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I. Similarity of the Greek Language of the New Testament with that of the Alexandrian or Septuagint Greek Version.-II. The New Testament why written in Greek.-III. Examination of its style. IV. Its Dialects - Hebraisms Rabbinisms Syriasms and Chaldaisms Latinisms Persisms and Cilicisms.


L IF a knowledge of Hebrew be necessary and desirable, in order to understand the Old Testament aright, an acquaintance with the Greek language is of equal importance for understanding the New Testament correctly. It is in this language that the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was executed and as the inspired writers of the New Testament thought and spoke in the Chaldee or Syriac tongues, whose turns of expression closely corresponded with those of the antient Hebrew, the language of the apostles and evangelists, when they wrote in Greek, necessarily resembled that of the translators of the Septuagint. And as every Jew, who read Greek at all, would read the Greek Bible, the style of the Septuagint again operated in forming the style of the Greek Testament. The Septuagint version, therefore, being a new source of interpretation equally important to the Old and New Testament, a knowledge of the Greek language becomes indispensably necessary to the biblical student.

II. A variety of solutions has been given to the question, why the New Testament was written in Greek. The true reason is simply this, —that it was the language best understood both by writers and readers, being spoken and written, read and understood, throughout the Roman empire, and particularly in the eastern provinces. In fact, Greek was at that time as well known in the higher and middle circles as the French is in our day. To the universality of the Greek language, Cicero, Seneca, 3 and Juvenal bear ample testimony: and the circumstances of the Jews having had both political, civil, and commercial relations with the Greeks, and being dispersed through various parts of the Roman empire, as well as their having cultivated the philosophy of the Greeks, of which we have evidence in the New Testament, all sufficiently account for their being acquainted with the Greek lan


1 Bishop Marsh's Lectures, part iii. pp. 30, 31. The question relative to the supposed Hebrew originals of Saint Matthew's Gospel, and of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is purposely omitted in this place, as it is considered in the subsequent part of this work.

2 Orat. pro Archia Poeta, c. 10. Græca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus; Latina suis finibus, exiguis sane, continentur. Julius Cæsar attests the prevalence of the Greek language in Gaul. De Bell. Gall. lib. i. c. 29. lib. vi. c. 14. (vol. i. pp. 23. 161. edit. Bipont.)

3 In Consolat. ad Helviam, c. 6. Quid sibi volunt in mediis barbarorum regionibus Græcæ urbes? Quid inter Indos Persasque Macedonicus sermo? Scythia et totus ille ferarum indomitarumque gentium tractus civitates Achaia, Ponticis impositas litoribus, ostentat.

4 Nunc totus Graias nostrasque habet orbis Athenas. Sat. xv. v. 110. Even the female sex, it appears from the same satyrist, made use of Greek as the language of familarity and passion. See Sat. vi. v. 185–191.

guage to which we may add the fact, that the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament had been in use among the Jews upwards of two hundred and eighty years before the Christian æra: which most assuredly would not have been the case if the language had not been familiar to them. And if the eminent Jewish writers, Philo and Josephus, had motives for preferring to write in Greek, (and the very fact of their writing in Greek proves that that language was vernacular to their countrymen,) there is no reason - at least there is no general presumption—why the first publishers of the Gospel might not use the Greek language. But we need not rest on probabilities. For,

1. It is manifest from various passages in the first book of Maccabees, that the Jews of all classes must at that time (B. c. 175—140.) have understood the language of their conquerors and oppressors, the Macedonian Greeks under Antiochus, falsely named the Great, and his successors.

2. Further, when the Macedonians obtained the dominion of western Asia, they filled that country with Greek cities. The Greeks also possessed themselves of many cities in Palestine, to which the Herods added many others, which were also inhabited by Greeks. Herod the Great, in particular, made continual efforts to give a foreign physiognomy to Judæa; which country, during the personal ministry of Jesus Christ, was thus invaded on every side by a Greek population. The following particulars will confirm and illustrate this fact.

Aristobulus and Alexander built or restored many cities, which were almost entirely occupied by Greeks, or by Syrians who spoke their language. Some of the cities indeed, which were rebuilt by the Asmonæan kings, or by the command of Pompey, were on the frontiers of Palestine, but a great number of them were in the interior of that country and concerning these cities we have historical data which demonstrate that they were very nearly, if not altogether, Greek. Thus, at Dora, a city of Galilee, the inhabitants refused to the Jews the right of citizenship which had been granted to them by Claudius. Josephus expressly says that Gadara and Hippos are Greek cities é2Anvides elői models.3 In the very centre of Palestine stood Bethshan, which place its Greek inhabitants termed Scythopolis. Josephus 5 testifies that Gaza, in the southern part of Judæa, was Greek: and Joppa, the importance of whose harbour induced the kings of Egypt


1 Josephus, de Bell. Jud. Proem. § 2. says, that he composed his history of the Jewish war in the language of his country, and afterwards wrote it in Greek for the information of the Greeks and Romans. The reader will find a great number of additional testimonies to the prevalence of the Greek language in the east, in Antonii Josephi Binterim Epistola Catholica Interlinealis de Linguâ Originali Novi Testamenti non Latina, &c. pp. 171-198. Dusseldorpii, 1820. It is necessary to apprise the reader, that the design of this volume is to support the absurd Popish dogma, that the reading of the Holy Scriptures, in the vulgar tongue, ought not to be promiscuously allowed.

2 Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xix. c. 6. § 5.

3 Ant. Jud. lib. xvi. c. 11. § 4.

4 Evo Пodes, Judges, i. 27. (Septuagint Version.) Polybius, lib. v. c. 70. § 4. 5 Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 11. 4.


and Syria successively to take it from the Jews, most certainly could not remain a stranger to the same influence. Under the reign of Herod the Great, Palestine became still more decidedly Greek. That prince and his sons erected several cities in honour of the Casars. The most remarkable of these, Cæsarea, (which was the second city in his kingdom) was chiefly peopled by Greeks;2 who after Herod's death, under the protection of Nero, expelled the Jews who dwelt there with them. 3 The Jews revenged the affront, which they had received at Cæsarea, on Gadara, Hippos, Scythopolis, Askalon, and Gaza, — a further proof that the Greeks inhabited those cities jointly with the Jews. After the death of Pompey, the Greeks being liberated from all the restraints which had been imposed on them, made great progress in Palestine under the protection of Herod; who by no means concealed his partiality to them,5 and lavished immense sums of money for the express purpose of naturalising their language and manners among the Jews. With this view he built a theatre and amphitheatre at Cæsarea ;6 at Jericho an amphitheatre, and a stadium; he erected similar edifices at the very gates of the holy city, Jerusalem, and he even proceeded to build a theatre within its walls.


3. The Roman government was rather favourable than adverse to the extension of the Greek language in Palestine, in consequence of Greek being the official language of the procurators, when administering justice, and speaking to the people. Under the earlier emperors, the Romans were accustomed frequently to make use of Greek, even at Rome, when the affairs of the provinces were under consideration. 9 If Greek were thus used at Rome, we may reasonably conclude that it would be still more frequently spoken in Greece and in Asia. Palestine in particular, we do not perceive any vestige of the official use of the Latin language by the procurators. We do not find a single instance, either in the books of the New Testament or in Josephus, in which the Roman governors made use of interpreters and while use and the affairs of life accustomed the common people to that language, the higher classes of society would on many accounts be obliged to make use of it.

4. So far were the religious authorities of the Jews from opposing the introduction of Greek, that they appear rather to have favoured the use of that language: they employed it, habitually, in profane works,

1 Diod. Sic. lib. xix. c. 59. 93. Macc. x. 75. xii. 33, 34. xiii. 11. xiv. 34. 2 Macc. xiii. 3. Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xiii. c. 9. § 2. and lib. xiv. c. 10. § 22.

2 Josephus, de Bell. Jud. lib. iii. c. 9. compared with lib. ii. c. 13. § 7.
3 Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 14. § 4.
4 Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 18.

5 Josephus, Ant. Jud. lib. xix. c. 7. § 5.

Idem. lib. xv. c. 9. compared with lib. xvi. c. 5.

7 Bell. Jud. lib. i. c. 33. § 6, 8. Ant. Jud. lib. xvii. c. 6.

8 Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 9. §3. Ant. Jud. lib. xv. c. 8.

Θεατρον εν Ιεροσολύμοις ώκοδο

v. Compare Eichhorn de Judæorum Re Scenica in Comment. Soc. Reg. Scient. Gotting. Vol. II. Class. Antiq, pp. 10–13.

9 This will account for the Jewish king, Herod Agrippa, and his brother being permitted by the emperor Claudius to be present in the senate, and to address that assembly in Greek. Dion. Hist. lib. lx. c. 8.



and admitted it into official acts. An article of the Mischna prohibits the Jews from writing books in another language. Such a prohibition would not have been given if they had not been accustomed to write in a foreign language. The act or instrument of divorce might, indifferently, be written and signed in Greek and Hebrew. 2 During the siege of Jerusalem for the first time, some opposition was made to the use of the Greek language, when brides were forbidden to wear a nuptial crown, at the same time that fathers were prohibited from teaching their children Greek. This circumstance will enable us readily to understand why Josephus, when sent by Titus to address his besieged countrymen, spoke to them ¿ppa wv, that is, in the Hebrew dialect, and in argi yoon, in his native tongue 4 it was not that he might be better heard, but that he might make himself known to them as their fellow countryman and brother.

5. The Greek language was spread through various classes of the Jewish nation by usage and the intercourse of life. The people, with but few exceptions, generally understood it, although they continued to be always more attached to their native tongue. There were at Jerusalem religious communities, wholly composed of Jews who spoke Greek, and of these Jews, as well as of Greek proselytes, the Christian church at Jerusalem appears in the first instance to have been formed. An examination of the acts of the apostles will confirm these assertions. Thus, in Acts xxi. 40. and xxii. 2. when Paul, after a tumult, addressed the populace in Hebrew, they kept the more silence. They expected that he would have spoken to them in another language, which they would have comprehended, though they heard him much better in Hebrew, which they preferred. In Acts vi. 9. and ix. 29. we read that there were at Jerusalem whole synagogues of Hellenist Jews, under the name of Cyrenians, Alexandrians, &c. And in Acts vi. 1. we find that these very Hellenists formed a considerable portion of the church in that city.

6. Further, there are extant Greek epitaphs and inscriptions which were erected in Palestine and the neighbouring countries, 7 as well as antient coins which were struck in the cities of Palestine, and also in the various cities of Asia Minor. What purpose could

1 Mischna, Tract. Megill. c. 1. § 8.

2 If the book of divorce be written in Hebrew, and the names of the witnesses in Greek, or vice versa ; or the name of one witness be in Hebrew and the other in Greek; - if a scribe and witness wrote it, it is lawful. — Ibid. Tract. Gitin. c.

9. § 8.

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3 Ibid. Tract. Jotah. c. 9. § 14.

4 Bell. Jud. lib. v. c. 9. § 2. lib. vi. c. 2. § 1.

5 In like manner, it is well known, there are many hundred thousand natives of Ireland who can understand what is said to them in English, which language they will tolerate; but they LOVE their native Irish dialect, and will listen with profound attention to any one who kindly addresses them in it.

6 Essai d'une Introduction Critique au Nouveau Testament, par J. E. Cellérier, fils, pp. 242-248, Genève, 1823. 8vo.

Antonii Jos. Binterim, Propempticum ad Molkenbuhrii Problema Criticum, — Sacra Scriptura Novi Testamenti in quo idiomate originaliter ab apostolis edita fuit? pp. 37-40. (Moguntiæ, 1822. 8vo.)

8 Ibid. pp. 40-44.

it answer, to erect the one or to execute the other, in the Greek language, if that language had not been familiar - indeed vernacular to the inhabitants of Palestine and the neighbouring countries? There is then every reasonable evidence, amounting to demonstration, that Greek did prevail universally throughout the Roman empire; and that the common people of Judæa were acquainted with it, and understood it.

Convincing as we apprehend the preceding facts and evidence will be found to the unprejudiced inquirer, two or three objections have been raised against them, which it may not be irrelevant here briefly to notice.

1. It is objected that, during the siege of Jerusalem, when Titus granted a truce to the factious Jews just before he commenced his last assault, he advanced towards them accompanied by an interpreter:1 but the Jewish historian, Josephus, evidently means that the Roman general, confident of victory, from a sense of dignity, spoke first and in his own maternal language, which we know was Latin. The interpreter therefore did not attend him in order to translate Greek words into Hebrew, but for the purpose of rendering into Hebrew or Greek the discourse which Titus pronounced in Latin.

2 It has also been urged as a strong objection to the Greek original of the gospels, that Jesus Christ spoke in Hebrew; because Hebrew words occur in Mark v. 41. (Talitha cumi), vii. 34. (Ephphatha), Matt. xxvii. 46. (Eli, Eli! Lama sabachthani), and Mark xv. 34. But to this affirmation we may reply, that on this occasion the evangelists have noticed and transcribed these expressions in the original, because Jesus did not ordinarily and habitually speak Hebrew. But admitting it to be more probable, that the Redeemer did ordinarily speak Hebrew to the Jews, who were most partial to their native tongue, which they heard him speak with delight, we may ask — in what language but Greek did he address the multitudes, when they were composed of a mixture of persons of different countries and nations-proselytes to the Jewish religion, as well as heathen gentiles? For instance, the Gadarenes (Matt. viii. 28-34. Mark v. 1. Luke viii. 26.); the inhabitants of the borders of Tyre and Sidon (Mark vii. 24.); the inhabitants of the Decapolis; the Syrophoenician woman who is expressly termed a Greek, n yuvn Elanvis, in Mark vii. 26. ; and the Greeks, Elves, who were desirous of seeing Jesus at the passover. (John xii. 20.)2

3. Lastly, it has been objected that, as the Christian churches were in many countries composed chiefly of the common people, they did not and could not understand Greek. But not to insist on the evidence already adduced for the universality of the Greek language, we may reply that" in every church there were numbers of persons endowed with the gifts of tongues, and of the interpretation of tongues; who could readily turn the apostles' Greek epistles into the language of the church to which they were sent. In particular, the president, or the

1 Josephus, de Bell. Jud. lib. vi. c. 6.

2 Cellérier, Essai. p. 249.

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