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"A Grammar of the dialect peculiar to the New Testament, is needed by all who critically study its original language. The time has been, when to call in question the pure Atticism of the New Testament writers was deemed and treated as an offence against the claims of inspiration. That period is now past. It is generally felt and acknowledged, at the present time, that if the Purists could have established the claims which they made for the Greek of the New Testament, one of the very best arguments of a critical nature, to prove that Hebrews were the real authors of this volume, would have been confuted.
The most accurate description which can be given of the Greek idiom of the New Testament, is, that it consists of Hebrew thoughts invested with Greek costume. The sentiment, the phraseology, and the colouring of the whole, are Hebrew; which is just what we should naturally expect in a system of religious history, discussion, and precepts, composed by Hebrews. No native heathen Greek, unless by aid truly miraculous, could have composed such a book as to style and idiom. All is just as it should be, on the supposition that its authors were Hebrews; the entire volume
is altogether in conformity with the demands of criticism, which takes it stand upon this basis.
But while we allow thus much, we must be careful not to extend the Hebraism of the New Testament beyond just and proper bounds. The Purists would allow of nothing but pure Attic Greek in it. Their antagonists, the Hellenists, after a long and arduous contest, drove them from the field. But, not content with this, they pushed their conquest, as victors are very apt to do, far beyond the bounds of sober consideration. The second generation of Hellenists found Hebraisms every where. Not only the phraseology, and colouring, and sentiment of the New Testament were represented as Hebraistic, but the construction and regimen of the great mass of words were deemed to be Hebrew ; the meaning and regimen of the particles were Hebrew; the tenses of verbs and the cases of nouns were conformed to the Hebrew; the article was used in the manner of the Hebrew one; and even the syntax was, in innumerable passages, represented as being conformed to the model of the Hebrew. In a word, any difficulty as to the meaning of a Greek word, or as to its construction,
was solved, if possible, by a resort to the usages of the Hebrew language.
Time and farther examination have corrected these errors and extravagancies. Accurate and extensive investigation, such as has recently been made by Planck and Winer, has shewn, that there is scarcely a unique and peculiar form of a Greek word in the whole range of the New Testament, nor a single principle of syntax of any importance, which has not its parallel among more or less of the native Greek writers. It is true, beyond all doubt, that there are many words in the New Testament to which the writers have assigned a sense different from that which can be found in any of the native Greek authors. But this alters neither the form nor the syntax of such words. Nor is it to be considered merely as Hebraism. It arises from the necessity of the case. How could a Hebrew express ideas of a religious nature, and pertaining to the worship of Jehovah, in a language which the mere heathen had formed, into whose minds, in a variety of cases, no such ideas as the Hebrew writer designed to communicate had ever entered? One may answer this question by asking,
how a writer of the present day could express, in Latin and Greek, the ideas contained in a treatise on electricity, magnetism, or steamboats?
The writers of the New Testament did just what all writers are ever obliged to do; where the language which they employ is not adequate to express their conceptions, they either coin new words, or else use old words in new senses. Both of these the New Testament writers have done; and done as often as they were necessitated to do it, but generally no oftener. Who can blame them for this? Or who can wonder that they should have so done? They must either proceed in this way, or refrain from communicating what they wished to write.
In the formation of new words, however, whether by composition or otherwise, they have followed throughout the common analogies and laws of the Greek language. From its syntax they scarcely, if ever, depart, even in the minutiæ of it. Hence a Grammar of the New Testament idiom, must, for substance, be a grammar of the Greek κοινὴ διάλεκτος· and so it is exhibited, in the following sheets."