Greek translations

OK, this may be a very stupid series of questions but I’ll get into why I’m asking.

How different is NT Greek from modern Greek? Would it be similar to the difference between KJV English and modern English or would it be even more different?

Would a modern Greek translation of the NT necessarily be a more accurate translation than say an English, Italian, German, or Spanish translation?

I have been following this thought line to be able to challenge the New World Translation rendering of John 1 and I don’t know Greek so it may be a futile . My argument would be that I would think since the NT was written in Greek, the Greek Orthodox Bible would have the least amount of translation issues and the Greek Orthodox Church views Jesus as God.

If this is to juvenile of a way of looking at it or its just plain too stupid please let me know. I always try to “engage” the visitors at my door and I would think that they know about as much Greek as I do, so I try to look for different approaches.

Please, be kind!

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Oh boy! A question about Greek AND Bible translations!

My B.A. is in classical languages and culture, and I am currently a Master’s student in religion.

NT Greek and Modern Greek exist on a continuum. Both are Greek, but over two millenia, the language has evolved and simplified. That is to say, Modern Greek is syntactically much simpler than Koine (the Greek of the New Testament). Some of the vocabulary has also shifted, with the meanings of some words having changed, and some loan words from other languages replacing more ancient words in common usage. A better comparison with English may well be the English of Chaucer compared to our language today. We can understand Middle English basically, but most people need a translation to read The Canterbury Tales well.

A competent translation (that is, by competent scholars who know the Biblical and related languages, and are historically informed) in any language is going to be accurate. The important factors are the competence of the translators, their methodology, and the manuscript choice, not the target language. In general, the translations I trust the most and use most regularly are the RSV/ESV (devotionally), the NRSV, the NJB, and the REB (these latter three, academically).

I think the approach of challenging the New World Translation, or even directly challenging the beliefs with an “I’m right, you’re wrong” approach might close off the possibility for changing a JW salesperson’s mind. I have found, in personal experience, that more progress is made by starting with common points of agreement and building from there, rather than starting at a point of disagreement. However, the NWT rendition of “the Word was a god” is grammatically illogical. The only theos (God) mentioned in the previous phrase has the definite article attached to it; kai (and) is a logical connector. No new noun has been introduced, so logically the theos in the line “kai theos en ho logos” must refer back to the prior phrase’s “ton theon”, which includes the definite article.

Take into consideration as well that Jn 1:1 refers to Gn 1, the relevant parts of which read in the Septuagint, “En arche epoiesen ho theos ton ouranon kai ten gen. […] eipen ho theos Genetheto phos” (Gn 1:1, 3). eipen means “said”. It is from this that the Evangelist gets ho logos, that is, the word, which is spoken. The logic of the passage in question not only links the Word to God, but identifies said Word as the very same God who was “in the beginning” in Gn 1:1.

I hope this has been of some, even if minor, help.


Coming from someone who has studied both, they are significantly different. Word meanings have shifted, grammatical rules have changed, even pronunciation is significantly different between Koine and Modern Greek. So from that standpoint I do not believe that a modern Greek translation would be any more or any less accurate on the basis of the receptor language of the translation alone. I would also imagine, that just as you have varying English translations that have differing translation philosophies (formal vs. functional) you probably have the same in other languages such as Greek or Spanish, etc.

Really? So a Koine Greek to modern Greek translation could also have translation bias? Well that shoots my theory down. Thank you.

Anytime you translate you have to make choices. So if that is what you are considering as “bias” then yes. That being said, bias can be mitigated to a degree by using a committee approach to translation as opposed to a single person performing the translation. I think you will find that most of your major English translations are very faithful to the text.

I guess the way I’m looking at it (oversimplified as it may be), if someone were to say translate the KJV into modern English, the languages are so close that I wouldn’t think bias could play a big role.


Early Modern English is English, yes. But it is still different enough to present the need to make translation choices, and an actual unmodernized KJV is not the same as a modern copy with modern spelling and punctuation.

There is a lot of difference between Douay Rheims, D R Challoner, and modernized DR Challoner, for instance.

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