauss » January 27th, 2018, 9:41 am

Hello,

The Koine Greek language is said to have been spoken up until the 4th century. I would like to know whether the church fathers wrote in the Koine Greek language of the Bible. Are the Greek words in their writings used with exactly the same sense in which they are used in the Bible?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 27th, 2018, 5:40 pm

I think that depends somewhat on who you are reading. The Didache is simple Greek that is very like the New Testament. John Chrysostom is later, harder, with a theology that has developed significantly since the New Testament. In general, the earliest fathers (the Apostolic Fathers) will be easiest to read and closest to New Testament meaning, but there's real variation even there.

And if you think about it, you and I don't use English or German words "with exactly the same sense", there is always some variation between any two writers.
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RandallButh
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by RandallButh » January 28th, 2018, 3:21 am

Are the Greek words in their writings used with exactly the same sense in which they are used in the Bible?
Cowabunga.
(Yes, it's Howdy Doody time.)

Many questions can be simplified with a little thought experiment.

For example, Are English words today used with the same meaning as GK Chesterton, Mark Twain, James Fennimore Cooper? We read them, and accept them as English. There are little differences but it is very difficult to specify what those are and how to detail them.

Sometimes it depends on what one has been doing recently. Josephus got a little Thucydidian in books 17-19. Had he been reading some history for bedtime?
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Barry Hofstetter » January 28th, 2018, 8:39 am

RandallButh wrote:
January 28th, 2018, 3:21 am

Cowabunga.
(Yes, it's Howdy Doody time.)

Many questions can be simplified with a little thought experiment.

For example, Are English words today used with the same meaning as GK Chesterton, Mark Twain, James Fennimore Cooper? We read them, and accept them as English. There are little differences but it is very difficult to specify what those are and how to detail them.

Sometimes it depends on what one has been doing recently. Josephus got a little Thucydidian in books 17-19. Had he been reading some history for bedtime?
Target audience is a big deal. Josephus was writing an Apologia pro Iudaismo largely directed at the cultural elite of his time, and so his Greek had to prove that he knew the language really well, and so the Atticizing tendency. The ECF's, like the NT authors, were largely concerned with communicating directly to the churches, and generally eschewed literary pretension. But have look at the stylistic differences even with in the NT, along with even semantic differences. Do James and Paul use δικαιόω in the same way? Do I need to mention the differences between 1 John and the letter to the Hebrews?
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Bernd Strauss
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Bernd Strauss » January 28th, 2018, 4:22 pm

Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the variations of the ancient Greek language. I am doing research on the usage of some Biblical words in extra-Biblical sources to see where they are used with the same sense as in the Bible. Since early Christian Greek writers often make quotations from and explain Bible verses, it is logical that they would be using a lot of words in their Biblical sense.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 28th, 2018, 5:05 pm

Bernd Strauss wrote:
January 28th, 2018, 4:22 pm
Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the variations of the ancient Greek language. I am doing research on the usage of some Biblical words in extra-Biblical sources to see where they are used with the same sense as in the Bible. Since early Christian Greek writers often make quotations from and explain Bible verses, it is logical that they would be using a lot of words in their Biblical sense.
Perhaps you could start with Cramer's Catenae?

https://archive.org/details/CatenaeGrae ... wTestament

It shows all the New Testament quotes in writings of the later fathers. It's also available in XML - let me know if you need that.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
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Bernd Strauss
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Bernd Strauss » January 29th, 2018, 1:38 pm

The Catenae can be useful when searching for comments on the Bible from early Christian writers. The TLG database also has a lot of texts in which lemma searches can be done.
It shows all the New Testament quotes in writings of the later fathers. It's also available in XML - let me know if you need that.
I would be interested to see the XML version of the text.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Jonathan Robie » January 29th, 2018, 4:25 pm

Bernd Strauss wrote:
January 29th, 2018, 1:38 pm
I would be interested to see the XML version of the text.
Here you go:

http://opengreekandlatin.github.io/catenae-dev/
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

tdbenedict
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by tdbenedict » February 1st, 2018, 3:28 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
January 27th, 2018, 5:40 pm
I think that depends somewhat on who you are reading. The Didache is simple Greek that is very like the New Testament. John Chrysostom is later, harder, with a theology that has developed significantly since the New Testament. In general, the earliest fathers (the Apostolic Fathers) will be easiest to read and closest to New Testament meaning, but there's real variation even there.
Regarding John Chrysostom---In his sermons, he goes through large portions of NT line-by-line and it detail. But I am having trouble thinking of a single situation where he explains a NT text by saying something like: "they used to say X but now we say Y." That is, unless i'm forgetting, I can't think of an example where he explains the meaning of an NT text by alluding to language change between the 1st and 4th centuries. (The closest example I can think of is where he sometimes interprets Paul's prepositions, εν means δια, but I don't think he saw that as language change.) Makes me think he thought the NT language was basically the same as what he spoke.
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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: Greek Language of the Early Christian Writings

Post by Barry Hofstetter » February 1st, 2018, 7:54 am

tdbenedict wrote:
February 1st, 2018, 3:28 am

Regarding John Chrysostom---In his sermons, he goes through large portions of NT line-by-line and it detail. But I am having trouble thinking of a single situation where he explains a NT text by saying something like: "they used to say X but now we say Y." That is, unless i'm forgetting, I can't think of an example where he explains the meaning of an NT text by alluding to language change between the 1st and 4th centuries. (The closest example I can think of is where he sometimes interprets Paul's prepositions, εν means δια, but I don't think he saw that as language change.) Makes me think he thought the NT language was basically the same as what he spoke.
I think that's exactly right. For him it was the same language, and for some modern Greeks today, it's all the same language (Chris Caragounis comes to mind). Now, that doesn't mean he didn't see the differences, but he didn't process it from the modern perspective of diachronic change. He would have inferred from context on the background of his own knowledge of the language as a native speaker, much as English speakers reading the KJV or Shakespeare will do if given no other helps on the text.
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N.E. Barry Hofstetter
Instructor of Latin
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
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