It is taught and widely held, that the Hebrew Bible was translated into the Greek used by the common people of the day (Septuagint) and that the Greek NT was written in Koine Greek, the common language of the day.

However, from what I am reading, there appears to be evidence of a regular form of Greek used by the learned (Attic) and of a form of Greek that was spoken by the people as found on tombstones, legal documents and such (referred to by some scholars as Koine Greek) and this is yet distinct from the form of Greek actually found in the Bible which is then designated as "Biblical Koine Greek."

One author said that Koine Greek was so common that official documents were translated into this form and broadly spread.

But it is said that the form of Greek found in the Septuagint and the NT is unique to these two documents. These are the only existing examples of this form of Greek.

If the Bible were set into the language of the common people of the day, it seems that there would be examples of this form of Greek from prior to the time in which the Bible emerged in this form.

Does anyone know of any concrete examples of Koine Greek (as found in the Septuagint/Greek NT) prior to these writings?

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    " The Septuagint and the New Testament are in fact the only surviving substantial books in Koine Greek, though we do have Koine material in non-literary sources like business contracts, letters, tomb stones etc." (from my answer to the linked question). – fdb Dec 8 '14 at 23:51
  • Are these non- literary sources pre or post biblical occurrence of koine Greek? – user2027 Dec 9 '14 at 0:01
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    They are from the whole period from LXX to NT and beyond. I am heistant to put an exact date on the LXX. – fdb Dec 9 '14 at 0:05

First of all, it is understandable that anyone writing a New Testament book in Greek Koine would be influenced by the style of the Septuagint, since the LXX was the scriptural source used for reference and frequently cited or alluded to in the NT. That alone ought to give an occasional LXX flavour to the New Testament. The question seems to be whether the NT language was sufficiently different to constitute a unique form of Koine.

As with Attic Greek, Koine existed in a vernacular form and a literary form. It has been pointed out that the author of Mark, although a brilliant author, seems to have used a very low, vernacular form of Koine, as if to disguise his learning and perhaps better relate to common people. Naturally, his style would have rubbed off onto Matthew, Luke and perhaps John. However the author of Luke shows some high Koine influences and even employs the optative mood, which is not generally part of first-century Koine Greek. The Book of Hebrews is written in high Koine. I cite John A.T. Robinson (Redating the New Testaments, at pages 131-134) as saying that The Epistle of James was also written in High Koine. Thus, there is not one single New Testament form of Koine. This then raises the question of what are we looking for when we look for non-biblical works written in exactly the same form of Koine - the same as Mark, or the same as Paul, James or Hebrews?

Continuing with the same citation as placed in this question, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (A.T.Robertson), at page 80 he states (1914) that the evidence that the NT is in the vernacular Koine of the common people is growing. He quotes a list of words previously though to be purely "biblical" that have been found on inscriptions and papyri. Another long list of words thought to have had a peculiar meaning in the LXX or NT have since been found used in just the same sense in secular writings. This should be sufficient evidence that the LXX and NT did not use a unique variant of Koine, apart perhaps from some minor differences of style.

Of course, Attic remained the language of purists, or 'academics', and high Koine the language of the educated Koine author, therefore what few major works that have survived are more likely to have been written in one of these variants. This does not mean that there is a single "New Testament" form of Koine, or that NT authors self-consciously used their own peculiar variant of Koine. Robertson tells us that the NT does not use Greek words in a uniquely Christian sense, so there would once have been numerous works written in just the same forms of Koine, although usually without the Semitic references.

  • A.) "Anyone writing a New Testament book in Greek Koine would be influenced by the style of the Septuagint" What about Peter? Which new Testament writer writes in the style of the Septuagint? B.) "Does anyone know of any concrete examples of Koine Greek (as found in the Septuagint/Greek NT) prior to these writings?" <-- This answer is not an an answer to the actual question asked. – elika kohen Jul 2 '17 at 21:16

For a detailed description of koine and its common use in papyri, inscription, and many authors who didn't "Atticize" (imitate classical Attic Greek from 500 years before) in their Greek writings, see the introduction to Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and other Early Christian Lit. He points out how it has characteristics of multiple dialects, and that of course Greek evolved over 400 years (as English has since Shakespeare) especially as in a unified world after Alexander people needed to communicate.

Bauer cites many authors who wrote koine in the first couple of centuries, including Plutarch and Epictetus, and he too points out that there are (or course, as in English today) ordinary daily life simpler forms of it and more polished literary forms.

Among the Jews, too, Philo is a good example of a non-Christian writer in koine Greek.

Of course, keep in mind as well that a language does not exist in and of itself... what we call a language is a generalization of how a great many people individually speak in their own variations on it... even in the NT Hebrews is a very different koine style from some other books.

  • Not an answer, to: "Does anyone know of any concrete examples of Koine Greek (as found in the Septuagint/Greek NT) prior to these writings?" – elika kohen Jul 2 '17 at 21:18

Epictetus' Discourses and Encheiridion are written in Koine.

  • Todd - +1, because it actually tries to answer the question. I have no idea how the other answers relate. – elika kohen Jul 2 '17 at 21:18
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    At the very least, some dates would help flesh this out into an answer. Some discussion about the historical timeline, variances in language, length and condition of such manuscripts, subject matters covered, etc. would also add to the usefulness of this as an answer. – Caleb Jul 3 '17 at 5:52

1. Question Restatement:

Are there any non-biblical occurrences of Koine Greek? Are there occurrences prior to the Septuagint/NT?

2. Defining "Koine Greek":

I imagine the issue behind the question is the "artificial" use of the phrase "Koine Greek" in a way that excludes secular texts. That is because secular scholarship also uses different terms.

Koine Greek is also known as "Hellenistic Greek":

Koine Greek, Wikipedia - (UK English /ˈkɔɪniː/,2 US English /kɔɪˈneɪ/, /ˈkɔɪneɪ/ or /kiːˈniː/;2 from Koine Greek ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος, "the common dialect"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic, Hellenistic or Biblical Greek (Modern Greek: Ελληνιστική Κοινή, "Hellenistic Koiné", in the sense of "Hellenistic supraregional language"), was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity and the early Byzantine era, or Late Antiquity.

Referencing Non-Biblical Koine Texts is Very Necessary, to properly interpret New Testament texts:

The clear objection to the "theological use" of "Koine Greek" is that it has allowed "Christian" and "Jewish" specific grammars justify special meanings in religious texts only - to support certain doctrines. This allows theologians to claim "unique use / hapax" in Greek - when those phrases are not. (The most egregious issue is redefinitions of very common Greek words as "theological/spiritual", like "Xaris, Pistos, Dikaios, etc (Grace [instead of "Favor"], "Faith" [instead of Trust], "Righteous" [instead of "Just"])". These Greek words are redefined improperly used as purely theological concepts - to justify very specific theologies. These words, and many others, were not remotely used/interpreted with the theological connotations that were injected into them after.) We have several answers in this community that have wrongfully claimed "unique use / hapax" - because they do not consider these other texts.

The entire John 1:1 debate is ludicrous "word was a/g(G)od" - because of a theological refusal to appeal to Greek literature, or even other Semitic texts.

3. Answer, Other "Koine Greek" Texts:

From Wikipedia, Texts in Koine Greek:

A Apocalypse of Peter Argonautica C Cynic epistles D Discourses of Epictetus Divine Liturgy E Enchiridion of Epictetus Exhortation to the Greeks G Greek Vulgate H Heroninos Archive L Antoninus Liberalis On the Sublime M Manetho Meditations Metz Epitome Misopogon P Panarion Paschal troparion Patrologia Graeca Periplus of the Euxine Sea

Searching for texts using other names of "Koine Greek", (like Alexandrian Greek or Hellenistic Greek), will help identify these other secular texts).


Caution, the historians mentioned, Polybius, Plutarch, and others, tend to be "Atticisers", that is, try to imitate, more or less closely, classical Attic Greek. This affects vocabulary, verb tenses, etc. Some pleasant true koiné texts to read are the Greek novelists. Chariton is just a bit later than the gospels; later there is Xenophon of Ephesus, Achilles Tatius, and Heliodorus. But Google the author's name together with "Atticism" to check what scholars think. Don H

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