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Greek of NT vs Greek in Greek Orthodox churches

anilorak13ska

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I'm wondering how similar or different the Greek of Liturgy (in Greek Orthodox churches) is as compared to the Greek of the New Testament? I'm assuming it's as different as ancient and modern English (basically not mutually intelligible). Is this correct?
 

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Actually it's almost the exact same Greek (the Greek used to write the New Testament and to write the Liturgy is called Koine Greek). Koine Greek nowadays is pronounced according to Modern Greek pronunciation, but the words are still written in Koine Greek.
 

Ainnir

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So Koine Greek is recognizable to modern Greek speakers? Old English is not recognizable to Modern English speakers. It would be like learning a new language.

Examples:
 

Arachne

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Yes, it is. The Erasmian pronunciation that classical scholars are taught is entirely artificial and will only get blank looks from native Greek speakers. Classical Greek of all stripes is pronounced like modern Greek. There are certainly bits of syntax and vocabulary that have been out of usage for centuries, but the whole is intelligible.
 

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My background is mostly in NT Gk. Aside from certain vocabulary and concepts which belong to a later era--and are found in Lampe but not in any NT Gk lexicon--there is nothing to hinder a reader of the NT from understanding the Divine Liturgy.
 

rakovsky

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So Koine Greek is recognizable to modern Greek speakers? Old English is not recognizable to Modern English speakers. It would be like learning a new language.

Examples:
A big challenge for us with Germanic Old English is that we switched to Middle English as a result of the Norman French invasion in the 11th century. So English became a mixture of Germanic Old English and French. Maybe 30 to 45 percent of our vocabulary is now French based.

The Old English in Beowulf reminds me of Norse, but supposedly it's closer to German.

With Greek, it's not as if almost half of Greek language became Turkish after the Ottoman conquest. So the situations are different.
 

Apostolos

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A big challenge for us with Germanic Old English is that we switched to Middle English as a result of the Norman French invasion in the 11th century. So English became a mixture of Germanic Old English and French. Maybe 30 to 45 percent of our vocabulary is now French based.

The Old English in Beowulf reminds me of Norse, but supposedly it's closer to German.

With Greek, it's not as if almost half of Greek language became Turkish after the Ottoman conquest. So the situations are different.
Well many Turkish words, or phrases calqued from Turkish, were incomporated in the spoken Greek of the centuries under Ottoman rule, but the introduction of Katharevousa trimmed away all the folksy/Turkish words and expressions.
Also, the Church, by keeping Koine as the liturgical language, helped the illiterate Greeks have a connection with a higher register.
 

rakovsky

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Well many Turkish words, or phrases calqued from Turkish, were incomporated in the spoken Greek of the centuries under Ottoman rule, but the introduction of Katharevousa trimmed away all the folksy/Turkish words and expressions.
Also, the Church, by keeping Koine as the liturgical language, helped the illiterate Greeks have a connection with a higher register.
Ok.
I was also thinking of the influence of Turkish in Palestine. Considering the centuries of Turkish rule, Turkish language and demographics is considered to have left a relatively small influence. When Turkish rule ended when the British took over, there were few Turks left there.
 

FULK NERA

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Yes, it is. The Erasmian pronunciation that classical scholars are taught is entirely artificial and will only get blank looks from native Greek speakers. Classical Greek of all stripes is pronounced like modern Greek. There are certainly bits of syntax and vocabulary that have been out of usage for centuries, but the whole is intelligible.
I note Latin scholars insist on Erasmian. This shows their complete isolation from the entire world of scholarship that uses Greek as a living language. It’s like the Middle Ages never ended.
 

FULK NERA

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My background is mostly in NT Gk. Aside from certain vocabulary and concepts which belong to a later era--and are found in Lampe but not in any NT Gk lexicon--there is nothing to hinder a reader of the NT from understanding the Divine Liturgy.
I thought the language of the Church going forward from the era of the composition of the Gospels in κοινή makes recourse to a much larger vocabulary including a lot of Attic.
 

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I thought the language of the Church going forward from the era of the composition of the Gospels in κοινή makes recourse to a much larger vocabulary including a lot of Attic.
I stipulate what you say. My response concerns only liturgical Greek. You definitely need Attic to read the Fathers.
 

Fr. George

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Just to add to what the more fluent speakers have posted above: the places where one may trip up are generally related to the fact that "Greek" is an awfully big tent, covering multiple development in a few thousand years post Linear-B. You'll be able to find differences in Homeric vs. later Attic vs. Hellenistic/NT vs. Patristic vs. demotic vs. Katharevousa.

In the NT, you can see a decent gulf between the Greek of St. Mark's gospel and that of St. Luke's; between the various scribes who committed St. Paul's letters to parchment; etc. When it comes to the Liturgy, you encounter occasionally the challenge that comes with reading Patristic texts: the Fathers were often drawing back into Attic Greek for descriptive language, making the Patristic Greek a bit of an anachronism at times (depending on the person). This becomes more of a problem in certain eras of hymnography.

If you're a Greek who's had a modern-normal amount of education (HS or beyond), the Scripture and Liturgy are mostly intelligible/intuitive; for folks like my grandparents (who only had access to an education up to around 5th/6th grade), it could be very challenging.

The hymns are another matter - sometimes more like NT/Liturgical, sometimes more convoluted. But we see that in English poetry as well - linguistic anachronisms sometimes render the most beautiful lines.

Attic vs. Hellenistic/NT is a bigger gulf than Hellenistic/NT vs. modern (esp. Katharevousa, as Apostolos pointed out).
 

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I stipulate what you say. My response concerns only liturgical Greek. You definitely need Attic to read the Fathers.
Liturgical Greek is also a lot more replete than NT Koine and includes many neologisms used in theological debate.
 

xariskai

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Anyone who has mastered NT Koine Greek will be able to read *most* of Byzantine Greek text of the Divine Liturgy especially, notwithstanding theological neologisms etc properly mentioned above. While there is linguistic drift from Koine (or common / common man) to Byzantine Greek the influence of the NT in Greek upon Byzantine Greek cannot be overestimated; there are differences but they are still kissing cousins so to speak.

There is a vastly larger gap between scholarly commentaries on the Greek NT during the Renaissance and Reformation vs. Koine Greek than between 1st to say 6th century Byzantine Greek. The Renaissance and Reformation was completely unaware of the existence of Koine Greek as an actual language with separate structure and meaning from Classical Greek much less in the existence of Koine as a lingua franca spanning the whole of the Mediterranean world for centuries; this was first discovered centuries after the Reformation/Rennaissance in the 1900s by archaeologists, first when garbage ingested by crocodiles was found to contain letters written in a then unknown form of Greek now described as Koine. This was the first time it was noticed that peculiarities of NT Greek were in common use outside of the NT. Subsequently the wider provinance of Koine was confirmed in short order in thousands of Greek writings on stone, papyrus, ostraca (pottery) vellum, etc. in Egypt, Persia, and throughout the Near East.

In fact before the actual language of the NT was confirmed and studied in its own right the Greek of the NT was often berated as a sort of vulgar ""idiot Greek." Hence Claude Saumaise (1588-1653) affirmed:

“Like the men [the authors of the New Testament], so also their language. Their language is the so-called idiotikos [personal], the common and popular language. For it is called idiotai, of the common man without literary education, who employ the language that the people use in their conversation.”

Now we know instead of a peculiar form of vulgar distortion at the hand of uneducated dabblers the NT was written in the language of the common man of the time as spoken by most everyone everywhere at the time. The great concern of of the Renaissance was to "return to the sources"; the Reformation emphasis on Scripture in Greek and Hebrew was an example of this quest, but it turns out they didn't even know the language of the text they were investigating. Here is another key example of why where there is a stark difference of interpretation between e.g. Apostolic Fathers many of whom were ordained by an actual apostle known in the NT and spoke the language of the NT as their mother tongue and medieval Europeans based on the language the more prudent assessment should be a no brainer; unfortunately for many scholars something like second temple Judaism might be emphasized as a hermeneutical key to the NT whereas on key points early Fathers are dismissed -even if directly ordained by the laying of hands of an apostle.
 

FULK NERA

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Anyone who has mastered NT Koine Greek will be able to read *most* of Byzantine Greek text of the Divine Liturgy especially, notwithstanding theological neologisms etc properly mentioned above. While there is linguistic drift from Koine (or common / common man) to Byzantine Greek the influence of the NT in Greek upon Byzantine Greek cannot be overestimated; there are differences but they are still kissing cousins so to speak.

There is a vastly larger gap between scholarly commentaries on the Greek NT during the Renaissance and Reformation vs. Koine Greek than between 1st to say 6th century Byzantine Greek. The Renaissance and Reformation was completely unaware of the existence of Koine Greek as an actual language with separate structure and meaning from Classical Greek much less in the existence of Koine as a lingua franca spanning the whole of the Mediterranean world for centuries; this was first discovered centuries after the Reformation/Rennaissance in the 1900s by archaeologists, first when garbage ingested by crocodiles was found to contain letters written in a then unknown form of Greek now described as Koine. This was the first time it was noticed that peculiarities of NT Greek were in common use outside of the NT. Subsequently the wider provinance of Koine was confirmed in short order in thousands of Greek writings on stone, papyrus, ostraca (pottery) vellum, etc. in Egypt, Persia, and throughout the Near East.

In fact before the actual language of the NT was confirmed and studied in its own right the Greek of the NT was often berated as a sort of vulgar ""idiot Greek." Hence Claude Saumaise (1588-1653) affirmed:

“Like the men [the authors of the New Testament], so also their language. Their language is the so-called idiotikos [personal], the common and popular language. For it is called idiotai, of the common man without literary education, who employ the language that the people use in their conversation.”

Now we know instead of a peculiar form of vulgar distortion at the hand of uneducated dabblers the NT was written in the language of the common man of the time as spoken by most everyone everywhere at the time. The great concern of of the Renaissance was to "return to the sources"; the Reformation emphasis on Scripture in Greek and Hebrew was an example of this quest, but it turns out they didn't even know the language of the text they were investigating. Here is another key example of why where there is a stark difference of interpretation between e.g. Apostolic Fathers many of whom were ordained by an actual apostle known in the NT and spoke the language of the NT as their mother tongue and medieval Europeans based on the language the more prudent assessment should be a no brainer; unfortunately for many scholars something like second temple Judaism might be emphasized as a hermeneutical key to the NT whereas on key points early Fathers are dismissed -even if directly ordained by the laying of hands of an apostle.
I think the Hebrew roots of the Liturgy cannot be in any way conflicting with the common witness outside worship. The two witnesses are mutually supportive of authentic Christianity rendering Reformation and other heresies insupportable from primary sources. Too bad the damage done will never disappear. It will take centuries for contemporary theology writing in light of both these lamps to penetrate even among Orthodox believers.
 

Cavaradossi

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I would say the situation with Modern Greek in relation to Koine is a bit like the situation with Italian in relation to Latin, where the lexical similarity is quite high, but the grammar has changed quite a bit, so that the main challenge for a speaker of Modern Greek is to comprehend the grammar of Koine. Modern Greek lacks the dative (outside of stock expressions like λόγῳ + gen., μέσῳ + gen., Δόξα τῷ Θεῷ, etc), the optative (though this is rare in Koine and even rarer still in Liturgical Greek), the synthetic future and perfect, the infinitive (which in Modern Greek only survives as part of the periphrastic perfect), and has a greatly reduced usage of the middle voice (which largely has become passive only), the subjunctive (which no longer has any independent uses, and is almost completely dependent on the particles θα, να, μη, and ας), and participles (which survive in Greek only in the passive participle and in the gerund, which functions more like an adverb). Even so, the amount of work a native speaker would have to do to attain proficiency in Koine is far less than the amount of a work a non-native speaker would have to put in, owing to the advantages conferred by the high amount of lexical similarity.
 
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