Matthew’s Greek

It is an unfortunate commonplace in classrooms of seminaries and Christian colleges to hear that Matthew improved and corrected the ugly and unintelligent Greek of Mark. As a teacher of Greek, while it is true that Mark seems to deviate from what we artificially consider the “standard” rules of Koine Greek, it is a bit simplistic to pretend that we can label Mark’s education level by his Gospel. For example, I have heard Greek teachers say that, unlike English, in Greek word order “doesn’t matter” or that there are not rules for word order. That is ridiculous! While there may be some flexibility and variety, and while the construction of sentences is significantly different, we should observe that that may only be our perception of the language or rules.

Anyway, I stumbled across a nice essay by Richard Beaton (Fuller) that questions whether we can label Matthew’s Greek as more “polished.” Beaton tips his hat to Bacon’s suggestion that it may be, rather, a desire on Matthew’s part to align it more with “synagogue Greek,” having to do more with style than education (Beaton, “How Matthew Writes,” in Bockmuehl and Hagner, The Written Gospel, pg. 120).