Lecture 10: Greek Verbs (Non-indicative)
Course: Greek Tools for Bible Study
Lecture: Greek Verbs (Non-indicative)
'''Week 5: What Else is in a Verb? Lesson 5a'''
Greek Verbs (non-indicative)
We are going to look at the non-indicative system, specifically: participles, subjunctives, infinitives, and imperatives. We are going to spend a little more time on the participle, and then go over chapters 21, 22, and 23 very quickly. The book is straight forward and it should not cause any issues. I really want to get to chapter 24 on Word Studies, because of all the different things you are going to learn with this class, the ability to do word studies in Greek will probably be the most helpful.
Definition of Participles
Chapter 20 is the discussion of participles, and the easiest way to define participles, at least present participles, is that these are the forms we have in English where you take a verb and add –ing on the end (playing, eating, sleeping). There are other ways to form other forms of the participle.
It is really important that you understand the definition of participles. Participles are verbal adjectives. You will find as you are doing your work that you are going to keep coming across participles. Greek uses participles all over the place. They will be translated many, many different ways. But if you can remember that they are verbal adjectives, it will make a lot more sense.
What it means is that it is going to have adverbial characteristics. Many participles are telling you something about the verb; they are functioning adverbially. These are the ones that are very important in phrasing and exegesis.
Participles are also verbal adjectives which means they have adjectival characteristics. You can modify a noun with them. Just as an adjective can function as a noun being substantival, so also participles can function as nouns. They are extremely flexible words, but it is strange to see a verb behaving like a noun in places and yet that is exactly what the Greek participle does.
So participles are verbal adjectives. We are going to look mostly at their adverbial uses, not so much at their adjectival uses.
Aspect in Participles
In week 4 we discussed a lot about aspect. In the different tenses when in the indicative (present, future, imperfect, aorist), the verbs are primarily to deal with aspect and only secondly with time. When you get out of the indicative (when you are in participles, infinitives, imperatives, and subjunctives), these are all “non-indicative” forms.
In Greek, there is no absolute time. You can take the present tense form of a verb, turn it into a participle, and its time is irrelevant. Just remember that participles only indicate aspect. Participles will either be continuous, or undefined, or perfect. When you get your parsing guides out or The Reverse Interlinear or you are working on your computer, and you see that a participle is listed as a “present” participle, this does not mean that it indicates an action occurring in the present time. It means that it is a continuous action. You can easily become confused when using the various tools.
The present tense form of the verb is used to form the participle that is continuous. The aorist tense form of the verb is used to form the participle that is undefined. The perfect tense form of the verb (a completed action with ongoing results) is used to indicate the participle that is perfect in its aspect.
Illustrations to Demonstrate Aspect in Participles
'''1 Timothy 4:6'''
NRSV - “If you put these instructions before the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound teaching that you have followed.”
In the continuous aspect, you can almost always guess it from the meaning of the word. “Nourishment,” by definition, is continuous. The word “nourish” describes an ongoing action. This is an example where the translators looked at the word “nourished,” and that form is a continuous participle built on a present tense stem. It only indicates an ongoing action, but the translators asked, “How else would you be nourished except on an ongoing action?” In other words, “Timothy, day after day after day, your spiritual nourishment is to come from the words of the faith and then your doctrine, your sound teaching.” This is ongoing aspect.
The ESV makes it a little more explicit - “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.”
The use of the word “being” was the translators’ way of trying to emphasize that this is an ongoing action. It is not a point-in-time nourishment or just one meal only. It is a way of eating.
You will also notice that “nourished” and “trained” have significantly different meanings. Almost every translation says “nourished”. Guess what? This word does not mean “nourished”. If you look it up in a dictionary it only means “being trained”. There is absolutely no evidence that ἐντρέφω (''entrephō'') means “to be nourished”. Most of the translations say “nourished” because when you translate you generally look at what other translations do. Maybe they thought it meant “nourished”, or they may have decided to continue what other translators have done. But the word does not mean “nourished”; it means “trained.” So what Paul is telling Timothy is that your training is supposed to come from the word of faith, from Scripture. You can see the continuous nature of the participle.
Let's look at another illustration:
'''1 John 3:6'''
NASB - “No one who abides in Him sins…” (a present indicative); “no one who sins…” (a participle functioning as a noun; a continuous participle) “…has seen Him or knows Him.”
The translators look at that and know it is continuous. The only thing it can mean is that it is an “ongoing sin”. The NASB said, “That is clear enough. We will leave it that way.”
The ESV says, “No, it is simply not clear.” They translated it “keeps on sinning”. The NIV says “continues to sin”.
Both the ESV and the NIV are trying to say that this is a continuous participle which indicates an ongoing continuous aspect. If we just say “sins”, we are concerned that it will not be clear. We want to make it explicit: ongoing action. John is talking about people living in constant sin.
Another quick illustration:
NIV - “To the Jews who had believed…” (the perfect aspect in a participle) “…him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’”
This a great illustration to show the perfect. What is the completed action in the perfect participle? The perfect is a completed action with present implication. The completed action is that “they had believed”. What are the ongoing consequences of it?... “You have to hold to my teachings.”
A lot of perfects are rich theologically. The commentaries will tend to take a lot of time with them. The best illustration that I know which is not a participle is Jesus’ last word on the cross, τετέλεσται (''tetelestai''), “It is finished.” The act of His life was brought to completion, but there are present consequences; He is going to die and then comes salvation. That is perfect.
We have continuous, undefined, and perfect aspect in participles, and that is all that we have.
Labeling Adverbial Participles
In Chapter 13, we talked about semantic labels. When you do phrasing and you have the main passage and a subordinate passage, the label is the thing that forces you to be explicit. What precisely is the relationship that exists between the main clause and the modifying clause? We had labels: manner, means, purpose, and so on.
We will look at the variety of ways in which participles can be used. And mostly, I want you to work hard to put a name or a label on the relationship.
NRSV – (Paul, speaking of the mystery of Jews and Gentiles being joined into one church), “For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” (New sentence.) “He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace.”
The question is: What is the relationship that exists between verse 14 and verse 15? He is our peace; He has made the Jews and Gentiles, those two groups, into one by breaking down the dividing wall between them; hostility is gone; He has abolished the law with the commandments and ordinances that which would have worked to keep Jews and Gentiles apart; and He created one new man, one new humanity, out of it.
Verse 15 tells how He went about breaking down the dividing wall, how He went about making peace.
Let me just emphasize as strongly as I can that when you are doing your Bible studies, it is that part of the process that is crucial. That is as deep as you need to go in Bible study. You need to get to that point, because so often we rush through these things and we lose the logic and power of the theology when we do not do that.
How has He made these two groups into one? The means by which he did it was, “he has abolished”. As I am doing my phrasing, if I were to label the relationship between v. 15 to v. 14, I would write “means.”
“He has abolished” is the participle. Do you see what the NRSV did? They made a new sentence. Remember, Greek likes and can handle long sentences. English likes short sentences, and so the translators are looking for places to chop things up. If you have a long Greek sentence and if in the middle there is a participial phrase, they will often start a new sentence at that participle which means they have to supply a subject and turn a participle into a finite verb. I understand why you do that; the ESV did it at times but I really, really don’t like it.
Look what happens if you leave participles alone. ESV - “…that is, the hostility between us, by abolishing the law of commandments in ordinances.” ESV left the dependent construction alone; they left the participle a participle. They could have just said “abolishing the law of commandments”. I imagine the argument was that it was still unclear. We understand that participles can be used to express means, so the ESV adds the word “by.” It helps you to see that there is a connection between v. 14 and v. 15. If there are connections in the Greek, you do not want them to be lost. I want to know how God went about in His mystery of taking the two groups and making them into one: He did it by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances.
In phrasing, you put your little label “means,” and then when you teach it, it is crystal clear. You would see it and say, “What is the connection?... Means.” I have taught it this way for years, and you can just see lights come on in people’s faces.
Romans 5 starts - “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith we have peace...” And then in verse 3, “…More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.”
In your phrasing, what is the connection of the participle “knowing” to the main clause? How would you describe that to your class? What question is the “knowing” participle answering?… Why. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings.” Why?… Because we like to suffer? No. Because we know that suffering produces endurance; and endurance, character; and character, hope. In other words, the participle is what we call “causal”, that the participle is giving the cause for something.
That is why, for example, in the NIV, (and they change it into a finite verb), they say “because we know that suffering produces endurance”. It is obviously what the flow of the sentence means, and they know that participles can indicate cause, so they just said “because we know that”.
Participles are just participles. These words like “because” and “by” are being added in because we understand that is how participles function, but all these particles in a sense look the same. We know how they function, so we look at the context, and then we try to make it clear enough so that people can understand it.
NASB - “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
What is the connection between “believing”…? What is it connected to? How. What word would you connect it to?… “Ask”. How do you ask?… You believe. Is that how you ask? It is hard. This is the beauty of this kind of study because it slows you down and it makes you ask these connections. This is a critical one. I think that this is probably a “conditional” participle.
Look at what the ESV did - “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
The NIV alters the order - “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
The NASB's translation is word for word accurate. It is a participle, πιστεύοντες (''pisteuontes''), but they left it “believing”, and you have to figure out how it connects. That is fine, but participles can indicate conditions, the “if” idea. The ESV and the NIV translations made that explicit.
Do you see the value of the labels?
ESV - “The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’”
“Being” is the participle. If you were going to phrase this, what would you connect “being a man” to and how would you label the connection? The desire to stone Him comes out of His claim to make Himself God. You would want to connect “make yourself God” to why they are going to stone Him. Because I tend to connect participles to verbs I would probably connect it to “make yourself God.” They are going to stone Him because He is making Himself God; if He were God in their eyes, that would not matter. But He is making Himself God, so the question becomes: What kind of label would you connect to “being a man”?
This is called a “concessive” participle, the “even though” idea. “The Jews answered him, 'It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, even though you are a man, make yourself out to be God.’” The problem is not that He is making Himself out to be God; the problem is that He is making Himself to be God and they think He is just a man.
This is very fine-tuning phrasing. Are you are seeing what we are doing? You have a statement “being a man” and you ask, “Where does that connect?” and “What is the issue?” You can see that in the other translations.
NRSV - “...because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.”
There is the “concessive” idea.
NIV - “...because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
You may notice also, that there is a word inserted in both of these last two translations that are not in the Greek. What are they? Do you see them?… “Only” and “mere”. What those translations are doing is trying to help us understand what is being said. They are filling out the story, which the NIV does a lot, but the NRSV rarely does. Or, the “only” and the “mere” are their way of trying to bring out a “concessive” participle. “You are only, just a human being”. That is the participle at work. “You are merely a man.” They have added in those words to try to bring out the “concessive” nature of the participle.
All of this gets interrelated after a while.
NIV - “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
“Turning” is the participle. Just about all translations insert the word “by”. But if you were going to phrase this and you started a new phrase with a participle “by turning each of you to your wicked ways”, what is it telling you? What question is it asking you? (This is a fun part of exegesis.) Most people categorize “by turning” as indicating “purpose”. “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you (and the “purpose” of the blessing was) to turn each of you from your wicked ways.” Participles can indicate “purpose” and that is what it is doing here.
Let me give you one more example, and that will give you enough feel for what participles are doing.
NIV - “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The translators have taken participles and turned them into imperatives. Which, like the earlier illustration, might give you the suggestion that he is off on some other topic. That is the problem with translators doing this. Dynamic theory of inspiration does not feel that there is meaning conveyed in the structure of the language, or at least much. It does not matter whether it is dependent, independent, participle, finite. That is just part of the theory of dynamic inspiration. But here is a great example, depending upon interpretation, the fact that “speak”, “sing”, and “make music”, along with “giving thanks” are participles, suggests that the period is not in the right place. Is there a connection? If so, what is the nature of the connection between “being filled with the Spirit” and “speaking”, “singing”, “making music”, and “giving thanks”?… “Results”
That is the problem here. They have taken participles indicating “results”, they have turned them into finite verbs, and you lose the whole logic, the flow of the theology. We are to be filled in the Spirit. When you are “filled in the Spirit”, what comes out of that?… You are “speaking” this way, and you are “singing” this way, and you are “making music” this way, and you are “giving thanks”. Now that is a great sermon, but you have lost it because they are not watching the participles.
As you can see, for example, the ESV kept the participle and they said “addressing one another in psalms”. It is, “…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms.” You can see the connection.
The NRSV says “as you sing psalms.” For some reason they wanted to change it to a regular verb “you sing”, but they did not want to lose the connection with v. 18, so they say “as”. The NRSV is not saying it is “result”. They are saying it is “temporal”. At the time you are filled with the Spirit, at that same time, you will be singing songs. And they made the participle “temporal.” They do not think it is a “result” participle; they think it is a “temporal” participle.
The NLT wanted to start a new sentence; NLT has very short sentences. They want you to see that verse 19 is part of verse 18. So, they start with, “Then you will sing psalms.” You are back to the “result” idea.
There are thousands of participles, but hopefully this will show you the kind of variety, first of all. When you see participles and you look at the translations, you are going to see different words inserted like “as”, “then”, and so on. But the thing that you need to remember is to determine the semantic labels. Then when you have a main clause and you have a participle phrase modifying it, then the question you ask is: What is the connection? As we went through the illustrations, you were seeing the value of doing this. It makes it come alive and you see the connections; you see the flow of theology. The little connectives are very important in exegesis.
Chapter 21 – Subjunctive Prohibitions
Chapter 21 has to do with the subjunctive mood. In this chapter I talked about prohibitions, and I realized that I did not explain in the book all the different ways to tell people not to do something. I want to take the opportunity to do it right now. This will have some impact on your exegesis, and there is also a major mistake that is being made in many commentaries and I want to correct it.
There are actually five different ways that Greeks can tell people not to do something, five different ways to state prohibitions. The first several are easier to understand.
21.1 οὐ with the indicative or μή with the non-indicative
You can have οὐ which is one of the words for “no” in the Greek with an indicative verb. If it is a non-indicative verb, you use the word μή. οὐ and μή mean the same thing. It is a simple prohibition.
Matthew 4:7 uses the future – “You shall not put (ουκ ἐκπειράσεις) the Lord your God to the test.” ( οὐ and οὐκ are the same word; they just add a kappa (κ) sometimes.) This is a simple prohibition.
21.2 μή + present imperative prohibits a continuous action
If you come across a construction where the negation is μή and the verb is a present imperative, what the author is prohibiting is a continuous action; this concerns aspect again. He is saying, “Do not do something that is an ongoing thing.” You will most likely understand this because of the meaning of the words.
Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up treasures here on earth,…” You can tell by the meaning of the words that this is continuous action.
Here is the problem. For many years it was believed that if you had μή with a present imperative, the author was saying, “Stop what you are currently doing.” In other words, you were doing it and you were being told to stop doing what you are doing. You will find this in commentaries a lot. But now the Greek grammars are unanimous, and there is no controversy, that this is wrong. If you have mhv with a present imperative it is saying: Do not do an ongoing thing. It comes up often.
1 Corinthians 15:33, “Do not be deceived (μή + present imperative): 'Bad company ruins good morals.'”
With the old way of thinking, you would assume that the Corinthians were being deceived and were not believing that bad company ruined good morals. It assumes that they had already been doing this, and that Paul was saying, “No, stop what you are doing.” But that is not what the construction is saying.
In the book, I give some illustrations on Paul telling Timothy to not do certain things. If you follow the old logic, Paul is telling Timothy that he is in a lot of trouble, if that is true. It means he is sinning and is going after the myths and all the things he is not supposed to do, because Paul is using mhv and a present imperative to tell him to stop doing what he is doing. But that is not the case. You will see this in commentaries, but in the last twenty years there has been no question that this is wrong.
μή with a present imperative simply says: Do not do an ongoing action.
21.3 μή + aorist imperative prohibits undefined action
The opposite of this is when you have μή with an aorist imperative. It prohibits an undefined action. This can be very detailed.
Matthew 6:3, “But when you give to the needy, do not let (μή + aorist imperative) your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”
It is a timeless prohibition. What some of the older commentaries will say is that when you have mhv with an aorist imperative, it is saying do not even start doing something. If you see that, ignore it because it is not the case any longer. It does not mean, “Do not start!”
21.4 μή + aorist subjunctive (stronger)
If you have a prohibition where they are saying mhv and an aorist subjunctive, it means that the prohibition is stated stronger. If you see your child reaching out to put his finger up his nose, you say, “Do not do that.” If you see your child reaching out to the hot oven, you say, “Stop!” We make the statement stronger by our intonation.
We can not do that when we write, so we would probably add in words. What the Greeks do when they want to make it stronger, is that they use the μή and the verb would be an aorist subjunctive verb. It is fascinating when you see prohibitions to look at the Greek and see how strongly stated the prohibition is. How “loudly” is the author yelling?
Matthew 3:9, (John the Baptist speaking), “And do not presume (μή + aorist subjunctive) to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”
You might read this and think that this is not a very strong statement. John is being very strong. He is facing the Pharisees and he says, “Do not even think about it! No, no, no, no, no! You are not going to say that! You are not going to get away with that! Do not presume to think to yourself, 'Well, I am a child of Abraham, and I can live any way that I want.'” There is a lot stronger prohibition in how John says it. These things are never obvious in English; it is almost impossible.
21.5 οὐ μή + aorist subjunctive (strongest)
In English, when you have double negations, they negate each other. In Greek, double negations strengthen each other. If you have οὐ μή with an aorist subjunctive, that is just about as loud as the writer can yell. “DO NOT DO IT!!!” These are fascinating prohibitions to find in Scripture, to find where the author is being emphatic.
NIV - Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not (οὐ μή) enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Without the word “certainly” in it… “You will not enter the kingdom of heaven”. How strong is that? The translators know that it is really strong. Jesus is really beating the point home. How do you do that? You add an adverb in English, “You will certainly not enter…” That is the translators’ way of making it stronger.
Here is another illustration. This is one of the more interesting ones in Scripture and one that I was not expecting at all. This is Jesus in the Upper Room discourse, talking to His disciples.
Matthew 26:29, “I tell you I will not drink (οὐ μῆ πινω) again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
What He really said was, “I tell you, there is NO way on the face of this earth that I am going to touch wine again until I am with you in the messianic kingdom!” It is οὐ μή and an aorist subjunctive. It is really strong! It is just about as strong as you can yell it in Greek, which always struck me as interesting. One of the things that I look forward to is the messianic banquet. Do you look forward to that? We are all going to sit down at table and eat with our Messiah. Regardless of what you think about wine or grape juice, He is not going to touch it until He does it with us at the banquet. This also explains why when they went to give Him the cheap wine vinegar on the cross to deaden the pain, He would not take it. Or, depending upon your exegesis, once He realized what it was, He would not take it. He has just promised them in the strongest words possible, “I am NOT touching that again until we are together in My Father's kingdom!”
How can we bring this out?
NRSV - “I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine…"
“Never” is probably one of the more common ways to bring out this really strong prohibition. It is really over-translation. The prohibition does not say, “I will never, ever do it.” It is saying, “NO!” But I am sure what the NRSV was thinking was that we can say “never” because in the next clause we will qualify it, “until we are together in heaven.” They are saying we have got to make sure that they understand that prohibition is very, very strong.
That is one of the things, that when you see mhv and an aorist subjunctive and ouj mhv and an aorist subjunctive, it is getting very, very strong in the prohibition.
Chapter 22 – Infinitive
There is only one thing I wanted to show you in infinitives, and this is more for people who want to use standard interlinears. This can be very confusing. The infinitive is when you take “to” and put a verb after it: To live is Christ, to die is gain. “To live” and “to die” are infinitives; they are verbal nouns, verbs made into nouns. But there is a specific construction and it is shown in the book, but I want to make sure it is clear.
NIV - Matthew 26:32 “But after I have risen (μετᾶ τό ἐγερθῆναί με), I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
You have a preposition meta; that means “after;” then you have the definite article meaning “the;” you have the infinitive, “to be raised;” then you have a word that is in the accusative case (like the English objective case), me meaning “me.” This construction means “after I am raised.”
This is a bizarre construction in Greek and there is nothing like it in English. If you read it in an interlinear, it will not make any sense. There are hundreds of these in the Bible. It is when you have a preposition and an infinitive with an article and sometimes a word in the accusative. That is the juggling that is going on. If you wanted to go word for word, it is something like “after, with respect to me, the act of being raised.” Just an interesting thing on infinitives that you may notice in standard interlinears.
In the reverse interlinear, you can see what I did. I took the me and I put it under the “I,” and then I put the infinitive and its article under the verb and pointed in the other helping verbs to it.
Chapter 23 – Imperative
Third Person Imperative
Chapter 23 on Imperatives is very straight forward. Here are a few things that are strange on imperatives in Greek. All imperatives in English are second person. The expressed or the understood subject of any imperative is “you.” (“Get up.”)
Greek has third person imperatives. It is an imperative with a subject that is “he”, “she”, “it” or something like that. You generally have something like “let him ask”. That is the best way in English to make the third person imperative.
Imperative of Entreaty
As far as I can find, there is no word for “please” in Greek. So if you want to ask someone to do something, the only verbal form you have is the imperative, which is the command. When you are using a command but are being polite about it, the grammarians call it an imperative of entreaty. You do not tell God what to do. You are still going to use the imperative command, but the Greeks understood contextually that you were being polite.
Here is an interesting illustration with the Samaritan woman in John 4:7: “There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’”
You can hear the problem with that. “Give Me a drink.” It sounds like He is telling her what to do. If you get out your tools, you see that it is an imperative. You might think, “Jesus is exercising His divine authority and He is telling the woman what to do!” No, He is asking her to give Him something to drink and there is no word in Greek for please. The translations know that so the NIV says, “Will you give Me a drink?” Do you see what they are trying to do? They are softening the imperative. The NLT correctly says, “Please give Me a drink.” That is what He is saying to the woman. How do I know?… Context. There is no reason in John 4 to think that Jesus is being overbearing and telling her to do something. The only way there is to ask someone to do something is to use the command.
Context will tell you that if God is the subject, then it is a command. However, if you are talking to God, like in the Lord's prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name. Let Thy kingdom come. Let Thy will be done.” They are commands, but we are calling on God, we are entreating Him, we are asking Him. But it is still the same verbal form. If there were something in John 4 that gave the suggestion that He was mad at her or was trying to dictate or something like that, then you would translate it, “Give me a drink!”, with an exclamation point. There is nothing there. In fact, He is trying to enter into a dialogue with her to witness to her. So that is why exegetically, the conclusion is just that He is asking her a question.