It Ain’t Just Students

Larry Hurtado has written on the NT scholars’ tools of the trade. Basically he expects all PhDs in NT studies to be able to read Koine Greek, Hebrew, German, French, and English. Obviously the Bible is written in Hebrew and Greek (I’m a bit surprised to not see Aramaic as an expected language but perhaps he is subsuming that into Hebrew) and the most important secondary literature is in English, German, and French (watch out though, secondary lit. in Italian has come a long way). I won’t disagree with him on any of that stuff; I’d expect anyone with a PhD in NT to be able to work with those languages as well. But one thing he said stuck out like a sore thumb:

In one case, the examiner suspected that the student didn’t know koine Greek very well.  So he put a Greek NT on the table and asked the student to read out and translate a passage (one directly involved in the thesis).  The student couldn’t even pronounce the Greek and couldn’t translate it.

I’ve listened to audio files of countless lectures, paper presentations, interviews where Greek is cited, etc., and most of the people who attempt to read a passage from the Greek New Testament mangle the pronunciation, even when they know the language extremely well. I’ve gone on record numerous times as saying that I think the so-called Erasmian pronunciation is like nails on a chalkboard. It’s an affront to languages everywhere. Yet it dominates, at least in Anglo-American contexts. The situation may be very different on the Continent, I don’t know. In any event, it ain’t just the students who can’t pronounce the Greek; they’re being taught to mispronounce it by professors who can’t pronounce it either!

B”H

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6 thoughts on “It Ain’t Just Students

  1. Long live the restored pronunciation! Or at least the modern. I’m caught somewhere between the two. Heck, everyone knows that Κυριε ελεησον is k-ee-r-ee-eh el-eh-ee-sohn. ;-).

  2. Alex> You had better believe it is pronounced that way! For crying out loud, it was even transliterated that way into Latin liturgy in dark antiquity. Same for the Trisagion, which in the improperia for Good Friday was transliterated as “Hagios o Theos. Hagios Ischyros. Hagios Athanatos, eleison himas” (with the “h” silent throughout, of course).

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