About the…
Greek language in the Bible

Example of ancient Greek writing in stone. Photographer: Kirk Siang. Licensed: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Example of ancient Greek writing in stone
Photographer: Kirk Siang. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Greek language has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,400 years of written records. 1

Alphabet

It consists of 24 letters with an upper and lowercase:

  1. Α α
    alpha
  2. Β β
    beta
  3. Γ γ
    gamma
  4. Δ δ
    delta
  5. Ε ε
    epsilon
  6. Ζ ζ
    zeta
  7. Η η
    eta
  8. Θ θ
    theta
  9. Ι ι
    iota
  10. Κ κ
    kappa
  11. Λ λ
    labda or lambda
  12. Μ μ
    mu
  13. Ν ν
    nu
  14. Ξ ξ
    xi
  15. Ο ο
    omicron
  16. Π π
    pi
  17. Ρ ρ
    rho
  18. Σ σ/ς
    sigma
  19. Τ τ
    tau
  20. Υ υ
    upsilon
  21. Φ φ
    phi
  22. Χ χ
    chi
  23. Ψ ψ
    psi
  24. Ω ω
    omega

The New Testament was written in the Koine Greek language (Common Greek; the common dialect). So was the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew. The modern Greek Orthodox churches continue to use this dialect in their liturgy.

The word “Greek”

The word “Greek” is found only in the New Testament, where a distinction is observed between “Greek” and “Grecian.”

In Scripture, a “Greek” is a Greek by descent or simply a Gentile as opposed to a Jew (Romans 2:9-10 KJV).

…a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek… —Acts 16:1-3 KJV

I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. —Romans 1:14 KJV

Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. … —Acts 18:17 KJV excerpt and Acts 18:17 NKJV

Note: In the above verse, the word “Greeks” is not in the original text, but was added to explain who “all” of them were. Therefore, to be accurate, other translation leave out the word “Greeks” (examples: Acts 18:17 NASB; Acts 18:17 ESV

Grecians / Hellenists

A Grecian means “one who speaks Greek” and is a foreign Jew opposed to a home Jew who lives in Judea.

Error in the King James Version of Acts 11:

And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. —Acts 11:20 KJV

In the above King James Version translation, the word “Grecians” should be “Greeks” or “Hellenists” denoting the heathen Greeks of that city.

More recent translations…

“…Hellenists…” —Acts 11:20 NKJV; Acts 11:20 ESV

“…Greeks…” —Acts 11:20 NASB

  1. “Greek language,” Encyclopædia Britannica (Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., retrieved April 29 2014).

Also see

Article Version: July 28, 2021