HISTORY OF THE GREEK KOINE

By @Ruddy Carrera.         

The Greek of the New Testament is essentially Koine Greek, however it is usually considered as an independent variety because of the important influence of Aramaic and Hebrew (mother tongues of its writers) in the syntax and in the lexicon; as well as the incorporation of Christian neologisms. In order to properly understand this influence it is necessary to take into account that the vehicular language of the eastern part of the Roman Empire was Greek and therefore this was chosen by the Jewish Christians for their preaching to both the pagans and the Jews of the diaspora in Greece, Egypt and other eastern territories of the Empire. Another great influence in the writing of the New Testament is the Bible of the Seventy (Greek translation of the Old Testament of the 3rd century BC) as much for its importance in the Greek used as for its presence through quotations.

Another great influence in the writing of the New Testament is the Bible of the Seventy (Greek translation of the Old Testament of the 3rd century BC) as much for its importance in the Greek used as for its presence through quotations.

Characteristics of the Greek koine of the New Testament are the predominance of coordination over subordination; repeating particles such as καί, δέ, ίδού giving the style simplicity, ease and sometimes monotony and use of locutions, idioms and figures of diction to the Semitic mode. In the lexicon new words are introduced as: ἀββᾶ (father), πάσχα (easter) and some Greek words take on a new meaning: δόξα (glory), δύναμις (miracle), ὀφείλημα (sin).

In addition to the written accent, every word that begins with a vowel has one of the following two signs, called spirits, written on said vowel. Soft spirit: as in ἐν, ἔφαγον, ἀδελφός

Rough spirit: as in ὁ, ὅτε, ἁμαρτία In ancient times the rough spirit indicated that the word was pronounced with a rough sound (as well as a jot) in front of the initial vowel. However in modern Greek it is not pronounced. The soft spirit did not affect the pronunciation.

During the classical period, the Greek language was divided into several dialects, of which there were three large families: the Doric, the Aeolian and the Ionic.

In the fifth century before Christ, a branch of the ionic family, Attica, achieved supremacy, especially as the language of prose literature. The Attic dialect was the language of Athens at its height; the language of Thucydides, of Plato, of Demosthenes, and of most of the other great writers of prose in Greece. Various causes contributed to the fact that the attic was the dominant dialect in the Greek-speaking world.

The Attic dialect was the language of Athens at its height; the language of Thucydides, of Plato, of Demosthenes, and of most of the other great writers of prose in Greece. Various causes contributed to the fact that the attic was the dominant dialect in the Greek-speaking world.

First and foremost, the genius of Athenian writers should be mentioned. But the political and commercial importance of Athens also had its effect.

A large number of foreigners came to establish contact with Athens through government, war and commerce, and the Athenian colonies also extended the influence of the mother city. The Athenian Empire certainly crumbled. Athens was first conquered by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, and then, in the middle of the fourth century BC, along with the other Greek cities, it came under the control of the Macedonian king, Philip. But the influence of the Attic dialect survived the loss of political power; the language of Athens also became the language of its conquerors. Originally Macedonian it was a Greek kingdom, but it adopted the dominant civilization of that time, which was the civilization of Athens. The tutor of Philip’s son, Alexander the Great, was Aristotle, the Greek philosopher; and that fact is only an indication of the conditions of that time. With astonishing rapidity Alexander became the master of all the Eastern world, and the triumphs of the Macedonian arms were also triumphs of the Greek language in its Attic form.

(The Greek Empire/ by Marc Barry) With astonishing rapidity Alexander became the master of all the Eastern world, and the triumphs of the Macedonian arms were also triumphs of the Greek language in its Attic form.

Alexander’s empire, by the way, collapsed immediately after his death in 323 a. C. But the kingdoms in which it was divided, at least as regards the court and ruling classes, were Greek kingdoms. Therefore, the Macedonian conquest meant nothing less than the Hellenization of the East, or at least it meant a huge acceleration of the Hellenization process that had already begun. When the Romans, in the last two centuries before Christ, conquered the eastern part of the Mediterranean world, they made no effort to suppress the Greek language. On the contrary, the conquerors to a certain extent, were conquered by those who had conquered. Rome itself had already been under Greek influence, and now it was using the Greek language to administer at least the eastern part of its vast empire.

When the Romans, in the last two centuries before Christ, conquered the eastern part of the Mediterranean world, they made no effort to suppress the Greek language.

The language of the Roman Empire was more Greek than Latin. In this way, in the first century after Christ, Greek had become a world language. The ancient languages ​​of the various countries certainly continued to exist, and many districts were bilingual (the original local languages ​​existed alongside the Greek).

But at least in the large cities across the empire, most certainly in the eastern part, the Greek language was understood everywhere.

Even in Rome itself there was a large Greek-speaking population. It is not surprising that Paul’s letter to the Roman church was not written in Latin but in Greek.

But the Greek language had to pay a price for this enormous extension of its influence.

In his career of conquest he experienced important changes. The ancient Greek dialects with the exception of the attic, although they disappeared almost completely before the beginning of the Christian era, may have exerted a considerable influence on the Greek of the new unified world. Less important, no doubt, that the influence of the Greek dialects, and much less important than one would have expected, was the influence of foreign languages. But influences of a more subtle and less tangible type were working in a powerful way. The language is a reflection of the intellectual and spiritual habits of the people who use it. Attic prose, for example, reflects the spiritual life of a small city-state, which was unified by an intense patriotism and a glorious literary tradition. But after Alexander’s time, Attic speech was no longer the language of a small group of citizens living in the most intimate spiritual association; on the contrary, it had become the medium of exchange used by peoples of very different characters.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the language of the new cosmopolitan era was very different from the original Attic dialect on which it was based.

This language of the new world that prevailed after Alexander has received the not inappropriate name of “Koiné”.

(Alexander the Great) This language of the new world that prevailed after Alexander has received the not inappropriate name of “Koiné”.

The word “Koiné” means “common”, therefore, it is not a bad name for a language that was a common means of exchange for diverse peoples. The Koiné, then, is the Greek world language that prevailed from approximately 300 a.C.

Until the close of ancient history around 500 AD The New Testament was written in the course of this Koiné period. If it is considered linguistically, it is very closely linked to the Greek translation of the Old Testament that is called “Septuagint”, which was made in Alexandria in the centuries immediately preceding the Christian era, and Christian written Early second century AD, which are usually associated under the name of «Apostolic Fathers».

Within this triple group, certain mind, the language of the New Testament is easily supreme. But strictly as regards the instrument of expression, the writings of the group form a unit.

Therefore, where should this whole group be located in the context of Koiné development?

ruddycarrera@outlookmission.org
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