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How understandable is Koine Greek to a Modern Greek Speaker?

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by BradleyFlood, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. BradleyFlood New Member

    Hello everyone!

    I am doing some study and research on the Greek Language, I am learning modern Greek myself (an English speaker from Australia) and I have some questions that I would LOVE to have answered my some Greek Speakers. I have done some research but am unable to find satisfactory answers.

    How understandable is the "Koine" Greek (i.e. New Testament Writings) to a modern day native Greek speaker.

    In our english language, we a have a bible translation called the "King James" bible which is 400 years old. By todays standard of English, this English is still understandable by those who are willing to figure it out and lookup many new words that are no longer in our normal vocabulary, but it is also old grammar and inflection and out of date by today's standards.

    Is that how the Koine Greek is compared to the Modern Greek?

    I have done some research on this and I am able to see that the Koine is different in pronunciation. Its not the pronunciation that I am interested in, its the Grammar and Vocabulary.

    Is the grammar and vocabulary very different?

    Do the Koine words mean different things than they did 2000 years ago.
    I have quoted two different versions of Greek scripture below. The top is in the original Koine Greek, and the bottom is the same scripture but translated into "Modern" Greek. Can any one tell the difference, whats it like? (grammar and vocab wise)

    MY MAIN AND MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION IS:

    Could a simple modern Greek person easily understand if you were to quote them Koine Greek scriptures or would it be hard/very hard/pointless?


    Thanks very much for your help!

    Bradley.
    Lennox Head.
    Australia.

    -------------------------------------------------
    Koine:
    ην δε ανθρωπος εκ των φαρισαιων νικοδημος ονομα αυτω αρχων των ιουδαιων
    ουτος ηλθεν προς τον ιησουν νυκτος και ειπεν αυτω ραββι οιδαμεν οτι απο θεου εληλυθας διδασκαλος ουδεις γαρ ταυτα τα σημεια δυναται ποιειν α συ ποιεις εαν μη η ο θεος μετ αυτου
    απεκριθη ο ιησους και ειπεν αυτω αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου
    λεγει προς αυτον ο νικοδημος πως δυναται ανθρωπος γεννηθηναι γερων ων μη δυναται εις την κοιλιαν της μητρος αυτου δευτερον εισελθειν και γεννηθηναι
    απεκριθη ο ιησους αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη εξ υδατος και πνευματος ου δυναται εισελθειν εις την βασιλειαν του θεου
    το γεγεννημενον εκ της σαρκος σαρξ εστιν και το γεγεννημενον εκ του πνευματος πνευμα εστιν
    μη θαυμασης οτι ειπον σοι δει υμας γεννηθηναι ανωθεν
    το πνευμα οπου θελει πνει και την φωνην αυτου ακουεις αλλ ουκ οιδας ποθεν ερχεται και που υπαγει ουτως εστιν πας ο γεγεννημενος εκ του πνευματος


    -------------------------------------------------
    Modern Greek
    Ήτο δε άνθρωπός τις εκ των Φαρισαίων, Νικόδημος ονομαζόμενος, άρχων των Ιουδαίων.
    Ούτος ήλθε προς τον Ιησούν διά νυκτός και είπε προς αυτόν· Ραββί, εξεύρομεν ότι από Θεού ήλθες διδάσκαλος· διότι ουδείς δύναται να κάμνη τα σημεία ταύτα, τα οποία συ κάμνεις, εάν δεν ήναι ο Θεός μετ' αυτού.
    Απεκρίθη ο Ιησούς και είπε προς αυτόν· Αληθώς, αληθώς σοι λέγω, εάν τις δεν γεννηθή άνωθεν, δεν δύναται να ίδη την βασιλείαν του Θεού.
    Λέγει προς αυτόν ο Νικόδημος· Πως δύναται άνθρωπος να γεννηθή γέρων ων; μήποτε δύναται να εισέλθη δευτέραν φοράν εις την κοιλίαν της μητρός αυτού και να γεννηθή;
    Απεκρίθη ο Ιησούς· Αληθώς, αληθώς σοι λέγω, εάν τις δεν γεννηθή εξ ύδατος και Πνεύματος, δεν δύναται να εισέλθη εις την βασιλείαν του Θεού.
    Το γεγεννημένον εκ της σαρκός είναι σαρξ και το γεγεννημένον εκ του Πνεύματος είναι πνεύμα.
    Μη θαυμάσης ότι σοι είπον, Πρέπει να γεννηθήτε άνωθεν.
    Ο άνεμος όπου θέλει πνέει, και την φωνήν αυτού ακούεις, αλλά δεν εξεύρεις πόθεν έρχεται και που υπάγει· ούτως είναι πας, όστις εγεννήθη εκ του Πνεύματος.
     
  2. orthophron Senior Member

    Greek
    I 'll borrow Chatzidakis conclusion from his research on "Unity of Hellenic Language": Considering the New Testament's 4900 words, half of them are used with the same meaning today, most of the rest are easily understood by any Greek and about 400 words are incomprehensible.

    The original extract from John you cited is very easy to understand. I don't see an unknown word.
    The translation you provided was made in 1850. It is in what we call now "katharevoussa" (purist Greek).

    An obvious difference is the replacement of infinitive with subjunctive and the periphrastic form of present/past perfect in katharevoussa.

    I could provide you with the Modern Greek version in my next post if you like.
     
  3. Traduita Senior Member

    Greece, Greek
    Hi
    There is a wide spectrum between these two extremes.

    I think (from personal experience also) that koine is easy to follow if, being a Greek speaker, you have some basic knowledge of Classical greek. If, on the other hand, you have a modern Greek speaker with no notion of Ancient Greek whatsoever, they might still recognize the words or maybe pick up the topic of the text (the one you quote for example), but I do not think they would be able to make much sense of what is being said.
    In my opinion the main difference, and what makes understanding difficult, is not so much in the grammar and the vocabulary as the syntax, as koine still uses so many infinitive and participle structures the modern Greek has lost.
    It would also depend on the kind and length of the quotation.
     
  4. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    U.S.A.
    Greek Greece
    And, if I may add my personal little grumble as a language teacher, how well one really knows modern Greek (and I am talking about native speakers).
     
  5. BradleyFlood New Member

    Lol. Thank you everyone you have been a great help!

    Brad.
     
  6. Erutuon Junior Member

    English, USA
    Orthophron: Could you post the Modern Greek version? I can understand the Katharevousa from my knowledge of Ancient Greek, but perhaps Modern would prove harder.
     
  7. orthophron Senior Member

    Greek
    To begin with I 'd like to add some more points. It is not only the words itselves or sentence structure that has to be understood but the deep meanings that they convey, which is independent of language. So, if Jesus himself explained the phrase "born from above" further down the extract, there are many other parts that needed to be explained in the early age actually (4th century) by John Crysostome.
    Ήταν κάποιος άνθρωπος από τους Φαρισαίους, το όνομά του Νικόδημος (also: Νικόδημος κατά το όνομα or ονομαζόμενος Νικόδημος), άρχοντας των Ιουδαίων. Αυτός ήλθε προς αυτόν (also: ήλθε σ΄ αυτόν/κοντά του/προς το μέρος του) [τη] νύκτα και του είπε: Διδάσκαλε, γνωρίζουμε ότι από το Θεό έχεις έλθει [ως] διδάσκαλος, διότι (also: γιατί) κανείς δεν μπορεί να κάνει αυτά τα θαύματα που εσύ κάνεις, αν δεν είναι μαζί του ο Θεός. Αποκρίθηκε (also: απάντησε) ο Ιησούς λέγοντας σ' αυτόν: Αλήθεια, αλήθεια σου λέ[γ]ω, εάν δεν γεννηθεί κανείς άνωθεν*, δεν μπορεί να [ι]δεί τη βασιλεία του Θεού. Λέγει σ' αυτόν ο Νικόδημος: Πώς μπορεί να γεννηθεί ο άνθρωπος, όντας (also: ενώ είναι) γέρος; Μήπως μπορεί να εισέλθει (also: μπει) στην κοιλιά της μάνας του και να γεννηθεί πάλι; Ο Ιησούς απάντησε: Αλήθεια σου λέω· εάν δεν γεννηθεί κανείς από ύδωρ** (also: νερό) και πνεύμα, δεν μπορεί να μπει στη βασιλεία του Θεού. Το γεννημένο (also: ό,τι έχει γεννηθεί) από σάρκα είναι σάρκα και το γεννημένο από πνεύμα είναι πνεύμα.Μην απορείς που (also: επειδή) σου είπα "πρέπει να γεννηθείτε άνωθεν". Ο άνεμος όπου θέλει πνέει και τη φωνή (also: βοή) του ακού[ει]ς, αλλά δεν γνωρίζεις από πού έρχεται και πού πηγαίνει. Έτσι είναι όποιος εγεννήθη[κε] από το πνεύμα.

    *άνωθεν (from above = από [επ]άνω) : it is not used in Modern Greek of course, but maybe it is of the words that should remain as is.

    **ύδωρ: in Modern Greek its plural (ύδατα) is mainly used.
    ___________________________________________________________
    Comparing Koine and Katharevoussa by looking at the translation of 1850, one quickly notices absence of optative mood, rare use of dative case, while infinitive is just used to form present/past perfect.
    However, the Greek language question ("Katharevoussa" vs "Demotic") had already started.
    ___________________________________________________________
    Some of the features of Demotic (Modern Greek) that reflect the differences between it and Katharevoussa include:
    Adverbs in -ως now end in -α (mostly).
    Use of fewer prepositions, with predomination of "σε" (< εις), στον/στην (< εις+article) etc.
    Participles: In active voice a single indeclinable form is used: ονομάζ-οντας, but ονομαζόμεν-ος-η-ο (passive present), ονομασμένος-η-ο (passive present perfect).
    No redoubling in presente perfect participle: λυμένος.
    Changes in conjugation of verbs e.g. λύ-ουσι -> λύ-ουν.
    Changes in declention of nouns. e.g. some of third class are declined as first class: η σάρξ / της σαρκός -> η σάρκα / της σάρκας.
    Changes in articles: αι/τας (pl fem) -> οι/τις.
    Pronouns: use of weak form of personal pronouns μου/σου/του, τον/τους … etc. The indeclinable "που" is more frequently used than "οποί-ος,-α,-ο".
    Monotonic writing (since 1980).
    Orthography of some words has also been affected: να λύση -> να λύσει.
    ___________________________________________________________
    It should be mentioned that many words or phrases of Ancient Greek, learned (λόγιες) or not as well as phrases of the Bible are normally used in Modern Greek. Officialese wording also uses katharevoussa a lot. Besides, it is to some writers' /speakers' satisfaction to use more of the kind.

    So, one can find in a newspaper of today:
    dative: εν πάση περιπτώσει (anyway)
    redoubling: δε-δουλευμένα, δια-κε-κομμένος etc
    aorist participle: ο ύποπτος φέρεται δηλώσας οτι …
    infinitive: ούτως ειπείν,… | το στρίβειν δια του αρραβώνος (humoristic).
    adverbs in -ως: ευχαρίστως, εμμέσως πλην σαφώς
    polytonic writing as in "nemecis" magazine.
    ... ... ...
    This was the good and maybe encouraging for Ancient Greek learners side of the coin; the other side includes arbitrary word coining. But we cannot change the world.
     
  8. ekfrasi

    ekfrasi New Member

    Greece
    Greek
    Hi there,
    I am Greek.

    The current modern Greek translation of the passage is:
    Iωάννης 3

    1 ΥΠΗΡΧΕ δε ένας άνθρωπος από τους Φαρισαίους, που ονομαζόταν Νικόδημος, άρχοντας των Ιουδαίων.
    2 Αυτός ήρθε στον Ιησού μέσα στη νύχτα και του είπε: Ραββί, ξέρουμε ότι ήρθες Δάσκαλος από τον Θεό· επειδή, κανένας δεν μπορεί να κάνει αυτά τα σημεία που εσύ κάνεις, αν ο Θεός δεν είναι μαζί του.
    3 Αποκρίθηκε ο Ιησούς και του είπε: Σε διαβεβαιώνω απόλυτα, αν κάποιος δεν γεννηθεί από επάνω, δεν μπορεί να δει τη βασιλεία τού Θεού.
    4 Ο Νικόδημος λέει σ' αυτόν: Πώς μπορεί ένας άνθρωπος να γεννηθεί ενώ είναι γέροντας; Μήπως μπορεί να μπει μια δεύτερη φορά στην κοιλιά τής μητέρας του και να γεννηθεί;
    5 Αποκρίθηκε ο Ιησούς: Σε διαβεβαιώνω απόλυτα, αν κάποιος δεν γεννηθεί από νερό και Πνεύμα, δεν μπορεί να μπει μέσα στη βασιλεία τού Θεού.
    6 Εκείνο που έχει γεννηθεί από τη σάρκα είναι σάρκα· και εκείνο που έχει γεννηθεί από το Πνεύμα, είναι πνεύμα.
    7 Μη θαυμάσεις ότι σου είπα: Πρέπει να γεννηθείτε από επάνω.
    8 Ο άνεμος πνέει όπου θέλει, και ακούς τη φωνή του, αλλά δεν ξέρεις από πού έρχεται, και πού πηγαίνει· έτσι είναι καθένας που γεννήθηκε από το Πνεύμα.


    The Textus receptus is:
    ην δε ανθρωπος εκ των φαρισαιων νικοδημος ονομα αυτω αρχων των ιουδαιων
    2 ουτος ηλθεν προς αυτον τον ιησουν νυκτος και ειπεν αυτω ραββι οιδαμεν οτι απο θεου εληλυθας διδασκαλος ουδεις γαρ δυναταια ταυτα τα σημεια δυναται ποιειν α συ ποιεις εαν μη η ο θεος μετ αυτου
    3 απεκριθη ο ιησους και ειπεν αυτω αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη ανωθεν ου δυναται ιδειν την βασιλειαν του θεου
    4 λεγει προς αυτον ο νικοδημος πως δυναται ανθρωπος γεννηθηναι γερων ων μη δυναται εις την κοιλιαν της μητρος αυτου δευτερον εισελθειν και γεννηθηναι
    5 απεκριθη ο ιησους αμην αμην λεγω σοι εαν μη τις γεννηθη εξ υδατος και πνευματος ου δυναται εισελθειν εις την βασιλειαν του θεου
    6 το γεγεννημενον εκ της σαρκος σαρξ εστιν και το γεγεννημενον εκ του πνευματος πνευμα εστιν
    7 μη θαυμασης οτι ειπον σοι δει υμας γεννηθηναι ανωθεν
    8 το πνευμα οπου θελει πνει και την φωνην αυτου ακουεις αλλ ουκ οιδας ποθεν ερχεται και που υπαγει ουτως εστιν πας ο γεγεννημενος εκ του πνευματος

    I can read both, and Koine is absolutely understandable .
    The grammar and vocabulary are basically the same if you know "good" modern Greek

    The pronanciation is identical for a Greek.
    there lies the mistake of Erasmus...

    Greek is a living language, because Greeks are stll alive, like the King James (aka shakespeare) English, you may not use "thou" but you know how to pronounce it.

    It is not dead, like Chaldian, 'cause there are no Chaldians around ;)

    I am sure you can read and understand the modern Greek as well, you just pronounce it wrong, because of Erasmus.

    i.e everybody uses Kudos, but none pronounces it "kedos" with the "ke" like in kitten, and that is because of Erasmus... all wrong

    koine is very close to modern compared with classical.

    try to understand
    Κεῖνον, ῶ χρυσόθρονε Μοῦσ', ἔνισπες
    ὕμνον, ἐκ τᾶς καλλιγύναικος ἐσθλᾶς
    Τήιος χώρας ὃν ἄειδε τερπνῶς
    πρέσβυς ἀγαυός ... for example, which is classical :)

    (the funny thing is, if I give the above passage to an 8 year old Greek, he will pronounce it right)
     
  9. BradleyFlood New Member

    Thankyou :)
     
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    Are these passages in Classic Greek?
    If yes, then the pronunciation was quite different from both Koine and Modern Greek.
    For example β was b not v, ή was e:, not i, χ was k+h, θ was t+h, δ was d. How an 8-years old would guess all that?
     
  11. Δημήτρης

    Δημήτρης Senior Member

    Κύπρος - Cyprus
    Cypriot Greek
    Erasmus did some mistakes (AFAIK, he failed to reconstruct the pronunciation of χ-φ-θ, he give them the same sounds as in Modern Greek instead of Kh-Ph-Th), but he's certainly not a liar. Linguists, including the great Hatzidakis completed the reconstruction to the extent that it was possible (of course we can't know of all the ancient Greek dialects or precise time frames etc) and corrected the mistakes.
    It is utterly ridiculous to believe that the phonology of any language will be the same after 3000 years. Homeric Greek and Modern Demotic Greek have a ton of differences in morphology, syntax and vocabulary and it doesn't take a genius to realize that, so where does this supernatural denial comes from? Phonology changed as well.

    Sure, when we recite Classical Greek, we use the Modern pronunciation. Perfectly normal. But if a Greek from the 4th century BCE was to hear us, he would call us BARBARIANS.

    Btw, English phonology changed as well. Today's Brits read /fid/ for "feed" but their ancestors would say /fe:d/.
     
  12. ekfrasi

    ekfrasi New Member

    Greece
    Greek
    The 8 year old woould pronounce it with Modern Greek accent.

    And, YES, phonetics change, but if the ancient Greek with think we sound as Barbarians, we would need one alive to settle the issue for good...
     
  13. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    You mean with Modern Greek sound values? Then they would not be pronounced right, IMHO.

    They certainly would. All old people mean that the language is being destroyed by the younger generation. Myself included.
     
  14. daambii New Member

    mongolian
    Dear Sirs, English Bible versions translate last sentence of James 5:16 differently. How normal native Greek person understands that sentence in Greek bible? In KJV it translated as: The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. In Douay Rheims bible it translated as: For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much. Other English versions translate this sentence in many different ways. All English versions based on same Greek text. Please help me Greek friends.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2014
  15. Αγγελος Senior Member

    Greek
    Dear Daambii,
    The orignal Greek is πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη.
    The first four words are absolutely clear. They mean "a just man's prayer can achieve a lot". ("righteous" in English is just an old-fashioned synonym for "just".)
    The last word is less clear. It is a participle, grammatically referring to "prayer", coming from the same root that gives us the word "energy". It seems to simply mean "performed, done" -- or possibly "performed earnestly or zealously" (which would explain the KJV translation as "fervent".)
    The overall meaning seems clear, however: have your holy men pray for your ailing fellow-Christians, and pray for each other; for earnest prayers are often answered.
    The sacrament of
    Anointing of the Sick or Extreme Unction (ευχέλαιον in Greek) is founded on that passage from St. James' Epistle.
     

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