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Friday, June 02, 2006

"koine" was a word

Did you happen to watch the National Spelling Bee on ABC last night? If you did, did you notice that one of the words from the specialty list given to the three remaining spellers was "koine"? The Canadian girl got this word and she spelled it right. As someone who has studied Koine Greek and evaluates English Bible versions, it was fun for me to hear "koine" in the spelling bee. It was fun for me, also, because I went to our state spelling bee two years. I never won but I did well. I would not have known how to spell "koine" when I was in the 7th or 8th grades.

Oh, the spellers carefully asked for the definition of each word. It was also fun to hear the definition of "koine" read and posted on our TV screen. The definition was correct. The one given was close to this one from my American Heritage dictionary:
A regional dialect or language that becomes the standard language over a wider area, losing its most extreme local features.
I'm personally glad that the New Testament was written in a koine dialect of Greek, a dialect which was spoken over a rather large geographical area of the Roman Empire. Maybe it was just coincidence, but I like to think that the divine hand was behind the choice of a koine dialect of a language that was not limited within the boundaries of just one country. I think there are likely lessons for us today from that, as English Bible translators wrestle with issues concerning what kind of English to use in their translations.

What do you think might be lessons we can learn for English Bible translation from the fact that the New Testament was written in a koine, not classical or more geographically limited local, dialect of Greek?

4 Comments:

At Fri Jun 02, 03:31:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Well, for better or for worse American English has become a koine on your definition, so we Brits have to put up with it even in Bible translations!

 
At Fri Jun 02, 06:10:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

I watched this too, Wayne. Of course, we were rooting for the Canadian girl, but she lost on 'weltschmertz'. It turned out that her German wasn't as good as her French. The winning word was Ursprache. Other fascinating words were 'heiligenschein' and 'tmesis'. Congratulations to the winner, Kate Close. They were all amazing.

 
At Sat Jun 03, 07:21:00 AM, Blogger lingamish said...

weltschmertz? I'm in big trouble. I have enough trouble remembering whether it's "travelling" or "traveling."



I blogged on koine in the distant past.

 
At Sat Jun 03, 11:05:00 AM, Blogger M. J. Mansini said...

Wayne said, "Maybe it was just coincidence, but I like to think that the divine hand was behind the choice of a koine dialect of a language that was not limited within the boundaries of just one country."

If the Bible is correct in much of what it claims, your hunch may have more truth than we mere mortals know.

 

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