It might seem normal these days for church services to be conducted in the language the congregation actually speaks, but it’s a big step in Greece, where the church has stuck to the New Testament Koine of two thousand years ago. According to a Kathimerini article:

Worried that worshippers cannot understand services, Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Church of Greece, has instructed churches in the Athens area to start conducting New Testament readings in Modern Greek later this month, a report said yesterday.
Until now, the New Testament has been read in the original Hellenistic “Koine” or common language, a version of Greek spoken from the late fourth century BC to fifth century AD. Christodoulos is anxious that the young especially do not understand this form of Greek and cannot follow services, according to the Eleftheros Typos daily.
In a major step for a Church that clings to its traditions, the archbishop received approval from the Holy Synod to start a pilot scheme in Athenian churches on September 19 which will see New Testament texts read in the original language before they are read again in Modern Greek.

Let’s hope it doesn’t cause riots.
(Thanks for the link, Dimitris!)

Incidentally, in researching this post I ran across a Wikipedia article on “Greeklish,” the online writing of Greek in Latin characters. Who knew it was so complicated?


  1. Linguistic policies of Orthodox Churches amuse me. This is the same Church which sent Sts. Cyril and Methodius to evangelise to the Slavs in their own language, but it cannot even serve its own Greek community in its own tongue.
    Then there’s the fact that, while they stick with Koine Greek, they apply a nearly entirely modern pronunciation to it, resulting in a liturgical language that was never actually spoken. Similarly, the Russian Orthodox Church’s pronunciation of Church Slavonic neglects many of the actual characteristics of the original.
    But though I complain, if I were Orthodox and my parish starting using the vernacular entirely, I’d probably find an ancient-language parish just out of philological interest.

  2. Are you reading my mind? I could have written that entire comment! The Cyril-and-Methodius thing has always flummoxed me.

  3. We can’t pronounce Latin properly either, can we? OCS is still accessible to the average Russian if supplied with proper comments. Very, very few Russians have a problem with the esthetical/literary quality of the Russian Orthodox liturgy, while were it translated into Russian… let’s not even think of it. Hence, liturgy should be in OCS, sermons in Russian.

  4. The Greek Orthodox Church only performs the Bible’s liturgy in Koine, sermons are in Demotic Greek. The liturgy is just a ritual that is sung, even in the United States there is opposition from the faithful in performing the liturgy in English or Demotic Greek.
    There is a problem with relying on news articles for all of your sources, instead of experience.

  5. There have been several recensions of Church Slavonic throughout history. The Old Church Slavonic created by St Cyril in the 9th century differs rather dramatically from the Church Slavonic of contemporary Russian Orthodox services, although the latter is much more archaic than modern Russian.
    I love OCS and modern Church Slavonic, but I also understand the problems such liturgical languages create. You can’t please everyone. I prefer a Church Slavonic service. My neighbor may prefer one in English/

Speak Your Mind