Fun Facts from Church History: There Was Only One Greek Grammar Available in the Early 16th Century


Greek study in Western Europe was then [i.e., in the early 16th century] in its infancy. Teachers were scarce and text-books were scarcer still. The only Greek grammar in use in the West was that by Emanuel Chrysoloras (b. at Constantinople 1355; d. at Constance 1415), which was known as the Erotemata, the Greek title meaning “the interrogatives,” and was first printed in Venice in 1484, and frequently afterwards in different places.

Zwingli calls it the “Introduction” (Isagogen) of Chrysoloras; and as Glareanus speaks of an “Isagogen” which he had undertaken to translate, but had to lay aside from ill health, it is likely that he refers to the same book.

Zwingli asked Vadianus what he (Zwingli) should take up after he had finished it. Glarean, writing from Basel on October 24, 1516, says: “I do not know whether you have a Greek dictionary or not. If you need one write to me and I will see that it is sent you at once”. The lexicon Zwingli used was that of Suidas (Milan, 1499), and on the first page of his copy he wrote in Greek: Εἰμὶ τοῦ Ζυγγλίου καὶ τὸν κυριον μηδαμῶς καταλλάξω εἰ μὴ θατέρου ἀποθανόντος” Cf. Usteri, Initia Zwinglii (“Studien u. Kritiken,” 1885, 621). The book was in the Zwingli exhibition at Zurich, Jan. 4–13, 1884.*

*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901).