|Are we sure the NT was written in Greek?|
N. J. wrote in and asked:
How certain are we, and what is our evidence, that the NT (or at least, most of the NT) was originally written in Greek, not Hebrew?
N. J. asked this question as part of an inquiry concerning something called the "Hebrew Names" teaching - folks who believe that using the sacred tetragrammaton (YHWH) is the only respectful way to address Deity, and therefore the NT must have been written first in Hebrew (or Aramaic). Obviously, if the NT was written in Greek to start with, then their argument crumbles. So, what's the scoop?
First of all, I find it a bit strange that this group focuses so closely on the Divine Name. I wonder what they do about the many titles and names accorded to God by the OT prophets, for example, or by Jesus and Paul! (A big example: What about the "abba" prayer?) But that's another issue. For now...in answer to the original question: We are very, VERY sure that the overwhelming majority of the NT was written originally in Greek. There are only two counter-indications.
The first is that Matthew did not write his Gospel in Greek to start with. There is testimony from the Church Fathers that Matthew wrote his work originally in Hebrew or Aramaic. (I should add that there is one scholarly work out there which seriously argues that ALL of the Gospels were first written in Hebrew, but it has not gained a lot of scholarly support. For another example of such a work, and a response, see here.)
The second counter-indication is that a good deal of material in the Gospels is decidedly in a style that seems "Semitic" - which is to say that it appears to be Greek translated from a Semitic language. (An often-cited example of this is Luke's birth narrative, which repeatedly begins sentences with "And.." - a typical Semitic device.) Most would say that the Semitic language behind this is Aramaic, not Hebrew, which I gather is OK with this aberrant group referred to. But it does not apply to much outside words of Jesus and a few other areas, and even then the evidence is often disputed.
But other than that, the evidence strongly favors that the bulk of the NT was originally written in Greek - because:
Bottom line: While we can speculate until a blue moon about lost originals - and one supposes this group could next speculate that ONLY the references to God were originally written using the divine name, while the rest of the NT was in Greek, and someone later switched all the divine names to something else! - there is absolutely no linguistic basis for the claim that the bulk of the NT was written in any language other than Greek. This part of the argument is not in their favor at all.