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"Insights" from the New Testament Greek

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6. Insights Derived from the Tense of the Greek Verbs

By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida


--- Matt 28:19&20 States "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations" and "teaching them all the things whatsoever I have commanded you." In the Greek, we find that no one is being commanded to "go" anywhere, but the Greek word for "go" is an aorist participle, meaning "as you go", wherever you go. The emphasis in verses 19&20 is on "making disciples" and "teaching" them ALL things whatsoever I have commanded you. See the Great Commission "Insight" for a complete explanation.

--- John 20:17 Jesus tells Mary Magdalene "touch me not", for I have not yet ascended! I often wondered what would have happened if Mary Magdalene had touched Jesus at that point in time, would she have died, or blown up? This occurred between the Resurrection of Jesus and His Ascension, and we know that during that time Jesus urged His disciples, & especially Thomas, to touch Him, so what's going on here? In the Greek of John 20:17, the verb "to touch" is in the "present" tense, and "imperative" mood, and is preceded by the Greek negative "ma". This then is a command to STOP action which is presently going on, so the command is to "Stop clinging to me"! Quite a different picture! Mary Magdalene in the Greek is pictured as clinging tightly to Jesus and He says "you must stop clinging to me, I need to go ascend to my Father". Mary Magdalene appears to be the only person who really believed and expected Jesus to be raised from the dead, and here, she is pictured as having a hard time letting Him go after His resurrection.

--- Rom 8:30 "Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." The four verbs "predestinate", "called", "justified", and "glorified", are all "aorist" tense, "active" voice". The "aorist" tenses indicate "punctiliar action", "a point in time, divorced from time". The "active voice" here means that God produces the action. We know from the teachings in the rest of the New Testament, concerning these verbs, that "predestinate" occurred in eternity past, "called" and "justified" occur in present time, in the life of the believer, and "glorified" will occur in the future. These verbs are called "constantive aorist" verbs, in that they are all seen as already completed in the mind of God, when they actually range in time from the "decree" of God in eternity past, to the final glorification of all of God's children in the future! The significance is that God, from the beginning, has seen ALL His children, in Romans 8:30, as completed and already glorified and in heaven with Him, that's how sure our salvation is!

--- Rom 9:3 Virtually every commentary on Romans that you pick up wrestles with this verse to make some sense of it. Paul says in the KJV, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh". Does Paul really wish that he could be accursed from Christ, and go to hell, in exchange for more of his Jewish brethren being saved? The context of this statement is exactly the opposite! Paul has just said in verses 38 and 39 of the previous chapter that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God! Does Paul believe what he just wrote? The subject of chapter nine is the sovereignty of God and election! The best answer that I have found is in the Greek verb "eukomai", translated "wish", and it's tense. According to Bible scholar Robert Haldane, circa 1800, in "An Exposition of Romans", the Greek verb "eukomai" was used in Greek literature for "boasting", as well as "praying" and "wishing". Haldane's example is Homer's "Sixth Book of the Iliad", of 850 BC, in a dialogue between Diomed and Glaucus, where "eukomai", in Haldane's words, "could not be rendered otherwise", but must be translated "boast". The tense of the verb "eukomai", in Rom 9:3, is "imperfect", which gives us another clue. The Greek "imperfect" tense is action which took place in time PAST and then STOPPED. When we translate "eukomai" here as "boast", the verse vividly comes to life! Literally, Paul is saying "I can't believe that I used to BOAST that I was accursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren in the flesh, the Jews, and now I'm an Apostle for Christ!". WOW, Paul was on his way to kill MORE CHRISTIANS, and boasting of it, for the sake of his Jewish religion, when God spoke to him, and changed his life forever, on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter nine! Now, that fits the context of Romans chapter eight and nine!

--- 1 Cor 1:2 "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [to be] saints". The Greek word translated "sanctified" here is "hagaizo", meaning "set apart, sacred, and holy". The tense of the verb "hagaizo" here is "perfect passive". The Greek "perfect" tense means past, completed action with continuing results, and the passive voice means that the object does not produce the action, but is acted upon. Some take this statement to mean that a child of God can experience some state of sanctification and perfection where we do not sin anymore. The sanctification spoken of here IS permanent, and the Greek "perfect" tense of "hagaizo" is used five other times, concerning believer's permanent sanctification, in John 17:19, Acts 20:32, Acts 26:18, Romans 15:16, and in Jude verse 1. But, when we look at "hagaizo" in all it's contexts in the New Testament, we find this word in the Greek "aorist", and "present" tenses also. The "aorist" tense speaks of the "point in time" the action occurs, and is used five times concerning believer's sanctification, in John 17:17, 1 Cor. 6:11, Eph 5:26, 1 Thess. 5:23, and in Hebrews 13:12, where the FACT of sanctification, by the blood of Jesus is addressed. The Greek "present" tense is used three times, in Hebrews 2:11, 10:10, and 10:14, which means that we are "PRESENTLY BEING sanctified". The Greek "perfect" tenses speak of our "permanent, sinless POSITION in Christ", and the Greek "present" tenses speak of our EXPERIENCE of "presently BEING SANCTIFIED". There is no state of sanctification and perfection where we do not sin anymore in the Christian life. To the contrary, 1 John 1:8 & 10 state that if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar, and the truth is not in us. So, we "are sanctified", perfectly cleaned up and set apart POSITIONALLY, and in the process of "being sanctified", in our EXPERIENCE.

--- Phil 3:12 Paul says he is NOT "perfect", and in Phil 3:15 Paul says "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded", in other words, the ones who were perfect should keep on thinking that they are NOT "perfect". The full meaning of this passage would be clear to the Koine Greek speaking world of Paul's day. But we can't see the words Paul used for "perfect" and the verb tenses in our English Bibles. The word for "perfect" in both verses 12 and 15 is a form of the Greek word "teleios", meaning "MATURE". But in verse 12, "teleios" is a "perfect, passive, indicative VERB". In verse 15, "teleios" is an ADJECTIVE. In verse 12, Paul uses the "perfect" tense verb to indicate that he had not reached a final absolute state of maturity, but he still needs to grow himself. In verse 15, Paul uses the adjective "teleios", to tell the Christians at Philippi who were relatively mature to "be thus minded", or to realize that they will have plenty of room to grow spiritually the rest of their life also.

--- 1 John 1:9 Keep on confessing sin, instantly as it occurs, not just once for initial salvation. Many commentators have not checked the Greek here, and take 1 John 1:9 to apply only to "initial salvation", or once to become saved. But it is VERY important here to note that the Apostle John used the Greek "present" tense of the verb "homologeo", meaning to "keep on confessing". This is how we maintain our Christian "fellowship", the subject of 1 John chapter 1.

Bob Jones