Mark 7:26

Thomas J. Kraus tj.kraus at
Wed Nov 17 15:59:52 EST 1999

On 16 Nov 99, at 2:25, Eamonnn White wrote:

> Hi everybody,
> "The Jesus Papyrus" by Thiede & D'Ancona, P.117
> In an effort to prove that Jesus spoke Greek the Authors use the scene
> where Jesus spoke with the Syro-Phoenician woman: Mark 7:26 hH DE GUNH
> HN hELLHNIS This they translate as "The woman was Greek-speaking" My
> dictionary gives hELLHNISTI as "in the Greek language". My question is
> : Are the Authors correct or is it a 'liberal' rather than a literal
> translation?
> Sincerely,
> Eamonn White

When I started to answer this mail, Steven Craig Miller´s answer 
flew into my letterbox. So the point about adverb and substantiv is 
clear as well as the meaning of hELLHNIS. Quite problematic 
might be what this word means in Mark 7:26 exactly, or in other 
words, what is implied by its usage there.
No doubt, someone denoted as being "Greek" might be thought of 
a Greek speaking person. By translating "in the Greek language" 
the problem of translation and interpretation comes into focus. 
hELLHNIS then is more or less interpreted, even more, all its 
possible meanings are narrowed to the point of Greek language.

One major point here is that Eamonn White was referring to Thiede 
and Ancona. Although Thiede is capable of good Greek, each of 
his works shows a peculiar liking of leaving away ambigious 
meanings. As far as hELLHNIS is concerned Thiede tried to limit 
its meaning to that point that might fit in his argument. 
Nevertheless, his reasoning remains contradictory, without much 
interest in scholarly discussion but concentrated on making his 
own sensationalist point appear more plausible. The verb with the 
same root ending with -IZW and hELLHNISTI do really imply the 
matter of language, the substantive mentioned above not directly.

Even if these quotes may not be of any help to find out the exact 
function and meaning of hELLHNIS in Mark 7:26, Euripides´ Electra 
(I think it was somewhere around the 1050s) hH hELLHNIS - for a 
"Greek woman" (with positive associations) as well as Menander 
(79) might be quite interesting. There the substantive serves to 
identify a woman by referring to her culture (nationality) regarded 
from the same cultural standpoint. As far as I can remember 
correctly, some classical and late classical authors use hELLHNIS 
together with GLWTTA or DIALEKTOS whenever they are referring 
to the Greek language in a specific way.

Nevertheless, Steven said the most prominent facts already.


Thomas J. Kraus

tj.kraus at

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