Archives For koine

Here’s the abstract for Dr. Green’s work on periphrastics that I mentioned last week.


This dissertation addresses two issues related to the Greek periphrastic construction in the New Testament: (1) identifying the periphrastics and (2) understanding the meaning associated with the periphrastic construction. Chapter 2 discusses the ways scholars have identified and understood periphrastics, concluding that there is no consensus on either issue.

In order to address these two issues, a data set of 506 NT passages broad enough to include all εἰμί periphrastics in the NT was created. Chapter 3 evaluates the data and eliminates the passages that do not contain a periphrastic with the result that 211 passages containing 243 periphrastics occur in the NT. Chapter 4 uses this list of 211 passages to discover the various syntactical arrangements of the periphrastic as well as the types of words that serve as adjuncts separating the auxiliary and the participle. On this basis a preliminary definition of the εἰμί periphrastic is offered.

Chapter 5 evaluates all 243 εἰμί periphrastics using Aerts‖ categories of suppletive, substitute, and expressive in order to describe the meaning of the construction. This study demonstrates that 76 periphrastics are suppletive forms, forms that occur because the equivalent monolectic form is either not used or is fading from use in the Koine period. Additionally, 142 periphrastics are substitute periphrastics and thus have no meaning beyond the meaning of the equivalent monolectic form. The remaining 25 NT periphrastics are expressive. Each of these expressive periphrastics satisfies the criterion that the periphrastic communicates something more or beyond the finite form equivalent. In addition, chapter 5 demonstrates that periphrastics using a present participle are often continuous in pragmatic force, but this is not an absolute rule. In addition, periphrastics using a perfect participle emphasize the state or condition of the action in keeping with their aspectual value.

The final chapter offers a refined definition of the εἰμί periphrastic based on both the syntactical and semantic qualities of the construction. This dissertation encourages interpreters not to overinterpret the periphrastic construction by assuming that syntactical markedness is equal to semantic markedness. Finally, it urges commentators and grammarians to discuss periphrastics in a more nuanced fashion.

Green, Robert E. “Understanding ΕΙΜΙ Periphrastics in the Greek of the New Testament.” Ph.D. dissertation, Baptist Bible Seminary, 2012.

Here’s an interesting list from Dave Black’s blog today. (I post it here partly because there’s no way to link to a specific or permanent location on Dave’s site since he doesn’t use blog software. Dave, you really should!)

I agree with Dave (except, perhaps, for 1.d—the parenthetical comment). 🙂

9/30/2010, 12:20 PM

The latest issue of The Reader’s Digest has an interesting article entitled “13 Things Used Car Salesmen Won’t Tell You.” Here are “13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You”:

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there. (You’ll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek had to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!

Now who wants to tackle “13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?

Here is an update to my Morphology Catalog of Common Koine Verbs. This is v. 1.4, April 2010. It contains a few corrections and a number of additions. It has now grown from 12 pgs. to 14. The original post explains the nature and purpose of the Catalog.


Here is a summary chart that I give my first year Greek students for reference after they have learned all the finite forms listed. It doesn’t include everything, but by far the most common forms in koine fit the patterns here. This covers only the omega conjugation, not the μι verbs. Perhaps you’ll find it useful as well.


Common Uses of ὅτι

January 11, 2009

Common Uses of ὅτι: A Beginner’s Guide

A good place to start in figuring out ὅτι is the lexicon. This discussion will assume that you are using Trenchard’s Concise Dictionary of NT Greek, but any other lexicon (including the standard, full-sized BDAG) will contain similar information. Notice these points as you study the entry for ὅτι.

First, ὅτι is a conjunction; although the lexicon doesn’t tell you this, it is a subordinating conjunction. Among other things, that means that you will never find the main statement (or main verb) in a ὅτι clause. (The ὅτι clause will have a verb, it just won’t be the main verb in the sentence.)

Second, there are a variety of translations possible. Perhaps the three most common are that, because/for, and “ ” (i.e., quotation marks). Notes on each of these are given below.

Third, this is a very common word: note the frequency figure at the end of the article: 1,296 times in the NT. This means that you really must master the major uses of this word. The differences are significant and will have important ramifications as to how you understand the verses in which ὅτι occurs.

Here are examples and a few explanatory notes about each of the three major uses of ὅτι. (Some of the verses cited have been simplified to help focus on the ὅτι clause.)

1. ὅτι can be used to introduce a clause which functions as a substantive; i.e., the whole clause acts like (takes the place of) a noun. When it does this, it is usually best to translate ὅτι as that.

Mark 8:31, ἤρξατο διδάσκειν αὐτοὺς ὅτι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου πολλὰ παθεῖν. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things.”

The ὅτι clause acts like the direct object of “began to teach.” What did he teach? Not math, but the fact that the Son of Man must suffer many things.

“He began” is ἤρξατο and this word is followed by a complementary infinitive that completes the idea of the verb—“began to do what?” > began to teach (διδάσκειν > pres. act. inf., διδάσκω).

1 John 1:5, ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ ἀγγελία ὅτι ὁ θεὸς φῶς ἐστιν. “This is the message, that God is light.”
The ὅτι clause gives the content of the message.

2. Other times ὅτι explains what caused something to happen, the reason for the statement in the main clause—often called a causal ὅτι or an adverbial ὅτι. This is when you translate ὅτι as because or for.

Eph 4:25, λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν, ὅτι ἐσμὲν ἀλλήλων μέλη. “Speak truth because we are members one of another.”

The reason why we are to speak truthfully with our fellow believers (which is the point of the context here) is that we are “members one of another” [λαλεῖτε is an imperative form: “speak!”].

Acts 10:38, διῆλθεν εὐεργετῶν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἦν μετ’ αὐτοῦ. “He went about doing good because God was with him.”

3. ὅτι can introduce statements made by someone else. Sometimes these are direct quotes, other times they report what was said (but do not quote the exact words). In the first case we call the statement “direct discourse,” and the second is “indirect discourse.” Here are examples of each. Note that ὅτι is translated differently in each case.

3.a. Direct discourse

There will always be a verb of speaking if ὅτι introduces direct discourse. (Technically it is a verb of perception, since it can also introduce a statement of what someone is thinking even if they haven’t said it out loud.) If the editors of a Greek testament are consistent (they aren’t always!), the word following ὅτι (i.e., the first word of the direct quote) should always be capitalized. (That’s also a helpful clue to direct discourse.)

Mark 1:37, λέγουσιν αὐτῷ ὅτι Πάντες ζητοῦσίν σε. “They said to him, ‘Everyone is seeking you.’”

In direct discourse there is no word used to translate the ὅτι. In English the quotation marks “ ” represent ὅτι. It is wrong to use both quotation marks and that for ὅτι (e.g., “… said that ‘everyone is…’ ”).

Mark 9:31, ἐδίδασκεν γὰρ τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ὅτι Ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται εἰς χεῖρας ἀνθρώπω. “For he was teaching his disciples and saying to them, ‘The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.’ ”

3.b. Indirect discourse

This involves reported speech (or thought) often summarized, not a direct statement; ὅτι is translated as that in this case. Do not use quotation marks for indirect discourse.

Mark 2:1, ἠκούσθη ὅτι ἐν οἴκῳ ἐστίν. “It was heard that he was in the house.”

The original statement may have been the equivalent of, “He is in the house.” Or it may simply be a statement summarizing what people were saying, even if nobody used these exact words.

John 5:15, ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀνήγγειλεν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἐστιν ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὸν ὑγιῆ. “The man announced to the Jews that Jesus was the one who made him well.”

The original statement may have been the equivalent of, “Jesus made me well.” Or it may simply be a summary statement of what he said. Note that this cannot be direct discourse because the man did not say, “Jesus was the one who made him well.”

There are a few other uses of this conjunction, but they occur much less frequently than these major uses. Plan now to take time some day to read carefully through BDAG’s entry to fill in the additional options.