Language Lessons Taught by the Holy Spirit
Greek, the original language of the New Testament, is considered to be the most literary of all the ancient languages (see addendum). "Foremost philologists have agreed in pronouncing Greek the most expressive and beautiful of all earthly languages," wrote B. W. Blackwelder in his acclaimed Light from the Greek New Testament, pg. 15. A. T. Robertson wrote, "The most perfect vehicle of human speech thus far devised by man is the Greek. English comes next, but Greek language is a language of precision and a knowledge of the original language of the New Testament is decidedly helpful and informative." Take a case in point: Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church " (Matt. 16: 18). Some maintain that Jesus is promising to build his church on Peter; hence, the papacy. A knowledge of Greek, however, shows such is not the case. "Peter" is from the masculine Greek noun PetroV, transliterated and pronounced Pétros in English. "Rock" is the Greek petra, transliterated and pronounced pétra. Pétra is a noun of the feminine gender. Furthermore, the noun translated Peter (PetroV) "a detached stone" and "Rock" (petra) means "a mass of rock, as distinct from petros " (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine). Jesus did not say to Peter, "epi (on) sou (thee) PetroV (Peter)". Hence, from the Greek text you see two different nouns, two different meanings, and two different genders (some argue that these facts do not matter since Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic. However, in the event Jesus spoke in Aramaic, we must remember that Matthew was inspired as he wrote in Greek) . It would have been grammatically improper to have referred to Peter by using the feminine noun petra. (Most of the material comprising this article is found elsewhere in Bible Truths as part of separate articles. At the end of this article, you will find a list of the materials to read in full, should you so desire. Simply notice the numeric identification. In this case, the preceding statements are later identified by the numeral "1.")
I want to impress upon you the fact that the Koiné Greek of the New Testament is not some "unintelligible Holy Ghost garble." The Koiné offered to the Holy Spirit a perfect language to express and preserve the final revelation from God to man (Jude 3; Heb. 1: 1, 2).
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3, the Greek word rendered "once" is apax. It is transliterated (English equivalent letters) hapax). Vine says the following of hapax: "(b) once for all, of what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition, Heb. 6: 4; 9: 28; 10: 2; I Pet. 3: 18; Jude 3, R.V., 'once for all ,'" Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).
From hapax we learn that Jesus' sacrifice was so sufficient only one offering was required (Heb. 9: 28). Also hapax is strong evidence that one can be saved and fall away (Heb. 6: 4, 5-9). Not only were those mentioned in the text of Hebrews 6 saved (some argue they were not really saved), but they were so "enlightened" to not require additional enlightenment. One small Greek word proves all of this, the word hapax, "once for all." (Just a small example of how powerful the language of the New Testament is and how effectively the Holy Spirit used it to graphically teach and emphasize truths, See number "1." below).
There have been numerous false doctrines taught as a result of not understanding Greek grammar. In the case of pronouns and a lack of understanding of the grammar examine Romans 8: 26:
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."
Notice that the Holy Spirit is referred to as "itself." Hence, the view has developed that the Spirit is an it; therefore, simply an energy mass sent out by the Father, certainly not a being or entity, a he. However, when we view the original of John 16: 13, we find another thought. Jesus used the strong masculine pronoun ekeinoV in referring to the Holy Spirit ("Howbeit when he"). How, then, do we explain the Spirit being referred to as an it in Romans 8: 26? The answer is found in the grammar of Greek nouns and pronouns. Notice the expression to pneuma auto (the Spirit itself). Autò is in the neuter gender, hence, itself. However, this is because the noun antecedent pneûma is a neuter noun. Also, the definite article tò is neuter gender. In the sense of grammar, the Spirit (pneûma, neuter noun) requires the pronoun (fill in for the noun) to also be neuter. However, when speaking of the pneûma in the person of the Holy Spirit, Jesus obviously emphasized the being of the Spirit by using a masculine pronoun (see numeral 2). (Click on "The Holy Spirit" to read more about the Holy Spirit, be sure to use your browser return to come back to this page).
Conjunctions in Greek, as in English, connect sentences, clauses, phrases, and words. The two main types that appear in the Koiné Greek are coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Coordinating conjunctions have the chief function of joining together two equal grammatical elements, whereas subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses. Some coordinating conjunctions are kai, de, te, h, alla, oute, oude and oun. The subordinating conjunctions are oti and ina. Peter taught the following that is presently applicable in Acts 2: 38:
"Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Peter made this statement in response to some in the audience wanting to know what to do to be saved (vs. 23-37). Notice how "repent" (metanoésate) and "be baptized" (baptisthéto) are joined by the conjunction kaì. Some argue that baptism is more important than repentance; some contend repentance is more necessary than baptism. Some say baptism only (not baptism and repentance) is for the remission of sins. All these views are grammatically incorrect. Remember that kaì is a coordinating conjunction that joins items or elements of equal grammatical importance. Hence, baptism when preceded by repentance is for the remission of sins (see belief and baptism similarly joined in Mark 16: 16). Some play down "be baptized" based on the passive voice element. The full grammatical information regarding the posture of baptisthéto is third person, singular, aorist tense 1, imperative mood, and passive voice. A literal translation would be "get yourself baptized" (the subject is passive and being acted upon). However, how does this play down baptism? One repents for oneself; however, one is baptized by another. (Click on "Baptism, How, Who, When, and Why" to read more about baptism, be sure to use your browser return). (See numeral "2.")
Prepositions express relationship. For example, in the sentence the book is in the desk, the English preposition "in" expresses a relationship between the book and the desk. It is a rule of English grammar that nouns following prepositions are always in the objective case. However, in Greek different prepositions take different cases. (See number "3" below.) One must be "in" (en) Christ to enjoy salvation, redemption, and all spiritual blessings (2 Tim. 2: 10; Eph. 1: 7; 1: 3). The Holy Spirit taught that one is baptized "into" (eis) Christ (Gal. 3: 26, 27).
The Holy Spirit used prepositions in an apparent attempt to reveal God to man. In providence God is around his people (Ps. 125: 1, 2), in persecution he is for the saved (Rom. 8: 31), in preservation God is beneath his people (Deut. 33: 26, 27), and in united efforts to serve him, he is among those so united (Matt. 18: 20).
The Holy Spirit often conveyed much in the present tense of the Greek verb. Simply stated, the present tense of Greek verbs denotes continuous action or action in progress. There are many examples of the present tense. We read, "And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish" (Matt. 8: 25). The verb translated "perish" is apollumeqa (a-pol-lú-me-tha). The grammatical information on this verb is: First person, plural, present tense, indicative mood, and passive voice. Based on the present tense status of the verb, the disciples are literally saying, "We are presently in the process of perishing." Which is fuller and replete with emotion, "we perish" or "we are presently in the process of perishing?" When you appreciate the present tense, can not you just see the ship being covered with waves and the impending and eminent loss of lives and hear their plaintive cry for help (Matt. 8: 23-27).
I John 3: 6 has caused many difficulty and grief. The verse reads, "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." John said in I John 1: 8 that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Is John contradicting himself and are we in a state of hopelessness? The answer lies in the verb tense of "whosoever sinneth." The verb "sinneth" is amartanwn (ha-mar-tá-non). The verb used by John is present tense. Hence, John is saying one cannot live in sin and know God (cp. Isa. 59: 1, 2). While the Amplified Translation has some failures, it is excellent on verb tense. The Amplified renders I John 3: 6 thus, "No one who abides in Him - who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him , habitually commits (practices) sin. No one who habitually sins has either seen or known Him ." In I John 1, a single act of sin is being contemplated, in I John 3, the practice of sin is being considered. (Click on "Sin" to read more about sin. Be sure to use your browser return to come back to this page.)
The Holy Spirit taught and enhanced many truths by carefully using verb tense and the Koiné has preserved these truths for us. Take, for example, Jesus teaching in Matthew 19: 9:
"And I say unto you. Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."
Some hold the view that when one remarries, regardless of circumstances, they are guiltless. Consider the verb Moichâtai, translated "committeth adultery." Moichâtai is 3 person, singular in number, present tense, and indicative mood. Many believe and teach that one who has been unscripturally or scripturally put away may remarry without guilt. Some contend that even if a divorce is unscriptural (not for cause of fornication), when one remarries such action frees the other and permits their remarriage. However, clause b forbids remarriage under these circumstances (moichâtai used again).
One more example of the present. We reference Galatians 1: 6, 7 when we talked about "another." Now consider the verses from the slant of the verb used.
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ."
In reading many translations, it appears these Christians had already fallen away. Thus Paul is a little late in his warnings. However, we learn they had not totally fallen away when we consider the verb tense Paul used. The verb translated "removed" is metatiqesqe (me-ta-tí-thes-the). Metatíthesthe is 2 person, plural, present tense, indicative mood, and passive voice. Notice the present tense status. Hence, as Paul wrote to these Christians, they were in the very process of falling away from Christ. What a vivid picture! (See number "4").
In fact, the Holy Spirit taught so many lessons in the grammar of the Greek New Testament that we could not even begin in a single article to mention them in any detail. These lessons are not only inspired, demonstrate the beauty of the original language of the New Testament, and illustrate the providence of God in their preservation, but they also reveal to man the will of the Almighty Creator. Let us ever humbly study God's word with an intent of applying it to our lives. (To read in full the material from which the above excerpts are taken, click on the following: "1," Lesson One of the Bible Truths Online Greek Course, "2," Lesson Six, "3," Lesson Seven, "4," Lesson Five. For related material, click on "Greek, How Should a Knowledge of it be Viewed?")
Addendum: The Bible claims to be inspired and Holy Spirit produced. The language of the Bible is authoritative (cf. Lk. 1: 1-4). The writers do not present themselves as mere men, writing from fallible memories. Paul said the Holy Spirit supplied his very words (I Cor. 2: 13). He wrote to the Corinthians of his authority in the following statement: "...the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (I Cor. 14: 37). Peter declared of the prophets, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet. 1: 21). The word of God states, "all scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim. 3: 16). "Inspiration" is from theopneustos. Theopneutos means God-breathed (theos, God; pneo, to breathe).