Is There Such A Thing As Ecclesiastical Greek?

  1. Do some Eastern Catholics conduct their Divine Liturgies in Greek?
  2. Is this Greek a type of Ecclesiastical Greek?

Yes, the Greek Catholic Church Sui Iuris does.

Koine is the Greek used in the greek scriptures; modern greek differs, but I don’t know how much.

Add to that the Italo-Greeks and the Melkites. Both technically use Greek although the Melkite’s, at least, use it very sparingly (if at all) these days. Especially in the US.

In my Melkite parish we still use some Greek. The directives from the Archbishop are to use Greek in the little entrance (“Sophia, orthee.”) rather than translate that into English (or, for that matter, Arabic). In large measure, the Greek that remains is found in the deacons’ role.

Deacon Ed

As Aramis pointed out, Koine Greek is the language for Greek Divine Liturgy. Modern Greek does differ from Koine Greek in phonetics. The letter Beta in Koine is pronounced as “be” whereas in Modern Greek it is “ve”. Has a V sound rather than a B sound. Greek evolves just as English evolves, so words are always changing and sentence structure moves around just a bit over the centuries, but a Greek today would probably be able to understand Koine Greek as we understand Middle English, that of Shakespeare.

But in contemporary liturgies, the modern pronunciation is used even with Koine Greek.

Interesting. Hope springs eternal. But I wonder how the auxiliary bishop feels about that … :confused:

I understand that among the Orthodox in Lebanon, at least, the Trisagion is also still done in Greek. (And I’ve heard it done in Greek on radio broadcasts). No idea what the Melkites in Lebanon do.

I’m not an expert in this area but I recall in the Greek Orthodox and (back in the day) the Melkite liturgy, the Opening Doxology was “Evlogemini i Vasilea tou Patros …”


In my parish the Trisagion is done in English, Arabic and Greek.

Deacon Ed

Liturgical Greek is pronounced as if it were modern Greek.

Therefore the letter B is pronounced like the modern voiced v, and DELTA is pronounced with a voiced th, among other things.

The Greek of the Liturgical books is a step beyond Patristic Greek, called Byzantine Greek.

And modern Greek itself is in two forms: Demotiki (or popular) and Katharevousa or puristic.

If I might drop a bit of a comment, the pronunciation of Greek that many students of Greek – such as Classical or New Testament Greek – usually learn today is actually the “Erasmian” pronunciation. At least, according to this site (and this one and this which postulates that the ancient pronunciation of Greek is actually more closer to the modern one), the pronunciation of Biblical (NT) Greek is much more similar to the Byzantine/modern one than the Erasmian is (for example, beta being pronounced as something like a v sound or the oi diphthong as i as in ski). In fact, Erasmus originally designed his pronunciation to be used for Attic (Classical) Greek; thus the usage of the “Erasmian” pronunciation for Koine Greek is more anachronistic than using the Byzantine pronunciation for it, IMHO.

There is a Greek Catholic Exarchate of Athens, presided over by His Grace Bishop +Demetrios (Salachas). They essentially use the same text for the Divine Liturgy as the Greek Orthodox.

You may find Greek in use, as has been mentioned, especially by the Melkites. In the UGCC we even still use Greek on occasion, such as in the litanies during the Litya, the Gospel at the Paschal Divine Liturgy and Agape Vespers, singing Ton Despotin for the Bishop, etc.

Much as I think the “classical” pronunciation for latin is a fraud, I hold a similar view of Greek as well. We have no clue what it sounded like in the past. The best thing to do would be to follow the organic development of the pronunciation which is probably much closer then any artificial pronunciation cooked up by renaissance humanists.


I think this is spot on! I agree 100%. To me, it makes much better sense to pronounce πρεσβύτερος as “presvyeros” rather than “presbuteros.” Why not stick with the Modern Greek pronunciation?:thumbsup:

Alloho minokhoun,

I take this approach in principle, but I don’t know the modern/ecclesiastical Greek pronunciation very well.

I take great delight in debunking the “classical Latin” pronunciation, so I’m quite willing to do the same for Greek insofar as I know the modern pronunciation.

As for the OP, I think the term generally used for the Greek of the Orthodox Liturgy would be Byzantine Greek, wouldn’t it?


I have heard it called Romaic Greek before.

The site I linked to before (this) has a chart comparing the “Erasmian” pronunciation (Smyth & Machen version; a chart comparing other versions of Erasmian are here), the Historic Attic (the pronunciation which Erasmus had actually first proposed), the Historic Biblical (reconstructed, I think), and Modern Greek.

I appreciate this view point, since I used to lean this way, but after pursuing an advanced degree in music and investigating the sources of some of the modern traditions regarding Latin pronunciation, I have come around to the idea that there have been people involved in scholarship which is beyond the scope of my ability to refute which have informed contemporary practice.

Furthermore, modern pronunciation is informed by the Liber Usualis of the monks of Solesmes in which a guide for pronunciation was produced for English speakers which is heavily influenced by the pronunciation of Italian in Rome and not by reconstructed Ancient Latin.

Either way, while a bit of skepticism is healthy, there’s a fine line between that and cynicism, which may not be as productive.

See the following informative links for further reading and cheers!

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