Erasmus - Greek learning and skills

Steven Avery

When an AV contra claimed that Erasmus was simply self-taught in Greek, I decided to bring forth some of the historical information. First the intro. (I am omitting stuff like comments about his GNT translation that are subjective.)

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Glynn Brown
Erasmus taught himself greek and also the Erasmian pronunciation is wrong,but I don't see you or any other kjvo having a problem with this.

Steven Avery
Glynn Brown - Erasmus could speak and even teach Greek, he learned from fluent Greek speakers. And he was not really a fan of the ‘Erasmian pronunciation’, it was meant as a type of crutch. As for the verses later mangled by Sharp, Erasmus was aware of the article omission.

Glynn Brown
But Erasmus didn't learn from a university, he taught himself. ...
Next we go to the Erasmus data. I am tweaking it a bit here, since it was done on an iPad.

Steven Avery
Erasmus studied Greek at Oxford, under William Grocyn (c. 1446-1519) and Thomas Linacre (c. 1460-1524), the tutors of Thomas More. Grocyn taught Greek at Oxford. Linacre was the first Englishman to study Greek in Italy.


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature

"William Grocyn was early distinguished by his knowledge of Greek and taught that language at Oxford before 1488."


The events around the Council of Florence c. 1440 had led to an Italian Greek renaissance, spurred by the influx of Greek scholarship from Constantinople. Also the fall of Constantinople in 1453 led to more Greek scholarship in the west. The earlier periods as well are covered in:

Greek scholars in the Renaissance


The English Reformation and the Study of Greek, 257-282, William Ralph Churton. possib. Josef L. Altholz (1884)

Linacre was, at any rate, thoroughly qualified as a professor of Greek. According to Wood (A th. Oxon.) he had studied in Canterbury under Selling. He subsequently became the pupil at Florence both of Demetrius Chalcondylas, tutor to the children of Lorenzo de’ Medici, and also of that scholar’s illustrious rival, Politian. Returning from Italy he gave private instruction in Greek at Oxford, about the year 1498. p. 260


One of the strange elements of the contra-AV movement is the new revisionism of an anti-Erasmus shoddy scholarship. Simply because the the TR == Reformation Bible == Authorized Version. The contras attack their own heritage, for which Erasmus has historically been a key component.

Later I’ll try to add a bit about the Greek environment in Italy, 1506-1509, and Basel, where “everybody knows Latin and Greek.”
Here are some more interesting points and resource background.

Who Needs Greek?: Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (2002)
Simon Goldhill

Together with Thomas More, he translated more than thirty of Lucian’s works from Greek into Latin, and they really put Lucian on the reading list. It was the first translation of Lucian of any scope and the first to achieve wide circulation. It was an immensely popular and influential enterprise that went through more than thirty editions in Erasmus’ lifetime (many more than, say, Utopia).
Renaissance and Reformation: The Intellectual Genesis
by Anthony Levi
p. 182 to 185 can be seen with one page at a time.

Memoir of Erasmus by Edwin Johnson

Apophthegmes of Erasmus (1877)
Translated into English by Nicholas Wall
Literally Reprinted from the Scarce Edition of 1564.
Erasmus section begins:
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Steven Avery

2019 Documentary - "Going Back to the Greek" - Steven Anderson and friends in Cyprus

2019 Documentary - "Going Back to the Greek"
(new - 2020)

Facebook - Pure Bible
"Generally a good production whose theme is important and true. My comments on that page and mirrored at:..."

The basic theme is right, modern Greeks are comfy with Biblical, Koine Greek.
And the USA and Brit and most European seminarian studies are a disaster.
(Note: there is a tiny immersion movement.)

Good compliment to the King James Bible at 52:50.

(Leaving aside the "saved so easy" soteriology. One example of this is around 15:00. Also 1:13:20. No repentance foundation, see Hebrews 6. Also from Steven Anderson, emphatically no baptism for remission of sins, preceded by repentance.)

One scholarly tweak. At 4:50 the idea is given that the Greek renaissance began around 1453 with those who fled Byzantium. The fall of Constantinople. By that time the Greek renaissance in Italy was already well underway. The Councils of Siena (1423), Ferrara (1438), and Florence (1431-1449) had brought a major influx. And many learned Greek scholars even preceded those Councils.


Apophthegmes of Erasmus (1877) - translated by Nicolas Wall
Memoir of Erasmus - Edwin Johnson (1842-1901)

"The intercourse between the churches of the East and the West at the time of the council of Florence occasioned a steady drift of Greek scholars from Constantinople to Italy, beginning with Barlaam, and Leontius Pilatus, the friends and tutors of Petrarch and Boccaccio, continued in Chrysoloras, Theodore of Gaza, George of Trebizond, John Arguropylos, and ending with Demetrius Chalcocondyles."


Barlaam of Seminara (c. 1290–1348)
Leontius Pilatus (d. 1366)
Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)
Manuel Chrysoloras (c. 1355 - April 1415)
Theodorus Gaza - (c. 1398-c. 1475)
George of Trebizond (1395–1486)
John Argyropoulos - (c. 1415 – 26 June 1487)
Demetrius Chalcocondyles (1423-1511)

There were all teaching in Italy before the fall of Constantinople, and teaching many others.
This led to the English scholars coming to Italy to learn throughout the 1400s.
And this laid the foundation for the work of Erasmus, and then Stephanus and Beza.


The point from the Pastor Dane Jöhannsson about the seminarians not speaking Greek (19:00) is true, and excellent.Norris Belcher, "Hush, You Don't Speak Greek!" and even Daniel R. Streett have helped to make this clear.

The section of Bible correctors 1:08-1:11:30, from the Greek, towards the end is fun and sad.

Ending with a comment from James White.

Pure Bible Forum

Erasmus Greek Learning and Skills
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Steven Avery

New CARM and B-Greek threads too

Facebook - New Testament Greek Study
Sept, 2020

Craig Harmon
Jay Shorten

Marcelo Plioplis
Jay Shorten
i just read the comments on that thread and it said the opposite. It said koine mainly changes syntax and spelling but anyone born before 1979 would have no problem reading Koine in modern Greece.

Jay Shorten
I'm not convinced. None of the people who replied in that thread are scholars. Just looking at a description of Modern Greek grammar, I can see: The dative has disappeared in Modern. The pronouns are similar, but not identical. The verb is certainly different enough (θα future; synthetic perfects; what was the future in Koiné is now the subjunctive). Those are greater differences between Modern Greek and Koiné than Modern English has with Shakespearean English/KJV English.

Jay Shorten
Marcelo Plioplis
But Modern Greek is Dhimotiki, not the Atticizing form earlier taught in the schools (Katharevousa), right? And am I correct to say nowadays people are not taught in Katharevousa? So if I'm 30 or 20, I wouldn't be able to read Koiné because I hadn't been taught Katharevousa.
People don't have to take a course in Shakespearean English first before they can read it, though they might need help with the thou and ye forms at first and probably wouldn't understand everything completely. But they do have to study Middle English to read Chaucer.

Marcelo Plioplis
This is a thread of other greek speakers mentioning the fact that it's not too difficult to read Koine. I would suppose the opposite might be challenging to non-Greek speakers, but reading John 1:1 in modern Greek is almost identical.

Jay Shorten
But can they read a non-Biblical Koiné text and understand it? Everyone is familiar with the NT, so they can guess what it means. But what if you gave them a random Church Father or some novel like the Acts of Paul and Thecla?

Steven Anderson
Jay Shorten
I completed Duolingo Greek, Rosetta Stone Greek, and Pimsleur Greek (all modern Greek courses), and I estimate that about 90% of what I learned in those courses shows up in the Bible one way or the other. I've read the Greek New Testament cover-to-cover 6 times (almost done with the 7th), and I've read half the Septuagint.
Obviously there are a lot of grammatical differences, but it is still the same language. Anyone who graduates high school in Greece or Cyprus studies classical Greek (which is much more different than Koine), so Koine is a breeze for them.
Right now I'm studying Lysias orations 1 & 3 (classical Greek), and they are MUCH harder to read than Koine Greek.

Joel Gordon
Completely different in most aspects - I studied classical/attic Greek (not quite Koine, I know) with a young lady who had immigrated from Greece to New Zealand. She had an advantage in not having to learn the alphabet, but even vocab was different, not to mention the structure and formation of sentences. It was certainly enlightening to have her note the differences as we went along

Steven Anderson
That is totally different because Attic Greek is MUCH harder than Koine Greek. Koine Greek is much closer to modern, so that is apples to oranges.

Joel Gordon
Steven Anderson
. A bit of an over simplification on my part certainly but I have to politely disagree with your claim. Classical Greek students can easily read koine but not modern Greek which suggests they are not so far off from each other. And following the general tone of this thread koine and modern Greek remain fundamentally distinct.

Stanley Garland
A native koine speaker would not understand but an occasional word. They would most likely identify it as some dialect related to their language, but still as different as Spanish is from Italian.

Kevin Studley
They are mutually unintelligible. Modern Greek speakers cannot usually understand 1st century Koine unless they are taught it or classical Greek in school or in church.

Steve Grose
For a few years I conducted a bible study in Greek with modern Greek speakers: they said about 50% is the same. They could read koine Greek. I could read the modern Greek New Testament they gave me. It is somewhat simplified in modern with new words that represent the same new words in English since 1940.

Steven Avery
A couple of evangelicals went to Cyprus and gave a Received Text New Testament to the youngsters, and they read it easily with no problem. It is on Youtube

Kevin Studley
Steven Avery
, Cypriot Greek is unintelligible to the average speaker of Standard Modern Greek. This is because it is more similar to Byzantine Greek, which is a development from Koine.

Steven Avery
Kevin Studley
- thanks
hi Kevin, allow me to be a bit skeptical. Note that even the Wiki article says "without prior exposure", but there is tons of back and forth between Greece and the Greek 3/4 majority population of Cyprus (1/4 Turkish.)
And I will pass on the wiki claim to a friend who pastored a church in Cyprus for many years and plans to be back this year.
I'll ask him what happens when a native Greek Cypriot travels up to Thessalonica or some rural Greek area. Whether he struggles to be understood.
I am also in contact with a top Greek linguist, but for now I would not take his time on this question.

Steven Avery
Here is the first part of the response:
"Hi Steven, my wife - a fluent Greek-speaking Cypriot - says that while it is a dialect of sorts, it is understood by Greeks, and and vice versa; only a few words may differ or are pronounced differently. There is no language barrier between the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots."
I'll take that way before a Wikipedia reference to a 2006 book that may well be mangling what the scholar wrote and its context (it was not a quote).
My friend went into Vamvas (Bambas) and more and also recommends:
Translating the Scriptures into Modern Greek, by N.M. Vaporis, ISBN 1885652003 .

Steven Avery
Going to the Amalia Arvaniti 2006 paper, here is the text:
Erasure as a means of maintaining diglossia in Cyprus
Amalia Arvaniti
Cypriot has always been described as a dialect of Greek (Horrocks, 1997; Kontosopoulos, 2001; Newton. 1972a). and is perceived to be so by the Cypriot speakers themselves (e.g., Sivas, 2003; Tsiplakou, 2003). Despite the pervasiveness of this view, the two varieties are sufficiently different to be mutually unintelligible without adequate previous exposure, as the accounts of lay speakers in Papadakis (2000) and Tsiplakou (2003) amply demonstrate. (It should be noted, however, that lack of intelligibility is not mutual: due to their greater exposure to Standard Greek, Cypriots are much less likely than Greeks to experience comprehension problems during cross-varietal communication.) Cypriot is further divided into town speech, and village Cypriot or village speech (Newton, 1972b). ....
I'll take the report of an actual Cypriot woman who travels to Greece way above this "lack of intelligibility" claimed in some scholarship papers. Interesting question how scholars can be so far afield.

Steven Avery
The 2006 quote also appears here in a 2011 book
The Development of Grammar: Language acquisition and diachronic change. In honour of Jürgen M. Meisel
paper on Cypriot Greek by
Kleanthes K. Grohmann

Jay Shorten
So which parts of the NT were given as a test? John, for example, would be no test at all for a modern Greek, because the syntax is simple enough even for us non-Greek Koiné learners to understand it. And the NT is a familiar text, so as they read it, so if there is some word or phrase or grammatical construction they are not certain of, they can make a guess, whether educated or not, or correct or not, from what they remember of the Modern version. Did you give them readings from the more difficult parts of the NT? Or better yet, in Koiné that they could not possibly be familiar with? How did they do on those?

Steven Avery
"Going Back to the Greek"
At 32:15 a short reference to Koine Greek.
I think from about 10 to 20 minutes there is a lot of outdoor time at the mall, cafes, etc.
I was not involved, just appreciated the video, which goes well with what my Cypriot Greek friends say.

Steven Anderson
Kevin Studley
said, "Cypriot Greek is unintelligible to the average speaker of Standard Modern Greek."
That is not true at all. I spent a few weeks in Cyprus, and as an outsider, I could barely even tell the difference between the Cypriot dialect and the Greek spoken in Greece. I also had a native Greek with me on the trip who was raised in Greece and came up through the school system in Greece, and he said it was virtually the same also with the exception of a few quirks and a little bit of slang.

Steven Anderson
Jay Shorten
, most of what we gave them was from Acts and the epistles of Paul. In my opinion, the two hardest books of the Greek NT are Acts and Hebrews.
We also read large sections of Revelation with them (which would represent the easier end of the spectrum similar to the Gospel of John).

Barry Hofstetter
My experience with modern Greeks is that many have some introduction to ancient Greek, and are familiar with portions of their own Greek orthodox Bible, along with the liturgy of Chrysostom. Modern Greek speakers with such a background can understand certain portions of the GNT. Take them outside of that comfort zone, and it's quite a different story. They also do not necessarily understand it better than someone who has learned ancient Greek as a second language.
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