Additions to the Bibliography

Today I added Carmen Padilla’s article, “Ensayo de Clasificación de la Especie Semántica Atributo en el Nuevo Testamento (Letra alpha)” to A Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics. This Spanish language article published in Filología Neotestamentaria applies a type of semantic analysis that was gaining popularity at the time of its publication (1991).

The type of analysis is that introduced to Biblical Studies by Juan Mateos (1917-2003) in Método de Análisis Semántico, Aplicado al Griego del Nuevo Testamento, Ediciones El Almendro, 1989. Mateos aimed to help bring order to what he saw as the terminological chaos of the semantic theories at his disposal. I have also added his book to the bibliography.

Hellenistic Greek outside the New Testament

In learning any new language, whether a modern one or an ancient one, reading widely in the target language is extremely important if you want to be literate in that language and have more than conversational fluency.

In the case of New Testament Greek, we are fortunate that there is a large body of writing from the same period that can help us with this. Here are a few of my recommendations.

Early Christian Literature

Of course the most important documents from early Christianity are those found in the Christian canon, the New Testament, but there is a significant number of other documents written by early Christians in Koine Greek.

The term “The Apostolic Fathers” covers a diverse collection of documents written by leaders in the Early Christian movement after the time of the Apostles, people like Clement of Rome, Clement of Alexandria, Ignatius (bishop of Antioch), Polycarp, and Justin Martyr. The collection also includes a number of documents of uncertain origin but from the same general era, and clearly written by Christian authors: the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache (also called the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), The Martyrdom of Polycarp, the epistle to Diognetus, and others.

Apostolic Fathers, Volume 1
Volumn 1

The value of these documents for language acquisition is that they are written in Koine very close to what we see in the New Testament. Because they deal with different contexts, though, you will increase your Greek vocabulary by reading them and perhaps come to understand some of the vocabulary you already know in new ways!

Volume 2

The two LOEB volumes on the Apostolic Fathers do not include all of the them, but they do include a large sample. The newest edition includes an updated and much improved translation by Bart Ehrman.

I find the LOEB volumes helpful because of their small size and the convenience of having a translation on the facing page to avoid having to look up unfamiliar words in a lexicon. That allows for more fluent reading with an occasional glance at the translation if help is needed.

Early Jewish Literature

There was a very large number of Greek-speaking Jews in the Hellenistic world, and they produced literature in Koine Greek that is well worth reading. While there were Jewish communities in most cities of the Roman Empire, the bulk of the literary production came from Alexandria, Egypt and certain locations in Palestine. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, were written in Greek.

What is usually meant by Jewish Koine, or Hellenistic Jewish Greek, is not a separate form of the language, but a body of literature written by Jewish authors in Greek between the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE) and the end of the second century CE.

The Septuagint (LXX)

By far the most widely read text from this category is the Septuagint (LXX). Copies are readily available in digital form from both Logos and Accordance. If you’re like me in that you want your own physical copy to annotate with marginal notes, I recommend the printed edition from the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart (German Bible Society, Stuttgart). Two volumes in one in a 7.5 x 5 in. (19 x 13 cm) binding, it is easy to carry with you to have available for downtime reading.

Deuteronomy 32, Rahlfs LXX Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft Stuttgart

A new critical edition of this text was released in 2007 with a very large number of corrections based on research since the previous edition.

While the LXX is written in Koine, it is important to keep in mind that most of it, though not all, is a translation of a text originally composed in Hebrew. Reading it is good practice, but phrasing can sometimes be a little odd in comparison with other Hellenistic texts.

You can listen to Benjamin Kantor’s reading of the first chapter of Genesis from the Septuagint here. Unfortunately, because of the way his site is configured, I cannot link directly to the page with the recording. If you click the link, you will be taken to a general page with all of the audio recordings his site offers, and you can choose “Genesis 1” from there.

Philo of Alexandria

All twelve volumes the LOEB Classical Library’s collection of Philo’s work are available freely online from the Internet Archive.

Philo was a Jewish author living in Egypt where there was a very large Greek-speaking Jewish community. He used allegory as a means of merging Jewish thought with Greek Philosophy. While his work was not widely accepted in the Rabbinic tradition, some argue that this synthesis had a significant influence on Early Christian thought.

The language used in Philo’s writing is a good example of literary Koine and can provide great exposure to the way Greek was used in Egypt at the time of early Christianity.

Hellenistic Greek outside the Judeo-Christian Tradition

Outside the religious texts written by early Christians and Jews there is a wealth of material written in outstanding literary Koine. There are also many examples of letters and other common documents that were not intended as literature.

Diodorus of Sicily

A character encoding problem is interfering with the display of Greek text in this post. I am working on a solution and hope the have the Greek text displayed properly soon. Please excuse the inconvenience.

Diodorus of Sicily (Diodorus Siculus) lived from around 80 BCE to 20 BCE during which time he wrote forty books that he entitled Βιβλιοθήκη Ἱστορικῆς (Library of History), and the majority of this monumental work survives. The books are arranged in three groupings. Books 1 through 6 cover mythological history up to the destruction of Troy. Books 7 through 17 cover the period from the Trojan war to the death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE). The final group of books, 18 through 40, covers the Hellenistic world to roughly 60 BCE.

Books 1 through 5 and 11 through 20 survive intact. The other books each have lacunae. I have recently been reading books XVI.66 through XVII, and the missing sections are not difficult to overcome. They’re frustrating, but not enough so to discourage reading.

This section of the Library of History covers conflicts in and outside Greece, then the expansion of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander. Book 17 ends with his death. The Greek text is an excellent example of literary Koine.

Arrian’s Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἀνάβασις (Ascent of Alexander)

Written in the second century CE, this somewhat oddly titled collection in seven books is the fullest surviving account of Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire. The title is odd because ἀνάβασις‚ was not used in the sense of an ascent to power, or rising in any metaphorical sense. It was used to describe a more literal going up from a shoreline into the mainland. It is likely that Arrian meant it as an echo of Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus (the younger), who did indeed ascend from the shores of Asia Minor to the heart of Persia, where he was defeated and died. That earlier work by Xenophon is similarly structured into seven books.

By the time Arrian wrote this work, the Atticising movement had begun. He writes in Attic, but not so purely as to make reading very difficult for one who reads Koine. If you can read Luke, Acts, and the Letter to the Hebrews with relative ease, you will be able read this with some work. You will note immediate differences, of course, such as the regular use of ἐς (the Epic and poetic Attic form of εἰς), ξυν- where you might expect συν-, frequent use of τε, and frequent unfamiliar vocabulary.

The LOEB Classical Library includes two volumes of Arrian’s historical work. The first (above right) covers books 1 through 4 of the Anabiasis, while the second volume (left) covers the rest of the Anabasis as well as the Indica, which is written in the Ionic dialect.

Arrian, Τῶν Ἐπικτήτου Διατρίβων (On the Discourses of Epictetus)

Discourses 1

While the same Arrian published the Discourses of Epictetus, he claims not to have composed Epictetus’ words, but to simply have put on paper as closely as possible what he heard Epictetus say. He was a pupil of the great teacher.

Discourses 2

When Arrian writes as the narrator in his own voice, we see clear Attic elements, but when he’s quoting Epictetus, it’s nothing but clear conversational Koine. Here is what Arrian says in his introduction about the process he used, appearing apologetic for the unpolished style of Epictetus’ words:

Οὔτε συνέγραψα ἐγὼ τοὺς Ἑπικτήτου λόγους οὕτως ὅπως ἄν τις συγγράψειε τὰ τοιαῦτα οὔτε ἐξήνεγκα εἰς ἀνθρώπους αὐτός, ὅς γε οὐδὲ συγγράψει φημί. ὅσα δὲ ἤκουον αὐτῦ λέγοντος, ταῦτα αὐτὰ ἐπειράθην αὐτοῖς ὀμόμασιν ὡς οἷόν τε ἦν γραψάμενος ὑπομνήματα εἰς ὕστερον ἐμαυτῷ διαφυλάξαι τῆς ἐκείνου διανοίας καὶ παρρησίας.

I myself did not compose the words of Epictetus as someone might compose such things, nor did I myself publish them; I declare not to have composed them. Whatever I heard him saying, those very things I attempted writing only in those exact words, as a memorial for myself in the future, to preserve his way of thinking and free speech.

Whatever we may think of the reliability of these comments, when reporting the words of Epictetus, Arrian writes in Koine as one may have heard it spoken on the street in the first century.

Originally the Discourses contained 8 books, but just 4 have survived intact, and we only have small fragments of the rest.

Arrian, Ἐπικτήτου Ἐγχειρίδιον (Handbook of Epictetus)

The second LOEB volume of Epictetus’ Discourses also contains the Encheiridion (Handbook). This is a brief distillation of the main points of Epictetus’ philosophy.

Chariton, Callirhoe

Chariton’s Greek is an educated Koine. Written in the middle of the first century BCE, Callirhoe predates the Atticist movement.

The author calls his novel a πάθος ἐρωτικόν (a love story), the category “novel” not existing yet. The fictional tale is about a woman from Syracuse named Callirhoe who is described as astonishingly beautiful, but Chariton never actually describes her, and the story is quite circumspect.

Reading the story in Greek will undoubtedly expand your Koine vocabulary. Keep in mind, though, that this is a novel from roughly 2000 years ago. There are sexist statements scattered throughout the text.

γυνὴ δὲ εὐάλωτόν ἐστιν, ὅταν ἐρᾶσθαι δοκῇ.
But a woman is an easy victim when she believes she is loved.

Callirhoe 1.4

The story reads like a comedy of errors, with constant twists of fate.


I recommend reading as widely as you can to develop a broad vocabulary and see the way words you encounter in the New Testament text are used outside that context. There is little you can do that will help you more.

Addition to the Bibliography

Today I had the pleasure of adding Rachel Aubrey’s masters thesis to the Comprehensive Bibliography of Hellenistic Greek Linguistics. Hellenistic Greek Middle Voice: Semantic Event Structure and Voice Typology is a significant addition to the literature on Hellenistic Greek Linguistics, and now it is available for free download at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CANIL).

The thesis has already garnered attention online. Seumas Macdonald began a series of blog posts on it at The Patrologist in mid April. James Spinti has posted three short comments about its implications at, and Michael Aubry (Rachel’s spouse) posted a notice about it at last week. It is a pleasure to add my voice to the attention the thesis is rightfully attracting.

Rachel Aubrey also has a chapter related to her thesis in The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis: “Motivated Categories, Middle Voice, and Passive Morphology.” I have an order placed for a physical copy of the book so that I can mark it up with my own comments in the margins! When it arrives I will finally get around to entering all of the papers in the bibliography!

Hellenistic Greek Pronunciation (again)

Today I found two videos by Tim McNinch that do a great job of teaching the Hellenistic (Koine) pronunciation of the Greek alphabet. I have added them both to the alphabet page at I am very grateful to Tim for the work he put into these!

The Letters of the Alphabet
The Vowels and Diphthongs

I had a bit more to say about pronunciation in April of last year when I announced the revision of the alphabet page. 2020

From time to time it becomes necessary to overhaul a website because technology has advanced or material has become outdated. I have now launched the 2020 rebuild of

While I have proofread the pages, it is very easy to read past one’s own mistakes without seeing them. If you notice a typographical error or other problem on one of the pages, please feel free to point it out. You can do that using the contact form linked in the menu above.

Here is some of what you can expect to see:

  1. A dramatic new look.
    The new brightly colored header loads faster and is more versatile than its darker predecessor.
  2. Updates to the content of every page.
    While the changes to some pages are fairly minor, such as including a discussion of a web resource that was not included last year, or correction of links for resources that have moved, other pages required a more large-scale overhaul.
    1. What used to be the alphabet page, for example, has been replaced by a series of smaller pages, one for each letter. I made this change in August of 2019 and discussed it here in a post on pronunciation of Ancient Greek. Pronunciation examples are now included for Classical, Hellenistic, and Modern Greek.
      For this most recent update I corrected a number of formatting problems to make the pages load more smoothly on a variety of types of devices.
    2. The bibliographies page now includes a bibliography of Head-driven Phrase Structure Grammar and a bibliography of Pragmatics. I also added the Association for Computational Linguistics’ Anthology, a collection of over 50,000 papers on computational linguistics and natural language processing.
    3. The dictionaries page has picked up two Spanish language dictionaries of Ancient Greek as well as adding Kata Biblon, where you can find a wiki dictionary in English for Biblical Greek. I also added because it’s ancient Greek coverage has grown significantly this year.
    4. A fair amount has changed for epigraphy on the web this year, and most of the changes to the epigraphy page at have consisted of catching up with the new locations of resources already listed there, removing a small amount of material no longer available, and rewriting some of the descriptions of particular resources to more accurately reflect their current state.
    5. A number of fonts that used to be available online have become outdated or the sites where they were housed have deleted them. Revisions to the fonts page consisted of eliminating listings of these outdated items.
    6. Two new forums for people learning Ancient Greek as a living language have developed in recent years, and both have been added to the forums page.
    7. Changes to the history of Greek page are mainly cosmetic.
    8. On the learn Greek page, I have improved coverage of communicative approaches, both for Hellenistic Greek and Classical Greek.
    9. The manuscripts page required a considerable amount of work as resources on the web have moved, some have disappeared, and others have become more restricted. Many images of manuscripts that were available a year ago are no longer available at the same sites.
    10. The world of software for learning and maintaining competence in Ancient Greek is growing rapidly, and I have not been able to review all of the products that have become available this year, so there is much that still needs to be added to the software page, especially software for use on hand-held devices.

I hope you enjoy the new version of the site and find it useful.

Cognitive Linguistics in Classical Greek Studies, a new open access book

On the B-Greek discussion list Stephen Carlson recently announced the open access version of Toward a Cognitive Classical Linguistics, and Mike Aubrey discussed it briefly at

I’m adding a few comments that may be of use to readers here at

The volume is a collection of papers on Greek and Latin from the perspective of Cognitive Linguistics. What the title means by “Classical Linguistics” is the use of linguistic theories in the field of Classical Studies.

Many of the papers gathered in this volume were presented at the 13th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (ICLC-13) in Newcastle, UK in July 2015. Others were invited by the editors to broaden the book’s theoretical horizon and include voices from a wider range of disciplines.

Here’s what you will find inside:

Frontmatter, pages I-IV

Contents, pages V-VIII

Introduction. Toward a cognitive classical linguistics
Egle Mocciaro and William Michael Short, pages 1-15

1 Aspect and construal A cognitive linguistic approach to iterativity, habituality and genericity in Greek
Rutger J Allan, pages 16-41

2 A construction-grammar analysis of ancient Greek particles
Annemieke Drummen, pages 42-68

3 The embodied basis of discourse and pragmatic markers in Greek and Latin
Chiara Fedriani, pages 69-92

4 Reversive constructions in Latin: the case of re- (and dis-)
Luisa Brucale, pages 93-125

5 Autόs and the center-periphery image schema
Anna Bonifazi, pages 126-148

6 Aspects of aural perception in Homeric Greek
Silvia Luraghi and Eleonora Sausa

7 The role of spatial prepositions in the Greek lexicon of garments
Maria Papadopoulou, pages 176-206

8 Metaphor by any other name. A cognitive linguistic reassessment of Aristotle’s theory of metaphor
Greg Membrez, pages 207-227

9 Animus inscriptus An out-of-body embodiment?
Christopher Collins, pages 228-244

10 Metaphorical word order
Luca D’Anselmi, pages 245-270

pages 271-273

Wooden Nativity Scene

Kαλὰ Χριστούγεννα / Merry Christmas 2019

While no one in the first century would have said Merry Christmas (Kαλὰ Χριστούγεννα) because the early Church had not yet begun celebrating Christmas, if they had said it, it would have sounding like the recording above. At least that’s what the best evidence for Hellenistic Greek pronunciation suggests.

In 2019 Merry Christmas is a widely used greeting at this time of year, of course, and if you would like to deliver the message in Hellenistic Greek, I hope the recording helps. May you and your family have a beautiful Christmas this year.

Today I received notice that (Benjamin Kantor) has completed the remaining chapters of the reading of the Gospel of Mark in Koine Greek, including the addition of subtitles. This is a wonderful Christmas gift to the larger community of people learning Hellenistic Greek.

You can view the videos (chapter by chapter) at

Kαλὰ Χριστούγεννα.

Recommended Blog Post

A couple of days ago, Seumas Macdonald, on The Patrologist blog, posted a great list of useful questions to use in communicative Ancient Greek classes. They will work just as well for Koine or Classical Greek. You can find his list here:

Baby beginning to speak Greek

Pronouncing Ancient Greek

This week I have completed a major overhaul of the Alphabet page at Now there are pronunciation examples for every letter in Modern Greek, Hellenistic Koiné, and Attic Greek. Most of these examples include an audio recording for clarity.

The audio recordings for ancient Greek use the reconstructed historical pronunciations. The Erasmian pronunciation is not included since it does not represent a well researched reconstruction of the actual pronunciation of Greek at any period.

Choose a letter below to see an example.

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

Diphthongs and Digraphs

I have also added a section on diphthongs and digraphs. Where possible I have included recordings for these as well, but I do not have good recordings for all of them yet.

A diphthong is a pair of vowel sounds pronounced as a single syllable with the first sound gliding into the other.

A digraph is a pair of letters used to represent a single meaningful sound (phoneme).

Some of the pairs of letters below were true diphthongs in one historical period, but had become digraphs by another. In the case of αυ, ευ, and ηυ they were diphthongs in the classical period (Attic), but had become vowel/consonant pairs by the hellenistic era.

αι ει οι ου υι αυ ευ ηυ μπ ντ

I hope you find these materials helpful.

Smyth Greek Grammar and a diagram

Semantic Roles in the Ancient Greek Dependency Treebank

I have added the following article to the bibliography at

While the use of the term “semantic role” in the title of this article sounds like what is discussed in posts on argument structure or Construction Grammar here at, the list of such roles referenced by Celano and Carne is quite different. They used Smyth’s, A Greek Grammar for Colleges to derive their list.

While this is an understandable decision, since that text is freely available online and it uses traditional categories students of Greek Grammar will readily recognized, Smyth’s grammar was written well before modern approaches to semantic roles were invented, so the names of some of the roles, and to a significant extent their definitions, will seem odd to linguists not familiar with traditional approaches to Greek Grammar.