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Light from the Ancient East

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Light from the Ancient East uses nonbilical, nonliterary Greek and Latin ancient texts to shed light on the social, cultural and religious setting in which the NT was written. The work is intended for the general reader or non-specialist; Greek and Latin texts have been translated and technical discussions reserved for the footnotes.

Adolf Deissmann's work with papyri revolutionized NT lexicography and helped to establish the idea that the NT was written neither in classical Greek nor "Holy Ghost Greek" but rather was composed in the popular or common (κοινή) Greek of the first century AD. His work is quoted today in all of the top-rate lexicons (nearly 1,000 times in BDAG and TDNT alone) and his name is often mentioned in the same breath as James H. Moulton, George Milligan, A. T. Robertson, and Frederick W. Danker.

The electronic edition allows the user to quickly see whether Deissmann takes up a particular passage or word. It also includes the 60+ plates of the papyri, monuments, and ostraca that Deissmann discusses.

All in all, Light from the Ancient East is an excellent supplement not only for information about some infrequently-used New Testament words, but also a treasure-trove of information regarding the culture and social practices of the time.

Resource Experts


  • The Problem—Discovery and Nature of the New Texts
  • The Language of the New Testament
  • The New Testament as Literature
  • Social and Religious History in the New Testament
  • Retrospect—Future work of Research

Top Highlights

“Perhaps the most remarkable discovery of this kind in the new texts is a parallel found some time ago to the statement in Luke 2:3, which has been so much questioned on the strength of mere book-learning, that on the occasion of the enrolment for taxation made by Cyrenius, ‘all went to enrol themselves, every one to his own city.’1 That this was no mere figment of St. Luke or his authority, but that similar things2 took place in that age, is proved by an edict3 of G. Vibius Maximus, governor of Egypt, 104 a.d. (Figure 42).” (Page 268)

“I propose to show the importance of the non-literary written memorials of the Roman Empire in the period which led up to and witnessed the rise and early development of Christianity, the period, let us say, from Alexander to Diocletian or Constantine.” (Page 4)

“In this Hellenised world, however, men no longer spoke local dialects of Greek. The world had become unified, and men spoke no more the ancient Doric, or Æolic, Ionic, or Attic, but a single Greek international language, one common tongue. The precise origin of this international Greek, which it is usual to refer to as the Κοινή (‘common’ language), has not been made out,1 nor need it detain us here. The fact remains that in the period which gave birth to Christianity there was an international Greek language.” (Page 59)

“Two examples are now forthcoming to prove that the word εὐαγγέλιον, ‘gospel, good tidings,’ which was in use in pre-Christian times in the profane sense of good news, and which then became a Primitive Christian cult-word of the first order, was also employed in sacral use in the Imperial cult. One of the examples is that calendar inscription of Priene, about 9 b.c., which we have mentioned2 twice already, and which is now in the Berlin Museum.” (Page 370)

The New Testament is in exile here in the West, and we do well to restore it to its home in Anatolia. It is right to set it once more in the company of the unlearned, after it has made so long a stay amid the surroundings of modern culture. We have had hundreds of university chairs for the exact, scientific interpretation of the little Book - let us now listen while the homeland of the New Testament yields up its own authentic witness to the inquiring scholar. At the desire of my publisher...I have written the main text of the book (as distinct from the footnotes) in a manner to be understood in all essentials by the general reader without specialist knowledge. For the same reason the Greek and Latin texts have been furnished with translations...[And] a large number of the more important texts [are] shown in facsimile.

—Adolf Deissmann

Product Details

  • Title: Light from the Ancient East: The New Testament Illustrated by Recently Discovered Texts of the Graeco-Roman World
  • Author: Adolf Deissmann; translated by Lionel R. M. Strachan
  • Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
  • Publication Date: 1911
  • Pages: 514

Excerpted from Nelson's New Christian Dictionary

Deissman, Adolf (1866–1937) German New Testament scholar. His studies showed that the New Testament was written in popular rather than classical Greek and described the evolution of Christian doctrine in terms of a popular cult. Deissman wrote a life of the apostle Paul and other biblical studies. The more important of his books were Light from the Ancient East (1910) and The Religion of Jesus and the Faith of Paul (1923).

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


8 ratings

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  1. Aaron



  2. Michael T. Fox
  3. Ray Timmermans

    Ray Timmermans


  4. James Christopher Owen
    Though ostensibly written for a general audience, Licht vom Osten can be tough sledding on occasion. However, it more than repays reading for its examples from the papyrii of compelling human stories that illuminate the accounts of the NT.
  5. Anthony Hebert
  6. Andreshome



  7. Patrick Novak

    Patrick Novak


  8. Phil Gons

    Phil Gons



Digital list price: $16.49
Save $4.00 (24%)