Friday, July 3, 2015

The Gospel Of Judas: Why It Looks Like A Greek Manuscript

TWH: The Gospel of Judas might look like a Greek manuscript, but it's not one. It's actually written in the Coptic language. Most people have little, if any, knowledge of this language. Originating sometime between the first and second centuries, this language of Egypt adopted the Greek alphabet. It's quite interesting when we think about it. The Greek language was what we call the "koine" (κοινή) language of the day. In other words, it was the common language, the language that was known and used by most of the known world at that time. Just because Greek was the language of the Roman empire did not mean that Greek supplanted all the languages spoken in those regions under Rome's control. Just think about Israel for a moment. Clearly they were under Rome's thumb in the first century, but it's obvious that the Jewish people continued to use the Hebrew language (e.g., when reading from the scrolls in the synagogue), as well as Aramaic, which the authors of the Gospels translate for us at times in their literature. The same was true elsewhere in the world.

The Roman province of Aegyptus was established a little over twenty years before the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. It became one of the Empire's largest and financially lucrative provinces, remaining under its control (despite revolts and problems) until it was finally conquered by the Muslims in the seventh century. But the introduction of Greek culture and its language precedes the establishment of said province. Alexander invaded Egypt close to 300 years before the province was established, when he was fighting Darius III. In fact, he spent nearly six months in southern Egypt (332 B.C.). Those events set into motion what would later culminate in the creation of an Egyptian script utilizing the Greek alphabet.

To form the Coptic language, you take all of the Greek alphabet and add a handful of letters from Egyptian script. Some of the Greek letters did not correspond to sounds in Egyptian speech, but they were retained nonetheless. They added the Egyptian letters in order to supplement the Greek with phonemes closer to their own. The number one reason the Gospel of Judas looks so much like a Greek manuscript is because of the alphabetic similarities between Coptic and Greek. Though they look similar, Coptic is a totally different language.

No comments:

Post a Comment