Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament

by Heinrich von Siebenthal (Author)
©2020 Others DCCXL, 22 Pages


The Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament is a tool for theologians and others interested in interpreting the Greek New Testament. It is a reference grammar that systematically covers all areas relevant to well-founded text interpretation including textgrammar. Combining accuracy with accessibility was one of the main objectives in producing the book. The information it provides is based on the best of traditional and more recent research in the study of Ancient Greek and linguistic communication. Differences between classical and non-classical usage are regularly indicated. The mode of presentation is largely shaped by the needs of prospective users, who are typically unacquainted with the details of linguistic research. Aiming at both a professional quality of content and user-friendly presentation, a tool was produced that aims to be of service to novices and more experienced exegetes alike.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Abbreviations
  • 0 Introduction
  • 0.1 The language family of Greek
  • 0.2 Overview of the history of Greek
  • 0.3 New Testament Greek
  • 0.4 On the history of Ancient Greek grammar
  • 0.5 Levels of text structures and the present grammar
  • 1 Writing System and Phonology
  • 1.1 Writing system and sounds of Ancient Greek
  • 1 The alphabet and its pronunciation
  • 2 Vowels
  • 3 Consonants
  • 4 Syllables
  • 1.2 Diacritical marks
  • 5 Breathings and accents
  • 6 Proclitics and enclitics
  • 7 Further diacritics including punctuation marks
  • 1.3 Important sound changes (“sound laws”)
  • 1.3.1 Sound changes affecting vowels
  • 8 Ablaut
  • 9 Quantitative metathesis.
  • 10 Compensatory lengthening for deleted consonants
  • 11 Vowel contraction.
  • 1.3.2 Sound changes affecting consonants
  • 12 Traces of original ϝ and i̯
  • 13 The deletion of consonants
  • 14 Aspirate dissimilation
  • 15 Assimilation of consonants
  • 16 Combinations of consonants: synopsis of changes.
  • 1.3.3 Word-final sound changes
  • 17 Possible word-final consonants
  • 18 Movable word-final consonants
  • 19 Elision of short word-final vowels
  • 20 Crasis
  • 2 Structure of Words – Morphology
  • 2.1 Word structure: basics
  • 21 Grammatical components of words
  • 22 Word-classes
  • 2.2 Declension of nouns and adjectives.
  • 23 Declension basics
  • 24 Article
  • 2.2.1 Declension of nouns.
  • First declension: stems in -α/-η
  • 25 First declension: feminine nouns
  • 26 First declension: masculine nouns
  • 27 First declension: contracted nouns
  • Second declension: stems in -ο
  • 28 Second declension: masculine nouns
  • 29/30 Second declension: feminine and neuter nouns.
  • 31 Second declension: contracted nouns
  • Third declension
  • 32 Introductory remarks.
  • 33 Accentuation of third declension nouns
  • (i) Third declension consonant stems
  • (a) Stop-final stems.
  • 34 Labial and velar stems
  • 35 Dental stems
  • (b) ν-, ντ- and liquid stems
  • 36 ν- and ντ-stems
  • 37 Liquid stems (in -ρ, -λ)
  • (c) Other types of consonant stems.
  • 38 Stems in -ρ involving three ablaut grades
  • 39 σ-stems
  • (ii) Vowel and diphthong stems
  • 40 Vowel stems
  • 41 Diphthong stems (ϝ-stems)
  • (iii) Peculiarities and overview of important stems
  • 42 Irregular third declension nouns
  • 43 Terminations of important third declension stems
  • 2.2.2 Declension of adjectives and participles
  • 44 First/second declension adjectives (class 1)
  • 45 Third declension adjectives (class 2: -ν/-σ)
  • 46 Mixed third and first declension adjectives (class 3)
  • 47 Adjectives with more than one stem.
  • 48 Participles
  • 49 Overview of adjectives and participles
  • 2.3 Comparison of adjectives.
  • 50/51 Comparative and superlative forms
  • 52 Comparative forms in -ῑων -ῑον/-ων -ον
  • 2.4 Adverbs
  • 53 Adverbs and their comparison
  • 2.5 Pronouns
  • 54 Non-reflexive personal pronouns
  • 55 Reflexive personal pronouns
  • 56 ἄλλος and the reciprocal pronoun.
  • 57 Possessive pronouns and alternatives
  • 58 Demonstrative pronouns
  • 59 Relative pronouns
  • 60 Interrogative and indefinite pronouns.
  • 61 Correlative pronouns and adverbs
  • 2.6 Numerals
  • 62 Cardinals, ordinals and adverbs
  • 63 Inflection of cardinals from one to four
  • 2.7 Verbs
  • 2.7.1 Verbal system: basics.
  • 64 Categories of verbal system
  • 65 Aspect and tense
  • 66 Synopsis of the components of finite verb forms
  • 67 Verb stems
  • 68 Tense-aspect stems
  • 69 Mood signs
  • 70 Personal endings and terminations of nominal forms.
  • 71 Augment
  • 72 Reduplication
  • 73 Augment and reduplication in compounds
  • 74 Accentuation of verb forms
  • 74g Overview of conjugation classes
  • 2.7.2 Thematic conjugation or verbs in -ω
  • 75 Preliminaries: present stem formation
  • Vowel verbs
  • (i) Uncontracted vowel verbs: paradigm of παιδεύω
  • 76 Active: παιδεύω “I train/I am training (s.o.)”.
  • 77 Middle: παιδεύομαι “I train/I am training (s.o.) for myself”
  • 78 Passive: παιδεύομαι “I am (being) trained”
  • 79 Explanatory notes on the paradigm of παιδεύω
  • 80 Uncontracted vowel verbs with peculiarities
  • (ii) Contracted verbs
  • 81 Contracted verbs: preliminaries
  • 82 Output vowels as pointers to the stem-type
  • 83 Accentuation of contracted verb forms.
  • (a) Contracted verbs in -άω
  • 84 Present/durative forms of ἀγαπάω “to love”.
  • 85 Regular contracted verbs in -άω
  • 86 Contracted verbs in -άω with peculiarities
  • (b) Contracted verbs in -έω
  • 87 Present/durative forms of ποιέω “to do”.
  • 88 Contracted verbs in -έω with peculiarities
  • (c) Contracted verbs in -όω
  • 89 Present/durative forms of δηλόω “to make clear”
  • Stop verbs
  • 90 Stop verbs: preliminaries
  • 91 Present stems of stop verbs
  • 92 Stop verbs: tense-aspect stems outside the present.
  • 93 Stop verbs: forms of the perfect middle-passive stem
  • 94 Principal parts of important labial verbs.
  • 95 Principal parts of important velar verbs
  • 96 Principal parts of important dental verbs
  • Liquid verbs
  • 97 Present stems of liquid verbs
  • 98 Future and aorist active/middle stems of liquid verbs
  • 99 Liquid verbs: forms of the perfect middle-passive stem.
  • 100 Typical principal parts of liquid verbs
  • 101 Liquid verbs with stems in -λ
  • 102 Liquid verbs with stems in -ν
  • 103 Liquid verbs with stems in -ρ
  • Strong tense-aspect stems (aorist II/perfect II)
  • 104 Strong tense-aspect stems: preliminaries
  • 105 Strong thematic aorist active/middle
  • 106 Root aorist.
  • 107 Second aorist passive and the future derived from it
  • 108 Strong perfect active
  • 109 Root perfect and οἶδα
  • Thematic conjugation: “irregular” verbs
  • 110 Verbs with a nasal affix in the present stem
  • 111 Verbs with a σκ-affix in the present stem.
  • 112 The so-called e-class verbs
  • 113 The mixed class verbs (suppletive verbs)
  • 2.7.3 Athematic conjugation or verbs in -μι
  • 114 Athematic conjugation or verbs in -μι: preliminaries
  • Verbs in -μι with present reduplication
  • 115 Present/durative forms of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 116 Strong aorist active forms of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 117 Present/durative mid./pass. forms of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 118 Strong aorist middle forms of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 119 Explanatory notes on the paradigms of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 120 Principal parts of the “Big Four” in -μι
  • 121 Verbs that are conjugated like ἵστημι
  • Verbs in -νυμι/-ννυμι (nasal-presents)
  • 122 Present/durative forms of δείκνυμι “to show”
  • 123 Principal parts of the verbs in -νυμι
  • 124 Principal parts of the verbs in -ννυμι
  • Root presents in -μι
  • 125 εἰμί, εἶμι, φημί, κεῖμαι and κάθημαι
  • 3 Syntax
  • 3.1 Basics of syntax
  • 126 Definition and organization of syntax
  • 127 Sentence and its constituents
  • 128 Means of expressing syntactic relationships.
  • 3.2 Words and phrases as sentence elements.
  • 3.2.1 Syntax of declinable words and their phrases
  • 129 Peculiarities of number use.
  • Syntax of the article
  • 130 Usage differences between Ancient Greek and English
  • 131 The pronominal use of the article
  • 132 Standard use of the article.
  • 133 Definiteness without the article
  • 134 The article and proper names
  • 135 Article use with complements and adverbials
  • 136 Article use and the attributive and predicative positions
  • Syntax of the adjective
  • 137 Adjective phrases and their use
  • 138 Comparison.
  • Syntax of pronouns
  • 139 Personal and reciprocal pronouns
  • 140 The possessive pronoun and its alternatives
  • 141 Demonstrative pronouns
  • 142 Relative pronouns
  • 143 Interrogative pronouns
  • 144 Indefinite pronoun.
  • Syntax of numerals
  • 145 Important points on numeral use
  • Syntax of case forms.
  • 146 Syntax of case forms: preliminaries
  • (i) Nominative and vocative
  • 147 Nominative
  • 148 Vocative
  • (ii) Accusative.
  • 149 Accusative: preliminaries
  • (a) Object accusative.
  • 150 Accusative of direct external object
  • 151 Accusative of direct internal object
  • 152 Simple object accusative.
  • 153 Double accusative
  • 154 Accusative and passive transformation.
  • (b) Free use accusative
  • 155 Accusative of extent
  • 156 Accusative of respect
  • 157 Adverbial accusative.
  • (iii) Genitive
  • 158 Genitive: preliminaries
  • (a) Genitive proper
  • (aa) Genitive of appurtenances
  • 159 Genitive of originator or possessor.
  • 160 Subjective and objective genitive
  • 161 Genitive of material or content
  • 162 Genitive of quality
  • 163 Genitive of value or price
  • 164 Genitive of direction or purpose
  • 165 Genitive of explanation or apposition.
  • (ab) Partitive genitive
  • 166 Partitive genitive modifying noun phrases
  • 167 Verbs combining with partitive genitive objects
  • (ac) Genitive of time
  • 168 Genitive of time
  • (b) Ablative genitive (genitive of departure point)
  • 169 Genitive of separation
  • 170 Genitive of comparison.
  • 171 Genitive of place
  • (c) Special cases of genitive use
  • 172 Combinations of different types of genitives
  • (iv) Dative
  • 173 Dative: preliminaries.
  • (a) Dative proper
  • 174 Objective dative
  • 175 Objective dative with adjectives
  • 176 Dative of interest.
  • (b) Instrumental dative
  • 177 Dative of instrument or cause
  • 178 Dative of respect
  • (c) Sociative dative179 Dative of association.
  • 180 Dative of manner
  • (d) Locative dative
  • 181 Dative of place
  • 182 Dative of time
  • Prepositions.
  • 183 Syntax of prepositions: preliminaries
  • 184 Proper prepositions
  • 185 Improper prepositions
  • 186 Prepositional prefixes
  • 187 Overview of phrases indicating space, time etc..
  • 3.2.2 Syntax of verb forms
  • Voice.
  • 188 Voice: preliminaries
  • 189 The active voice
  • 190 The middle voice
  • 191 The passive voice
  • Aspects and tenses
  • (i) General points on aspects and tenses
  • 192 Preliminary remarks about aspects and tenses
  • 193 Synopsis of aspect forms with and without tense value
  • 194 The three aspects: detailed explanation
  • 195 Overview: examples of typical aspect use
  • (ii) Indicative verb forms
  • 196 Indicative forms: preliminaries
  • 197 Indicative present
  • 198 Imperfect.
  • 199 Indicative aorist.
  • 200 Indicative perfect
  • 201 Pluperfect
  • 202 Indicative future
  • 203 Periphrastic conjugation
  • (iii) Non-indicative verb forms
  • 204 Overview of non-indicative verb forms
  • (iv) Verb forms seemingly expressing a tense value
  • 205 Absolute tense seemingly expressed by certain verb forms
  • 206 Relative tense seemingly expressed by certain verb forms
  • Moods
  • 207 Moods: preliminaries
  • 208 Moods and tense/aspect meanings
  • 209 Indicative
  • 210 Subjunctive
  • 211 Optative.
  • 212 Imperative
  • Non-finite verb (nominal verb forms)
  • (i) Infinitive.
  • 213 Infinitive: preliminaries
  • 214 Infinitive and tense/aspect meanings
  • 215 Negated infinitive phrases
  • 216 Cases inside infinitive phrases: ACI et al
  • (a) Non-articular infinitive/ACI
  • 217 Infinitive/ACI phrases as subjects
  • 218 Infinitive/ACI phrases as objects
  • 219 Infinitive phrases as complements of adjectives.
  • 220 Infinitive/ACI phrases as adverbials of purpose.
  • 221 Infinitive/ACI phrases as adverbials of result.
  • 222 Explanatory infinitive/ACI phrases as appositions.
  • (b) Articular infinitive/ACI.
  • 223 Articular infinitive/ACI phrases: preliminaries
  • 224 Infinitive/ACI phrases with simple article
  • 225 Infinitive/ACI phrases with τοῦ
  • 226 Articular infinitive/ACI phrases governed by prepositions
  • (ii) Participle
  • 227 Participle: preliminaries
  • 228 Participle and tense/aspect meanings
  • 229 Syntactic use of participles
  • (a) Adverbial participle.
  • 230 Adverbial participle: “p.c.” and “gen.abs.”
  • 231 Adverbial participle: adverbial nuances
  • 232 Adverbial participle: standard ways of translating it
  • (b) Predicative participle.
  • 233 Predicative participle: ACP (and GCP)
  • 234 Predicative participle: modifying verbs
  • 235 Predicative participle: periphrastic conjugation
  • (c) Attributive and nominalized participles
  • 236 Participle phrases as attributive modifiers
  • 237 Nominalized participle phrases.
  • (d) Special idiomatic uses of participles
  • 238 “Graphic” participle
  • 239 Pleonastic participles
  • 240 Participle and the Hebrew infinitive absolute.
  • 3.2.3 Uninflected words
  • Adverbs
  • 241 On the use of adverbs
  • 242 Comparison of adverbs
  • Negatives
  • 243 Overview of negatives in Ancient Greek
  • 244 Typical use of negatives in KG.
  • 245 Use of the negative particle οὐ
  • 246 Use of the negative particle μή
  • 247 Peculiar uses of negative particles
  • 248 Double and multiple negatives
  • 249 Negation influenced by Semitic usage
  • Conjunctions
  • 250 Conjunctions: preliminaries
  • 251 Overview of conjunctions
  • 252 Alphabetical list of important uninflected words
  • 3.3 Sentences and their constituents
  • 253 Sentences and their constituents: preliminaries
  • 3.3.1 Sentence constituents
  • 254 Sentence constituents: terminological approach.
  • Obligatory sentence constituents
  • (i) Subject
  • 255 Subject: function and ways of expressing it
  • (ii) Predicate
  • 256 The predicator
  • 257 Complements: objects.
  • 258 Complements: other types of predicative elements
  • Optional sentence constituents
  • 259 Adverbial adjuncts and subject/object adjuncts
  • Attributive modifiers
  • 260 Attributive modifiers including apposition.
  • 3.3.2 Concord
  • 261 Concord: preliminaries
  • 262 Number concord
  • 263 Gender, number and case concord
  • 264 Phrases joined by means of καί “and” or the like
  • 265 Notional concord.
  • 3.4 Sentence/clause types
  • 266 Sentence/clause types: preliminaries
  • 3.4.1 Independent (main) clauses
  • 267 Independent declarative clauses
  • 268 Independent desiderative clauses
  • 269 Independent interrogative clauses (direct questions)
  • 3.4.2 Dependent (subordinate) clauses
  • 270 Dependent (subordinate) clauses: preliminaries
  • Conjunctional clauses
  • (i) Conjunctional subject-object clauses
  • 271 Dependent declarative (subject-object) clauses
  • 272 Dependent desiderative (subject-object) clauses
  • 273 Dependent interrogative (subject-object) clauses
  • 274 Direct and indirect speech.
  • 275 Overview of constructions often rendered by “that”-clauses
  • (ii) Conjunctional adverbial clauses
  • 276 Temporal clauses
  • 277 Causal clauses
  • 278 Purpose clauses
  • 279 Result clauses
  • 280 Conditional clauses: preliminaries and overview
  • 281 Indefinite conditional case
  • 282 Prospective conditional case.
  • 283 Potential conditional case.
  • 284 Remote conditional case.
  • 285 Mixed conditional constructions and special cases
  • 286 Concessive and exceptive conditional clauses
  • 287 Manner clauses
  • (iii) Conjunctional clauses as attributive modifiers
  • 288 Conjunctional attributive clauses
  • Relative clauses.
  • 289 Form and syntactic function of relative clauses
  • 290 Relative clauses with adverbial force
  • 3.5 Deviations from syntactic and other “norms”
  • 291 Deviations as stylistic devices or “figures of speech”
  • 292 Figures involving word or clause order
  • 293 Figures involving omission.
  • 294 Figures involving repetition and amplification.
  • 295 Tropes
  • 296 Figures involving paraphrasing, veiling, and unveiling
  • 4 Textgrammar
  • 4.1 Text basics
  • 4.1.1 Texts as a linguistic phenomenon
  • 297 Basic characteristics of a text
  • Text structure
  • 298 The concept of text structure
  • 299 Example: text structure of Matthew 13:45f
  • Coherence
  • 300 The concept of coherence
  • 301 Example: coherence of Matthew 13:45f
  • Communicative function of texts
  • 302 The concept of communicative function of texts
  • 303 Example: the communicative function of Matthew 13:45f
  • Further text-related aspects
  • 304 Text production strategies.
  • 305 Text types and text genres
  • 306 Macro-texts and partial texts.
  • 307 Example: further text-related aspects of Matthew 13:45f
  • 4.1.2 Text comprehension.
  • 308 Text comprehension and text interpretation.
  • 309 Text comprehension – types of knowledge
  • 310 Text comprehension – interaction of two processes
  • 311 Text comprehension – parsing and text constituents
  • 312 Text comprehension – propositional structure
  • 313 Text comprehension – frames.
  • 314 Text comprehension – implied elements
  • 4.2 Coherence and the two sides of text structures
  • 4.2.1 Coherence and the grammatical side of text structures
  • Coherence and connectives.
  • (i) Connectives: possible forms
  • 318 Connectives: conjunctions
  • 319 Connectives: relatives
  • 320 Connectives: adverbs or the like
  • 321 Connectives: prepositions and case forms
  • (ii) Connections.
  • 322 Basics of connections
  • 323 Overview of connections
  • (a) Copulative connections
  • 325 Additive connection
  • 326 Alternative connection
  • (b) Temporal connection.
  • 328 Temporal-anterior connection.
  • 329 Temporal-posterior connection.
  • 330 Temporal-simultaneous connection
  • (c) Conditional connection
  • 331 Conditional connection
  • (d) Causal-codirectional connections in the widest sense
  • 333 Causal connection in a narrower sense
  • 334 Consequential connection
  • 335 Modal-instrumental connection
  • 336 Purpose-oriented connection.
  • (e) Causal-contradirectional connections in the widest sense
  • 338 Adversative connection.
  • 339 Concessive connection
  • (f) Specifying connections
  • 341 Explanatory connection
  • 342 Restrictive connection.
  • (g) Connections involving comparisons
  • 344 Comparative connection
  • 345 Proportional connection
  • Coherence and phoric or deictic function words
  • 347 Phora and deixis
  • 348 Words used for phora and deixis
  • 4.2.2 Coherence and the content side of text structures
  • Content words
  • 350 Coherence and coreferentiality
  • 351 Types of coreferentiality
  • Propositional structure
  • 352 Semantic relations between propositions
  • 353 Example: relational structure of Philippians 2:5–11
  • 354 Alphabetical list of connectives and the like
  • Appendix 1 Classical and NT Greek: differences
  • 355 Phonology and inflectional morphology.
  • 356 Syntax
  • Appendix 2 Word-formation
  • 1 Lexical word-formation: preliminaries
  • 357 Lexical word-formation and text interpretation
  • 358 Means of lexical word-formation
  • 2 Important derivational suffixes
  • (i) Derived adjectives
  • 359 Adjectives derived from nouns
  • 360 Adjectives derived from verbs
  • (ii) Derived nouns
  • 361 Nouns derived from nouns or adjectives
  • 362 Nouns derived from verbs.
  • (iii) Derived verbs
  • 363 Verbs derived from nouns or adjectives
  • 364 Verbs derived from other verbs
  • (iv) Formation of adverbs
  • 365 Adverbs derived from case forms.
  • 366 Further types of adverb derivation
  • 3 Compounding
  • (i) Compound nouns and adjectives
  • 367 Compound nouns and adjectives classified by form
  • 368 Compound nouns and adjectives classified by meaning
  • (ii) Compound verbs
  • 369 Compound verbs with prepositional prefixes
  • 370 Other types of compound verbs
  • 371 Alphabetic list of word-formation elements
  • Selective bibliography
  • 1 A systematic bibliographical guide.
  • 2 An alphabetical list of titles
  • Indexes
  • 1 References.
  • 1.1 New Testament
  • 1.2 Old Testament.
  • 1.3 Apocrypha.
  • 1.4 Apostolic Fathers
  • 1.5 Further Ancient Greek sources
  • 2 Subject Index
  • 3 Greek Index.
  • 4 Hebrew and Aramaic Index


The Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament (“AGGSNT” or “AGG”) is meant to serve as a tool for theologians and others interested in interpreting the Greek New Testament. It is a reference grammar that systematically covers all areas relevant to well-founded text interpretation including textgrammar. Combining accuracy with accessibility was one of the main objectives in producing the AGG. The information it provides is based on the best of traditional and more recent research in the study of Ancient Greek and linguistic communication. The mode of presentation is largely shaped by the needs of prospective users, typically non-specialists: (1) Every Greek, Latin or other non-English expression is translated into English. (2) Knowledge of Classical Greek is not presupposed (as it is in the standard grammar of Blass-Debrunner-Funk); differences between classical and non-classical usage, however, are regularly indicated. (3) While the AGG primarily describes the grammatical phenomena of Ancient Greek, great care has been taken to point out what linguistic phenomena of English correspond to them functionally and what may be considered an adequate translational equivalent. Aiming at both professional quality of content and user-friendly presentation a tool was produced that would hopefully be of service to beginning students and more experienced exegetes alike.

This is a grammar of Ancient Greek; it is not limited to a description of the grammatical phenomena of Koine Greek attested in the Greek New Testament. Since the New Testament is a comparatively small corpus, it cannot be expected to show all the regularities governing its language. And if grammarians had to rely solely on the data provided by the New Testament, they would come up with a rather incomplete picture of what determined the use of this language grammatically. This might be considered sufficient for reading the New Testament itself. It would, however, certainly be insufficient when extra-biblical Koine and non-Koine sources have to be taken into account (as is imperative to well-founded text interpretation). For this reason, the paradigms and principal parts, e. g., were completed on the basis of extra-biblical sources. In particular, forms and uses of Classical Greek are regularly indicated (mostly in a smaller type) whenever these differ from New Testament or Koine usage; an overview of such differences is also given in Appendix 1. Furthermore fairly frequently peculiarities of Septuagint Greek are mentioned as well (though not in any systematic way). So, the AGG is intended as a companion to the interpretation of the Greek New Testament, also offering whatever is essential grammatically for the reading of other Ancient Greek authors including Classical ones such as Plato or Xenophon as well as later ones (many of them striving to meet Atticist standards) like Polybius, Plutarch, and especially Josephus and Philo. Due to its contrastive approach and the overview in Appendix 1 people who, used to the Classical (Attic) idiom, turn to the Greek New Testament may find the AGG a helpful resource informing them about the distinctive features of the New Testament variety, which will inter alia keep them from looking at New Testament texts through purely Classical spectacles and thus lessen the danger of over-interpretation.

Beginning students of New Testament Greek will welcome the AGG as a useful supplement to their textbook. Its systematic presentation helps them gain a better understanding of the elements of Ancient Greek and their use. And a wide range of tables, overviews, translated examples, and indexes such as the one keyed to the principal parts may facilitate the learning process.

More particularly, the AGG is expected to become a valued reference tool of more advanced learners and especially of people serious about interpreting the Greek New Testament along linguistically well-founded lines. It offers them a clear presentation of the essentials of the lower levels of Ancient Greek text structures (the first two parts): the writing system and phonology and, in more detail, inflectional morphology. Its major focus, however, is on the higher levels: the bulk of the AGG (Part 3) is actually devoted to a detailed treatment of syntax (including an overview of “figures of speech”), while Part 4 contains an introduction to some essentials of the highest level of text structures (textgrammar). To help users deal with problems of lexical semantics there is also an outline of the rules of Ancient Greek word-formation that are most relevant when dealing with the Greek New Testament (in Appendix 2). Those who wish to look more carefully into the various topics treated in the AGG or to keep track of relevant scholarly discussions may turn to the systematic bibliographical guide (integrated into the bibliography) and to the bibliographical references appearing beside or beneath most headings. These will point them to the relevant sections of the most important secondary sources, particularly to those of Blass-Debrunner-Funk/Blass-Debrunner-Rehkopf with its unsurpassed abundance of details on problematic passages.

Unless otherwise stated, New Testament quotations are taken from the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland, Septuagint ones mostly from Rahlfs-Hanhart (on the format used for these ↑p.xix1) and Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament quotations from the Biblica Hebraica Stuttgartensia (Targum quotations from the Targum Databases of BibleWorks 10, mainly based on the editions of Mikraot Gedolot HaKeter, Bar Ilan University Press, 1992–). For the remaining texts various electronic editions have been used, in most cases those of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae or of the Perseus Project, for Josephus, Philo, and the “Apostolic Fathers” also those of BibleWorks 10. It should also be noted that the translation given for any of these quotations is not meant to suggest that this is the only possible or even the best interpretation or rendering of the text in question; its primary function is to help users understand the grammatical points being made.

The AGG is based on the author’s German publication Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament (Giessen/Basel: Brunnen/Immanuel, 2011), which is a revised and expanded edition of the Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament, originally authored by Ernst G. Hoffmann and Heinrich von Siebenthal (1st ed. in 1985, 2nd ed. in 1990). After the first edition of the grammar appeared it quickly became a standard tool for New Testament studies in German speaking Europe. Particularly since the publication of the 2011 edition a number of scholars from different parts of the world suggested that the work should be translated into English. It was clear to me from the outset that a straightforward translation would be of limited value only. A fairly thoroughgoing revision was definitely called for. Above all it would have to do justice to the special background from which typical English-speaking users will approach Ancient Greek, a language whose structure is so radically different from Modern English particularly regarding the nominal and the verbal systems. So, although the AGG in its substance is the same as the German original, its explanations are quite different due to the many adjustments to the needs of the prospective users (including bibliographical ones).

The most important secondary sources used in preparing the AGG are as follows: Bornemann-Risch, a standard grammar of Classical Greek, was the organizational starting point and a key source of information. Among the many other scholarly titles consulted are Blass-Debrunner-Funk/Blass-Debrunner-Rehkopf and Zerwick, moreover Meier-Brügger 1992, Duhoux, Adrados 1992, Horrocks, and Reiser 1986/2001, also Kühner-Blass, Kühner-Gerth, Schwyzer, Smyth, Lejeune, as well as Moulton-Howard and Turner, on questions of verbal aspect especially the relevant chapters of Runge-Fresch. The section on the “figures of speech” is largely based on Bühlmann-Scherer. Part 4 dealing with textgrammar draws on findings made accessible through a variety of specialist studies published in German and in English (for details ↑p.569).

In the preparation of the German original of the present grammar a number of scholars have been involved more or less extensively, most of them in the final stages before the actual publication.

Before the first edition was published in 1985 my former professor Ernst Risch (1911–1988) at the university of Zurich, an Indo-European specialist of international renown (one focus being on the Ancient Greek language), carefully read the manuscript. His feedback led to a whole series of improvements, especially with regard to phonology, morphology and core parts of syntax.

In the final stages of the 2011 revision and expansion the whole book or parts of it were critically examined by the following scholars: Walter Burkert, Emeritus Professor of Classical Philology, University of Zurich; Yves Duhoux, Professor of Classical Philology, Catholic University of Leuven; Christina Gansel, Professor of German Linguistics (textlinguistics expert), University of Greifswald; Thomas A. Fritz, Professor of German Linguistics (textlinguistics expert), Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt; Armin Baum, Professor of New Testament, Giessen School of Theology; David A. Black, Professor of New Testament and Greek, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest/USA; Friedrich Damrath, Greek and Hebrew Tutor, Laubach-Kolleg; Carsten Ziegert, at the time SIL Linguist in Chad (since 2015 Lecturer in Biblical Languages, Giessen School of Theology).

A few words on the earlier history of this grammar seem to be in order at this point: The Swiss theologian and Classical philologist Ernst G. Hoffmann (1903–1985), a student of A. Schlatter and A. Debrunner, had been planning for quite sometime to publish a scholarly based Greek Grammar of the New Testament as a reference tool for theologians. Over many years he collected a wealth of material from relevant primary and secondary sources, until in 1979 a first provisional version was completed. He invited me to critically review the work and to take part in the preparation of the final version. I thoroughly revised Hoffmann’s work and expanded it considerably, which he welcomed whole-heartedly. The changes I proposed mainly affected the syntax part, which I eventually rewrote almost completely. In collaboration with assistants and students of the Freie Evangelisch-Theologische Akademie (now Staatsunabhängige Theologische Hochschule) Basel, I finally prepared a camera-ready copy for the publication of the Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament Hoffmann-von Siebenthal, a first edition of which appeared in 1985 and a second (bibliographically updated) one in 1990, followed by the revision and expansion of 2011 which the AGG is based on.

As to the AGG itself I am greatly indebted to three scholars: (1) Dr. Eckhard J. Schnabel, Mary French Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton/Massachusetts (USA), who was the first to suggest that an English version of the Griechische Grammatik zum Neuen Testament should be made available and who kept on encouraging me over the years to bring the work to completion; (2) James Clark, MA MSc. MTh. MEd., New Testament Lecturer, FCC Seminary, Inverness (Scotland), who, too, expressed the need for an English version of the grammar to be prepared and kindly agreed to read the manuscript as it was being produced; his comments have proved very valuable indeed; (3) Dr. des. Christoph Heilig, MLitt, presently coordinator of the programme for doctoral studies at the department of theology at the University of Zurich, whose thorough critique of the 2011 German edition has led to a variety of enhancements, mainly affecting Part 4 on textgrammar.

At this point I would also like to express my profound gratitude to the publishers Peter Lang, Oxford, for accepting the work for publication.

Now, may as many people as possible be helped by the Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament deal with the text of the Greek New Testament in a well-founded manner, and may they at same time be encouraged to take seriously in an increasing way the Lord it is all about!



Mt, Mk, Lk, Jn, Ac, Ro, 1Cor, 2Cor, Ga, Eph, Php, Col, 1Th, 2Th, 1Tm, 2Tm, Tt, Phm, He, Jas 1Pe, 2Pe, 1Jn, 2Jn, 3Jn, Jd, Re


Gn, Ex, Lv, Nu, Dt, Jos, Jdg, Ru, 1Sm, 2Sm, 1Kgs, 2Kgs, 1Chr, 2Chr, Ezr, Ne, Est, Job, Ps, Pr, Ec, Sol, Is, Jr, Lm, Eze, Dn, Ho, Jl, Am, Ob, Jon, Mic, Na, Hab, Zph, Hg, Zch, Mal


Bar, EpJer, 1Esd, 2Esd, Jdth, 1Macc, 2Macc, 3Macc, 4Macc, Ps Sol, Sir, Sus, Tob, Wsd


* reconstructed or unattested
¯ macron (indicates long vowel)
˘ micron (indicates short vowel)
ˊ indicates stressed syllable
> leads to
< goes back to
// enclose sound elements
= largely the same as
similar to
is replaced by
mutually replaceable; contrasts
° 185a and 252a


א בּ ב גּ ג דּ ד ה ו ז ח ט י כּ כ ל מ נ ס ע פּ פ צ ק ר שׂ שׁ תּ ת
ʾ b g d h w z y k l m n s ʿ p p̄ q r ś š t
ā a/ᵃ (1) ă ê ē e ĕ ə (2) î ī ô ō o (3) ŏ û u

(1) The raised variety stands for the “furtive pataḥ”.

(2) Unless the silent variety is intended.

(3) In an unstressed closed syllable.

1/2/3 sg./pl. first/second/third person singular/plural
/2nd(degree) second degree (object)
a. accusative
abs. absolute
acc. accusative
ACI accusative with infinitive
ACI-S subject of ACI
ACP accusative with participle
act. active
ad loc. ad locum (on the passage under consideration)
add. additive
adj. adjective
AdjP adjective phrase
adv. adverb
advers. adversative
Advl adverbial
AdvlA adverbial adjunct
AdvlC adverbial complement
AdvP adverb phrase
AGG(SNT) referring to the present grammar
alt. alternative
ant. anterior
aor. aorist
App apposition
Aram. Aramaic
art. article
Att. Attic Greek
Attr attributive modifier
attr. attributive
aug. augment
AV Authorized Version
BD Blass-Debrunner
BDAG Bauer-Danker-Arndt-Gingrich
BDF Blass-Debrunner-Funk
BDR Blass-Debrunner-Rehkopf
Bibl. Biblical
BNP Brillʼs New Pauly
BR Bornemann-Risch
Byz. Byzantine Majority Text
CAGL Bakker, Companion
caus. causal
CausA causal adjunct
CausC causal complement
c/conj. coordinating conjunction
CG Classical Greek
cl. clause
COED Concise Oxford English Dictionary
comp. comparative
compl. complement
conc. concessive
ConcA concessive adjunct
ConcC concessive complement
cond. conditional
CondA conditional adjunct
CondC conditional complement
conj. conjunction
conjug. conjugation
conseq. consequential
d. dative
dat. dative
DCI dative with infinitive
DCP dative with participle
decl. declension
declar. declarative
dem. demonstrative
dep. dependent
DuG Duden. Grammatik
dur. durative
EAGLL Giannakis, Encyclopedia
ECM Editio Critica Maior
Engl. English
ESV English Standard Version
et pass. et passim (= and quite often)
EvalA evaluative adjunct
EVV English versions/translations
explan. explanatory
f. feminine
fem. feminine
Fr. French
fut. future
g. genitive
GaJü Gansel/Jürgens
GCI genitive with infinitive
GCP genitive with participle
gen. genitive
gen.abs. genitive absolute
Givón Givón 2001, Syntax
GKC Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley
HALOT Koehler-Baumgartner, Lexicon
Hebr. Hebrew; Hebraism
HN head noun/phrase
imp. imperative
ind. indicative
indef. indefinite
inf. infinitive
InfP infinitive phrase
imp. imperative
instr. instrumental
InstrA instrumental adjunct
InstrC instrumental complement
inter. interrogative (pronoun/adverb)
IntA adjunct of interest
IntC complement of interest
interrog. interrogative
intr. intransitive
Ion. Ionic Greek
ipf. imperfect
iter. iterative
i.t.s. in the sense (of/that)
KG Koine Greek
KJV King James Version
LAW Lexikon der Alten Welt
Lat. Latin
lit. (more) literally
LN Louw-Nida, Lexicon
loc. local
LocA local adjunct
LocC local complement
LSJ Liddell-Scott-Jones
LXX Septuagint
m. masculine
ManA manner/modal adjunct
ManC manner/modal complement
masc. masculine
MB Meier-Brügger 1992
MH Moulton-Howard
mid. middle
mod. modal
MT Masoretic Text
n. nominative
NA Nestle-Aland
neg. negative particle/pronoun, negation
NETS New English Translation of the Septuagint
NCI nominative with infinitive
NCP nominative with participle
NIV New International Version
nom. nominative
NP noun phrase
NT New Testament
ntr. neuter
O object
OA object adjunct
OAid object adjunct with an identifying function
OAprop object adjunct specifying properties
OC object complement
OCid object complement with an identifying function
OCprop object complement specifying properties
OCD Hornblower, Oxford Classical Dictionary
Od direct object
Odat dative object
Og genitive object
Oi indirect object
Op prepositional object
opt. optative
o.s. oneself
OT Old Testament
P predicator (predicate verb)
Par. parallel
parad. paradigm
pass. passive; also ↑“et pass.”
p. c. participle conjunct
periphr. periphrastic
pers. person, personal
pf. perfect
pl. plural
pleon. pleonastic
plpf. pluperfect
poss. possessive
post. posterior
p.p. principal parts
Pp. proposition
PpP preposition phrase
prep. preposition
pres. present
pron. pronoun
ptc. participle
PtcP participle phrase
purp. purpose-oriented
PurpA adjunct of purpose
PurpC complement of purpose
redup. reduplication
refl. reflexive
rel. relative (pronoun/adverb)
ResA adjunct of result
ResC complement of result
restr. restrictive
S subject; Appendix 1 margin also: Semitism (↑p. 637)
SA subject adjunct
SAid subject adjunct with an identifying function
SAprop subject adjunct specifying properties
sc. scilicet (“one may understand” → “supply in thought”)
SC subject complement
SCid subject complement with an identifying function
s/conj. subordinating conjunction
SCprop subject complement specifying properties
sg. singular
simul. simultaneous
s.o. someone
st. stem
sth. something
sts. sometimes
subj. subjunctive
subo. subordinate
sup. referring to the superordinate construction
superl. superlative
s.v. sub verbo (under the headword)
s.vv. sub verbis (under the headwords)
temp. temporal
TempA temporal adjunct
TempC temporal complement
TextA text adjunct
THGNT Greek New Testament produced at Tyndale House Cambridge
TOB Traduction Œcuménique de la Bible
trans. transitive
UBSGNT Greek New Testament produced by the United Bible Societies
v. vocative, vowel
V verb
Var. textual variant
voc. vocative
Z Zerwick

1 Note that references to the LXX (for practical reasons) usually have the same format (book, chapter, verse) as do references to the English versions currently in use. Only for references to LXX Psalm (and Jeremiah) passages the numbering of the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition is followed.

←xxii | 1→

0 Introduction

0.1 The language family of Greek (↑Meier-Brügger 2003 E402ff; CAGL: 171ff)

Greek is a member of the Indo-European language family, which includes the majority of European and several Asian languages. The ancestor of these languages is called “Proto-Indo-European” or “Indo-European” (spoken ca. 4000–3500 B.C.).

The major branches of the Indo-European language family are (in roughly east to west order):

1. Indian subcontinent and Chinese Turkestan:

Indo-Iranian with Indic and Iranian; Tocharian.

2. Asia Minor, Greece, and Balkans:

From the 2nd millennium B.C.: Anatolian (best known: Hittite) in the east.

Greek in the west.

From the 1st millennium B.C.: Phrygian in Asia Minor.

From the early centuries A.D.: Armenian in the east and Albanian in the Balkans.

3. Italian peninsula: Italic, best known (and by far best attested):

Latin, ancestor of modern Romance languages (that developed from varieties spoken in the former Roman provinces): Romanian, Romansh, Sardinian, French, Dalmatian, Italian, Provençal, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese.

4. Other parts of Europe (particularly areas north of the Alps):

Celtic: Continental Celtic and Insular Celtic (British Isles and, as a result of migrations from there, Brittany).

Germanic: East Germanic (Gothic, Vandalic, Burgundian), North Germanic (Scandinavian), and Northwest Germanic (ancestor inter alia of German, Dutch, and English).


Baltic: inter alia Lithuanian, Latvian, Old Prussian;

Slavic: South Slavic (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Croatian, Slovene), East Slavic (Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian; the earliest attested [East] Slavic variety is Old Church Slavonic, used in Bible translations from the 9th century A.D.), West Slavic (inter alia Polish, Sorbian, Czech, and Slovac).

0.2 Overview of the history of Greek

(↑MB: E 304–318; Meier-Brügger 2003 E 417–421; BR: XIV-XV; Nesselrath: 135ff; Adrados 2005; Horrocks [detailed and up-to-date]; CAGL: 169ff, 527ff; BDF §1ff; Debrunner-Scherer; Reiser 2001)

Greek as a distinct language is probably the result of an evolutionary process that began ca. 2000 B.C., when a major wave of immigration set in from the Balkans into the region of modern-day Greece (or Ἑλλάς “Hellas”) where the immigrants eventually merged with the local population. The Greeks (or Ἕλληνες “Hellenes”, as they called themselves from the 8th century B.C.) spread in stages on the Aegean islands and (before the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.) on the west coast of Asia Minor, also in the east as far as the coast of the Black Sea, and (after 800 B.C.) in the west, especially in Southern Italy and Sicily (“Magna Graecia”). As a result of Alexander’s campaigns (334–323 B.C.) they temporarily gained control of most of the Levant and Middle Eastern countries reaching as far as India; so, for centuries the ←1 | 2→whole of the ancient world was thoroughly Hellenized. Hellenism, alongside Christianity, in fact became the principle driving force of Western civilization.

The spread of Hellenism included the spread of the Greek language, so much so that Greek was prominent at all levels even in Rome as in all the larger cities of the West well into the 3rd century A.D.1

After the division of the Roman Empire at the end of the 4th century, in the West Greek was superseded by Latin. In the East it came under increasing pressure as well until the Greek speaking area eventually shrunk to the size of what is modern-day Greece. There, however, the Greek language has held its ground until the present day against every kind of political and cultural threat.

During the Middle Ages the West was largely without the knowledge of Greek. In the 15th/16th century only it was rediscovered and restored to favour with Renaissance humanism calling for a return to the primary sources of Classical Antiquity (↑Latin slogan “ad fontes” [back] to the sources).

The earliest Greek texts available come from a period between ca. 1400 and 1200 B.C. They are written in a syllabic script (“Linear-B”) on clay tablets that were discovered by archaeologists in palaces excavated on the island of Crete (at Knossos) and on the Greek mainland (especially at Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, and Thebes). The language of these texts is called “Mycenaean Greek” (or “Mycenaean”). The Mycenaean Greeks had intense trading relations with the Phoenicians (Northwest Semites), which is shown inter alia by the fact that Semitic loanwords are attested already in their variety of Greek, e.g. ku-ru-so = kʰrūsos χρῡσός gold.2 After the fall of the Cretan-Mycenaean civilization ca. 1200 B.C. the Greeks appear to have lost their knowledge of writing almost completely (only in Cyprus a variety of the ancient syllabic script continued to be used for a time).

Later the contacts with the Phoenicians led to an innovation that turned out to be of revolutionary significance: before the end of the 8th century B.C. the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet that had been developed by West Semites in the early 2nd millennium B.C.; it comprised twenty-two letters that primarily represented only consonants (the intended vowels had to be inferred from the context). Since the Greek sound system differs significantly from the West Semitic one, the alphabet needed adjusting. Not only were changes introduced in the way letters represented consonants, letters also began to be used to express vowels, which was a step forward that is not to be underestimated in the history of writing (↑1e,3).3 Due inter alia to differences between the various Greek dialects the Phoenician alphabet was altered differently in different places, until in the 4th century B.C. the Ionic Alphabet (developed in Miletus) with its twenty-four letters was generally accepted as the standard alphabet for writing Greek (↑1).4

Ever since the alphabet was adopted in the 8th century B.C. to this day an ever-increasing number of texts written in Greek have been produced, at first mainly inscriptions, as time went by texts of every type, soon including literary and philosophical-scientific works as well. Many of these texts, ←2 | 3→a considerable number of them ancient ones, are available to us (either directly or in handed down form). These are the primary sources that are so vital to a solid study of the Greek language. Based on these the following varieties may be distinguished within the history of the Greek language:5

1. Mycenaean Greek, ca. 1400 to 1200 B.C. (↑above).

2. Ancient Greek, ca. 800 B.C. to A.D. 550, which may be subdivided as follows:

a) Pre-classical and Classical Greek, ca. 800 to 300 B.C.

A number of dialects have been identified that are marked by more or less extensive differences of sounds, word-forms, syntax, or vocabulary. One usually distinguishes four major dialects that are peculiar to a specific geographical area (termed “epichoric”):

(1) Ionic-Attic:

Ionic (in the middle part of the west coast of Asia Minor and on most of the Aegean islands as well as in the Greek colonies by the Black Sea and in Southern Italy);

Attic (in the district of Attica with Athens as its capital).

(2) Arcado-Cyprian:

Arcadian (various ancient dialects used in the district of Arcadia);

Cypriot (in Cyprus written in a native syllabic script [“Cypriot syllabary”]).

(3) Aeolic (on Lesbos and its environs as well as in the districts of Thessaly and Boeotia).

(4) West Greek (Doric in the wider sense):

Doric (from the town of Megara and the island of Aegina southwards, in most of the Greek colonies in Southern Italy and Sicily; with many local dialects inter alia in Corinth, Argos, Laconia, and on the islands of Rhodes and Crete);

North-West Greek (inter alia in the districts of Locris, Phocis, and Elis);

Pamphylian (in the Southern part of Asia Minor).

Alongside these epichoric dialects there were also literary dialects (originating in certain epichoric ones). These were used across dialect boundaries for composing works of particular literary genres, thus the Ionic dialect for writing the earliest known scientific prose (from the 6th century B.C. on early historians [“logographers”], in the 5th century Herodotus [“Father of History”], in the 5th/4th century Hippocrates [“Father of Medicine”]). The highest rank among the literary dialects, however, was held by the language of the “Homeric” epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, (put to writing from the 8th century B.C. on). This language appears to be an artificial variety developed by ancient Ionians on the basis of Aeolic; it had a sustained impact on the language of poetry (e.g. on Hesiod ca. 700 B.C.) as on Greek literary style in general.

In the second half of the 5th century B.C. Athens enjoyed a period of political and cultural prosperity (“Classical” period). Attic increased in importance among the Ancient Greek dialects, so much so that it rose to the rank of a standard language in which most of the literary works were written: the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides (6th/5th century), as well as the writings of the philosophers Plato (5th/4th century) and Aristotle (4th century), of the historians Thucydides (5th century), and Xenophon (5th/4th century), also of the orators Lysias (5th/4th century), Isocrates (5th/ 4th century), and Demosthenes (4th century). In view of the quality of these and other works, deemed classical, Attic is also called “Classical Greek”. And it is this variety that Greek courses at schools and universities are usually centred on.6

←3 | 4→

In later times Attic continued to play an outstanding role: in the movement known as Atticism emerging in the 2nd century B.C., becoming particularly influential in the time of Augustus (1st century B.C./A.D.), and culminating in the 2nd century A.D. This movement declared Attic Greek to be the standard of correct language use; changes of sounds, vocabulary or grammar caused by a natural development of the language were branded as something to avoid. As a result the language split up into two main varieties: a) scholarly Greek, based on ancient usage, and b) popular Greek, subject to a continual natural development, spoken by the general public. This, essentially, is the origin of the rivalry that existed until recently between Katharévusa (Καθαρεύουσα “pure [language]”) and Dhimotikí (Δημοτική “[language] of the people”).7

b) Koine (also “Hellenistic Greek”), ca. 300 B.C. to A.D. 550

Attic was the official language of Alexander’s empire and of those of his successors (the “Diadochi”). During this period (336–30 B.C.), the so-called “Hellenistic” period, on the basis of Attic a supra-regional vernacular evolved as the lingua franca of the entire Hellenistic world, usually called “Koine” (ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος “the common language“). It gradually became the unrivalled standard with the ancient Greek dialects almost completely disappearing. Various sounds and forms characteristic of Attic Greek were replaced by ones more generally used (e.g. -ττ- by -σσ- [↑355a] or ξύν by σύν with [↑184q]); moreover there was an overall tendency towards greater clarity as well as simplicity of expression (something typical of any standard language; ↑p.637).

Apart from this vernacular there was a literary Koine. It was not used for poetry and literature in the narrow sense; for these, authors kept striving after an elevated style of Greek (based on Attic norms). It was, however, the medium on the one hand of technical prose as it is found e.g. in the works of the historian Polybius (2nd century B.C.), of medical writers such as Dioscorides (1st century A.D.), or of astrologers such as Vettius Valens (2nd/3rd century A.D.), on the other hand attested in romance novels such as those of Chariton and Xenophon Ephesius (1st/2nd century A.D.). Other works written in literary Koine are e.g. the “Letter of Aristeas” (“LXX” legend; 2nd century B.C.), the “Tablet of Cebes” (a popularizing philosophical dialogue; 1st century A.D.), and the writings of the Corpus Hermeticum (2nd/3rd century A.D.). A work to be placed at a lower level of style is the “Romance of Alexander” of Pseudo-Callisthenes (available form ca. A.D. 300); it is, however, of considerable interest to New Testament scholars involved in comparative studies, since its narrative style is particularly close to that of many parts of the New Testament. The most important testimony of a more elevated style of the Hellenistic vernacular is found in the philosophical “sermons” (διατριβαί) of Epictetus (1st century A.D.).8

Koine Greek is also the language of the Septuagint (“LXX”; translation of the Old Testament into Ancient Greek, with a variety of linguistic styles; most of it originating in the 3rd/2nd century B.C.),9 of the New Testament and of the “Apostolic Fathers”.10

3. Byzantine Greek (also “Medieval Greek”) is the language of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, in use from the reign of Emperor Justinian (527–565) till the Fall of Constantinople to Ottoman Turks (1453), divided into the two inherited varieties, the Atticizing Greek of the Church and the scholars on the one hand, and popular Koine Greek on the other.11

4. Modern Greek is the language used by the Greeks under Ottoman (Turkish) rule (1453–1830), above all, however, since the founding of the modern Greek state (1830). The rivalry already men←4 | 5→tioned between the traditionalist “pure language” (Katharévusa) and the “language of the people” (Dhimotikí) was officially ended in the nineteen seventies in favour of the “language of the people”.12

Examples illustrating differences between historically distinguishable varieties of Greek:13

“they carry into the house”: “four”: “when”:
Mycenaean Greek: woikonde pheronsi (qetro-) hote
Ancient Greek:
a) Pre-classical and Classical Greek:
• East-Ionic: ἐς τὴν οἰκίην φέρουσι(ν) τέσσερες ὄτε
Attic (Classical Greek): εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν φέρουσι(ν) τέτταρες ὅτε
• Arcadian: ἰν ταν ϝοικιαν φερονσι (τζετρα-) ὅτε
• Aeolic (Boeotian): ἐν τᾱν ϝυκιᾱν φερονθι πετταρες ὅκα
• Doric (dialect of Argos): ἐνς τᾱ̀ν ϝοικίᾱν φέροντι τέτορες ὅκα
b) Koine (inter alia NT Greek): εἰς τὴν οἰκίαν φέρουσι(ν) τέσσαρες ὅτε
Modern Greek:
Katharévusa: στὴν οἰκίαν φέρουσι (stin ikían férussi) τέσσαρες ὅτε
Dhimotikí: στό σπίτι φέρνουν τέσσερις σάν

0.3 New Testament Greek (↑Reiser 2001:29–90; BDF §1–7; Horrocks: 147–152)

The variety of Ancient Greek used in the New Testament is basically the vernacular of the Hellenistic period, Koine Greek. Philologically or linguistically, it is a variety that in most respects may be regarded as literary Koine. The style of language (i.e. the characteristic use of the language) encountered in the New Testament writings is to a large extent comparable to that of technical (particularly including romance) prose (↑p.4).14 Apart from Hebrews15 and parts of Luke and Acts it is, however, at a lower literary level; in some places it clearly approaches the style of the contemporary spoken language (as we know it from literary sources, most particularly from non-literary papyri of the Hellenistic period). In any case, no attempts to meet classical (Atticist) stylistic standards are in evidence within the New Testament.16 ←5 | 6→Because of this disregard of classical standards, the authors of the New Testament have been the object of ridicule to educated people ever since their time, which was dominated by Atticism (↑p.4). The New Testament style of language has often been classified as “vulgar” or as “ordinary street language”. According to Reiser such judgments are unjustified even with regard to the Gospel of Mark and the Book of Revelation. He adds: “The authors of the New Testament consistently demonstrate considerable literary skills and use their Greek with absolute confidence, even though that Greek did not meet the requirements of the educated upper class. […] The Church Fathers, therefore, spoke of the sermo humilis, of the ‘simple’, ‘lowly’ style of the New Testament, at the same time understanding humilis in the sense of ‘humble’.”17

One striking feature characterizing the New Testament variety of Koine Greek are the so-called Semitisms. This term refers to linguistic phenomena that cannot be explained in terms of normal Greek usage, but are thought to go back to Hebrew or Aramaic uses.18 Which of such unconventional phenomena exactly are to be regarded as Semitisms and what factors may have caused their appearance in New Testament Greek, is an issue that has been the subject of scholarly debate for centuries; none of the solutions proposed so far seems to stand up to rigorous philological scrutiny.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the deviations from the Classical Greek within the New Testament idiom were interpreted in different ways. The “Hebraists” explained them as being influenced by Hebrew usage, the “Purists”, apologetically motivated, regarded them as particularly “pure” Greek. Eventually the Hebraist view prevailed in that period.

Towards the end of the 19th century/the beginning of the 20th century there was a “paradigm shift”: A. Deissmann, J. H. Moulton, A. Thumb and others demonstrated by means of non-literary papyri discovered in Egypt and freshly studied Hellenistic inscriptions that most of the peculiarities of New Testament Greek are to be classified as Koine phenomena. In the light of subsequent philological studies the list of “Semitisms” has kept getting shorter and shorter.

There was, however, a counterreaction in the second half of the 20th century, which culminated in a second flowering of a rather extreme version of the “Hebraist” view, defended by several specialists.19 These (as many in the 19th century) thought that the peculiarities of New Testament Greek are best explained by positing the existence of a special “Jewish Greek”, a variety clearly distinguishable from the remainder of Koine Greek. The existence of such a distinct Koine dialect, however, was neither proven nor is it probable.20 The parts of the New Testament with a “Jewish” touch are on the whole, as Reiser convincingly shows, rather influenced by the language of the Septuagint, not unlike many protestant sermons of our time are by the language of the Authorized/King James Version or some other leading Bible translation (Reiser, of course, referring to Luther’s German translation).

←6 | 7→

The linguistic phenomena that are usually classified as “Semitisms” are probably to be connected above all with the special content communicated by the New Testament; and this naturally impacted the utilized linguistic form in various ways. A major influence was no doubt exerted by the texts that had a foundational significance, especially by the Septuagint, the standard translation of the Old Testament into Greek (for their many Old Testament quotations the authors of the New Testament usually make use of this version).21 It is particularly the vocabulary that was affected22 by this (though less extensively than is sometimes assumed), almost exclusively a number of religious and theological expressions whose specific meanings arose through semantic borrowing, e.g.:23

δόξα profane: opinion; honour, glory;
LXX/NT: –; honour, glory; concrete glory/splendour
(≈ Hebrew kāḇôḏ)
διαθήκη profane: last will/testament;
LXX/NT: last will/testament; mostly agreement/covenant
(≈ Hebrew bərîṯ)
ῥῆμα profane: word, saying;
LXX/NT: word, saying; also matter, thing
(≈ Hebrew dāḇār)

Certain Septuagint idioms, however, are well-attested (e.g. in the language of Luke, inter alia in Lk 1 and 2) being regarded as especially solemn and dignified, e.g.:24

καὶ ἐγένετο …(↑217e) And it came about …
ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν … or the like (↑239) he answered (and said) …
πᾶσα σάρξ all flesh (= every living/human being)
τὰ πετεινὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ the birds of the sky (= the birds)

Latinisms occur in the New Testament as well, but these are less significant than the Semitisms. A number of direct Latinisms are found inter alia in the following semantic domains: military (e.g. κεντυρίων centurio centurion/captain; outside the Gospel of Mark: ἑκατόνταρχος/ἑκατοντάρχης), ←7 | 8→administration (e.g. κῆνσος census capitation/poll tax), and commerce (e.g. δηνάριον denarius denarius). Furthermore several Latin suffixes are used as well, in the New Testament, however, only in names and comparable words (e.g. πρὸς Φιλιππησίους [< -enses] instead of Φιλιππεῖς or -έας to the Philippians; also ↑358h). There are also various expressions translated from Latin, e.g. terms designating certain offices such as ἀνθύπατος proconsul. Finally, we also find a handful of Latinizing idioms such as συμβούλιον λαμβάνειν consilium capere to come to a decision.25

For a summary of major differences between the Classical and the Koine/New Testament varieties of Ancient Greek ↑355–356.

0.4 On the history of Ancient Greek grammar

↑Schwyzer I: 4–11; LAW: 1129–1133; MB: E101; Nesselrath: 87–132; CAGL: 483ff; Pfeiffer: 1ff.

The earliest grammatical observations known to us were made in the pre-classical period (↑p.3) by people involved in reciting and handing down cultic hymns and the “Homeric” epic poems: they took note of strange looking letters, sounds, forms, words and phrases and tried to explain them.26 As early as the 6th century B.C. one was acquainted with the series of grammatical cases. Towards the end of the 5th century the Sophists (educational elite of the 5th/4th century) came to observe ways in which letters, syllables, rhythms, word-forms, word meanings, and style operate.

Such topics were explored also by Aristotle (384–322) and by Stoic philosophers (from ca. 300 B.C.). And it is these philosophers, essentially, that the grammatical terminology in use today goes back to (it has reached us by way of the Latin tradition). Stoic philosophers also developed sophisticated accounts of inflection and tense.

Scholars at Alexandria, the leading centre of learning of the Hellenistic period (↑p.4), started from these findings further refining them (here was the cradle of the combined study of the classical literature and language, classical scholarship).

Among the Alexandrian grammarians of the Hellenistic period the following are particularly significant: Zenodotus of Ephesus (born ca. 325 B.C.), Aristophanes of Byzantium (ca. 257–180) and, probably the most influential of the three, Aristarchus of Samothrace (ca. 216–144). They described inflection (declension and conjugation including irregularities; ↑23ff and 64ff) in its definitive form regarded as authoritative to this day. A pupil of Aristarchus, Dionysius Thrax (second part of the 2nd century B.C.) wrote down the new findings in a systematic manner in his Τέχνη γραμματική “Grammar”; this work served as a basis for teaching Greek until the 13th century A.D.

←8 | 9→

In the period of the Roman Empire (from 27 B.C.) the two most significant ancient grammarians were active: a) Apollonius Dyscolus (first part of the 2nd century A.D.), who wrote numerous, mostly lost, works on the accents, prosody (measuring syllables based on length and pitch), morphology, and (extant in its entirety) syntax; b) his son Herodian (Aelius Herodianus; active in Rome; 2nd century A.D.), who wrote primarily about the accents and morphology; his studies are very accessible and mostly comprehensive and count as the principle source of grammarians’ writings from Late Antiquity.

The main emphasis of grammarians of the Byzantine (Medieval) period (↑p.4), the “National Grammar”, was on preserving and passing on examples of classical usage they considered normative, especially regarding vocabulary and word-forms (↑p.4). The writings that survive from that period do not provide us with additional insights into the grammar of Ancient Greek; still, they enable us to reconstruct a great deal from antiquity that we no longer have any direct access to.27

In the West, where Latin was predominant from the 4th century A.D., knowledge of Greek was lost almost completely (↑p.2). In the age of Renaissance humanism (15th/16th century) with its rediscovery of Classical Antiquity and its interest in studying the sources, a turnaround occurred.28 Guided by scholarly Greeks (many of them had fled their homeland at the fall of the Byzantine empire), a growing number of people learned Ancient Greek, at first in Italy, later, starting from there, north of the Alps as well. In fact, everywhere in the Christian West people began to study the Ancient Greek language and Ancient Greek literature again, and new text editions of ancient authors were produced. This movement was spurred on especially by the advent of movable type printing towards the end of the 15th century. Thus, as early as 1471 the first printed Greek grammar appeared in Venice, the so-called Ἐρωτήματα (“questions”) of Manuel Chrysoloras, which was soon followed by a large number of printed editions of writings in Ancient Greek.

Of the numerous humanists active in that age the following two must not be left unmentioned:

a) Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1469?–1536), a leading European authority on Latin and Greek, who was active mainly in England, Germany, and Switzerland. With great intensity and exemplary methodology, he devoted himself to studying Ancient Greek writings, inter alia the classical authors, the New Testament, and the “Apostolic Fathers”, which led to a steady flow of publications. His most significant publication was, no doubt, the first printed Greek New Testament to be published (1516 by Froben in Basel); this edition (in a later, slightly revised form) became the authoritative basic text used by theologians and Bible translators for their work on the Greek New Testament until the end of the 19th century. Of special interest to grammarians is Erasmus’ rejection29 of the itacistic (Modern Greek) ←9 | 10→pronunciation of Ancient Greek, as it was taught by Reuchlin and Melanchthon, and his preference for the etacistic one, hence often called “Erasmian” pronunciation (though it was favoured by others before him; ↑1a).

b) Martin Luther’s friend Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), who along with others (including his great-uncle Johannes Reuchlin [1455–1522]) contributed substantially to the spread of Greek in German-speaking Europe during that period. Inter alia he published a Greek grammar,30 which was the standard Greek grammar of German-speaking people till the first half of the 19th century.

Well into the 19th century Greek grammars served mainly as tools for language teaching, textual criticism, and text interpretation. Meanwhile scholars had also begun to explore Greek as well as other languages regarding their family relationships and historical development (↑p.1ff). So, until the beginning of the 20th century there were two rival approaches to the study of Greek: a) the historical-comparative (clearly diachronic) approach, and b) the descriptive (more clearly synchronic) approach, specifically geared to the needs of the study of classical authors (classical philology). Already in the 19th century leading specialists such as G. Curtius (1820–1885) and K. Brugmann (1849–1919) realized the two approaches had a complementary role, a view that is regarded as axiomatic by modern representatives of Greek linguistics.31

The four-volume descriptive grammar Kühner-Blass (1890/92) and Kühner-Gerth (1898/1904) with its unsurpassed abundance of examples was produced in that era, likewise the first edition of the comprehensive school grammar of Smyth (1920), where the descriptive approach is predominant.

The historical-comparative approach, on the other hand, determines the large grammar of Brugmann-Thumb31 and its successor Schwyzer (1939/1950; with A. Debrunner as its final editor), which is still the standard historical grammar of Greek (though in the meantime parts of it are in need of revision), as well as the overviews of Greek linguistics of Hoffmann-Scherer (1969) and Debrunner-Scherer (1969) respectively, as well as (the most recent one) of Meier-Brügger (1992).

During the past one and a half centuries there have been a sizable number of further scholars contributing significantly at least to certain domains of Ancient Greek grammar, such as32 J. Wackernagel (1853–1938),33 F. Sommer (1874–1962), P. Chantraine (1899–1974), J. Humbert (1901–1980), E. Risch (1911–1988),34 M. Lejeune (1907–2000), more recently also Y. Duhoux. The following specialists inter alia have contributed towards fruitfully combining previous findings with insights of modern linguistics: F. R. Adrados (Sintaxis, 1992), R. M. Vázquez et al. ←10 | 11→(Gramática I, 1999), G. Horrocks (Greek, 1997/2010), A. Rijksbaron (inter al. in Boas-Rijksbaron, Grammar, 2019).

In most of the works mentioned so far, the primary focus was on Classical (Attic) Greek (↑p.3f). Since the first half of the 19th century Greek scholarship turned its attention specifically to the grammar of New Testament Greek as well. A variety of comprehensive treatments and studies on specific subjects began to appear.35

The most important comprehensive grammars of New Testament Greek36 include those of Winer,37 Buttmann,38 Blass,39 Robertson,40 Moulton-Howard, Radermacher,41 Springhetti42 as well as Blass-Debrunner (“BD”; English version of the 1959 edition: “BDF” [Blass-Debrunner-Funk]) and (its most recent revision) Blass-Debrunner-Rehkopf (“BDR”), today’s standard grammar for detailed exegesis (though parts of it are in need of revision, especially the syntax of the verb).43

Further important titles are referred to throughout the present grammar. Among the most relevant ones are those on syntax (as a whole or on certain parts considered particularly relevant):44 Zerwick (1963), Brooks/Winbery (1979), and Wallace (1995; comprehensive syntax); on discourse grammar: Levinsohn (1992/2000), and Runge (2010); on subjects going beyond these: Porter (1992: mainly on important areas of syntax; e.g. 2015: includes a wide range of subjects relevant to exegesis drawing on recent findings of a variety of linguistic and non-linguistic fields).

←11 | 12→

0.5 Levels of text structures and the present grammar (↑inter alia Givón I: 7ff)

The present grammar, as already indicated in the preface, is meant to serve as a tool for theologians and others interested in interpreting the Greek New Testament. It is to help them explain in a reasoned way what the texts or parts of texts of the Greek New Testament (to some extent also of other relevant Ancient Greek writings) communicate linguistically.

Linguistic communication, i.e. the conveying or exchanging of informational content (by persons) for a particular purpose, is the main function of language. This applies to every (natural) language including Ancient Greek. Linguistic communication operates by means of texts45 of diverse types (invitations, requests, inquiries, offers, complaints, protests, appeals, birth and marriage announcements, death notices, anecdotes etc.).46 For a linguistic utterance to count as text (as defined by modern linguists) it needs not only to convey a certain content, it must also have a recognizable (communicative) function. This only makes it a (meaningfully) coherent text.47

The coherence of a text is closely connected with its linguistic structure. Text interpretation is about studying such structures and the elements they are made up of in order to understand as accurately as possible the intended content and objectives.48 And for a correct interpretation of the elements and combination rules of text structures we need to turn to lexicons and grammars, of course.

While lexicons tell us primarily about how words are typically related to content (the lexical meaning of words), grammars mainly deal with the forms, functions, and combination rules found at the various levels of text structures. In the present grammar (as in most other grammars) these levels are treated in separate parts, appearing hierarchically from the lowest to the highest (in most other grammars, the highest level, the textgrammatical one, is not taken into account as yet):49

1 Writing System and Phonology (↑1–20);

2 Structure of Words – Morphology (↑21–125);

3 Syntax (↑126–290; deviations from “norms”: 291–296);

4 Textgrammar (↑297–353; also ↑p.569).

In the appendices there are further matters to help text interpreters:

←12 | 13→

Appendix 1: Classical and NT Greek: differences (↑355–356);

Appendix 2: Word-formation (↑357–371).

In the remainder of this introduction we will illustrate briefly the roles the various parts of the grammar may play in text interpretation; our example is the narrative text Mt 13:45f, a parable uttered by Jesus (as reported by Matthew) to point out the outstanding value of the “kingdom of heaven” he proclaimed (text function; main point):

Πάλιν ὁμοία ἐστὶν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ ἐμπόρῳ ζητοῦντι καλοὺς μαργαρίτας· εὑρὼν δὲ ἕνα πολύτιμον μαργαρίτην ἀπελθὼν πέπρακεν πάντα ὅσα εἶχεν καὶ ἠγόρασεν αὐτόν. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant, searching for fine pearls. When he found one pearl of great value, he went away and sold everything that he had and bought it.

Part 1 Writing System and Phonology (↑1–20) introduces us mainly

a) to the elements of the lowest level of text structure, to the letters of the alphabet, the sounds and syllables they represent, as well as to the diacritical and punctuation marks in use, a level without which the text structure is unlikely to either enter our minds or to make sense to us in any way at all, and

b) to the rules (“sound laws”) that help us to deal with grammatical peculiarities such as ζητοῦντι (< *ζητέοντι) searching (dat. sg.).

Part 2 Structure of Words – Morphology (↑21–125) is about the second level of text structure which is of crucial importance to text interpretation, the level of words (i.e. sound combinations indicating either [lexical] content or [grammatical] functions);50 most importantly it presents us with the various inflectional patterns (“paradigms”) enabling us to identify the specific word-forms of a text and to connect them with the intended functional category (more details are found in the syntax part), in particular

a) with declension forms (↑23–63) like μαργαρίτας, which as an accusative (plural of μαργαρίτης pearl; ↑26) in this text is best connected with the role of a direct object (answering the question “Whom or what [here: was he searching for]?” (↑23), and

b) with conjugation forms (↑64–125) like ἠγόρασεν, which as a finite verb form has the predicator role representing the core information of the sentence/clause (i.e. the action the subject entity [here: the merchant referred to] is said to be doing; ↑22f) and due to its classification as a 3rd person singular aorist indicative active (of ἀγοράζω to buy; ↑76 in combination with 92d and 96.5) points to the person spoken about (3rd person singular [↑64d], the subject entity [here: the merchant ]) who is said to have done something in the past (here: bought [that one pearl of great value]; ↑64–65).

The focus of Part 3 Syntax (↑126–290) is on the grammatical side of the third level of text structures, i.e. the level of sentences/clauses or propositions (content of sentences/clauses, “situations”; these are the most important structural components of a text as text (↑298); one of the greatest challenges of text interpretation is to understand these and to infer from them the overall content to be communicated by the text. This is the reason why the syntax part is as lengthy as it is; it tells us inter alia about

a) the function that words and phrases may have in Ancient Greek sentences (↑129–252), in the syntax of case forms (↑146–182) e.g. about the fact that dative noun phrases like ἀνθρώπῳ ἐμπόρῳ a ←13 | 14→merchant may occur as objects not only of verbs, but also of certain adjectives such as ὅμοιος like (↑179b), or in the section on the syntactic use of participles (↑227–240) about non-articular participles like εὑρών (ptc. aor. act. mask. nom. sg. of εὑρίσκω to find) frequently occurring as adverbial adjuncts (very frequently with a temporal nuance [↑229a–231d], here when he found … or the like [he sold everything …]),

b) the sentences and their constituents in Ancient Greek (↑253–265), e.g. about attributive modifiers of the head of noun phrases answering questions like “What kind of entity is the entity referred to by the head noun?” (↑260b–260n) and in what form it may occur in texts, inter alia as genitive noun phrase like [ἡ βασιλεία] τῶν οὐρανῶν [the kingdom] of heaven, as an adjective phrase showing concord like καλοὺς [μαργαρίτας] fine [pearls], as a participle phrase showing concord like [ἀνθρώπῳ ἐμπόρῳ] ζητοῦντι … [a merchant] searching … or even as a relative clause (↑next paragraph), and

c) the types of sentences/clauses occurring in Ancient Greek and the ways they may be combined (↑266–290), inter alia about independent declarative (main) clauses (↑267) like the ἐστίν-clause in Mt 13:45 and the sentence with the two predicators πέπρακεν (he) sold and ἠγόρασεν (he) bought, also about dependent (subordinate) clauses (serving as sentence constituents or attributive modifiers of a superordinate construction; ↑270ff), e.g. about relative clauses like [πάντα] ὅσα εἶχεν [everything] that he had (↑289a).

Part 4 Textgrammar (↑297–353; also ↑p.569) is about the highest level of text structures, that of the text. It is to show in what ways a text is different from the sum of its sentences/clauses as well as the ways in which the distinctive features of the grammatical (↑316–348) and the content (↑349–353) sides of the text structure relate to the coherence of Ancient Greek texts, here of a NT text, inter alia (for further details on our example ↑301; 303; 307):

a) connectives (↑354) like the adverb πάλιν again/furthermore (↑325c) that joins our text to the larger speech context and helps us towards recognizing its communicative function; or like the conjunctions δέ but (↑338a) and καί and (↑312c; 325c; 327) that serve to join the sentences/clauses or propositions/“situations” in question and help us to infer the intended content relations (↑352); similarly also (clause-like) participle phrases (↑312c) like ζητοῦντι … searching … , εὑρών … finding/ when he found … and ἀπελθών going away/he went away and; moreover, comparable to some extent, function words that refer back, “anaphorically”, or point forward, “cataphorically”, (↑346–348) like the article ἡ the [kingdom of heaven] or the personal pronoun αὐτόν [bought] it, which indicate what exactly (i.e. what specific concepts or entities) the speaker/writer refers to and which within the text establish a dense network of relationships that contributes decisively to the coherence of the text;

b) content words that may be connected with one particular domain of meaning (or “frame”; ↑313) and that relate to one another in a way that is relevant to conveying the text content, like ἔμπορος merchant, πιπράσκω to sell and ἀγοράζω to buy (commerce domain/frame) or also ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν the kingdom of heaven, an expression that, in the light of the wider context, is to be understood as a technical term; especially, however, the discernible (hierarchical) structure of the propositions/“situations” that the text content is made up of (↑312e for a corresponding display of Mt 13:45f).

1 For details ↑Reiser 2001: 4ff, and especially Horrocks: 124ff.

2 ↑inter alia Ugaritic ḫrṣ, Phoenician ḥrṣ or Biblical Hebrew ḥārûṣ (↑HALOT s.v.). Also ↑MB: E 201–206; 309f.

3 Most of the alphabetic scripts used in the world today originated here (↑Haarmann chapter 6), hence inter alia the fact that sounds such as /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/ are widely expressed by letters that originally stood for West Semitic (including Hebrew) consonants: ʾ ʾ ā́lep̄) > A, h hēʾ) > E, y yôḏ) > I, ʿ ʿáyin) > O, and w wāw) > U.

4 For details ↑MB: E 208 and Horrocks: viii–xx.

5 For details on the dialects ↑MB: E314–316, Nesselrath: 142–155, and Horrocks: 9–66 (with helpful examples). For a brief grammar of the Homeric language ↑BR §309–315.

6 Often works in other dialects supplementing it: Homer (archaic Ionic), Herodotus (Ionic), the lyric works of Sappho and Alcaeus (both ca. 600 B.C.; Aeolic), choral lyric (e.g. Pindar [6th/5th century], also remainders in the choral parts of Attic tragedies; Doric), the biographies of Plutarch (1st/ 2nd century A.D.; Koine replete with Atticisms), the NT (Koine). – More on Attic ↑Horrocks: 67–78.

7 Also ↑Debrunner-Scherer §154–159, Adrados: 198ff, and Horrocks: 133–141.

8 ↑Reiser 2001: 21–24, in more detail also Horrocks: 78–123 and 141ff.

9 For details on the language of the LXX ↑Reiser 2001: 23f, and Horrocks: 106–108.

10 For details ↑Reiser 2001: 6–28, Debrunner-Scherer §5f/114ff, and Horrocks: 147ff.

11 For details ↑Nesselrath: 162–167, especially Adrados: 226ff, and Horrocks: 189–369.

12 For details ↑Nesselrath: 167f, especially Adrados: 291–311, and Horrocks: 371–470.

13 Based on Risch: 2.

14 According to Horrocks: 147, it is “a reasonably close reflection of the everyday Greek of the majority of the literate population in the early centuries AD, subject, as always, to the influence of the ordinary written language of business and administration learned in school.”

15 Schwyzer I: 126, calls it “the first monument of Christian artistic prose” (original: “das erste Denkmal christlicher Kunstprosa”).

16 In contrast to what we find in several works of the higher type of literary Koine, including those of the Jewish authors Philo (philosopher, active in Alexandria; 1st century B.C./1st century A.D.) and Josephus (historian, active in Palestine and Rome; 1st century A.D.).

17 Original (Reiser 2001: 29f): “Die Autoren des Neuen Testaments zeigen durchweg beachtliche literarische Fähigkeiten und sind sich ihres Griechisch vollkommen sicher, auch wenn dieses Griechisch den Ansprüchen eines Gebildeten der Oberschicht nicht genügte. […] Die Kirchenväter sprachen deshalb vom sermo humilis, dem ‘schlichten’, ‘niedrigen’ Stil des Neuen Testaments; dabei verstanden sie humilis zugleich im Sinn von ‘demütig’.” For more on this topic also ↑Reiser 2001: 31–33, as well as Horrocks: 147–152.

18 One speaks of “Hebraism” or “Aramaism” depending on what specific language the phenomenon in question is thought to go back to, “Semitism” being used as a generic term.

19 Reiser 2001: 35, on details of the Semitism topic 33–49; ↑also Horrocks: 148–152.

20 ↑Reiser 2001: 35.

21 Uses that directly go back to the Septuagint, a version mostly translating “literally”, and uses that imitate its style of language, are termed Septuagintisms. These should not be confused with the (few genuine) Hebraisms in a narrow sense (“Hebraizing” uses that are not attested in the Septuagint) or with the (comparatively rare) Aramaisms (“Semitisms” that cannot be explained as Hebraisms). ↑Reiser 2001: 35.
Thus the transliterated foreign word κορβᾶν (Hebrew qorbān; a cultic expression) in Mk 7:11 is a Hebraism in a narrow sense (interestingly, it is immediately followed by a translation into Greek: ὅ ἐστι δῶρον that is a gift [for God]). πάσχα passover (Aramaic pasḥā’ / pisḥā’; Hebrew pésaḥ) e. g. may be classified as an Aramaism (used also in the Septuagint).

22 Textgrammatical or textpragmatic regularities (↑297ff) no doubt were extensively affected, too (research into to these, however, is not sufficiently advanced to permit solid comparative studies). Also ↑Reiser 2001: 38.

23 ↑Reiser 2001: 38ff, where further examples are listed.

24 ↑Reiser 2001: 44ff, where further examples are listed.

25 Also ↑BDF §5, on occasional Coptic and Persian expressions also §6.

26 In the Classical period to such endeavours were joined in by discussions about issues regarding the philosophy of language, e.g. regarding the relationship between a word and the reality it refers to (↑Plato “Cratylus”): is it intrinsic (determined by nature φύσει) or arbitrary (by convention/ institution νόμῳ/θέσει)? – To modern linguistics “arbitrariness” is axiomatic (↑e.g. Bussmann: 32).

27 ↑Nesselrath: 104–116, for more details on this period including bibliography.

28 ↑Nesselrath: 118–121, for more details on this period.

29 In: De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione (1528). ↑Nesselrath: 120.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (January)
Ancient Greek Grammar New Testament text interpretation
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2019. XXII, 740 pp.

Biographical notes

Heinrich von Siebenthal (Author)

Heinrich von Siebenthal, after studying Ancient Greek, Hebrew, and English linguistics at the Universities of Zürich and Liverpool, has lectured in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and related subjects such as text analysis and translation theory at the (now) Giessen School of Theology (Freie Theologische Hochschule Giessen), a state-accredited seminary in Germany, and the (now) Staatsunabhängige Theologische Hochschule Basel, a state-accredited seminary in Switzerland. His research emphasis has been on the application of solid findings of modern linguistics to ancient languages and to the interpretation of Biblical texts which led to publications that are highly respected for their quality.


Title: Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament
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764 pages