Is this Koine Greek?

So I bought a Greek bible and I’m not sure whether it is Koine or Modern Greek. Could someone please help me out? Thanks.

  • 1
    It almost certainly has a title page, which would be a more direct indication. Oct 31, 2019 at 5:51
  • Not to be a bother, but shouldn't you ask this on the Greek or Biblical Hermeneutics sites? This is the Latin site, right? Nov 1, 2019 at 0:02
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    @thedarkwanderer See relevant FAQ
    – Mast
    Nov 1, 2019 at 11:06
  • Answers to this question would be better if they clarified the differences in orthography between Koine Greek as it is found in historic texts vs. Koine Greek as it is printed in modern editions. Nov 1, 2019 at 16:08

4 Answers 4


Yes, it is Koine instead of modern Greek. You can tell by some of the additional marks around the letters:

  • Koine Greek has breathing marks, while modern does not. Both rough and smooth breathing marks appear on the page.
  • There are three different accent marks in Koine Greek, whereas modern has only one. All three variants appear on the page.
  • There are instances of the letter iota written under the previous vowel.

Even with no understanding of the meaning, these typographical hints are enough to strongly suggest the idea of Koine Greek. These features were part of Greek until a 1970s, but no longer today. That is, if the dichotomy is between today's Greek and Koine, these criteria are enough to unambiguously decide it has to be Koine, but they are not enough to rule out intermediate stages.

There are also features of the language itself, and they are indeed a safer way to reason here, but I will let others who know Greek better to say so. More answers pointing out more ways to argue this are always welcome.

  • Thanks! I’m hopefully going to use this as a tool to learn Koine.
    – Owl
    Oct 30, 2019 at 14:34
  • @TomHahn I'm glad to be able to help! Questions will surely arise when you study Koine, and I'd be happy to see some of them on this site. (Meanwhile, take a look at our introductory tour. With a little more reputation you can start voting and using other features.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 30, 2019 at 14:48
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    I wonder if the presence of a critical apparatus is another indication. Oct 30, 2019 at 18:41
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    Yes it is koine, the beginning of the Gospel of John. However, your three criteria are not really valid, because before the latest orthography reform (1970s) modern Demotic Greek was also written with three accents and with breathings (all superfluous, of course). By the way, the Orthodox Church has always banned the translation of the Bible into Demotic, so a Demotic Bible is not easy to find.
    – fdb
    Oct 30, 2019 at 19:25
  • @fdb I am aware that my criteria are overly simplified, but it is good to know that the rarity of Demotic Bibles does give a bias favoring my conclusion. (Did Demotic Greek have iota subscriptum too?) I would be happy to see a more substantial answer by someone who knows Greek better than me, and that means almost anyone.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 30, 2019 at 19:28

It's the standard Koine text. The critical apparatus is of course a giveaway: that would not make sense in modern Greek. The three accent system was still used officially until 1970 and some publishers of literary texts still refuse to publish in the modern system without breathing marks and a single accent (and no iota subscriptum). So that's not a surefire indication. But the text is the standard, still used in Orthodox liturgy.

It's worth pointing out that the Greek school education (at least until several decades ago) did not just include Koine texts but also classical and Homeric Greek, so the typical Greek are much better equipped to dig around in their ancient history than many other speakers of modern languages. The downside is that they will insist to know better than comparatistic scholars how ancient (and Koine) Greek was pronounced.

  • Where is the chuckle emoji when you need it? Especially since I'm not supposed to put nice answer in the comments.
    – Hugh
    Oct 31, 2019 at 12:06
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    Re: "The critical apparatus is of course a giveaway: that would not make sense in modern Greek": Could you elaborate on this a bit? What is "the critical apparatus"? Why would it not make sense in Modern Greek?
    – ruakh
    Oct 31, 2019 at 22:00
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    A small wrinkle: the now defunct formal Greek idiom (καθαρεύουσα) dominant in the first half of the 20th century, breathings, accents and iota subscript and all, actually modeled itself after this very New Testament Koine cynosure, so, ideally, it might end up looking quite similar! But, of course, it would be bizarre to translate the original paradigm into its close derivative simulacrum in the first place! Nov 1, 2019 at 19:33
  • The translation of the first two sentences in Modern (καθαρεύουσα) Greek go like: Εις την αρχήν της πνευματικής και υλικής δημιουργίας, άναρχος και προαιώνιος, υπήρχεν ο Υιός και Λογος του Θεού. Και ο Λογος ήτο πάντοτε αχώριστος από τον Θεόν και πλησιέστατα προς αυτόν, και ο Λογος ήτο Θεός απειροτέλειος, όπως ο Πατήρ και το Αγιον Πνεύμα. Αυτός υπήρχεν εις την αρχήν της δημιουργίας ηνωμένος προς τον Θεόν. ...As you might observe, they are close, but the syntax has broken down to something clumsier... Mar 7, 2023 at 23:02

It's Koine Greek. Top right, second line you see the word οὗτος, it's not used in modern Greek. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=ou(=tos

  • Welcome to the site and thanks for the answer!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 31, 2019 at 8:34

There are numerous sites that have the koine text, includi g biblehub, which, when you click on gr for greek, will give several koine texts. There are also youtube channels that use Scrivener's textus receptus, which is in koine. The pronouciation is typically modern, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Frankly, the reconstructed pronunciation sounds forced and awkward. The modern-day pronunciation is much more natural and, I think, better preserves the natural beauty of the text. I am not Greek, by the way, and came to the language late in life.

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