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Diving Deeper: Understanding the Bible from the Greek Text

December 13, 2015

Koine Greek is a very powerful and deep language.  The New Testament of the Bible is unfortunately lost in translation in some circumstances.  Before delving into an example, let’s review some basic but forgotten English Grammar, because it is similar to Greek Grammar, and sheds light on this theological principle.  We need to refresh our memory on tenses.  A tense designates time for a verb.  For example, “I ate” is in the past tense, and “I am eating” is in the present tense.  We will be studying the perfect tense.  The perfect tense signals that an action happened in the past, but still is having effect in the present.  The key word, in English for this, is “has”.  For example, “He has bought groceries”.  The “he” bought groceries, but the fact that he bought groceries is still effecting the present.  The perfect tense is tense is very important in Greek, and here is an example of how interpreting using the Greek text and grammar can shed light on the text.  Our study will come out of Hebrews 12:3.


Consider him who has endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

This verse on the surface level is recalling that Jesus was crucified on the cross for our sins in order to give us a future, heaven, which is worth fighting for.  Now, let’s look at the Greek!  The word for “has endured” is ὑπομεμενηκότα.  This is pronounced who-poe-men-hey-kota. This word is in the perfect tense, which we learned refers to an action that happened in the past but still has effects in the future.  As Christians, we believed that Christ was crucified and died for us, but how does this affect the present?  Obviously, Christ’s death and passion has given us hope, because he opened the gates of heaven for us, but the truth from this phrase is even stronger.  This is not a happy verse like it seems to be, this verse is truly hard to swallow.  To understand what the author is trying to say, let’s read ahead a little bit.  It says that Christ has endured from sinners such hostility against himself.  The author mentions an eerie, overlooked reality that Christ has been condemned more than once.  In fact, each time we sin, we condemn him again.  Stop, read that sentence again, and insert “I”.

“Each time I sin, I condemn him again.”

We’re human beings, we sin all the time and it’s casual to us, but consider this sentence one more time.

“Each time I sin, I condemn Jesus Christ again.”

 St. Francis Assisi had this to say about Hebrews 12:3, “Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.” Our author is not wanting us, his audience, to focus solely on the specific event of Christ’s death, but on the continuation of his pain and suffering.  He wants us to focus on the hostility that we still bring on Christ.  We cause Christ to suffer each time we give into our sins.  Our savior loves us so much that our sins become something that he has to endure.  We must always think twice, because our sins truly do have consequences.  This is just one example of how important Greek can be when reading the Bible.

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