Friday, January 7, 2011

3. Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes

How much vocabulary can you deduce from these pictures?"And John was clothed (in) camel hair and a leather belt around his waist, and [was] eating locusts and wild honey." Notice: (1) The imperfect ēn is the main verb of the entire sentence. (2) The perfect middle participle (3.m.s.) of endyō ("dress, clothe, put on, wear") and the present participle active of esthiō ("eat") are both helped by ēn to describe John's customary diet and dress. (3) Trichas is the accusative plural form of the feminine noun thrix ("hair"). It should be easy to spot kamēlou as the genitive singular form of kamēlos, "camel," which is the same whether masculine or feminine. "Hairs of camel," i.e., camel-hair. (4) The accusative form trichas is used without a preposition because in Greek thought, it is the direct object of endedymenos, "having worn." We supply the preposition "in" to make the thought flow in English: "was clothed in camel-hair." (5) In a similar way we get zonē ("belt," f.s.) in the accusative, along with the adjective dermatinos, -ē, -on ("leather") in its fem. acc. sing. form: "leather belt." (6) The direct object of esthiōn is the acc. pl. form of akris, -idos, a feminine third-declension noun ("locust"). Some scholars, however, insist that this refers not to the literal insects (which are edible and even--unlike other insects--kosher, but only sporadically available as a food source), but rather to the seed-pods of the carob tree that were used as swine fodder, e.g., in Luke 15:16. (7) Meli, -itos ("honey") is a neuter third-declension noun, hence the accusative is identical to the nominative form. (8) The neut. acc. sing. form of the adjective agrios, -a, -on ("wild") agrees with the noun it modifies, meli. The related noun agros means "field, countryside," etc.
"Get for yourselves neither gold nor silver nor copper (to put) into your money belts, neither a bag for the road nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff..." Observe: (1) is a negative adverb frequently used to negate a verb, such as the aorist subjunctive middle 2nd-person plural ktēsēsthe (pronounced with no vowel sound between the k- and the -t-; from ktaomai, "acquire, gain"). (2) While Greek does have an imperative mood, the the subjunctive can also be used to give commands--especially negative ones. So: "Do not acquire for yourselves..." (3) Used together, and mēde mean "neither... nor..." (4) The three acc. masc. sing. nouns chryson, argyron, chalkon ("gold, silver, copper") are the direct object of ktēsēsthe, and are used in the sense of "types of money" rather than "metallic elements." (5) The preposition eis ("into") is used with the acc. pl. of the fem. noun zonē ("belt"), which we also saw in Mark 1:6; here it is used in the sense not of the sash about one's waist as a "money belt." (6) Hymōn is the genitive plural form of the second person pronoun, hence "your" money-belts, in the context of Jesus commissioning his disciples to preach. (7) The feminine noun pēra ("bag"), is here acc. pl. because it too is the direct object of the verb at the beginning of verse 9. This type of bag could be used either by travelers (to carry provisions) or by beggars (to accumulate ditto). (8) The expression eis hodon ("onto [the] road") could be interpreted as "for [your] journey." (9) Dyo is the number 2. Chitōnas is the acc. pl. of the masc. 3rd-declension noun chitōn ("tunic"), meaning a type of shirt that was worn next to the skin, under the outer garments. (10) Hypodēmata is the acc. pl. form of hypodēma ("shoe"), one of the "-ma neuter" type of 3rd-declension nouns. (11) Rhabdos, here seen in its acc. sing. form, means "stick," sometimes in the sense of scepter (of authority) or rod (of discipline), but here simply a walking-stick. To be sure, the products shown in the picture would not have been available at the time Jesus said these words!
"Behold, I Myself am sending you as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves." And now behold: (1) Idou is an indeclinable particle often translated as "Behold!" It puts a kind of emphasis on whatever comes after it. Depending on the context where it appears, it can be translated in several different ways. (2) Egō is the pronoun "I." Since the verb apostello (present active indicative, "send") has a first-person singular ending ("I send"), the pronoun is not strictly necessary unless the speaker wishes, for some reason, to emphasize himself as the subject of the verb; hence "I Myself." (3) I chose to translate the present-tense verb with a sort of "present imperfect" aspect, which is always an option, context permitting. My reason for this choice is that Jesus, as He speaks, is in the very act of sending them, giving instructions that specifically apply to that one missionary tour and no other. A simple present form such as "I send you" could be interpreted as though Jesus was describing something that he generally or perpetually does. (4) Hymas, the acc. pl. of that second-person pronoun ("you"), is the direct object of "I am sending". (5) Hōs is the comparative particle ("as, like"). (6) Probaton, the neuter noun for "sheep," here appears in the acc. pl., indicating that "like sheep" modifies "you." (7) En mesō, using the dative singular form of the adjective mesos ("middle"), is an idiomatic expression that can be translated "among" or, I think more stylishly, "in the midst." (8) Lycōn is the gen. pl. form of the masc. noun lycos, "wolf." Now you know where the Lycans rose from, and why "lycanthrope" (lit. "wolf-man") is the leading synonym for the Anglo-Saxon word "werewolf" (lit. "man-wolf"). (9) Ginesthe is the present imperative of the deponent verb ginomai ("become"). By "deponent," again, we mean "middle or passive in form, active in meaning"; or, in many cases including this one, we mean that the verb lacks an active stem. By using the open-ended present imperative, rather than the comparatively closed aorist ditto, Jesus applies his command to a range of time rather than to a single event. (10) The adjective phronimos (here in its nom. pl. form) can be interpreted as "wise, sensible," or even "shrewd." In a parallel construction, the adjective akeraios ("innocent, guileless, pure") begins with an a- prefix that, in many Greek words, negates the meaning of the original stem, much as the prefixes "un-" and "non-" do in English. This a- prefix is known among grammarians as the alpha privativum, so you'll know what I mean the next time I drop that phrase. I'm not exactly sure of the etymological connection, but I know that the fem. verb keraia, meaning a "stroke" of the pen, occurs in Matthew 5:18 and Luke 16:17. So, for what it's worth, I would speculate that akeraios derives its meaning of "innocent" from the thought "without a stain on it" or "without a stroke against it." (11) Opheis is the nom. pl. form of the masc. noun ophis ("snake, serpent"), a declension pattern you haven't learned yet. See the assignment below. (12) Peristerai is the nom. pl. form of the feminine noun peristera, "dove, pigeon."
"And the first living creature (was) similar to a lion, and the second living creature (was) similar to a calf, and the third living creature had the face as of a man, and the fourth living creature was similar to a flying eagle." Note: (1) The adjectives prōtos, deuteros, tritos, and tetartos, -ē, -on, here all in their masc. acc. sing. forms, mean "first, second, third," and "fourth," respectively. (2) This entire verse seems to continue the thought of Revelation 4:6, which describes four "living creatures" (or "animals"--the neuter noun zōon being derived from zōē, "life"), covered with eyes from front to back, standing in the midst of the throne and around the throne. So, in context, it may not be necessary to insert the verb "was," nor to change the pres. participle echōn ("having") into a past-tense verb, since the entire verse is as it were an adjective modifying the four zōa of verse 6. (3) The first, second, and fourth living creatures, in order, are "similar" (homoios) to a lion (leōn, -ontos, 3rd-declension masc.), a calf or young bull (moschos, -ou, 2nd-decl. masc.), and an eagle (aetos, -ou, 2nd decl. masc.) which, moreover, is described as "flying" per the present participle form of the deponent verb petomai, "fly." All three of these beasts are named in the dative sing., as befits objects of homoios, "similar to." (4) Homoios lends itself to the heretical term homoiousios, which described God the Son as being of a "similar" essence to the Father, as opposed to homoousios, of the "same" substance. (5) The neuter noun prosōpon, here appearing as the object of the participle ecōn ("having"), means "face" or "appearance." John does not write that this creature had the face of a man, but that it had a face or appearance as of a man; the insertion of hōs ("as") before the gen. sing. form of anthropos ("man") is crucial. What John was saying was not a man as such, but a being for whom the semblance of a human face holds some symbolic significance. Most interestingly, Christian religious symbolism has depicted the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John respectively as a winged man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and a soaring eagle. Surely on the basis of this verse, some clever-clogs is going to claim that John here stumps for the priority of Mark; but if the order in which John lists these living creatures relates to the order in which the gospels were written, it should be strange to see Matthew after Luke when, in Luke 1:1, the third evangelist says that his gospel was subsequent to "many others" (including, one would think, both Matthew and Mark). So it is most likely that this whole discussion of the four evangelists has been a pointless digression. But, at any rate, we're done.

The main point of today's exercise was to pick up a few more vocables from the pictures, which illustrate (with arrows, even) which Greek words or phrases represent what items. Perhaps of greater practical use to your ongoing exegetical studies, you learned the harder-to-illustrate words idou ("behold"), hōs ("as, like"), egō ("I"), apostellō ("send," from which we get the term "apostle"), en mesō ("among, amid"), phronimos ("wise, sensible"), the ordinal numbers prōtos, deuteros, tritos, tetartos ("first, second, third, fourth"), homoios ("similar to"), and the unheralded but tremendously important verb echō ("have"). And you may have noticed how, to properly identify an adjective, one gives the full masculine (nom. sing.) form followed by the feminine and neuter endings; or, in the case of a noun, the nominative singular form followed by the genitive singular ending. This enables you to identify which column of case-endings goes with each form; the rest you can extrapolate by analogy to the paradigms you have already learned.

+++Pending--This Stuff Takes Time!+++

Friday, December 31, 2010

2. Word

Are we square with Matthew 1:1-17 and the 24 forms of the Greek definite article? If not, go back! If so, turn to John 1:1-14 and read on...

The gospel according to John begins quite differently from Matthew's account. Where Matthew takes his departure from Hebrew history, certifying Jesus' credentials as the Messiah from the People's point of view, John goes all the way back to the beginning of the world and beyond, to God's point of view. But John's opening has a few things in common with Matthew's. First, it's relatively easy Greek, because John couches his heavy-duty theology in deceptively simple language. So, hopefully, it's not too hard for a beginner to wrestle with. Second, its first words hark back to the beginning of the Bible, echoing the first words of Genesis 1:1. Again, God's written revelation is getting a fresh start: a new testament, befitting a new creation.

Figure 2-1Whoa! All new words! We begin with the preposition en, which means "in" (duh!) and takes a dative object. You haven't seen any nouns in the dative case yet, but if you studied your Definite Article, you know that the unpronounceable "iota subscript" (which looks like a tiny iota under the final vowel) is the all-but-infallible sign of the dative singular, regardless of the noun's gender or declension. Archē happens to mean "beginning." The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Bible, also begins with En arche. So don't go blaming John for leaving the word "the" out of "in the beginning." Ēn is the 3rd person singular imperfect ("he was") form of the very irregular verb einai ("to be"). The imperfect, like the aorist, is kind of a "past tense," though it isn't as "simple" a past as the aorist.

Anyway, it's the only kind of past tense einai has, so let's just call it "was" and move on to the most important words: ho logos, "the Word." Do you recognize the article's gender (m., f., or n.), case (nom, gen, dat, or acc.), and number (sing. or pl.)? It should agree with the noun it points to--which it does. You may also remember from last time that the -os ending often indicates a nominative singular noun. "The Word" is therefore either the subject or the predicate nominative of this sentence. Don't let the word-order decide it for you. Greek doesn't work that way! In sentences with an active verb, you can figure out what role each word plays by studying the case-endings, regardless of the word-order. In nominal sentences (where the predicate names the subject), you have to apply a little more discretion. You have to ask yourself: Which side of the "be" verb is the topic and which side is the comment? Which is more general and which is more specific?

In this first sentence, however, these questions aren't all that stupefying. We're saying that "The Word was in the beginning," because the prepositional phrase "in the beginning" supplies information about "the Word." But we're probably going to put "In the beginning" at the beginning anyway, because it sounds grand that way, and rather like Genesis 1:1.

John separates his sentences (or independent clauses) with kai instead of de, seemingly in defiance of the rule I laid down in Lesson 1 about de ("and") connecting a series of consecutive statements while kai ("and") sets off items in a list. I'm not sure John is really breaking this rule, though. These statements are not connected by a logical or temporal sequence. Rather it's like a collection of discrete but associated thoughts rattled off in breathless haste while one has them in one's head, all with a childlike disregard for full stops.

"And the Word was" pros ton theon. The participle pros, when its object is in the accusative case (like ton theon), means "with," as in "together with, beside, near, in the presence of," etc. The masculine noun theos means "god" or, more specifically, "God." You may be surprised that it doesn't get capitalized in Greek, but that's what the article is for. Not just any god, or a god, but the God. "God," after all, is not a proper name. So while our translation will tend to drop the article--"The Word was with God"--it is important because it reminds us to capitalize the G.

Next, we have "And the Word was God"--a simple nominative sentence, without pros or any other preposition. I don't know of any Bible translations that favor "And God was the Word," though this follows the Greek word-order. What difference would it make? It could be argued that the phrasing "God was the Word" is a more meaningful assertion than "The Word was God," since God is a pretty generic noun representing a broad category of beings, and so to say that God is the Word focuses one's definition of God quite dramatically. On the other hand, one could also argue that "the God," God with a capital G, is a distinct character in the context of biblical history; plus, OT Hebrew has a similar way of using a generic word for "god" in way that uniquely names the God who reveals Himself in the Bible. "The Word," meanwhile, is still an inchoate concept at this early point in John's argument. We don't really know what John is trying to say about this "Word," at least until he tells us that He is God.

Verse 2 recapitulates what we have already read. The first word, houtos, is the masculine nominative singular form of the demonstrative pronoun. In other words, it means "This one," or more loosely, "He"--referring, of course, to the Word. The fact that the demonstrative is masculine doesn't necessarily mean we're talking about a male person; it could, in theory, point to any masculine noun, such as "word." But we already know this Word is God, so why fight it? "He was in the beginning with God." We've kind of come full circle. And now we know this much about "the Word": (1) He existed in the beginning, when the world was created. (2) He is God with God; which implies that God comprises more than one Person, and the Word is one such Person.

Figure 2-2We saw another form of pas ("every, all") in Lesson 1. Now we meet panta, the neuter plural form, meaning "all things." di' is a contraction of the preposition dia, which with a genitive object (like autou, "him") means "through, by means of." The main verb comes at the end of the clause: egeneto, an aorist form of the verb ginomai, meaning "to become, to come into being, to be created," etc. I could blow your mind by explaining that this verb is formally in the "middle voice" (i.e., somewhere between active and passive), and that it is a "deponent," meaning that it serves in lieu of the active form which doesn't exist for this stem, but you're not ready for such knowledge. Just a little less worrying is the fact that the -eto ending indicates that the subject of the verb is 3rd person singular--but that's OK because, in Greek, neuter plural subjects (such as panta) go with singular verb-endings. But only when the last day of the month is a Friday! That last sentence is a joke. But seriously, try to remember the sentence before the joke, because it may save you a great deal of self-inflicted hair-pulling some day.

So what do we have? "All things were created by means of Him." See how you have to play with the word order sometimes? "And," John goes on, "choris autou was made oude hen ho gegonen." Let's start at the end and work our way backward. If you guessed that gegonen is related to egeneto, you did well. It's the same verb (again, ginomai, "to be created"), but in its "perfect" aspect instead of the aorist. We haven't met a perfect before. Notice the ge- prefix, which on top of a stem beginning with g gives the verb a funny stuttering, or stammering, appearance. This effect is called "reduplication" and is the classic sign of the Greek perfect. So the equivalent form of lyo would be lelyken, and of paideuo would be pepaideuken. Generally speaking, a -k- embedded in the ending is also a clue that the verb is perfect, but it just happens that ginomai is an exception to that rule. Long story short: gegonen means "has been created."

Did you also guess that ho is the good old masculine, nominative, singular form of "the"? If so... go back to Lesson 1's table of the Definite Article and take another good look. Can you spot the difference? This ho has an accent. The article ho doesn't. The difference may not seem very great to you, particularly since I have chosen not to afflict you with a tedious recitation of the rules about accents, but this is one instance where an awareness of Greek accents can be helpful. The ho with an accent over it is, indeed, nominative-singular, but it is not masculine; rather, it is neuter, and a relative pronoun at that. Remember hes from Matthew 1:16? Same thing, only neuter: "that" as in "...that was made."

Going back one more word, hen is the neuter nominative singular for the number "one." Yes indeedy, "one" is an adjective whose form is determined by its grammatical point of reference. One man would be heis. One woman would be counted as mia. (Sounds kind of nice, doesn't it?) One thing is hen. The word before hen is the emphatically negative adverb oude, meaning "not." Put oude & hen together and you get "not even one thing." Move back all the way to the beginning of the clause and you find the prepositional phrase choris autou. The genitive form of the pronoun "he" you already know. Choris means "without, apart from." So the whole clause now reads: "And apart from him was made nothing that has been made." At least that's the way the folks who added the verse numbers thought it should say. The editors of the UBS 4th Edition Greek NT thought otherwise. They insert a raised dot (equivalent to a colon or semicolon) before the words ho gegonen, suggesting that these words belong to the thought of verse 4. I think the UBS people are full of it. They apparently assume that "that has been made made" would be redundant at the end of "Without him nothing was made." What is Reason #1 that I think they're full of it? I think "that has been made" is crucial to John's argument that the Word is not a created being. Not only were all things made through Him, but He exists before the making of all created things. Not one created thing was created without Him. Reasons #2ff. will become evident in a bit.

En auto, with the tell-tale iota subscript: "In him was..." The feminine noun zoē, here serving as a predicate nominative, means "life." Get it? Zoe as in "zoology." Skipping ahead, the next new vocable we meet is phōs, a neuter noun which means "light." Get it? Phōs as in "photon, photograph, photoelectric," etc. And finally, anthrōpōn is the genitive plural of anthrōpos, meaning "man" (in the sense of "human being," not "adult male person," which is a different Greek word--anēr). Get it? Anthrōpos as in "anthropology." Now that you know all the words in the sentence, it's easy: "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." OK, so I skipped over the last "the," before "men." Greek sometimes uses "the" where English does not, and vice versa. The thought here has to do with "men" in general, not a particular group of men.

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." As it stands, this statement is pretty weird. The UBS editors would have us add the last two words of verse 3 to this thought, making it read: "That which has been created in Him was life..." I still think they are wrong. Reason #2: It is difficult to imagine that, after taking pains in sentence after sentence to move quickly from the subject to the story about Him, John would begin his thought with "That which has been created in Him..." Not only is it an incongruously prolix, complicated, and narratively deadening incipit, but it is frankly bizarre, if not silly. If this is really what John meant to say, I have such confidence in his storytelling skill that I would expect him to word it differently, such as: "Life was created in Him," or rather, "through Him."

Reason #3: The trajectory of John's argument up to this point makes him seem more likely to want to say the divine Word has life in Himself, rather than to pointlessly inform us that "what He created," specifically, is "life." After all, John has already been at pains to stress that the Word is a living Person who participated in creation, who preexists creation, who coexists with God, and who is consubstantial with God. Why would he not be telling us that life is in Him, life that is light to men? Reason #4: If we're talking about life that He created, then the assertion that this life "is the light of men" says nothing, directly, about Him. But if we're talking about life that uniquely and eternally inheres to Him, then the concluding phrase "and the life was the light of men" is a profound revelation: Since the Word lived prior to the creation, His is an uncreated life. For this reason, God's Word revealed to men is more than information by which one can illuminate oneself; rather, it (He) is life, and gives life.

The next verse presents us with three new vocab words: skotia ("darkness"), phainei (present active form of phainō, "to shine," where the subject is 3rd person singular), and katelaben (3rd sing. aorist active of katalambanō, "to seize, overtake, understand," etc.). Also note that the 3rd person pronoun auto is neuter accusative singular, and ou is simply the negative adverb "not." (It sometimes appears in the form ouk or ouch, depending on what the next word is.) So, putting the pieces together very quickly, we get: "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not take hold of it." Modern stylists might sense a tint of sloppiness as John shifts freely from the present tense to the past (aorist) within a single thought. Actually, though, John's choice of verb tenses is very subtle. The light "shines," present tense, a shining that goes on indefinitely. A perfect verb would suggest that the shining started at a definite point in the past, though it continues to this day; either an aorist or an imperfect would confine the shining entirely to the past. This present-tense shining has no beginning or end. But the dark did not grab hold of it--the aorist indicating action in the past, just once when the light came within of the dark's reach but the dark failed to seize its opportunity. The time for the darkness to act has passed, but the light continues to shine.

Figure 2-3Again, egeneto, that imperfect (not aorist) of ginomai. It's a word with many meanings. Sometimes it means "created." In this context it means "came." There came a man apestalmenos para theou. Does the perfect passive participle of apostellō remind you of a familiar NT term? How about "apostle," which means "one who is sent"? Again, a participle is a verbal adjective, so its -os ending tells you its case (nom.), gender (masc.), and number (sing.). The bit that tells you it's a passive (or middle) participle is the -men- embedded in the ending.

As for how you can tell it's perfect... well, I hate to say it, but with some verbs you just have to know these things. Apostellō is a mildly irregular verb, so that its stem actually changes a bit from one "part" of the verb to another. Like Luther's Small Catechism, the forms of the Greek verb are divided between "six chief parts," each of which could potentially have a different stem. Thus the e in the present active stem (-stel-) changes to an a in the perfect passive (-stal-), for example. Learn to love regular verbs, whose various tense, moods, and voices you can readily identify via easy-to-learn rules of thumb; as for irregular verbs like apostellō, you will eventually need to memorize the first form of each of their "chief parts."

Long story short: "There came a man (having been) sent from (para) God." See how I snuck that new preposition by you? The next word, onoma, means "name." Then comes the 3rd person masc. pronoun in what case?? (Hint: What's that thing dangling under the omega?) And finally, we have the name John as they spell it in Greek (Iōannēs). "Name to him John"??? Well, no. John is trying to say, "John was his name," but as often happens in Greek, he skips the "be" verb. What isn't so usual is this use of the dative pronoun as a possessive adjective; that's generally more the genitive's speed. In the NT, the phrase onoma autou (with the genitive pronoun), meaning "his name," occurs 22 times, including 9 times in the writings of John, 8 times in the writings of Luke, 3 times in Matthew, once each in Hebrews and Mark; meanwhile onoma autō (with the dative) occurs only four times, all of them in works written by John. Whether the thought is strictly "(The) name by him (is) John," or, "(The) name (belonging) to him (is) John," or some even more torturous phrasing, a charitable teacher will give you full marks for writing, "His name was John."

In verse 7 we again see, houtos, "this one," or "he," meaning John. Then comes ēlthen, which is a 3rd person sing. aorist form of another very irregular verb, this time erchomai, "to come." He (John) came eis martyrian. The preposition eis, whose smooth-breathing distinguishes it from the numeral one (heis, with a rough-breathing), basically means "into" but it can also denote purpose. The word martyria should look familiar to you. It means testimony, just as the word "martyr" literally means "witness." John came for the purpose of bearing witness, hina martyrēsē--which opens up a nifty can of worms.

Hina is easily dealt with. It's a conjunction meaning "in order that...." It introduces a new clause with its own verb. Now the verb, which like the verbal noun martyria comes from the verb martyreo, "to bear witness," happens to have a iota subscript at the end--one of the few uses for that little pen-stroke that isn't a sign of the dative singular noun. It also has the -s- particle in its ending, which is a clue that the verb is in its aorist aspect. But it doesn't have the e- prefix (temporal augment) indicating action in the past. To understand why this is, you need to make room in your mind for a grammatical concept that may be new to you: MOOD. Make no mistake: I'm not just saying the verb wasn't "in the mood" for a temporal augment. Although that might be true, in a weird sense.

You already know that verbs have tense (past, present, future), aspect (perfect, imperfect, and aorist, for starters), and voice (active, passive, and in time you may even come to grips with the "middle" voice). Hopefully you have started to process the additional fact that verbs can be either finite or (in the case of infinitives and participles) infinite. Now don't let it blow your mind, but finite verbs also have mood.

This is difficult for casual English speakers to recognize unless they have been thoroughly drilled in grammar. When you state a plain fact, such as "David is my brother," you're using the indicative mood, which has been the mood of all the Greek verbs we have looked at until now. But when you make a statement that it is only conditionally true, such as "David may be my brother"--or even contrary to fact, such as "If only David were my brother"--you use a different form of the same verb--the subjunctive mood. Then there's the imperative mood, as in "George, take this candelabra to Mother." Some Greek verbs even have a fourth mood (optative) which expresses a wish or a mere possibility, but don't worry about it; its use had become very rare by the time of the New Testament, which has only 68 optative verbs in all.

Most conditional, or uncertain, or "woulda, shoulda, coulda" verbs in the NT use the subjunctive mood. Such happens to be the case with martyrēsē, an aorist subjunctive, indicating something that one "might" do at one point in time: "In order that he might bear witness peri tou phōtos." The preposition peri, which takes a genitive object, basically means "about"--sometimes in the sense of "around" (a person, place, or thing), but here in the sense of "concerning" a topic, which is the genitive form of to phōs (again, "the light'). So John came for the purpose of testimony, in order that he might testify concerning the Light, in order that pantes pisteusōsen di' autou. Pantes is the masculine nominative plural form of pas, so it means "all men" (in the sense that includes people of both sexes). Pisteusōsen, also in the aorist subjunctive as befits whatever verb comes after hina, comes from the verb pisteuein, "to believe," and the ending indicates a 3rd person plural subject (i.e., "all men"). We saw di' autou earlier, and translated it as "by means of him" or, in that sense, "through him." If we stick with that translation, we find that John came to bear witness "in order that all men might believe through him."

Verse 8: ouk ēn, "was not." You should learn not to be surprised when the subject, ekeinos, comes third. This is the masc. sing. form of yet another demonstrative pronoun, meaning "that man" or, more loosely, "he"--again, pointing back at John. He (John) was not the Light, all' hina martyrēsē peri tou phōtos. Except for all', you saw this exact phrase in verse 7, where we translated it "in order that he might testify concerning the light." All' is simply a contraction of alla, a conjunction meaning "but" that corresponds to the German word sondern; that is, it always comes after a negative statement, such as "John was not the Light."

The reason for the contraction has something to do with the rough breathing at the beginning of hina, but you're not interested in that. What you want to know is what's missing from the sentence "John was not the Light, but in order that he might bear witness concerning the light." Something seems to belong between "but" and "in order that," something like the verb ēlthen ("he came") in verse 7. Since John (the evangelist) here repeats word-for-word what he said a verse earlier about why John (the baptist) came, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to borrow the unexpressed "he came" from the first instance. Call it "applying the context to interpret the meaning."

Figure 2-4Verse 9 begins with the main verb of the sentence, "He was." Since he goes on to say He was "the true Light," we can safely assume on the basis of verse 8 that "He" here does not refer to John the Baptist. This gives us an opportunity to try out a key strategy for interpreting Greek, where the word-order is going to be quite different from what English grammar would dictate. Suppose for a moment that "He was..." is only part of the action of the sentence, that "was" might be an auxiliary verb functioning in tandem with a participle. What you have to do now is scan the sentence for a participle that might answer the purpose. You won't find it in the first clause, nor in the second; but after two commas you come to erchomenon, "coming" (the present participle of erchomai, don'tcha know). "He was...coming into the cosmos," or rather, "the world." Who was? To phōs to alēthinon.

And now we get to learn about adjectives. Yee-haw! Unlike nouns, which always stay the same gender, adjectives have endings that allow them to agree with the number, case, and gender of any noun. So alēthinon is the neuter nominative singular form of the adjective alēthinos, -e, -on. (When locating a dictionary entry, always look for the masc. nom. sing. form of an adjective; it will then list the endings for the fem. and neut. nom. sing. as well). The adjective means "true, real, genuine."

Another question you have to ask is whether the adjective is "attributive" or "predicative." If it was an predicate adjective, it would be similar to a predicate nominative (in fact, it would be nominative, in most cases). A predicative reading of the adjective in verse 9 would say "the light was true," where "true" is part of the predicate. An attributive interpretation, however, would make the adjective "true" an attribute added to the noun, as in "the true light." How can you tell which kind of adjective it is? It's a matter of word order and placement of the definite article. If the same exact article comes before both the adjective and the noun, and they agree in number, case, and gender, it's attributive. To alēthinos phōs is one example of this; it economizes by using one article to cover both adjective and noun. They key, however, is that at least the adjective is directly preceded by the article. On the other hand, if it said Alēthinos to phōs, you would definitely translate it as a predicate adjective: "True is the light; the light is reliable." John's phrasing is to phōs to alēthinos, which (I hope you noticed) places the same article in front of both noun and adjective, though as often happens, the adjective comes after the noun and thus requires its own copy of the article. This is good, workmanlike Greek for "the true light," attributive position.

So John is saying that "The true light was...coming into the world." In the middle of the sentence, set off by commas, is an adjectival relative clause. Adjectival, I say, because it develops the thought of the noun phrase "the true light." Relative, I say, because it begins with the relative pronoun, "which..." Ho (thinking back to verse 3) is the neuter nominative singular relative pronoun, and thus points back to to phōs (which is also neuter nom. sing.) while at the same time inaugurating its own clause. In an indirect way, it makes to phōs the subject of a bonus sentence embedded within the main sentence. The light does what? It phōtizei panta anthrōpon. The present tense form of the verb phōtizo, with a 3rd person singular subject (which technically is ho, but indirectly is to phōs), means "to light." I mean, it's obvious that phōtizo is a verbalization of the noun phōs, isn't it? It "photizes" panta anthrōpon, the accusative singular (direct object) form of pas anthrōpos, "every man."

Full sentence: "The true light, which enlightens (shines on, illuminates, gives light to) every man, was coming into the world." Or possibly, "He [the Light mentioned in v. 8] was the true light...coming into the world." Both versions have their pros and cons. You'll have to live with one or the other regardless, unless you want to go mad. The "con" of the reading "The true light was...coming" is that it uses the "be" verb an auxiliary to a participle, which is a rather unusual Greek styling when there's a perfectly serviceable imperfect form of the verb erchomai (ērcheto) that achieves the same effect more cheaply. The "pro" is that the intervening relative clause makes it necessary to use ēn and erchomenon in order to connect the subject to its predicate.

The weakness of the "He was the true light...coming" interpretation is that it relies on the counterintuitive assumption that the subject and predicate are both "the light" (The light is the true light?). This, in turn, supposes that the answer lies in finding the antecedent of the pronoun "he" which, you might notice, doesn't occur in the Greek text. When John wants us to read a pronoun, he supplies us with one (such as houtos, autos, or ekeinos). Still, this second interpretation makes us English-speaking interpreters happy because it deals with our discomfort with a sentence beginning with part of an auxiliary-verb construction that isn't completed until two clauses later. The real solution may be to learn to think less like an English speaker, and to plunge bravely into the sea of Greek thought.

Verse 10: "He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, and the world auton ouk egno." You already know auton ("Him") and ouk (a variant of ou, "not"), but it's the verb at the end of the sentence that requires introduction. Friends, meet ginōskō, "to know," in its aorist indicative active 3rd person singular form. Now that you know what all those words mean, we can finally rattle of a full description of the verb form. "The world did not know Him." John's simple use of the conjunction kai ("and") abstains from assigning any logical connection between these three clauses. As an interpreter, you will be sorely tempted to supply the logic that John omits, such as "Although the world was created through Him," and "Yet the world did not know Him." John simply lists these facts consecutively, like items on a bullet list or slides in a PowerPoint presentation. He leaves it to you to perceive the connection between them.

Verse 11: "He came into ta idia." Idia is the neuter accusative plural of the adjective idios, -a, -on, meaning "one's own, proper, personal." The phrase ta idia is an idiom for property or belongings. Before we go on with this verse, glance at the end and shake hands with the irregular verb paralambanō, meaning "take" or "receive," in its aorist indicative active, 3rd person plural form parelabon. Before we get to that, however, there is a play on the words idia/idioi ("his home and property" vs. "his own people," masc. nominative plural) which makes a good, balanced translation particularly challenging to devise. "He came into his own, and his own received him not" accents the idia/idioi play on words, but covers up the difference between "his own things" and "his own people" that is evident from neuter vs. masculine endings. Unfortunately, you may have to accept that some subtle displays of wit must be lost in translation, for the sake of getting the same meaning across. Efforts to convey both the style and substance in English can have strange results: "He came into his home-place, but his home-boys did not accept him." Ick! How about this? "He came to what was His, and His people did not receive him."

Figure 2-5The correlative pronoun hosoi (masc. nom. pl.) comes from the adjective stem hosos, -e, -on, meaning "as much as" or (in the plural) "as many as." The postpositive conjunction de makes its first appearance in John's Gospel after a long string of kais, hinting at a sense of contrast from what has just been written; so let's try translating it as "but" for a change. Elabon is the irregular aorist form of lambanō, which we have met before, only disguised by such prefixes as kata- and para-; it also means "to receive." Edōken is the aorist indic. act., 3rd sing., of the very irregular verb didōmi, "to give." Autois is the dative (indirect object) plural form of the 3rd person pronoun we have seen so many times before. Exousia (here in its accusative [direct object] form) means "right" or "authority." Tekna is the accusative plural form of teknon, a neuter noun meaning "child." And ginesthai is the aorist infinitive of the irregular deponent verb ginomai, "to become." (Handy rule of thumb: a deponent is "middle or passive in form, active in meaning." What it means in this case is that there is no really "active" form of this verb.) So verse 12, so far, reads: "But as many as received Him, He gave them (the) right to become children of God."

John then adds an adjectival participial phrase which, to judge by the dative case & plural number of the participle and its definite article, is a further comment on the dative plural pronoun autois--"to those who received Him...(that is,) to those who believe on His name." Pisteuousin is the present active participle, and the article in front of it turns what would ordinarily be an adjective ("believing") into a substantive ("those believing"). Eis, which basically means "into," is also often translated as "in, on," etc. I favor "believing on His name" rather than "in His name" because, in my opinion, the question is not whether His name exists but whether it is something you can rely on, or base your faith on.

Verse 13: The masculine plural relative pronoun ("who") points all the way back to hosoi at the beginning of v. 12, the last character in the story that shared the same number and gender. "As many as received Him," blah, blah, blah, "who..." Now scan the sentence to find a main verb for "who" to be the subject of. You won't find it until the very last word of the sentence, egennēthēsan, the indicative aorist passive, 3rd person plural, form of gennao, which you can't have forgotten after all those "begats" in Matthew 1. So, before we fill in the details, let's wrap our heads around the main thought of this sentence: "As many as received him"--the antecedent of "who"--"were begotten." By whom or what were they begotten?

Now we go back to the beginning of the sentence: Ouk ex haimatōn. Haima is a neuter noun for blood, here shown in its genitive plural form. Just as ta idia (lit. "one's own things") was an idiomatic phrase meaning "property," ex haimatōn (lit. "by bloods") is a Greek idiom meaning "by sexual reproduction." Those who accepted the Light were begotten, first of all, not by intercourse. Next phraise: Oude ek thelēmatos sarkos. Oude (lit. "and not") is best rendered as "nor." Thelēma, a neuter noun of the same type as haima, means "will, desire." Sarkos, the genitive singular form of the feminine noun sarx, means "flesh." In the following phrase, sarx is replaced by anēr (genitive andros), that specifically male word for "man" that I mentioned earlier in contrast to the "human" anthrōpos; it can also mean "husband."

So these folks are begotten "not by sexual procreation, nor by the desire of the flesh, nor by the desire of the husband, but (alla) by God." Delaying the main verb ("begotten") until the very end allows John to build up this very dramatic, thesis-antithesis description of how God's children are born. It's a beautifully built sentence that, incidentally, knocks flat any idea that the human will or the individual's decisions cause him to become God's child; rather, believers are begotten spiritually by God.

Figure 2-6And the Word became flesh and eskēnōsen en hēmin. The verb is the indicative aorist active, 3rd person singular, form of skēnoō--if Blogger had a Greek font, you would see that the first "o" is an omicron and the second an omega--meaning "live," as in a dwelling. The verb is etymologically connected with the noun skēnē, meaning "tent, tabernacle, a temporary dwelling." Hēmin, meanwhile, is the dative form of the 2nd person plural pronoun. The proposition en ("in") means "among" when its dative object is plural, so "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Etheasametha looks like it might have something to do with God (theos), but it doesn't. Rather, it comes from the Greek verb theaomai, "to see," here in the aorist indicative middle (deponent), 1st person plural, "we saw." Saw what? His doxa, here in the accusative case of that feminine noun meaning "glory." You know, as in the doxology, "Glory be to the Father," etc.

What kind of glory? Glory hōs (like) monogenous para patros. Monogenous is the masc. gen. sing. form of the adjective monogenēs, spelled with an eta in the last syllable if it's masculine or feminine, and with an epsilon if it's neuter. You haven't seen this group of endings before, so don't let the strangeness of this genitive form get you down. Modern critical scholars insist that monogenēs means "only," and only "only." A long-held exegetical tradition, however, holds that it's a portmanteau of monos ("only") and a verbal adjective based on gennaō, "to beget." As in "only-begotten." We are accustomed to seeing this remarkable portmanteau word in translations not only of this verse, but also of John 3:16 (God so loved the world that He gave His "only-begotten" Son), 3:18 (he is condemned who does not believe on the name of God's "only-begotten" Son), and 1:18 (no one has ever seen God, but the "only-begotten" God who is in the bosom of the Father has made Him known). Other instances of this controversial adjective include Luke 7:12 (regarding the "only-begotten" son of the widow at Nain), 8:42 (re Jairus's "only-begotten" daughter), and 9:38 (where the father of a demon-possessed boy pleads for his "only-begotten" son); Hebrews 11:17 (which describes Isaac as Abraham's "only-begotten" son, although he can only be called that if Ishmael doesn't count); and 1 John 4:9 (God sent His "only-begotten" Son in to the world that we might live through Him).

In summary, there doesn't seem to be a single instance where this word, which supposedly means "only," is used in any other way than to describe a person as his or her parents' "only" son or daughter. It seems to be exclusively used to designate an "only-begotten" child. So exactly why the critics can't let monogenēs mean "only-begotten" is beyond my comprehension. On the other hand, if you insist that its meaning can go no further than "only," John 1:14 becomes so much nonsense: "And we saw His glory, glory as of the only _____ from (para) the Father." The only what? One could reason that "from the Father" implies that only "Son" can be read into the blank, but that's a very thin reasoning considering that Christ has been called the "Word," the "Light," and even "God" so far, but until now John has not discussed the terms Father and Son. Translating monogenēs as "only-begotten" fills in this gaping blank in John's conceptualization, because it specifies how the unique Person described here as coming "from the Father" is related to Him. He is not just a unique messenger (angel) or emissary (apostle), but the Son (only-begotten). He is not God's only child (because as many as receive Him are given the right to become God's children), but He is the Father's only-begotten, the Son whose sonship defines the Father's fatherhood much as the Father's eternal begetting makes the Son God's "only-begotten" in a sense that is not contradicted even by verse 13's explanation that believers are spiritually " God."

He is God, and at the same time He is with God; He preexists the creation and participated in it, though He Himself was not created; and yet there is no other God but the one God who created all. It's the mystery of the Trinity. It's impossible to conceive of. Yet John's deceptively simple, direct language compels one to believe it, unless one twists or rejects what He says. And he finishes the paragraph with one last description of the incarnate Word's glory: plērēs charitos kai alētheias, "full" (plērēs, an indeclinable adjective) "of grace" (gen. sing. of the feminine verb charis) "and truth" (gen. sing. of the feminine verb alētheia).

This lesson has exposed you to quite a few new facets of the Greek language. You should have learned the trick of scanning a sentence to look for the main verb, and of using the presence or absence of a definite article to tell you whether an adjective is in an attributive or predicative relationship to the noun it describes. You may also have picked up some ideas about verb moods that will have you rethinking the grammar of your own language. Who knew that "If I were a butterfly" contains a subjunctive mood?

You may now have begun to appreciate that in Greek, as in all languages, many of the most commonly used verbs are irregular. You should start memorizing important verb forms now, such as elabon (the aorist form of lambanō, "take"), edōken (ditto for didōmi, "give"), ēlthon (ditto for erchomai, "come"), and egeneto (ditto for ginomai, "become"). And of course there's einai, "to be," the grand-high S.O.B. of irregular Greek verbs, of which a few forms are provided here for you to start memorizing.You also encountered multiple types of pronoun--demonstratives (houtos, ekeinos), correlative (hosos), and some of the personal pronouns such as hēmin ("us," dative).

Besides starting to learn forms of "to be" in Greek, I would like you to try to memorize the following tables, column by column. First, here is the relative pronoun, which is used to introduce relative clauses. English equivalents include that, which, who, and what.Although I don't want you to become preoccupied with the accents, these little words, together with the definite article, should give you a reason to pay attention to them because they can make a big difference in meaning.

And finally, we are already quite overdue for some examples showing common case-endings that can be applied by analogy to many, many nouns.If I were you, I would just memorize the endings, column by column, until you can rattle them off like the words of a nonsense rhyme: "-os, -ou, -ō, -on, -oi, -ōn, -ois, -ous," etc.Note that in third declension nouns, except those of the very predictable "-ma neuter" type, the nominative singular does not have a regular case-ending; quite often, that form even has a slightly different stem. So you can begin your nursery-rhyme prattle for the third declension with the genitive singular: "-os, -i, -a, -es, -ōn, -si, -as." Is it just me, or does that have a nice ring to it?Once you know these declensions by heart, you will be able to predict the endings of a large percentage of Greek nouns. So work hard! You'll thank me later!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

1. Frick Begat Frack

Have you learned your Greek letters? If not, go back and do so before you proceed. There's nothing for it but to do some memory work. Don't just learn to recite a list of them; learn the sounds they properly make, practice writing them, and perhaps make flash cards and quiz yourself until you can recognize them.

Let's start with Matthew 1:1-17. Why? Because it's easy-peasy. Mostly. It doesn't require you to master much unique vocabulary, or too many forms of the noun or verb. It's pretty repetitive, too. That's a good way to learn. For starters, look at the first verse (Fig. 1-1). If the illustrations give you eye-strain, click on them to open a super-sized version.

Figure 1-1Here is a sentence without a verb. It's really more of a heading for what follows, though whether it applies to the entire gospel "according to Matthew" or only to this section is a matter of interpretation. I'm inclined to let the ambiguity stand.

The first word, Biblos, is where we get the word "Bible" from. It means book. Greek nouns decline; that is, they have endings that tell you what role they play in the structure of the sentence. The ending of this noun, -os, tells us that it is nominative in case. The nominative case is used to name things; so in the sentence "The winner is Carl," where you are naming Carl as the winner, Carl (predicate nominative) would be in the nominative case. Also, the subject of most sentences is nominative. Is "Book" the subject or the predicate nominative here? Let's check back later on that.

Next you get geneseōs, also ends on -os, but with a long ō instead of the short o of the nominative ending. This noun is actually in the genitive case, which is used (among other things) to stick the word "of" in front of a noun. The nominative case of this verb is genesis, so in a funky way Matthew's opening words could be read as "Book of Genesis." Perhaps this is an intentional throw-back to the first book of the Bible, and the beginning of creation. It's as if Matthew is subtly telling us that God's revelation is turning over a new leaf, a New Testament, a new beginning within the continuity of Sacred Scripture, and that the story he is going to tell is about the coming of a new creation, or the restoration of the old one.

The next two words are easy. Iēsou Christou is Jesus Christ, genitive case. So: "Book of genesis of Jesus Christ." Even as we move past the idea that geneseos is a reference to the first book of the Bible, this phrase should tickle the memory of anyone who has read Genesis. This phrase, which could also be translated "Book of the generation of Jesus Christ," of His beginning, origin, birth, etc., harks back to Genesis 5:1, "This is the book of the generations of Adam." This, in turn, reflects a formula repeated at several structurally significant points in Genesis: "These are the generations of..." This is sacred history that Matthew is writing.

Matthew wraps up the sentence with a couple of apposite phrases concerning Jesus Christ. Huiou (son) is in the genitive case, but don't be in a hurry to stick "of" in front of it; everything after geneseōs is genitive because it all explains whose "generation" the book concerns. The names David & Abraham are easy to spot, particularly since they do not decline like other Greek words, and thus look the same whether they are nominative, genitive, or whatever. Full sentence: "Book of generation of Jesus Christ son of David son of Abraham." It's a very laconic style of writing. No definite article ("the"), no conjunction ("and"), the author expects the reader to fit it together himself. It's not really that hard.

It isn't fair to expect you to know this, at this stage in your Greek studies, but this sentence seems to carry a Hebrew form of thought. This should not surprise students of this gospel, given Matthew's apparent bias toward a Jewish audience. In Hebrew, the words "book-of" and "generation-of" would be construct forms depending on "Jesus Christ," the absolute form, to give them definition. So one could argue for peppering the phrase with definite articles, thus: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." If you're desperate to have a "complete sentence," with a subject and predicate, feel free to stick "This is" at the beginning, making Biblos a predicate nominative.

Of course, Jesus is not Abraham's and David's "son" in the most literal sense of the word; both men were rather distant ancestors of His. He is their "son" in the sense of being their heir. Abraham is given greater emphasis than David by being placed last, but both ancestors are singled out because they bear a certain significance relevant to what Matthew intends to prove about Jesus Christ. To call him "Christ" (the Anointed, the Messiah) is itself a striking assertion. As evidence of this, Matthew presents the upcoming royal genealogy. But he first mentions David and Abraham as keynotes in his argument that Jesus is Heir both to the king (David) and to the patriarch of all Hebrew people (Abraham), and it might also be inferred, the fulfillment of what was promised to each of them concerning his offspring.

Figure 1-2This could get tediously repetitive. You're going to see a lot of sentences just like this in the next few verses. The name Abraham you have already seen. Hopefully you don't need much help spotting the name Isaac, which is also indeclinable; that is, you can't tell what case it's in by looking at the end of the word. Instead, you have to back up one word to the left, where ton ("the") tells us that Isaac is in the accusative case. This case is often used to mark the direct object of a verb. So "Abraham ____ Isaac."

What verb is that? Egennēsen comes from the stem gennaō, meaning "to bear children." We translate it as "beget" when the subject is a male, the father rather than the mother. The e- at the beginning of the verb indicates that the time of the begetting is in the past. The -s- toward the end is the sign of the aorist, an aspect of the Greek verb that describes action completed at one point in time. The -en at the end simply confirms that the subject of the verb is 3rd-person singular, e.g. Abraham. Abraham subject, begat verb, Isaac object: "Abraham begat Isaac." Q.E.D. Since this exact statement is repeated umpty-two times in the following verses, only with the names shuffled around, we can apply a bit of inductive reasoning and interpret the rest of the family tree by analogy to this line.

Figure 1-3After "Abraham begat Isaac," the name Isaac is repeated, only this time as the subject of the self-same verb. In between the subject and the verb, however, is a new word for you: de. This simply means "and," and it joins this new sentence to the one before it. Does it seem strange that this "and" comes after the first word of the new sentence? Sorry, dude. You're just going to have to get used to it. De is "postpositive"--which is to say, it politely insists on coming second in the word order, even though it comes first in your translation. So the second sentence of verse 2 is: "And Isaac begat Jacob."

Following the analogy of this sentence, you can then make easy work of the next one: "And Jacob begat Judah..." Notice that "Judah" is literally "Ioudas" in Greek (accusative: Ioudan). Each language has its own way of transliterating Hebrew names, and "Judah" is how that character's name comes over into English from the O.T. Hebrew. But what on earth is kai tous adelphous autou? This is one of a handful of distinctive marks that stand out amid the uniformity of Matthew's genealogy of Christ. You may remember that Judah was one of twelve brothers; we single him out because he belongs to the direct line between Abraham and Christ, but we do not fail to mention his brothers.

Kai is a very different Greek word for "and." Unlike de (which coordinates between clauses or sentences), kai connects items in a list: Judah and his brothers. The Greek word for "brother" is adelphos, hence Philadelphia is the city of "brotherly love." Tous adelphous, "the brothers," accusative plural, are in the same case as Judah because they share his role in the sentence as the direct object of begat. The third-person pronoun autou, genitive case, "of him," points back to Judah as the one whose brothers his brothers are. A crassly literal translation might say: "and the brothers of same." What we're really saying here is: "Jacob begat Judah and his brothers."

Figure 1-4Continuing to operate by analogy to the previous verses: "And Judah begat Phares and Zara" ek tēs Thamar. Tamar was the mother of Judah's twin sons Perez and Zerah (cf. Genesis 38). So let's work out what ek tēs might mean. The preposition ek crossed over into English as the prefix of such words as "explode," "excite," and "express." Tēs is simply the feminine genitive singular form of "the"--making Tamar the object of ek, which requires its object to be in the genitive case. Judah begat Perez and Zerah "out of" or, perhaps better, "by" Tamar. And Perez begat Hezron (lit. Hesrom), and Hezron begat Ram (Aram), and Ram begat Amminadab (Aminadab), and Amminadab begat Nahshon (Naasson), and Nahshon begat Salmon.

Figure 1-5And Salmon begat Boaz (Boes) by Rahab, and Boaz begat Obed (Jobed) by Ruth, and Obed begat Jesse (Jessai), and Jesse begat David ton basilea, which is accusative for ho basileus, the king. (Not "the basilisk," silly!) And David begat Solomon by tēs tou Ouriou. Here's another weird thing about Greek that you're just going to have to get used to: two forms of "the" in a row! The first "the" (tēs) is the feminine genitive singular article which causes what comes after "the" to be the object of the preposition ek. Here we would expect to find the name of the woman by whom David begat Solomon, but instead Matthew slips sideways into masculine genitive singular "the" (tou), which goes with Ouriou (Uriah; see 2 Samuel 11). The closest we can come to a literal translation would be "And David begat Solomon by her (who was) of Uriah," that is, by the wife of Uriah, whose name (Bathsheba) is so infamous that one dare not utter it in connection with Christ, even after boldly naming the sometime harlots Tamar and Rahab.

We've now had two examples where something was said about a brother, or brothers, besides the members of Jesus' strict line of descent; four instances where the name of the mother is dropped; and so far only one thing said about an ancestor himself ("the king"). Why does Matthew weave these details, and only these, into his tight-knit account of Jesus' bloodline? We could speculate on a number of reasons. Most obviously, these just happen to be the characters whose names evoke interesting and memorable stories, signposts along the way. Second, it might somehow serve Matthew's purpose to draw attention to them. David being "the king" is important because that is part and parcel with the case he is building for Jesus. And the mother of Solomon is called the wife not of David but Uriah, as though to show that whatever of real value lies in "the king" comes from God, not from man, a gracious bounty bestowed in spite of a monstrous sin (made to seem all the more monstrous by this mention of its innocent victim).

The brothers of Judah may be important because this is a matter of significance for all of Israel, all twelve tribes. Ruth may be significant because hers is a poignant story of love and redemption--though it may also be significant that she came from Moab, the race decended from Abraham's nephew Lot, rather than from among the Hebrews themselves. Tamar and Rahab were both women of low character (the latter a Gentile woman) who nevertheless, by the grace of God, became part of the Christ's royal bloodline. And Zerah, the twin brother of Perez, may merit a mention because of the story of their birth (Genesis 38:28-30), which illustrates how the one you expect to be first may turn out to be last. An act of loving redemption, a reversal of the expected order, an accounting that bears no regard for a person's past sins or blood status, a disinterested, non-preferential grace offered to all--Jews and non-Jews alike... all of these are keynotes in the Gospel of this King.

Figure 1-6And Solomon begat Rehoboam (Roboam), and Rehoboam begat Abijah (Abia), and Abijah begat Asa (Asaph), and Asa begat Jehoshaphat (Josaphat), and Jehoshaphat begat Joram, and Joram begat Uzziah (Ozias), and Uzziah begat Jotham (Joatham), and Jotham begat Ahaz (Achaz), and Ahaz begat Hezekiah (Hezekias), and Hezekias begat Manasseh (Manasses), and Manasseh begat Amon (Amos), and Amon begat Josiah (Josias), and Josiah begat Jeconiah (Jechonias, a.k.a. Jehoiachin) and his brothers. (Here, for his own peculiar reasons, Matthew skips over Jehoiakim, who comes between Josiah and Jeconiah according to 1 Chronicles 3:16). Notice that some of these names (e.g. Ozias, Hezekias, and Jechonias) are actually declinable, which is why they have a different ending (-an) in the accusative case.

The sentence ends with epi tēs metoikesias Babylōnos, of which you can probably already guess the last word. Epi (upon) is another preposition that requires a genitive object, hence the case of the article and noun tēs metoikesias. Notice the -oik- stem in the middle of that long noun: it is related to the Greek work oikos, meaning "house," by way of the verb oikeo, "to dwell." Together with the prefix met- (suggesting a sense of change) and the ending -ias (signifying a verbal noun), this gives us metoikesias: moving houses, changing one's dwelling-place, or in many instances such as this, deportation.

Finally, Babylōnos is in the genitive case. I know! The -os ending looks just like the nominative ending you learned earlier! But there are three different "declensions," or sets of case-endings, for Greek nouns and adjectives, and the one that Babylon belongs to has -os in the genitive singular. You'll get a feel for this as we go along. Plus, instead of the meaning "of Babylon," this sentence suggests a different use of the genitive: "concerning Babylon." So epi tēs metoikias Babylōnos literally means "upon the deportation concerning Babylon," and could very easily be interpreted as "at the time of the deportation to Babylon."

Figure 1-7Meta, as a preposition followed by an accusative object, means "after." "And after the deportation to Babylon Jeconiah begat Shealtiel (Salathiel), and Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel (Zorobabel), and Zerubbabel begat Abihud (Abioud), and Abihud begat Eliakim, and Eliakim begat Azor, and Azor begat Zadok (Sadok), and Zadok begat Achim, and Achim begat Eliud (Elioud), and Eliud begat Eleazar, and Eleazar begat Matthan, and Matthan begat Jacob..." You might find out as you read NT Greek that the name "James" is spelled "Jacob" in Greek.

Figure 1-8And Jacob begat Joseph ton andra Marias. Again, the article ton clues us in that the next word is accusative, masculine, and singular. Ton andra, "the man," is accusative because it is apposite to, or another name for, the object of the sentence, i.e. Joseph. The -as ending for Mary's name is the genitive singular ending for that declension. So Joseph is literally described as "the man of Mary," which is to say, Mary's husband. Here again Matthew breaks the pattern of his long string of begats. He does not assert that Joseph begat Jesus, but only that he is the husband of Mary, ex hēs egennēthe Iēsous.

You have already seen the preposition ek used in the sense of "by," as in "Judah begat Perez by Tamar." Here ek takes the form ex because it is followed by a rough breathing, one of several ways ek changes to accommodate the word that follows it. Hes is a relative pronoun, like the word "who" in the phrase "the man who knew too much." Relative pronouns serve as the pivot between the main clause and a type of subordinate clause known, naturally, as a relative clause. I say "pivot" because the relative pronoun serves double duty. As a feminine genitive singular pronoun, hes serves first of all as the object of the proposition ex (which, remember, takes a genitive object), and also points back toward Mary, the obvious antecedent of the pronoun (which is why it has to be feminine). Ex hes then also serves as the "by whom..." in the relative clause "by whom Jesus was begotten."

Egennēthē shows you another form of the verb gennaō: again with the e- prefix indicating action in the past. The -thē ending, however, tells us that the verb is in the aorist aspect, passive voice, with a 3rd-person singular subject: not "begat," but "was begotten." Who was begotten? Here you see the nominative ending for Jesus (Iesous), with the added detail ho legomenos Christos. All three of these words are masculine, nominative, singular. Ho is your basic article "the." Christos should be obvious. This leaves legomenos, which comes form the verb legō, "to say." It is a present participle, i.e. a verbal adjective like the word "saying," only in the passive voice, like "being said." When such a participle comes after a definite article, it becomes substantive, like "the one being said." Stick Christos on as a predicate nominative and you get "the one being called Christ," or more idiomatically, "Jesus who is called Christ."

Figure 1-9Today's assignment climaxes with this especially challenging verse. Let's start with the second word, oun, which is another one of those pesky postpositives--remember? First position in meaning, second position in word order. Oun means "therefore," a conjunction that logically connects this verse to the genealogical list Matthew has just given us. Pasai is the feminine nominative plural form of pas, "every, all." You see the same -ai ending in hai (the definite article, "the") and geneai (plural of genea, which not surprisingly means "generation"), so these three words, notwithstanding oun, form one grammatical unit: the subject of the sentence, "all the generations."

We saw Abraham and David back in verse 1, but this time they appear as objects of the prepositions apo and heōs respectively. Both prepositions take a genitive object. Together these little words mean "from...until." And then you get geneai again--a predicate nominative, followed dekatessares, "fourteen," which in spite of the word-order serves as an adjective pointing at "generations." To find a verb in this nominal sentence, you have to use your imagination. "Therefore all the generations from Abraham until David [are] fourteen generations, and from David until the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon until the Christ fourteen generations."

Whether or not these statistics conform literally to the historical record is an open question. If you compare the genealogy in Luke, you get a lot of different names because Luke provides Jesus' flesh-and-blood line of descent, through Mary, by father and son all the way back to Adam, and David turns out to be the most recent ancestor Mary and Joseph had in common. Matthew skips a few ancestors named elsewhere in Scripture, such as Jehoiakim (who ought to be between Josiah and Jeconiah) and Admin (whom Luke 3:33 inserts between Ram and Amminadab, though no such person is listed in either Ruth 4:19 or 1 Chronicles 2:10).

Luke's Admin might be a copyist's error, a slip whose very preservation in manuscript after manuscript bears witness to the faithfulness of the transmission of the NT text. We may never know what prompted Matthew to omit Jehoiakim, except that it served his purpose to use the threefold interval of twice-seven generations to point up the themes he wanted to bring out of the genealogy. Does this make Matthew guilty of fudging the facts to suit his argument? Don't be so quick to lose faith in the integrity of the God-breathed Scriptures! Bear in mind that in the same way Jesus can be called "son of David, son of Abraham," Josiah can be said to have begotten Jeconiah, the intermediate Jehoiakim notwithstanding. A lot of apparent difficulties in harmonizing biblical genealogies could be resolved if we all kept this in mind.

Through Luke we see that Jesus was indeed a descendent of David by direct father-son lineage, given that He had no human father and so Mary's father is his nearest male DNA donor; and by counting back to Adam, Luke places the person and work of Jesus in a worldwide context. Matthew, on the other hand, emphasizes Joseph as the heir of the entire line of kings of Judah, from David through Solomon, Rehoboam, and so on until the Babylonian captivity; and thus, by acknowledging Jesus as his son, Joseph furnishes Jesus with a legitimate claim to the throne of David. Then Matthew makes this royal claim but one side of a logical triangle comprising not only the Messianic King promised to David, but also the "Seed" through whom God promised Abraham that all the world would be blessed, and the Restorer of the captive remnant to the promised land.

It may seem that Matthew is making an obscure point in an obscure way, but if he is indeed aiming his gospel at the Jews--whose leaders were willing to shed blood to squelch the notion that Jesus is the Messiah--then this seemingly monotonous, pompous string of begats is actually an explosively controversial, defiant claim, and those who proclaimed it probably risked their lives. In these seventeen verses, before the story even begins, Matthew lays the footings for the case he will try to build. Come whatever follows, you must read between the lines what Matthew asserts here: that Jesus is the Christ, the heir to the Jewish kingship, the deliverer of God's captive people, and Savior of all nations, whose coming without regard to anyone's works or blood status heralds a new aeon in God's forgiving grace.

OK, so this was more than just an elementary lesson in Greek. It was also kind of a sketch for a Bible-class lesson plan on Matthew 1:1-17. But you learned a little about three noun cases:
  • Nominative, like the pronoun "he," used as a predicate nominative and as the subject of most verbs.
  • Accusative, like the pronoun "him," used as the direct object of most verbs and as the object of some prepositions.
  • Genitive, sometimes like the pronoun "his," can express a sense of possession, or like "of him" or "from him," a sense of belonging to, pertaining to, relating to, or originating with someone or something; and, of course, it is also used for the object of many prepositions.
In addition, there are two more cases that you haven't seen yet:
  • Dative, sometimes like the phrase "to him" or "for him," often used as an indirect object and, for some verbs, the direct object, as well as the object of some prepositions.
  • Vocative, frequently identical to the nominative form, and used to call on someone or something in direct address, as in "Friends, Romans, countrymen," or "O Lord..."
Besides these noun-related discoveries, you also met a few verbs. We'll worry about mastering them later. For now, perhaps it is enough if you remember to spot the e- prefix, known among grammarians as the "temporal augment," an indication of action taking place in the past.

Also try to keep in mind that an "aorist" is a verb describing an action completed at one point in time. Many aorists are easy to spot because, in the active voice, they tend to have an s embedded in their ending, while in the passive voice it's a th you should look for. When it's a finite verb (i.e., not an imperative, infinitive, or participle), the aorist always has a temporal augment (e-), so you can think of it as a "simple past tense." The only hitch is that when it isn't finite, the aorist doesn't imply a past tense, but only a sense of a specific, one-time act. Weird, huh? That's foreign languages for you!

Your assignment, before you move on to the next lesson, will be to commit the following table to memory.Recite the Greek forms of "the" aloud, column by column, until you have them cold. Use flash cards to learn to recognize them. Practice writing them, accent marks and all. This exercise will help you in more ways than you care to read about right now.