The Bible Truths Online Greek Course

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Lesson Seven - the Definite Article and Prepositions

(Study text then scroll down to questions)



     I am excited about all that you have learned up to this point, assuming you have applied yourself. In view of the enormity of our study, you may be thinking you have not learned much, but you have! I shall talk about this more in the next and final lesson.

     At this time, I want you to acquire a working concept of the Greek definite article ("the"). You will find the definite article of much value in several ways. The Greek definite article, o,h, and to appear to have evolved, according to some of the better grammarians. Be informed that o and h have rough breathing marks; hence, they are pronounced ho (short o sound) and he (long a sound).  Also, keep in mind that sigma at the end of a word resembles the English "s."    The definite article is another part of Koiné Greek that is illustrative of the beauty, precision, and skill of the language. All total, there are about seventeen "forms" of the definite article, counting the inflections. When you compare the Greek definite article and the English definite article (the), you see how much more advanced Greek is. It must be realized that there is really no indefinite article in Greek, as such ("a"). Allow me to now present the declension of o, h, and to. As you consider this declension, keep in mind that all declensions should be studied across and not in vertical columns; that is, the nominative singular is to be given in all three genders before the genitive singular is given.










N. o h to N. oi ai ta
G. tou thV tou G. twn twn twn
D. tw th tw D. toiV taiV toiV
A. ton thn to A. touV taV ta


     Notice ho (o with rough breathing, h also has rough breathing) is nominative, masculine, and singular. Hence, o logoV means "the word." Whereas oi logoi means "the words." One way a knowledge of the Greek definite article can assist you is that generally one can immediately determine the case, gender, and number of the word connected with the definite article by the definite article itself. Just as in the cases sited, o logoV identifies logoV as in the nominative case (subject case), masculine gender noun, and singular in number. If you encounter the definite article (inflected form) touV, you would know the associated word would be in the accusative case, masculine gender, and plural in number. Consider this Greek sentence: blepw touV logouV. The translation is "I saw the words." Revisit Lesson Six and notice the declension of omicron nouns. Notice the ouV ending in the plural, accusative case.

     Observe these additional cases involving the inflected definite article and see if you understand why I have translated them thus: tou logou (belonging to or of the word); blepw ton logon (I see the word); and oi logoi (the words). (More later).

     The purpose of the definite article is to identify, to limit, and, as the name suggests, to make definite. Therefore, when the article is present it emphasizes identity and when it is absent, the emphasis can be quality and not specificity, as such. This grammatical rule is sometimes illustrated with the expression o qeoV (the God) and qeoV (God). When the divine person is intended, a writer will use o qeoV and when the divine character or essence of God is intended, qeoV (no definite article) is used. Hence, the absence of the definite article does not necessarily mean the indefinite article is implied and inserted. Allow me to quote from Dana and Mantey:

     "Sometimes with a noun which the context proves to be definite the article is not used. This places stress upon the qualitative aspect of the noun rather than its mere identity. An object of thought may be conceived of from two points of view: as to identity or quality" (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pg. 149).

     Examine the Greek in I Thessalonians 4: 15. The Greek New Testament reads as follows, "touto gar umin legomen en logw kuriou." Notice the verse again and the order (syntax, considered more in Lesson Eight) of the words along with my translation: "touto (this) gar (for) umin (you) legomen (we say) en (in) logw (word or a word) kuriou (of Lord)," use your Interlinear Greek-English New Testament for the marks. Observe that "the" is absent in connection with Lord (kuriou). To render kuríou "of a lord" is totally inappropriate and incorrect, syntactically and contextually. I submit that the absence of the definite article is stressing the quality of the one from whom the word emanates and to whom the word belongs.

     Here is another example to consider in regards to the absence of the definite article: en arch hn o logoV kai o logoV hn proV ton qeon kai qeoV hn o logoV

     This is the famous expression, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (King James Translation). Notice in the Greek that there is no "the" in connection with the final occurrence of "God" (qeoV or theòs). When the immediate and remote context is viewed, to render theòs "a god" is totally incorrect (see vs. 3, 4). Jesus, the lógos, created all things (vs. 10). Jesus is God or deity (Jn. 20: 28). It is rank blasphemy and irresponsible "scholarship" that renders the statement thus: "In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god" (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Jehovah Witnesses). Of course, the Jehovah Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God. Their translators also lacked the scholarship to understand and render in the absence of the definite article. (Click on "The Only Begotten" to read more about Jesus' deity).

     New Testament writers are seen carefully and skillfully using the definite article. The book of Romans is an excellent treatise on the subject of justification by faith and not by law or earning salvation (Rom. 5: 1, 9). In such a climate, the inspired writer would omit "the" when discussing law any law, but when he wants to identify the Law of Moses, he employs the definite article. In Romans 4, Paul definitively shows that Abraham did not find justification by the flesh or by works of a human, meritorious nature (vs. 1, 2, 3 ff.). The King James reads, "For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith" (vs. 13). If you consult your interlinear, you find the definite article not present. The statement is literally, ou gar dia nomon (for not, not for, through law). Hence, it matters not what law is under review, man does not earn his justification through law keeping. However, in the next verse Paul mentions "the law," ei gar (for if) oi ek (out of the) nomou (law). Here, Paul is specifying "the law" or the Law of Moses, a particular law by using the article. He continues the thought peculiar to "the law" in half of verse 15 but in the second half, he omits the article; hence, referring simply to law. Where there is no law, whether the Law of Moses or any law, there cannot be sin (sin is law breaking, I Jn. 3: 4). By reading the original, you see many nuances and truths based on the insertion or omission of the article as to generality or specificity.

    I want to present one more example of how effectively the definite article can assist the Greek student. Some express an inability to know the reference of "that which is perfect" in I Corinthians 13: 10. Those who insist on the continuation of supernatural gifts such as prophecies, tongues, and miraculous knowledge maintain "the perfect" is Christ (see I Cor. 13: 8-10). Hence, miraculous gifts will continue until Jesus returns. Notice the original: to teleion (tò téleion). Without going into detail about téleion as to declension and thus establish the gender, you can immediately identify the gender by the definite article. If you revisit the declension of the article, you will see that tò has to be either nominative singular neuter or accusative singular neuter. However, there is no doubt about the neuter gender being the gender. Hence, téleion is perfect thing. If Paul had wanted to identify Christ's coming, he could have simply said oh Christós (the Christ), for instance. The perfect thing, I submit, is the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1: 25). With the completion of God's revelation, the age of miracles came to an end (cp. Eph. 4: 8-14). (To read more, click on "Have Miracles Ceased?")

     The matter of Greek prepositions. Prepositions express relationship. For example, in the sentence the book is in the desk, the English preposition "in" expresses a relationship between the book and the desk. It is a rule of English grammar that nouns following prepositions are always in the objective case. However, in Greek different prepositions take different cases. Here are some common Greek prepositions: en, eiV, ek, meta, dia, apo, and proV. Regarding some of these prepositions, there are some general rules. For instance, en always takes the dative case and is called the "in" preposition. In the statement "in the house," we would expect to read en tw oikw. On the other hand, the preposition eiV always takes the accusative case (forward or reaching action). Thus, "into or unto the house" would be expressed eiV ton oikon. To say "from the house" one would say apo tou oikou. Regarding en and eiV Machan makes the following observation: "…the dative the case of rest in a place, and the accusative the case of motion toward a place" (New Testament Greek for Beginners, pg. 40). In learning Greek prepositions, one is generally taught dia with the genitive means through; dia with the accusative, on account of and meta with the genitive means with; meta with the accusative means after. These rules illustrate how some prepositions can take on more than one case and can thus express a different meaning. However, en, eiV, ek, and apo each take only one case.

     Some have experienced difficulty understanding 2 Timothy 1: 6 and I Timothy 4: 14. In 2 Timothy 1: 6, Paul mentioned that Timothy had a miraculous gift "by the laying on of my hands." However, in I Timothy 4: 16, he wrote of the supernatural gift thus, "…with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." The explanation is seen in the two different prepositions. In 2 Timothy Paul used the preposition dia, which expresses instrumentality. Therefore, dia is often simply rendered "by" or "through." In I Timothy 4: 14, the preposition is meta, "with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." Here the simple meaning of meta is "with" or accompaniment. When the two prepositions are viewed along with the attendant associated circumstances, we have Paul himself imparting the gift to Timothy and he did this in the company of the elders, as they also laid their hands on Timothy. The gift came through Paul but the elder's were probably involved in an ordination act, hence, the accompanying laying on of their hands. The truths suggested by these two different prepositions is in complete harmony with the teaching that the apostles and the apostles only could impart miraculous gifts to others (see Acts 8: 14-18).

    As we bring this lesson to a close, let us briefly consider the preposition eiV. As we have seen, eis is always used with the accusative case and expresses forward or reaching action. Eis is often defined as "with a view to." As a result Jesus taught, mh oun (therefore be ye not) merimnhshte (anxious) eiV (with a view to) thn aurion (the morrow). (Matt. 6: 34.) In our study of conjunctions we considered the use of kaì in the statement "repent and be baptized." Let us now revisit Acts 2: 38.

     "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

     In an effort to teach the nonessentiality of water baptism in the matter of salvation, some contend that "for" (eis) means be baptized "because you already have the remission of sins." As noticed, though, eis is in the accusative case (revisit noun cases if there is a need) and is reaching forward. Peter is answering their question of what to do to be saved. If baptism is not with a view to remission of sins, then repentance is not as well (remember the role of kaì). It seemed as if the Holy Spirit anticipated that some would make the argument that "for" in Acts 2: 38 means "because of." I say this in view of Acts 22: 16, "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Notice that there is no "for" over which to quibble. (For a complete study of eiV in general and as used in Acts 2: 38, click on "What Does 'For' in Acts 2: 38 Mean?")

     There are many other points and observations that could be made regarding Greek prepositions and how they are used in the scriptures. Many treasures and precious truths reside in Greek prepositions. Just from our brief examination, though, you should have a basic knowledge and again be impressed with the precision of Koiné Greek.

     In the following vocabulary table, please observe the addition of the definite article.  Notice how the article helps to identify the gender, case, and number of the word.

odoV, h odos way
qeoV, o theos God
agaph, h agape love
topoV, o topos place
laoV, o laos people
CristoV, o Christos Christ
exousia, h exousia authority
hmera, h hemera day
artoV, o artos bread
ocloV, o ochlos crowd


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Questions for Lesson Seven


     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 are the three definite articles (answer in Greek)?

2.  In total, how many inflected forms of the definite article are there?

3.  How can the definite article assist the Greek student?

4.  Regarding case, gender, and number, what is ho?

5.  Can you write "the word," nominative case, masculine, and singular (answer in Greek)?

6.  How would you write in Greek "the words?"

7.  Translate blepw ton logon

8.  When the definite article is not present, should the indefinite always be supplied?

9.  Do you believe the New World Translation is correct in its translation of John 1: 1

10. What can the absence of the definite article suggest?

11. How do we know "that which" in I Corinthians 13: 8-10 is not Christ?

12. Name in Greek the seven common Greek prepositions

13. What cases do en and eiV  always take and what is the consequence? 

14. Write in Greek "unto or toward the house."

15. What two prepositions provide apparent detailed information about hands being laid on Timothy?

16. Does eiV mean "because of" or "with a view to" in Acts 2: 38?

17. What are the Greek words for way, God, and love?

18. How would you write "the day" in Greek?

19. What is the basic function of a Greek preposition?

20. Are Greek prepositions and the definite article more precise than in English?

Lesson Number (type in "Lesson Seven"):

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Click here to go to Lesson Eight.  Remember to first complete Lesson Seven.