[B-Greek] Misc Thoughts about Greek

Kevin Riley klriley at alphalink.com.au
Tue Jun 20 19:27:26 EDT 2006

-------Original Message-------
From: Amos Bender
Date: 06/21/06 04:50:41
Friends at BGreek,
First I want to say thanks to those who responded to my recent question
about a Greek New Testament and word study book. Now I thought I should
share some issues about Greek as I have experienced and discovered, as they
might interest some.
One issue that impressed me is that in the original KJV translation with it
s original spelling, Jesus is spelled as "Iesus" sort of like in the Greek,
as well as other names starting with J start with an I instead, and being
more like the Greek. Does that mean old English pronunciation as well as
spelling was a little more like Greek than English is today? The spelling in
the original KJV is very different than what English is spelled today, while
likely Greek spelling also changed through history.

K: Both Greek and English have changed, but the pronunciation of "Jesus"
with an intial "J" sound goes back before the KJV.  There was simply no
consistent differentiation of J and I.  In some ways earlier English was
more like Greek, in some ways not.

As I observe various Greek words and their various spellings, I really
wonder if the various spellings of words were always pronounced differently.
Or if readers in old times simply knew that although this word in this
setting is spelled as this that yet it can or should be pronounced the same
as if spelled in it's other way. One example involves the H-Eta quite often
being exchanged for the E-Epsilon at the beginning of words. This involves
at least the words "EULOGHSEN" and "EUPISKON". Their obviously are other
Greek words wherein other letters for some reason likewise are used quite

K: There seems to be no confusion of H and E by Greeks - only of H and EI
and I. and later of E and AI.  Originally in Attic there was no *written*
distinction of E and H, which came in with the change to the Ionic script. 
As Greek was changing throughout the period covered by written texts, there
were often letters and letter combinations which could be spelt differently.


Further in some or all ancient Greek, there were no word breaks at all,
while the word breaks were put in later. Even with regards to today's Greek
text, it often is quite obvious that some long Greek words simply are a
compound words that could or should have been broken down into smaller words
 and then be pronounced as those individual words. Yet with Erasmus rules of
Greek pronunciation, many of these compound Greek words are pronounced in a
way that none of the words within the compound word are pronounced as they
should really sound. If we would do this with compound English words, we
would pronounce the word "weekend" as "wee-kend", and the word "anteater" as
"an-tea-ter". In my own reading I sometimes pronounce compound Greek words,
as the separate underlying Greek words and even include the rough breathing
in the second compound word, which makes the reading much easier and more
understandable, and it is likely more how it sounded in old times.

K: Modern Greeks also do not read compound words separately, so we cannot
blame Erasmus for this.  It is common in many languages for compound words
to come to be pronounced as single words - often very different from the two
[or more] words from which they were compounded.  I would suggest you take
Greek as Greek and not try to make it more like English than it actually is.

I also wish the Alpha would be pronounced different that the Omikron as it
would give the language more distinction, while further if the Alpha is
pronounced as a short "a" as in "hat" various Greek names sound more like
the name does in English. I also noticed on a web site that someone wished
that only vowels with rough breathing were marked with rough breathing marks
 while vowels with smooth breathing simply would be left unmarked, which
would make it easier to recognize the rough breathing vowels, and I very
much agree.

K: The confusion of Alpha and Omicron is solely an American affliction from
which the rest of the world does not suffer.  A little effort on your part
can easily overcome it.  As the Greeks have never [as far as we know]
pronounced Alpha as in "hat" [except perhaps in the transition of /a:/ to
E:/], why should doing so be an improvement?  I believe it is too late in
the day for us to be suggesting that ancient Greek be written differently to
what it has been for centuries.  For modern Greek it makes sense to omit the
breathing marks, but for ancient Greek it is better to follow the
traditional practice.

Kevin Riley

I likely spend several hours every day reading or listening to the Greek
Scriptures, and it is amazing how those strange characters and sounds, which
had been so obscure and which seemed could mean so many things or possibly
nothing at all, can become so meaningful and distinct. The various twists to
the words which before seemed to obscure the words, now add much meaning to
the word and sentence. I like when the words simply sound right and every
word naturally falls into it's place in the train of thought while listening
or reading. Yet I have a long ways to go, and there are many words I yet
need to learn. Feel free to contact me at bendersa at earthlink.net.
God Bless
Amos Bender

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