[B-Greek] Koine Greek fluency

R Yochanan Bitan Buth ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il
Fri Jul 22 13:32:07 EDT 2005

Sangrey egrapsen

>>What is a good definition of Koine Greek fluency?


Good question.

Let's start with the 'Koine Greek' part. To me Koine Greek includes a
center-piece of 'first century' literary Greek, from Paul to
Epictetus, Luke to Plutarch, Josephus and Dio Chrysostom. Of course,
anyone reading these authors would also be able to read most any
ancient Greek prose. (Yes, I am aware that atticizing forms creep into
these authors in various degrees. But that is the language that people
used and understood in the first century. The "romances" are nice
examples of what would have been understood. They are the target style


The second part, fluency, doesn't have to do with translation but with
communication or thinking. Fluency means that someone could read a
Greek paragraph and paraphrase the thing in Greek, on the spot. (I
think that expresses what Germans  would expect of someone who was
fluent in German.) It wouldn't mean that a person knew every word or
implication of every sentence. People learn new vocabulary even when
they read a novel in a mother tongue. But they would be able to stay
with the original text and follow the argument without a dictionary,
at least until the author became arcane [yes, mother-tongue English
speakers might look up the word, if they feel they must]. Practically
speaking, such a person's Greek vocabulary level would probably be
over 5,000 words, 10,000 is better. [I think Josephus' written
vocabulary is around 15,000.] While there is such a thing as passive
vocabulary and active vocabulary, someone who is fluent must actively
control a sizable core vocabulary in order to do the above. It is the
smooth paraphrasing skill that helps to ensure that the
thought-transfer has been made into the Greek sphere of things. 



Randall Buth


Randall Buth, PhD

Director, Biblical Language Center


and Director, Biblical Studies in Israel

Hebrew University, Rothberg International School

ybitan at mscc.huji.ac.il


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