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The Septuagint and the Vocabulary of the New Testament


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Here we have to do with a sphere which is comparatively restricted, and so assertions can be made of a far more sweeping and positive kind than was possible in the case of the Septuagint. All the facts presented by the New Testament books are already within the range of investigation. But numerous problems, for whose solution data scarcely exist, come up as a priori questions in connection with the vocabulary of the New Testament.

No doubt critics of all schools, or at least those free from violent prejudices, agree in fixing the limits of the New Testament books between 50 and 110 A.D. This is so far helpful, but very little fresh light is being gained as to the conditions and circumstances of the actual writers of the books. Even in the case of an author whose works are so well authenticated as those of St. Paul, all we know is that he used an amanuensis whose name is once given. In all probability this person, and any others who performed the same office, adhered strictly to the dictation of the apostle, but we cannot tell what special colouring may not have been thus introduced. St. Peter also appears to have employed a secretary; and this must be connected with a variety of language, and a certain classical tone found in his writing…

The books of the New Testament, taken together as a single body of literature, display one particular type of writing, perhaps more varied in individual instances than is ever the case with the literary basis of the κοινὴ writers, yet marked off from all other Greek books by tendencies and modifications which are specially their own.

A careful Calculation shows that the total number of words in the New Testament, excluding all proper names and their derivatives, is 4829… Altogether there are about 950 post-Aristotelian words, which, subtracted from the total number, 4829, leaves (roughly speaking) about 3850 in the New Testament which are found previous to the death of Aristotle, or about 80% of the whole vocabulary. These last figures are significant as showing an almost unexpected purity in the language of the New Testament viewed as a whole. It must, however, be noted that a large number of words, thoroughly current in good classical writers, receive, when employed in the New Testament, an entirely new sense.

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