Tag Archives: Coptic

John 15 verse 8

I just made a TC footnote on the variant in John 15:8 regarding γένησθε (aorist subjunctive) in the NA28, versus γενήσεσθε (future indicative) in TR RP.  The UBS5 and NA28 footnotes cite ALL the Old Latin manuscripts as being in support of the γένησθε (aorist subjunctive) reading.  This is true insofar as the subjunctive versus indicative mood question.  But the Latin verbs do not agree with the Greek verbs exactly.  They read in fact: sitis (pres subj) “be” it-a,d,e,q,r¹ efficiamini (pres pass subj) “be made, be proven” it-aur,b,ff² possitis fieri “be able to become” it-f.  Certainly, none of the Latin manuscripts have a future tense verb.

A limitation of Coptic to render Greek is shown in the change from the UBS3 footnotes to now in the UBS5 footnotes.  The UBS3 footnote cites cop-sa,bo,ach2 in support of γένησθε (aorist subjunctive) of the NA28, but now in the UBS5 and NA28, the Coptic is not cited for any reading.  If you were to read the English translations of the Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic texts, you might think that they do support the NA28 reading, because they read in English, “and become to me disciples” (Sahidic) and, “and that ye be to me disciples” (Bohairic).

However, J. Martin Plumley writes in Metzger’s book “The Early Versions of the New Testament, Their Origin, Transmission and Limitations,” Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2001, p. 149, the following: “The well-developed system of auxiliary verbs in Coptic, while capable of dealing with the main temporal aspects of the Greek verb, are less able to represent the more subtle distinctions of mood, especially the subjunctive.  Thus, where Coptic uses a future tense containing the element -NA-, it is not possible to decide whether the Greek text showed the future indicative or the aorist subjunctive.”

Another example of the limitation of Coptic is when applied to the extremely common variant in the Greek MSS of τε versus δε, or ουτε v. ουδε, because Coptic did not distinguish between t and d, and d was usually but not consistently, defaulted to t.

To read the footnote on John 15:8, you can download the gospel of John here.

Ancient Greek Pronunciatio

Translations of the Greek New Testament into other ancient languages help us know what the sounds were in ancient Greek compared to now.  In order to translate Christian texts, the Copts invented 7 extra glyphs for sounds unknown to the Greeks, but which they needed for their language.  This is informative to us as to what Greek sounded like as late as the early church times.  Thus we know that even as late as the Christian era in Egypt, the Greek letter φ (Phi) was not pronounced like English “F” but instead like our English “P.”  We know this because Coptic had to invent a separate letter Ϥ for the F sound, a sound which Coptic had, but Greek did not have.

And because of the law of Phonetic symmetry in the distribution of points of articulation in the mouth, we can reasonably extrapolate this principle to the other set of consonants also, that is, Χ and Κ.  And predict the following: the Greek letter χ sounded like our English “K” and the Greek letter Κ was a softer, unaspirated K for which English does not have a letter or symbol.  In Phonetics we find that languages that have both an aspirated and unaspirated P, will also have both aspirated and unaspirated versions of the other stops such as T and K etc.  Thus, φ was p sound, θ was t sound, χ was k sound, and π, τ, κ were unaspirated versions thereof, for which we do not have letters in English.

Another example that Plumley gives in Metzger’s book shows that the Greek letter θ definitely was not a “th” sound like we have in English, as in the word “thick.”  It was simply our Englsih “t” sound, as in “tick.”  One way we know this is because Coptic translators, when they heard the Greek word θαλασσα, wrote down HALASSA with the feminine definite article T in front of it.  That’s because it was pronounced TALASSA and the scribes or translators heard TALASSA.

The above knowledge can lead us to some interesting insights.  For example, knowing that φ was pronounced “p” and θ was pronounced “t,” we can pronounce correctly the word φθινοπωρινος in Jude v. 12, and recognize our English word “patina” there, and see how that relates to change in color of leaves in Autumn.  Greek had a word φθινα for the mildewing of material (which would change its color), but see also φθῖνάς “a waning, a wasting away”, or φθινιασμα “declining,” and the verb φθινω, “to perish, decay, waste away.”  Our English word patina also refers to the wasting away or corrosion of semi-precious metals, like copper and bronze, upon which a green film accumulates.

This page gives the correct pronunciation of ancient Greek consonants.

Free Windows Fonts for TC Footnotes

I made a chart comparing the capabilities of 15 free Windows fonts at displaying glyphs you might need in Textual Criticism (TC) footnotes, including display of Coptic.  The fonts compared are: Cambria Math, Cardo, Antinoou, IFAOGrec, Brill, GentiumAlt, FreeSerifCoptic, DoulosSIL, Andika, Palatino Linotype, Times New Roman, New Athena Unicode, Titus Cyberbit Basic, SBL, and Galilee.


Plumley Coptic Grammar

Now available for download here and on my new Bible translation page: Plumley Coptic Grammar- by John Martin Plumley; An Introductory Coptic Grammar (Sahidic)

1948, PDF, 850 KB. London Home & van Thal 1948;
Fotocopied at the Hebrew University Library, Jerusalem, 1988
Transcribed by George Somsel and Paterson Brown; revised IV.10
Download Plumley Coptic Grammar.

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