I’m Working on My Greek – Hard!

From an interview with Daniel B. Wallace, there is this question and Dr. Wallace’s response

Lastly, if there is one piece of advice you could give to someone entering New Testament Greek scholarship, what would it be?

Work on your languages hard. Without a solid foundation in Greek and Hebrew—and for doctoral students—German and French and/or Latin, Coptic, and Syriac—you can’t have an influence on biblical studies. It’s imperative that you take language acquisition and maintenance very, very seriously.

Well, I’m working hard on my Greek, as you can probably tell. I had some French in high school, and I do have a book on Coptic that I plan to read at some point. I definitely have plans to learn Hebrew, after I reach a certain point in my Greek studies. Where that point is, I don’t know. I suppose I’ll know it when I see it.

As for picking up German, Latin or Syriac, or of advancing in French… I need 63 hour days… 😦

A Comma Can Make Quite a Difference

As I said, I am reading the book of Luke in Greek as a Lenten project. At the urging of a friend, I have decided to write down my translation, which I will post here when completed. So today, I started working on the verses I’d already read, but had not written down. As I was doing this, I decided to read the Greek not only in my UBS4, but also in my Byzantine text. (The Byzantine textform is essentially the Greek text that underlies the Textus Receptus, which was used by the translators of the King James bible, so it is quite different in some places from the NA27/UBS4.) I have now noted two places in my translation where there are differences between them.

The one that was most interesting today was Luke 1:35b. Here it is from the UBS4,

διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται, υἱὸς θεοῦ.

And here it is from the Byzantine,

διὸ καὶ τὸ γεννώμενον ἅγιον κληθήσεται υἱὸς θεοῦ.

Can you spot the difference? The UBS4 has a comma after κληθήσεται, but the Byzantine does not. Thus, the UBS4 would be translated something like,

And because of this, the one who is born will be called holy, the son of God.

But without the comma, the Byzantine comes across something like this,

And because of this, the holy one who is born will be called the son of God.

You can argue that there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two, and there probably isn’t, but the feel of the two is different. At least I think it is. The King James bible takes it even farther, with unusually awkward language,

therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

I think I’ll stick with my UBS4 translation. 🙂

Of course, in antiquity, when these documents were originally written down, they didn’t use any punctuation at all. Or spaces between words! It wasn’t until the Middle Ages (I believe) before Greek writing included spaces, punctuation and accents. So, the placement of a comma or not is certainly up for debate.

I said I’d noticed two differences between the two texts, and even though this one has nothing to do with a comma, I will point it out for those who care. It is an additional clause in Gabriel’s greeting to Mary in Luke 1:28. The UBS4 has,

καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη, ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ.

and the Byzantine has

καὶ εἰσελθὼν πρὸς αὐτὴν εἶπεν, Χαῖρε, κεχαριτωμένη· ὁ κύριος μετὰ σοῦ, εὐλογημένη σὺ ἐν γυναιξίν.

The first would be translated,

And he went in to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”

And the second,

And he went in to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one; the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.”

There was a bit of a punctuation change, a semicolon for a comma, but nothing major. The real difference was that the Byzantine had the extra bit about being blessed among women. I love this sort of thing, by the way: seeing differences between manuscript traditions and thinking about why one has something and another does not. I can’t tell you why the Byzantine has the extra clause and the UBS4 doesn’t, but it’s still an interesting thing to think about.

My Lenten Project: Reading Luke In Greek

In 2007, I announced that I was going to try to translate all of the book of Jude from Greek into English as a Lenten project. It did not go well. I realized pretty quickly that my skills were not at a point where I could do the work, and so I quietly stopped working on it after a few days, and never mentioned it again.

Now it’s three years later, my translation skills have improved, and I have more confidence. I heard about this Yahoo group called LentenGreekReading a couple of weeks ago and their announced plans to tackle the book of Luke for Lent. I joined the group and on Ash Wednesday, I began my reading.

Lent, as you may recall, lasts 40 days. Well, we say it lasts 40 days, but the actual time varies by denomination. Basically, you just don’t count the Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). If you do that, you get 40 days, even though it’s really 46. Anyway, Lent is observed by the Catholic church, and some Protestant denominations, like mine, the United Methodist Church. While Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and self-denial, more recently, some Protestants have used it as a time of devotion to a special purpose or project. Hence, the reading plan.

So on Ash Wednesday, I read Luke 1:1 – 38, which took me about 2.5 hours. Yes, 2.5 hours to read 38 verses. Those verses covered Luke explaining to Theophilus why he wrote the book and the foretelling of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus,

The next day, I read Luke 1:39 – 66, and that only took about an hour. Yes, there were fewer verses, but I could tell I was moving at a better pace. Those verses included Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, the Magnificat, and the birth of John.

Today’s reading was Luke 1:67 – 2:20. I finished it in about an hour, but I had a bit of a head start, since I had already translated all of Luke 2:1 – 20 for Christmas. This reading included Zechariah’s prophesy about John, and the birth of Jesus.

I am pleased with my progress so far, and I feel good about my changes of actually finishing the project before Easter. I will post occasional updates if I find something interesting in the translation. Wish me luck; I’m sure I’m going to hit some rocky spots along the way.

A Page From A Medieval Greek Bible Is Now Mine – Huzzah!

See those two images up there? Those are scans of my latest acquisition, and I’m so excited about it. It’s a page from a Greek Bible that was printed in 1526. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s 484 years ago. According to the seller,

This is a leaf from a Biblia Graeca, Old Testament (Septuagint), printed in Strassburg by W. Kopfel in 1526. Originally from volume 2 of a 4 volume set and is the third edition of the complete Greek Bible by Johannes Lonicerus (Lonitzer). The octavo paper measures 162 x 99 mm. in totality and contains 30 lines of Ancient Greek script printed single column. The verso contains the same amount of lines and type.

I found this on eBay about two weeks ago, and I just had to have it. It’s nothing really special, as old documents go, but it’s the oldest thing that I have ever owned, and it fits in nicely with my Greek hobby. It contains bits of two chapters of the book of Esther. It starts partially through chapter 6, verse 1, on the front and goes through about half of chapter 7, verse 8, on the back. I can read some of it, but since it’s in Ancient Greek, and I am a student of Koine, it will take some extra effort to actually translate it.

One thing that is very interesting about it is the typography. There are symbols that I’ve never seen before, and weird ligatures that make it quite hard to read in places. I don’t know if this is typical of printing in the 1500’s or not.

What I really like about this piece is thinking about what the world was like when it was printed. Think about it: it was printed in 1526. That was only 34 years after Columbus set sail in 1492. The first British colonies in what would eventually become the United States would not be founded for another 81 years. It was printed 9 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and only 5 years after he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. It was the same year that William Tyndale first published a version of the bible in English.

This thing was printed a long time ago. And now it’s mine.