UM Library Celebrates Language

Koine Greek

Koine Greek was the “common” dialect of ancient Greek that was used in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean after Alexander the Great. It has left many traces not only in the Greek of the New Testament, but also in the hundreds of thousands public and private documents on papyrus (and other perishable writing materials) that have survived in the dry sands of Egypt. The Papyrus Collection of the University of Michigan, the largest in the USA and the fifth largest in the world, contains a wonderful sampling of the wide variety of documents in Koine Greek (and other languages) from Egypt.

To learn more about the University of Michigan Papyrus Collection, visit

Fragment of a roll (the ancient book form) of Homer, Iliad, Book I. The text was written by a professional scribe with much eye for detail. This text dates to the second century C.E. 

This is part of a sale contract, dating to the year 599/600 C.E., in which a woman sells the seventh part of a grain measure that belongs to her. The main text is written by a professional notary whose handwriting slopes to the right and has many long strokes. In the lower half of the text, the various contracting parties have written a summary of the contract by way of signature. 

Leaf of a codex containing the letters of St. Paul, written in a beautiful hand by a professional scribe. This handwriting shows that this papyrus dates to the end of the second or the beginning of the third century C.E., making it the oldest extant manuscript of the letters of St. Paul. 

Early second century C.E. letter from Thermouthas to her mother Valeria, written in a very inexperienced script that may be of Thermouthas herself. The letter contains many spelling mistakes, showing that the pronunciation of Koine Greek was much different from earlier periods.