On Mastering Diachronic Greek: Three Recent Items of Interest

As someone who has become convinced that to even attempt mastery of any period of the Greek language, one must also study the period before and after, I have been following the recent discussion on the internet about Koine Greek closely. I obviously do not agree with any of the one articles totally, but at least there is a dialogue happening.

For the above reason, I figured I would post the links here, just in case any current readers are unaware of them, and for future readers to check them out. To elaborate on what I wrote above, I’m convinced that the best path of Greek study for Orthodox Christians is found below, and using the pronunciation that Greeks use—since it is their language and all (imagine if Western scholars told Native Americans how to pronounce Cree?).

Mycenaean Greek







Four Reasons to Master Koine (and to Leave Attic Alone)

Dethroning Grammar for Mastering Greek: A Rejoinder

On Mastering Koine Greek: A Response to Bohlinger and Nguyen

The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Lent 2018 Edition

Tonight, here in Toronto, we Chalcedonian Orthodox Christians celebrated the Annual Sunday of Orthodoxy Pan-Orthodox Vespers in the Anglican Chapel of Trinity College. Those familiar with the Orthodox program at Trinity College will understand the set-up, and those who don’t are encouraged to check out their website. For me, as I was there at the beautiful location, I found it a bit ironic to find ourselves there celebrating the Triumph of Orthodoxy over heresy and all… But it was a very nice service and a good time. If we look at the situation honestly, the fact that the Orthodox presence at a major North American University is growing is nothing but a good thing. What we are to do about the Monophysite slice of the Trinity College pie is a tale for another day, and has been touched upon elsewhere.

I. Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Ecumenical Patriarchate


Metaphysical and religious truths could validly originate only in the Christian revelation. This is the reason that Plato and the Neoplatonists were always looked at with suspicion in conservative–and particularly monastic–circles of the Byzantine Church: Indeed, in any form of Platonic thought, no understanding of reality was possible without metaphysical, that is, in fact, theological presuppositions foreign to Christianity.

     It is not astonishing, therefore, to find out that every year, on the first Sunday of Lent–also known as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy”–all Byzantine Orthodox churches resounded with formal and repeated anathemas against “those who follow the foolish opinions of the Hellenic disciplines” and particularly against those “who considered the ideas of Plato [the ‘Divine Ideas’ or ‘Forms’ -T.S.] as truly existing or believe (with Aristotle) in the eternity of matter.* These anathemas were first issued in the eleventh century on the occasion of the condemnation of the philosopher John Italos, but their inclusion in the liturgical Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy gave them permanent significance. -Fr. John Meyendorff, “Introduction,” Gregory Palamas: The Triads, The Classics of Western Spirituality, pp. 10-11, 115

*J. Gouillard, ” Le Synodikon de l’Orthodoxie. Edition et commentaire”, Centre de recherche d’histoire et de civilisation byzantines. Travaux et mémoires 2 (Paris, 1967), p. 59; also Triodion (Athens, ed. Phos, 1958), p. 160.

II. The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy

Saint Petersburg


(Jordanville Edition 1967)

III. Anathema Against Ecumenism



IV. The Anathemas of the Sunday of Orthodoxy



VI. Defending the Synodikon by Fr. Lawrence Farley


16 March 2016

Interfaith Diversity

“εἰ πορεύσονται δύο ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ καθόλου ἐὰν μὴ γνωρίσωσιν ἑαυτούς;”
-Ἀμώς 3·3 Rahlfs-Hanhart LXX

The week of February 5-9th 2018 I was one of four representatives of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada) at a multi-city Youth Interfaith Initiative hosted by the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church’s Canadian Diocese and funded by the Colonial Government of Canada.

On Tuesday, February 6th, I and the other Youth representatives from the Greek Orthodox got to speak a bit. When it came to my turn, I introduced myself: I’m a second-year seminarian, a convert, married etc. and I chose to say what I felt was ultimately lacking in representation at this interfaith dialogue: Christ. Below is basically what I said.

As an Indigenous person, a Métis (as is my wife), I hear a lot about social justice in the media and the academic side of Indigenous issues. But I don’t care about “social justice.” As a Métis raised by a single mother of four, I do not care about social justice. And what is the point of interfaith dialogue? If it is just to alleviate suffering, then this is where dogmatic differences come into play. I believe that water seeks its own level, that teaching a man to fish feeds him better than giving him fish for a day.

How does that connect to Christianity? Well, Orthodox Christianity doesn’t teach you to escape suffering like Buddhism does. It trains you to endure suffering, to endure the days you don’t catch any fish, or when someone steals your fish, or when you go hungry because you gave your fish to someone else. The problem with interfaith dialogue is that our end goal is ultimately not the same because our path and destinations are different. Orthodox Christianity teaches that the point of all of this is θέωσις, to become by grace what God is by nature. Not the eliminating of suffering, the metamorphosing of suffering and our union with Christ. To be with Christ, that is the direction.

* * * * * * *


“As it is impossible for two people to share a journey at the same time, he is saying, unless indicating to each other where and why they are traveling, or for a lion to roar if there is no prey, or for a bird to fall without a hunter, or for all the other things mentioned, so it is impossible for any punishment to be imposed without God willing it. He calls punishment “evil,” note, by use of a general custom: we are accustomed to use “troubles” of diseases, chastisements, untimely deaths, famines, wars, and the like, not because they are troublesome by nature but because they are troublesome to human beings and the source of distress and grief.”
-Blessed Theodoret of Cyr, Commentary of Amos 3.6–8*

* * * * * * *

Further Reading/Watching:
Celebrating Our Diversity Now
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Youth Interfaith Project
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (Shoghakat TV)
“Celebrating Our Diversity Now” Interfaith Event in Toronto, 5-9 February, 2018, (New Horizon TV)
Celebrating Our Diversity Now – TorontoAlbumsCelebrating Our Diversity Now – Toronto 78 Photos
Youth Interfaith Gathering organized by the Armenian Diocese in Toronto



*Ferreiro, Alberto and Thomas C. Oden, eds. The Twelve Prophets. Vol. 14 of Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. ICCS/Accordance electronic ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

The Elemental Spirits of the Universe: St. Paul, Cosmology, and David Bentley Hart

It is often said that everytime you read Scripture you see something you didn’t see before. I have found this to be true, and for me, it would appear that this is even more true each time I hear Scripture during the Liturgy.

I recall the first time I consciously heard “. . . we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe” (Αἰκατερίνης Μεγαλομάρτυρος, 25 Νοεμβρίου, Γαλ. 3,23-4,5). I was like, what? as I looked around and no one seemed startled at the words. I still look around now. As far as I know all Greek Orthodox parishes in North America, unfortunately, use the RSV when reading the New Testament in English so the translation will differ; however, the Greek text(s) at that point all agree: “ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου ἦμεν δεδουλωμένοι.”

For those of you able to attend Liturgy on secular New Year’s day as I was would have heard similarly, “. . . according to the elemental spirits of the universe” (Περιτομὴ τοῦ Κυρίου, Βασιλείου τοῦ Μεγάλου, 1 Ἰανουαρίου, Κολ. β′ 8-12). Again, the translations differ, but the Greek text(s) agree: “κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου.”

Biblical cosmology (especially the cosmology of Second Temple Judaism) I have come to find fascinating. With all the interest these days in secular society with Flat Earth Theory and in the Church with the τελώνια, a proper understanding of cosmology makes all the difference. The problem arises though when those who suffer from what Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor has termed disenchantment apply their disenchanted post-Enlightenment cosmology upon the past, completely unaware that one of the worldviews of the past was hierarchical. (This also would have saved the Mormon ψευδοπροφήτης Joseph Smith and the LDS et al. a lot of embarrassment vis-à-vis third heaven/seven heavens, q.v.). This one needs to keep in mind when approaching the issue of the τελώνια.

My point in writing about all this is because of an article that came my way this morning before Ὄρθρος by the brilliant Eastern Orthodox philosopher, scholar of religion, writer, and cultural commentator David Bentley Hart, Everything you know about the Gospel of Paul is likely wrong. It deals with a cosmological worldview lost by most (as I vaguely hinted at above, i.e., translation differences and the τελώνια) and is well worth reading.

Ἵνα Denoting Content

A little while back as I was reading 1 John in Greek. Along with my reading, I was using Charles Lee Irons’ A Syntax Guide For Readers Of The Greek New Testament, which pointed me to pages 145-146 of C.F.D. Moule’s An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek, which pointed me R.H. Kennett’s In Our Tongues (1907), Chapter 1.

It took me forever and the only place I found it was here. So, if you are ever looking for In Our Tongues, there you go.

Coming Soon(ish): Historical and Theological Lexicon of the Septuagint

Abrak K-J with some great news.

Words on the Word

From publisher Mohr Siebeck:

Edited by Eberhard Bons and Jan Joosten (Université de Strasbourg)

This large-scale collective and interdisciplinary project aims to produce a new research tool: a multi-volume dictionary providing an article of between two and ten pages (around 600 articles in all) for each important word or word group of the Septuagint. Filling an important gap in the fields of ancient philology and religious studies, the dictionary will be based on original research of the highest scientific level.

This project has benefitted from funding from the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (French Research National Agency), the Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace (Strasbourg), the Melanchthon-Stiftung (Tübingen), and the Armin Schmitt Stiftung (Regensburg).

The first volume is projected to be published in 2018.

You can check out a lengthy PDF sample here, with a “Wordlist of the First Volume,” as well as some sample articles.

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How to Read Greek (and What to Read)

A funny thing is that Evangelicals, Protestants, and Catholics who actually know some Greek (as opposed to the “codebreaker types within those religions) answer the question of how to improve one’s Greek with something along the lines of “Read, read, read; and then read some more.”

The Greek Orthodox Church in North America, on the other hand, will teach Neohellenic Greek in their Greek schools (to be fair, I’ve found three Greek parishes in all of North America that teach “New Testament Greek”) to keep the culture alive while the Orthodox Church in Greece commends ignorance of Koine as “Koine has contributed to the “mystery” of the liturgy” The Fathers of the Church would be livid, as anyone familiar with St. Basil can assure you.

Lets us of the Greek Orthodox tradition remember that all Greek—from Homeric to Attic to Hellenistic/Koine to Medæval/Byzantine to Katharevousa to Demotic to Neohellenic—are all very much and absolutely an inextricable part of our Modern Hellenic culture, but more importantly, a part of our Eastern Roman religious heritage.

With that said, here are some suggestions on how to improve one’s Greek that I’ve found helpful and of which I implement:

9 October 2012 – N.T. Wright on learning Greek, and a review of A Reader’s Hebrew and Greek Bible by Zondervan

24 November 2012 – Do You Need to Speak Greek in Order to Read it?

1853? – The Greek of Homer a Living Language

11 December 2013 – Daily Greek Reading Setup

5 August 2015 – Keep Your Greek: Don’t Lose Your Vocabulary

17 September 2015 – 5 Ways to Improve Your Greek Speaking Skills

27 June 2017 – A Strategic Approach to Reading Background Texts of the New Testament (tangent to this is Increase Your Brain Power with Classics)

4 July 2017 – This Is Why You Should Study the Apocrypha Alongside the New Testament

6 July 2017 – Practice Greek Like a Master Violinist

Greek New Testaments: Spoiled for Choice!

Byzantine Text.

Larry Hurtado's Blog

Those who want to read the New Testament writings in Greek are now spoiled for choice, with several recent editions published.  Most recently, there is the edition just published mentioned earlier this week here, a project based in Tyndale House (Cambridge), edited by Dirk Jongkind.  A few years back now, there appeared the edition prepared under the auspices of the Society of Biblical Literature (edited by Michael Holmes, my posting on that edition here).  And, of course, there is also the most recent (28th) edition of what has become the standard hand-edition, the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament (my posting here, and the edition’s home page here).

As indicated briefly in my earlier postings, each edition has its own character, layout, editorial policies, and intended uses.  The SBL edition and the brand-new Tyndale House edition both offer free digital forms.  The Nestle-Aland 28th edition can be read…

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Reading in 3s

This is excellent advice, and after reading this, I suggest reading this from The Patrologist as well. The comments especially, where it is asked of him, “Having finished elementary Greek, would you suggest any particular Greek grammars/authors? Just start reading Greek? Where should I begin in moving out to classical Greek?” To which he responds with,

“I’d say just get on with reading a lot of Greek, as much as possible. If you’ve finished elementary (NT) Greek, then start working at reading the New Testament, as much as possible. Start easy – John, Mark, and get to harder texts later. Try out Reading in Threes (https://thepatrologist.com/2017/05/22/reading-in-3s/). Then branch out to the Apostolic Fathers, they are a good bridge out of New Testament Greek.

At some point, depending on your goals, it’s worth branching into some Classical. In terms of texts, anything on Geoffrey Steadman’s site (geoffreysteadman.com) is great. A grammar is not a terrible idea, but for now I’d just say read, read, read.”


The Patrologist

This was mentioned to me by a student recently in a small group class that I am kind-of mentoring, and I think it’s worth adapting and sharing. The original idea, or at least where the student got it from, is Daniel Wallace, here. It’s the idea that you should translate each chapter of the New Testament three times, and rotate chapters in and out of rotation.

Now, I don’t really think you should be translating, I think you should be reading passages at a level you can comprehend with just a little bit of help. But I do think this idea has a lot of merit. Here’s how I’m implementing it in my own readings: the rule of 3s (see also Where Are Your Keys technique: Three Times)

So, say I’m reading a text, like Ørberg’s Roma Aeterna (which I happen to be. Everyone raves about the first book, Familia…

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