Thank you for the Forum – it’s great to find somewhere to discuss these things .
Apologies for the long post – and thanks in advance for any replies as this is a fairly long post and a problem I have been fretting about for about 3 years or so.
My understanding of the current thinking is that the words κενός and καινός are probably homophones in 1stcentury pronunciation of Greek. I understand the frequent interchanges of the graphemes αι/ε in the papyri, however – I find it difficult to understand how κενός and καινός could be homophones. This is similar to the difficulty seeing how ὑμεῖς and ἡμεῖς in the first century could be homophones if both υ and η were to have undergone ioticisation but he end of the first century.
κενός and καινός are quite frequently used words by New Testament writers and there are important changes in meaning if they are mistaken for each other.
In the following examples the meaning of the following verses are quite changed by substituting one meaning for the other:
John 13:34Ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν, ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἠγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.
2Cor. 3:6ὃς καὶ ἱκάνωσεν ἡμᾶς διακόνους καινῆς διαθήκης, οὐ γράμματος ἀλλὰ πνεύματος· τὸ γὰρ γράμμα ἀποκτέννει, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζῳοποιεῖ.
James 2:20¶ Θέλεις δὲ γνῶναι, ὦ ἄνθρωπε κενέ, ὅτι ἡ πίστις χωρὶς τῶν ἔργων ἀργή ἐστιν;
This problem of confused pronunciation of κενός and καινόςwould be particularly difficult for “Καινῆ Διαθήκη” – particularly when early Christians were discussing the New Testament with pagan critics.
Equally, there are synonyms that could be used, such as νέος or μωρός/ ἄσοφοςand do not seem to have been used..
Do you think the pronunciation of κενός and καινός would have been?
1) Would these have been Homophones?
· Context determining the understanding. This seems to be what happens in Modern Greek. However, this seems to only be for the single case of “Καινῆ Διαθήκη”. Elsewhere the terms “νέος” and “καινούργιος” are preferred for “new”. καινός meaning new doesn’t seem to occur elsewhere in Modern Greek.κενός seems to better preserve its meaning.
2) Would these have been pronounced differently?
· This could be in the context of similar pronunciation of unstressed syllables. However, when clearly enunciated the meanings are different. Such as accept/except or affect/effect etc. For example the sentence “We want them all, except this” needs to be carefully pronounced to make it intelligible.
· These could represent different and irregular pronunciation of these graphemes in different words - such as the “o” in women and wombat in English.
· There could be different syllable stresses in κενός and καινός (such as invalid/invalid in English) – these stress differences could have been wrongly accent marked in later traditions
My personal guess would be that the ε and αι graphemes were pronounced similarly but sufficiently differently so as to be heard as distinct by the writers of the New Testament – such as /ε/and /e̞/. These could be distinguished when spoken carefully - such as for κενός and καινός – but frequently mistaken in unstressed syllables of long words- such as ποιησηται/ ποιήσητε etc. This is a part of the slow drift together of these originally distinct phonemes.
If this is the case - one would predict increasing interchange of αι for ε and ε for αι over time. Three will be decreasing use of καινός over the same time (with complementary increase in the use of synonyms such as νέος in this case). An exception would be for quotes of the LXX or New testament – or the use of “Καινῆ Διαθήκη”.
What do you all think about this? - also is there anything in either Teodorsson or Gignac I can’t find these books despite a long search for both.
Many thanks again in advance and any comments would be really gratefully received