The Bible Truths Online Greek Course

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Lesson Five - Greek Verbs

(Study text then scroll down to questions)



     At this point, you should have gained a working knowledge of a number of the essential skills involved in a basic concept of Koiné Greek, especially from the standpoint of Greek word recognition. As I have attempted to impress upon you, the Greek language is not the language of illiteracy. For a number of years, some believed Koiné Greek was the product of uneducated men who simply attempted to express themselves in writing. We talked about this in our introduction to the Greek language. I have been a student of Greek for many years and I never cease to be amazed at the simplicity and also complexity of the language, the syntax and detailed information imparting ability. Some Greek grammarians have considered the Greek verb to be the most important part of Greek grammar. As has been my practice heretofore, I shall only mention the bare essentials relative to the matter of Greek verbs. However, our treatment of verbs should be sufficient to enable you to linguistically function and to advance to higher levels, if such is desired. You must remember, though, that regardless of how much you learn, there are still the recognized authoritative works in Greek (Lesson Eight). By processing a basic knowledge of Greek grammar, however, you will not have to blindly trust the authorities and you can do a great deal of your own research.

     You will probably experience different reactions as you study the Greek verb. You must remember that any new knowledge is progress. Even if you do not master the total concept of verbs, you will know more than you did before you began Lesson Five (assuming you had no prior knowledge).

     Blackwelder wrote thus regarding the Greek verb: "The Greek verb is an intricate piece of word mechanism. As an interpreter studies it analytically, he is thrilled at the many shades of meaning set forth by its various forms. Since it is the main word in a sentence, the verb is capable of more changes and hence of expressing a greater variety of meanings than the other words," (Light from the Greek New Testament, pg. 51).

     As is true with many languages, the Greek verb has five areas of importance. The trained student will learn to be aware of these areas as he analyzes a sentence or verse of scripture (I shall have a section on sentence structure in Greek in Lesson Eight). These five areas of importance are: tense, voice, mood, person, and number. We shall examine the first three of these aspects of the verb and briefly address the remainder.

     The Greek verb and tense. The emphasis of this lesson shall be on verb tense. In the matter of tense, the English verb pertains primarily to time. However, the tense of the Greek verb has two elements of consequence, time of action and kind of action. Simply worded, the verb expresses the state of the action. Perhaps no other language distinguishes the various relations of the verb so accurately as the Greek, because tense has had its greatest development in the Greek verb.

     Allow me to deviate momentarily by saying that verb information is imparted through conjugation. In English, one conjugates the present tense verb "be" as I am, you are, he is, we are, you are, and they are. This is sort of what I mean by verb conjugation. However, because of the precision and capability of Greek verbs, the providing of the subsets of the inflected forms in a fixed order can be more involved. The distinctions between first person (person speaking), second person (person spoken to), third person (person spoken of), and between singular and plural numbers, which in English are indicated for the most part by subject pronouns, are indicated in Greek by the endings (more in Lesson Six). Hence, by a series of suffixes and prefixes the various tenses, modes, voices, persons, and numbers are clearly expressed in the Greek verb. Therefore, no pronoun is necessary to translate the verb luo (I loose) and luomen (we loose, this is a simple illustration of the person and number capability of Greek Verbs, I shall illustrate the conjugation of luo later).

     There are three essential kinds of action expressed by the Greek tenses. They are: action considered in a single perspective, as a whole, this is called point action (momentary or punctiliar are the terms used by scholars); action regarded as in progress, as a line (you will see the terms linear or durative in different works); and action presented as perfected, which emphasizes its results or abiding state. Simply stated and as a rule, corresponding to these three basic tenses are the aorist, present (in the indicative mood), and perfect (indicative mood). Point action is denoted by the aorist tense; linear or action in progress is suggested by the present, imperfect, and future tenses; and action in a state of completion is denoted by the perfect, pluperfect, and future perfect tenses (I am getting a little ahead of myself).

     The Greek verb involves seven tenses. They are the aorist, present, perfect, imperfect, future, pluperfect, and the future perfect. I want us to briefly consider the four most common of these tenses: the aorist, present, perfect, and imperfect tense.

     The aorist tense in Greek is very common. The aorist is the simple past tense (outside the indicative mood and participle form). Without attempting to become too complicated, allow me to mention that a verb in the aorist may emphasize the beginning of the action (ingressive aorist), the conclusion (culminative aorist) or the action as a whole (constative aorist). I am mentioning these matters to you because you need to be aware of these considerations in your studies and in using reference works, but I also mention them to illustrate the developed and sophisticated nature of Greek verbs.

     We are told, "Jesus wept" (Jn. 11: 35). Many scholars remark that the aorist tense of "wept" is the ingressive aorist. Hence, some translate the verse, "Jesus burst into tears" (New Testament Commentary, by Hendriksen, Vol. 4). The culminative aorist is seen in the statement, "…I have gained beside them five talents more" (Matt. 25: 20). The aorist used as action as a whole is seen in, "…he gave…" (Jn. 3: 16).

     There is much information conveyed in the present tense of the Greek verb. Simply stated, the present tense of Greek verbs denotes continuous action or action in progress. There are many examples of the present tense. We read, "And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish" (Matt. 8: 25). The verb translated "perish" is apollumeqa (a-pol-lú-me-tha). The grammatical information on this verb is: First person, plural, present tense, indicative mood, and passive voice.  I will explain how you can verify this information in Lesson Eight. Based on the present tense status of the verb, the disciples are literally saying "We are presently in the process of perishing." Which is fuller and replete with emotion, "we perish" or "we are presently in the process of perishing?" When you appreciate the present tense, can not you just see the ship being covered with waves and the impending and eminent loss of lives and hear their plaintive cry for help (Matt. 8: 23-27).

     I John 3: 6 has caused many difficulty and grief. The verse reads, "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him." John said in I John 1: 8 that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Is John contradicting himself and are we in a state of hopelessness? The answer lies in the verb tense of "whosoever sinneth." The verb "sinneth" is amartanwn (ha-mar-tá-non). The verb used by John is present tense. Hence, John is saying one cannot live in sin and know God (cp. Isa. 59: 1, 2). While the Amplified Translation has some failures, it is excellent on verb tense. The Amplified renders I John 3: 6 thus, "No one who abides in Him - who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him…, habitually commits (practices) sin. No one who habitually sins has either seen or known Him…." In I John 1, a single act of sin is being contemplated, in I John 3, the practice of sin is being considered. (click on "Sin" to read more about sin. Be sure to use your browser return to come back to this page.)

     The Holy Spirit taught and enhanced many truths by carefully using verb tense and the Koiné has preserved these truths for us. Take, for example, Jesus teaching in Matthew 19: 9:

     "And I say unto you. Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery."

     Some hold the view that when one remarries, regardless of circumstances, they are guiltless. Consider the verb moicatai (moi-châ-tai, notice the two diphthongs, remember how they are pronounced and the circumflex accent over the penult). Moichâtai is the verb translated "committeth adultery."  Moichâtai is 3 person, singular in number, present tense, and indicative mood. Many believe and teach that one who has been unscripturally or scripturally put away may remarry without guilt. Some contend that even if a divorce is unscriptural (not for cause of fornication), when one remarries such action frees the other and permits their remarriage. However, clause b forbids remarriage under these circumstances (moichâtai used again).

     One more example of the present and then we will consider the perfect tense. We reference Galatians 1: 6, 7 when we talked about "another." Now consider the verses from the slant of the verb used.

     "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ."

     In reading many translations, it appears these Christians had already fallen away. Thus Paul is a little late in his warnings. However, we learn they had not totally fallen away when we consider the verb tense Paul used. The verb translated "removed" is metatiqesqe (me-ta-tí-thes-the). Metatíthesthe is 2 person, plural, present tense, indicative mood, and passive voice. Notice the present tense status. Hence, as Paul wrote to these Christians, they were in the very process of falling away from Christ. What a vivid picture!

     The instance of the perfect tense. The perfect tense conveys the idea of completed action with abiding results. In the words of Machen, "The Greek perfect tense denotes the present state resultant upon a past action" (Machen's Grammar, pg. 187). When Jesus said to the devil, "it is written" he was not quoting an archaic principle of antiquity (Matt. 4: 10, cp. Deut. 6: 13). Jesus used the perfect tense (gegraptai, 3 person, singular, Perfect, indicative, passive). In other words, it was written in the past and is still in force (perfect tense). Many use I Corinthians 7: 15 to teach remarriage based on desertion ("not under bondage"). However, the perfect tense of the verb translated "under bondage" shows Paul does not even have the marriage bond, as such, in mind. In other words, they had not in the past been under bondage and are not now under bondage (dedoulotai, 3 person, singular in number , perfect in tense, indicative mood, and passive voice, cp. vs. 23).

     The imperfect tense. "The imperfect may be regarded as a sort of auxiliary to the present tense, functioning for it in the indicative to refer its significance of continuous action to past time," Dana and Mantey's Grammar, pg. 186. The aorist tells the simple story, the imperfect draws the picture. We are told regarding Joseph and Mary that Joseph "knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son…" (Matt. 1: 25). "Knew not" is imperfect; hence, Joseph was not intimate with Mary throughout the past time. The use of the imperfect in this case, implies Joseph and Mary had a normal marriage subsequent to Jesus' birth (cp. Mk. 6: 3). Observe A. T. Robertson's comments on Matthew 1: 25: "Note the imperfect tense, continuous or linear action. Joseph lived in countenance with Mary till the birth of Jesus. Matthew does not say that Mary bore no other children than Jesus…" (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 12, mentioned in Lesson Eight).

     There are some aspects of Greek verbs that I do not deem necessary to mention in this lesson. At the beginning of this lesson, I mentioned that the Greek verb has five areas of importance: tense, voice, mood, person, and number. We have emphasized tense, now allow me to just briefly mention the other four features.

     The quality of the verb which indicates the relationship of the subject to the action is voice. The active voice means the subject is acting, and the passive voice means the subject is passive or being acted upon. Sometimes the context over rides the voice feature of the verb (see Acts 2: 40, cp. 37-39). Unlike English, the Greek verb can have the middle, which expresses the action returning to the subject. Mood is the aspect of the verb that shows the relation of the action to reality. Mood (sometimes spelled mode) tells whether the action is actual or potential. In Greek, there is only one mood which demonstrates the reality of action, the indicative mood. There are three potential moods, the subjunctive, optative, and imperative. The indicative mood is the most common, as you have probably noticed from the grammatical information I have presented to illustrate tense. Person is the concept of whether the subject is speaking (first person) is being spoken to (second person), or is being spoken about (third person). The final aspect of the Greek verb is number. Simply stated, number tells if the subject is plural or singular.

     With the full information about the five features of the Greek verb before you, let us revisit "perish" in Matthew 8. I pointed out that the verb information is regarding apollumeqa (a-pol-lú-me-tha) is: First person, plural, present tense, indicative mood, and passive voice. Consider each feature. "First person" the subject, the disciples, is speaking; "plural" (more than one disciple); present tense (action in progress); "indicative mood" (the action is real not potential or hypothetical); "passive voice" (the subject, the disciples, are being acted upon, they have no control over the storm). Just look what you have learned about Greek verbs! When you use Greek reference works, you will know what they mean and how to interpret information such as we just illustrated regarding apolúmetha.

     Earlier in this lesson, I mentioned the conjugation of Greek verbs. Conjugation can be very involved and require much memory commitment time. However, you do not have to memorize all the various conjugations. A basic understanding of conjugation, though, will help you to understand and use reference works.

     Let us consider the conjugation of the verb luw. I do not want to intimidate you but there are a number of conjugations of lúo. For instance, there is the present active indicative of lúo; present middle indicative; the imperfect active indicative; the imperfect middle indicative; and the future active indicative of lúo. I shall simply present a table of the common present active indicative of lúo to provide you with a sample. Again, you do not have to learn these conjugations to be able to successfully study the Greek of the New Testament, especially in using the reference works I shall explain in Lesson Eight.  Notice how the stem (lu) remains the same and the endings change.  This is the reason when you look up a certain verb in a given sentence, it may appear to be different from the spelling found in works such as Vine's.  Observe also how in the different positions of luo in the present active indicative conjugation, the person and number change.  Since this common conjugation is present active, it involves the subject as engaging in ongoing action. Because of the indicative mood, the action is real.


luw - I am destroying luomen - We are destroying
lueiV- Thou art destroying luete - Ye are destroying
luei - He is destroying luousi - They are destroying


     Let us consider one more conjugation.  This time observe the imperfect active indicative of luo.



eluon - I was destroying eluomen - We were destroying
elueV - Thou wast destroying eluete - Ye were destroying
elue- He was destroying eluon- They were destroying


    Observe that in the imperfect active indicative of luo, the action is past.  Remember that the imperfect is an auxiliary to the present tense, functioning for it in the indicative (real action) to refer its significance of continuous action to past time (aorist tense).  Again the stem remains static (unchanged); however, to form the imperfect active indicative, epsilon is placed at the first of the verb luo.

     If you are a really serious student and want to spend an enormous amount of time memorizing all the inflection or conjugation of verbs (orderly arrangement of voices, moods, tenses, person, and number), you need to purchase some of the Greek grammars I will be discussing in Lesson Eight.  In this introductory treatment of verbs, I just wanted to show and illustrate to you the nature and essence of the Greek verb.  I personally do not see how the Holy Spirit could have selected a richer and more precise language than Koine Greek to articulate God's will to man. 

     Here are your vocabulary words for Lesson Five. 


aggeloV angelos an angel
qeoV theos God
kosmoV kosmos world
teknon teknon a child
liqoV lithos a stone
profhthV prophetes prophet
autoV autos he
auth aute she
lambanw lambano I take
uioV huios a son


     As always, look up these words in Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words to obtain the accent and breathing marks.  Remember the rule that when gamma is followed by a gamma, kappa, or chi, it is pronounced as the English n in English.  Hence, angelos and not aggelos.  If you are consulting Vine's, you see that uioV has a rough breathing mark.  Therefore, it is transliterated and pronounced huios.  Also remember that when sigma is found at the end of a Greek word, it is usually transliterated resembling the small s in English.  Notice the only verb in the list, lambano.  Since it has the omega ending, what can you determine about the inflection of lambano? (Go back to present indicative of luo table.)  See, you are learning more than you think.

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Questions for Lesson Five


     Please fill in the answers referring back to the above study material.  Be sure to supply your name and e-mail in the provided form.  Remember to click on the submit button and allow a day or two, normal circumstances, for the reviewing of your answers and return of your grade.


1.  What did Professor Blackwelder say regarding the Greek verb?

2.  What are the five areas of importance regarding the Greek verb?

3.  Regarding present tense, what are the two elements of consequence?

4.  Concisely stated, what is verb conjugation?

5.  Regarding inflection, what part of the verb is unchanged and what part changes?

6.  What are the seven tenses of Greek verbs?

7.  What is the simple past tense called?

8.  What are some truths taught by the present tense?

9.  What is the perfect tense in Greek verbs?

10. What tense would be used to express continuous past action?

11. Regarding function imparting information, what does voice tell us?

12. What influence can over ride grammar?

13. Can you explain mood?

14. Explain number and person regarding Greek verbs.

15. What does luete mean?

16. Can you name three conjugations?

17.To which conjugation does luete belong?

18. What is the Greek pronoun for he (answer in Greek)?

19. What is the Greek pronoun for she (answer in Greek)?

20. Why is an English h added to uios and why is aggelos pronounced angelos?

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Click here to go to Lesson Six.  Remember to first complete Lesson Five.