As I indicated on a previous post, there are certain items that I would have in my portmanteaus if ever a cataclysm of noble note were to strike our civilization and threaten our humanity; the items in my portmanteaus’ keep might offer something to the people or civilization attempting to emerge from such calamity.
The Greek New Testament
Choosing the Greek New Testament offers and asks perhaps more questions than it may eventually answer, so let us go right ahead and ask them.
- Why the New Testament, and not a Holy Bible containing both the New and Old Testaments, books that provide the scriptures to a catalog of the Christian faith?
- Why the Greek New Testament. Don’t you speak English and assume that anyone with whom you rendezvous at Shackleford would most likely speak English and not know Greek, specifically Koine (biblical) Greek?
- You never scored high than a B on your college Greek classes, and you don’t know all the vocabulary or even grammar that The Greek New Testament contains. If this book is so important to you, why not a version that wouldn’t necessarily without worth if you were to pass.
I spent the morning reading through the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and I found it slowly coming back to me, but not without some difficultly. I haven’t read Greek, biblical or classical for near two years, since trying to teach the course at Broughton. There were a few things I had going for me.
First, the grammar and vocabulary are straight-forward but not easy; the Gospel of Mark is “easy.” The Gospel of John has often been described as the poetical Gospel, and the opening lines seem more like verse than prose.
εν αρχη : In (the) beginning | no article before αρχη. Saying initially sounds a bit casual.
ην ο λογος : there was the word | this word λογος, word, idea, speech, discourse…
και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον : and the word was with God | there is an article preceding God, but saying THE God might sound silly.
και θεος ην ο λογος : and God was the word or the word was God | the inversion is a nice poetic turnabout.
There is a lot here.
The New Testament is a primary deposit of faith for the Christian Church. What is written in the Gospels was set down there “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may gave life in his name, or ινα πιστευητε οτι ιησους εστιν ο χριστος ο υιος του θεου και ινα πιστευοντες ζωην εχητε εν τω ονοματι αυτου.
For whatever reason, and I’m sure there is good reason, a majority of the first writers of the Christian tradition wrote in Greek to tell the Jesus story. In first century Palestine Greek was a common spoken language, most likely along with Aramaic, and even more so a common written language. As a good Roman, Paul, whose letters we have, wrote in Greek. And perhaps written before Paul, many sayings of Jesus, documented in common in Matthew and Luke and attributed to a theoretical document scholars called quelle or Q, were written in Greek.
Did Jesus speak Greek? Maybe. I’d like to think he knew enough to converse, say, at a market (αγορά), and if he did speak with the Roman Centurion (εκατονταρχος), they might have had the conversation in Greek. Surely the conversation with the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate would have been in Greek, though the governor may have had a working vocabulary of Aramaic.
“τι εστιν αληθεια” : What is truth? the same αληθεια can be found back in the opening lines of the John’s Gospel.
In reading the Greek, I have to remember not only the vocabulary and the Grammatical breakdown, I have to remember up those earliest days when I was compelled by my Sunday School teachers to memorize certain passages of the scripture. The Greek requires a heightening of the senses to distinguish and interprets just what Paul, or the Gospel writer demands, just as the priest raises the Gospel, bound in gold and precious materials for the congregation, now standing.
I would keep in my portmanteaus a Greek New Testament, the ancient deposit of the Jesus story in the language in which it was first written.