The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: Their Evidence for Late Koine Greek

John A. L. Lee
Honorary Fellow, Macquarie University
Honorary Member of Faculty, St Andrew’s Greek Orthodox Theological College

Abstract: The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, in their Greek form, date from IV-V AD and are written in the Greek language of their time. They contain both sayings and simple narratives, composed for the most part in everyday, not literary Greek. These texts therefore have the potential to provide useful evidence for the ongoing development of Greek in the late Koine period (IV-VI AD). There is a shortage of evidence of this kind and the Sayings have received little notice. The aim of this paper is to draw attention to the linguistic value of the Sayings, concentrating on the Alphabetic collection. One Saying (Paphnoutios 2) is sampled first, with observations on features of interest there, then other features found elsewhere in the corpus are listed with brief comments. The list is extensive but not exhaustive or systematic: a full study still needs to be done. The objective of the paper is linguistic, not theological, nor does it aim to resolve textual questions pending until a critical text of the Alphabetic collection is achieved.