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NT Vocabulary in Historical Context

January 31, 2011

The recent Wittenberg sessions on early papyri, and previous requests from some readers for suggestions of works that I regard as particularly important prompt me to mention an obvious one:  James Hope Mouolton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-Literary Sources.  Essentially a lexicon of NT vocabulary found also in “non-literary” papyri (e.g., letters, legal documents, etc.), this impressive work first appeared in 1930, and has been reprinted many times subsequently (although a check just now on suggests that it is out of print currently).

There is, quite simply, nothing else out there like it.  To be sure, competent lexicons of the NT Greek include references to the work (often cited as “MM”), and there is now a considerably larger body of relevant papyri published and on which to draw.  Scholars in Australia announced a couple of decades ago a plan for a “new Moulton and Milligan” but it has not yet appeared, and it is not at all certain that it will.  (They did, however, produce the valuable series of volumes in the New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity series, most recently published by Eerdmans.)

But for an often fascinating glimpse of how NT vocabulary was also used “on the street” in the earliest Christian centuries, “Moulton and Milligan” is the most readily available access point.  All serious students of the Greek NT should become familiar with it.

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  1. It is also available for free on Google Books:

  2. W. Andrew Smith permalink

    For anyone interested, Moulton & Milligan is available in the US from CBD for only $23.99:

  3. Ed Gentry permalink

    David, you mean this link: Its its mostly readable and certainly better than nothing. Logos also has a copy for $39.95.

    It makes me want to get a Kindle (I’ve been resisting).

    A random entry: apparently ‘arti’ was very common in magical formulations. The Greek equivalent of voila perhaps?

  4. David Reimer permalink

    Sorry – it looks like WordPress eats some HTML markup! The link for M&M in PDF is:

    I hope that works…

  5. David Reimer permalink

    It looks like Moulton and Milligan hails from 1929 — at least from the online edition you can access at That’s the only scanned copy available, it seems. But you can download the hi-res PDF from the links in the left sidebar … or get it for your Kindle if you prefer.

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