What is the difference between Classical Greek and Biblical Greek?

Some high schools and colleges offer courses in Classical / Attic Greek (in which works like the philosophical treatises of Plato and the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were written). Therefore, one of the questions I’m occassionaly asked is: What is the difference between this Greek and Biblical Greek?

Some history: 1000 BCE to 300 BCE was known as the Age of Dialects or the Classical Era in Greek language history if we look at it diachronically [SAT word: “Diachronic” examines the stages and development of a language over time. “Synchronic” explores a language as it existed at one point in time].

During this era there were four classical dialects: Aeolic, Doric, Ionic, and Attic (Aren’t those column names as well?) — the most influential being Attic. But when Alexander the Great came along he united people in the military who spoke these four classical dialects; this created, over time, the next stage of the language called “Koine (meaning “common”) Greek” — the language of the New Testament.

What is the difference, then, between Classical and Biblical Greek?

One author writes, “In a word, Greek became simpler. In terms of morphology, the language lost certain aspects, decreased its use of others, and assimilated difficult forms into more frequently seen patterns. The language tended toward shorter, simpler sentences. Some of the syntactical subleties were lost or at least declined. The language replaced the precision and refinement of classical Greek with greater explicitness.”

[Taken from Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics; pp. 14-20 give a nice overview in case you are interested]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s