The sacral stamp of Greek: Periphrastic constructions in New Testament translations of Latin, Gothic, and Old Church Slavonic

  • Bridget Drinka


Among the sociolinguistc forces at work in the languages of the world, religious affiliation and the accompanying reverence for the symbols of that affiliation must rank among the most powerful. Religious texts serve as repositories of cultural tradition and become, for their followers, reliquaries of the very word of God. Besides the conservatizing, archaizing pressures which often grow up within a religious tradition, these texts also act as conduits for cultural and linguistic innovation as they spread, through transmission and translation, to surrounding populations. The New Testament (NT) represents just such a cultural conduit, providing not only a blueprint for Christian social behavior but also a pattern for Christian linguistic expression, providing a new lexicon, a special syntax, a style of its own, simple and spare. It was this style, these lexical and syntactic patterns, which came to be imbued with social value to connote membership in the Christian community, and which came to be imitated, sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly, by translators of the New Testament.