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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

264                       The Greek Papyri
Of more importance is the indirect contribution made by the
documents. From no other country. of the ancient world have
we such a wealth of varied material relating to all the complex
forms of social and economic life. Although the bulk of this
evidence is strictly relevant to Egypt only, it is fair to recall that
at the time when the books of the New Testament were written,
the neighbouring lands of Egypt and Palestine were both provinces
of the Roman Empire, that both were partially hellenized
with a large non-Hellenic population, that contact between the
two was easy, and that the official and business language of both
countries was Greek. This Koine Greek, derived from Attic,
but influenced by other dialects, was the lingua franca of the
Roman East and though different parts of the empire produced
their local variations, though within one country the spoken
language differed from the written, and that of the educated
from that of the half-educated, yet it was unmistakably a single
language and the degree of uniformity in the written Koine was
high. The publication of numerous contemporary documents,
both papyri and inscriptions, has radically altered the views
formerly held about the Greek of the New Testament; in par-
ticular, the idea- that its language was something peculiar and
divinely unrelated to other forms of Greek has disappeared.
It is true that the Semitic element is strong in parts
of the New Testament, that no letter remotely like the Epistles
of St. Paul has been found in Egypt, and that the characteristic
words of New Testament religion cannot be paralleled from the
papyri; not only are few of our documents directly concerned
with religion, but a new religion will commonly create its own
vocabulary and Christianity deliberately avoided the usages of
pagan cults. Yet these books were designed to be intelligible to
and to appeal to the ordinary Greek-speaking public, and were
not all intended for Jewish or Judaized audiences. Hence the
resemblances between the language of the papyri and that of the
New Testament books have given a new direction to the study