If Only Paul Had Used The Chicago Manual of Style

I ran across a Google doc today written by Roger Omanson with some great examples of the kinds of difficulties the lack of punctuation in the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament can cause. He writes in a way that can be easily understood even if you don’t read Greek.

Here’s the doc: “If Only Paul Had Used The Chicago Manual of Style

I had the tremendous pleasure of studying under Dr. Omanson at Southern Seminary many years ago. His knowledge of the Greek text of the New Testament is truly amazing.

Green Certified? Really?

It’s something of an odd distinction for a site dedicated to linguistics and Ancient Greek to have received, but Greek-Language.com is now Green Certified. That’s because the hosting company that provides the space on the web and the fancy functionality to make this site work is now 100% wind powered. You can read about it on our certification page or by clicking on the wind-power icon in the sidebar to the right.

Server Problem

Because of a server configuration problem, this blog was down much of the day today. I apologize to any of you this may have inconvenienced. The hosting provider I work with is amazingly good. This is the first such outage in over ten years, and it is my mistake that created the problem, not theirs!

New Dissertation on Koine Word Order

In November Allison Kirk (Leiden University) completed a doctoral thesis with the title, Word order and information structure in New Testament Greek.

I have added her dissertation to the bibliography here at Greek-Language.com. With the entry I included a slightly shortened version of the abstract that appears in the entry for the dissertation at the Leiden Repository. Here’s the shortened abstract:

The dissertation examines word order variation in the Koine Greek of the New Testament in declarative clauses, questions and relative clauses. Kirk examines the way word order corresponds to information structure. She argues that although New Testament Greek shows a variety of possible permutations of the sentence elements subject (S), verb (V) and object (O), in declarative clauses, questions and relative clauses; the word order is not free. Rather, it is partly governed by phrase structure and partly by information structural considerations such as Topic and Focus. The basic word order is described as VSO with an SVO alternative. Marked clauses, such as SOV, OVS, OSV, and some SVO clauses, involve topicalization or focus movement of the arguments.

You can download the entire text from the Leiden Repository.

Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts, Part III (Quotations)

This morning I heard Peter Carman preach on Matthew 2:1-12. He did a super job, striking a great balance between scholarship and pastoral guidance.

As the scriptural text was being read aloud in English, I followed along in my Greek text. [Yes. I am one of those geeks who takes the Greek text to church. I don’t use it to intimidate other worshipers but because I find reading the Greek texts to be a meaningful experience.] As I was reading this text, it hit me that it’s a great example of the problem posed by the lack of clear indication of where quotes begin and end in Ancient Greek.

While it’s usually very easy to see where a quote begins, finding the end of the quote is much more challenging because there was no punctuation, and no grammatical convention, to indicate this. The particular point at which the issue appears in this text is in the priests’ and scribes’ response to Herod when he asks them about where the Christ will be born.

Ηρῴδης . . . συναγαγὼν πάντας τοὺς ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ γραμματεῖς τοῦ λαοῦ ἐπυνθάνετο παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ποῦ ὁ χριστὸς γεννᾶται (verses 3 and 4).

Herod . . . gathering all the high priests and scribes of the people, inquired of them concerning where the Christ would be born.

The clause introducing their response is quite clear:

οἱ δὲ εἶπαν αὐτῷ·. . .

And they said to him: . . .

So it’s not hard to find the beginning of the quote. Where we decide the quote ends, though, has a significant impact on the meaning of the passage. The NRSV, NIV, NET Bible, and TEV all use quotation marks to have the response include all of the following:

ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας· οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου·  6 καὶ σὺ Βηθλέεμ, γῆ Ἰούδα, οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα· ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ. (verses 5 and 6)

“In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah, for from you will come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

This interpretive decision is perfectly reasonable, of course, but it is not the only one possible, and it does have significance for what Matthew intended. It asserts that the chief priests and scribes quoted scripture to Herod. While there is no clear reason to think they wouldn’t do this, it’s also not clear that Matthew meant us to understand the text in this way.

Let’s consider another option that is equally well supported by the the text. Suppose Matthew meant only that they answered, ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας (in Bethlehem of Judea).

Keep in mind that the raised dot in the printed text further above is an editor’s decision based on evidence that first appeared in the text much later than its date of composition. A period is an equally reasonable interpretation of that same evidence.

If the author of this text intended the quote to include nothing more than ἐν Βηθλέεμ τῆς Ἰουδαίας, then the rest of this section would be his own attempt to explain why they gave this answer.

οὕτως γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου·  6 καὶ σὺ Βηθλέεμ, γῆ Ἰούδα, οὐδαμῶς ἐλαχίστη εἶ ἐν τοῖς ἡγεμόσιν Ἰούδα· ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ ἐξελεύσεται ἡγούμενος, ὅστις ποιμανεῖ τὸν λαόν μου τὸν Ἰσραήλ.

For thus it has been written by the prophet: “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

In this reading of the text, the scriptural quote does not represent something the high priests and scribes said to Herod, but something the author quoted to his readers to show the significance of the answer given by the high priests and scribes to Herod’s question.

I apologize to Peter for thinking about this while he was delivering his insightful sermon this morning. While he didn’t discuss the punctuation of the text, he did make me think a lot about the text’s significance for today’s church. For that I thank him seriously.

Here’s a little reflection on why we should care about the punctuation:

Punctuation matters. When I mentioned this issue to my 16-year-old daughter earlier this afternoon, she responded, “Of course punctuation matters. ‘Let’s eat, Grandma’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘Let’s eat Grandma.'” She’s right, of course. It matters.

For a competent reader of Ancient Greek to fail to question the punctuation in our printed editions of the Ancient Greek texts is an abdication of a significant part of our responsibility. If we don’t struggle with the punctuation, we are simply handing that responsibility off to the editors of those texts. While that is a reasonable thing for students early in the study of the language to do, it is not a reasonable thing for accomplished readers to do. Question the punctuation. Struggle with it. Ask how the text would change if we punctuated it differently. What options are reasonable? Which ones are not? This is a part of what it means to read seriously.

Here are some other posts dealing with the lack of punctuation in Ancient Greek:

There is also one tangentially related topic that arose out of this discussion earlier:

Happy reading!

Important! [Added Jan. 19, 2015]
While the earliest manuscripts of the biblical texts did not contain punctuation, it is usually clear to a competent reader of Ancient Greek where the punctuation belongs.

It is a serious mistake to assume that the absence of punctuation in those manuscripts means a person who does not read Greek is free to choose where to put the punctuation in an English translation. To make decisions about where the punctuation belongs it is necessary to read Ancient Greek very well. Many options that would seem to be available in an English text are ruled out by the structure of the Greek text.

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ShockedSmileyThat’s right. You see an ad in the upper right corner of the main page, just below the header. (And there’s another one on the right near the bottom of the main blog page.)

I have decided to allow a limited range of ads to help pay the expenses of maintaining Greek-Language.com, but there are a few limitations that I still insist on:

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Spoken κοινή?

Michael W. Halcomb is offering an online spoken koine Greek class starting in late January. The price is $30. That makes is very affordable.

Given the recent growth of interest in learning to actually speak Hellenistic Greek, I’m not surprised to see another class offering that goal. What I do find surprising is that it’s online, and that it only costs $30. Once I recovered from the surprise, though, I realized that Michael is exactly the person to do this. He is very proficient at both blogging and video production and has already produced a string of youtube videos on speaking Koine Greek.

I wish the class success.

Here’s the add:

View the ad full-page.


Nestle-Aland 28: The Newest Standard Critical Text of the Greek New Testament

NA28The 28th edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece (the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament) is now available. It was unveiled in November at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.

It has been nineteen years since the last revision, and a great deal of text critical work has happened in the intervening years. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster deserves significant praise for this new edition since it is they who have provided the scholarship and expertise to bring about this publication by the Deutshe Bibelgesellschaft.

Among the many advantages of this new edition over the previous one are the online tools for reading it.

Dan Wallace has provided a nice evaluation of the new edition in which he discusses some of the more significant textual differences between the 27th and 28th editions and critiques the diglot version in which the Greek text is accompanied by the English Standard Version. You can read his evaluation on his blog. His evaluation is the bottom half of the blog post you will see when you click on the link.

Another multilingual edition is available that includes the New Revised Standard Bible and the Revised English Bible. Yes: that’s two English translations alongside the Greek text. Right now Barnes & Noble is offering preorders of this triple-text edition at $49.26 rather than the $72.99 price that is being advertised for after publication. [They say this is 32% off, but their math is questionable. $49.26 is actually 32.51% less than $72.99. That rounds to 33%, not 32%, but I’ll be glad to have the extra change!]

A Little More on the LMPG, the Lexicon of Magic and Religion in the Greek Magical Papyri

While the DGE (Diccionario Griego-Español) announced a few days ago is still quite limited, its counterpart, the Lexicon of Magic and Religion in the Greek Magical Papyri (LMGP for its initials in Spanish) is well worth visiting. It is a fully functioning model of what the full DGE will be when completed.

LexicoDeMagiaYReligionBookCoverThe LMGP offers electronic access not only to lexical entries, but to a wide range of Greek texts that were previously unavailable online. The image below shows the interface. Notice that the column on the left has four tabs at the top. By selecting “Textos” you get a list of the texts that contain the word you are working with. By clicking on a word in the list, the column on the right updates to show that word, a Spanish gloss, a line of text from the papyrus identified beside the word you clicked on the left, and a Spanish translation of that line of Greek text.


Even if you are unable to read the Spanish translation and gloss, you can see the Greek text! It’s pretty cool.

For those of us who can read Spanish, it’s a real boon!

Thomas Hudgins' Discourse Analysis of John 17

I have added the following article by Thomas Hudgins to A Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics.

Hudgins, Thomas W. “An Application of Discourse Analysis Methodology in the Exegesis of John 17.” Eleutheria: Vol. 2: Iss. 1 (2012), Article 4.

Here’s the comment I made on it there:

Hudgins applies discourse analysis methodology to the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel. The familiar prayer of Jesus in that chapter has traditionally been analyzed in terms of the three referents (Jesus, his contemporary disciples, and future disciples). Hudgins, however, gives greater attention to the “mainline verbs,” shifting the focus to Jesus’ requests and final commitment. By giving greater structural significance to these verbs, he is able to present a fresh understanding of the structural division and natural outline of Jesus’ prayer.