Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Eta and Iota Were Indistinguishable at the Time of the Gospel

THE USE OF THE GREEK 'H' (ETA). Another usage points exactly in the same direction: that of the Greek letter 'H' (η) to denote the Egyptian long /e/. We know that the pronunciation of this letter as /I/ (thus falling together with the original long "I" and the older diphthong 'ei') , the so called 'itacism', developed relatively late, though at different times in different areas. For much of mainland Greece itacism seems to have become the rule during the fourth century B.C.E (with the notable exception of Attica)9. The Greek Koine as spoken in the Middle East seems to have held up on the change for some time. The Septuagint , written in Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy II (285- 247 B.C.E.) , still consistently transcribes the Hebrew /e/ with 'H', cf. 'Eliyyahu (אֱלִיָּהוּ Gk.'Elias Ἠλίας), etc. Only about 150 B.C. E. do misspellings of 'l' for 'H' begin to appear in the papyri. Therefore , though this criterion does not necessitate as high a date as the one the aspirate occlusives demand, , it places the use of the Greek script for writing Egyptian at 150 B.C.E. at the latest, and thus squarely in the pre-Christian era. [University of South Florida Language Quarterly, Volumes 10-14 p. 4]

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