Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek


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New Testament Greek Syntax Index

Johannine Vocabulary Edwin A. A Greek Grammar William W. Goodwin, K.

Students just learning Greek usually like the imperfect tense, because it only occurs in the indicative mood - no participles, no infinitives, no imperatives. And anyone who is seriously trying to master the language is always grateful for something that they don't have to learn! Past time - Imperfect always describes something that happens in the past.

Continued action - Imperfect always describes something that is continued, repeated or habitual. There are some minor refinements of this explanation, but it is almost always safe to view an imperfect verb as continued action, not the simple action of the aorist or the completed action of the perfect tense. When you encounter an imperfect verb in Greek, imagine that you have been zapped in a time machine and dumped into a scene in the past. You look around and ask, "What's going on? You don't know when they started their task, and you don't know how long they will keep it up.

You just know that the work was in process when you looked. That's when Greek uses the imperfect tense.

When you return to the 21st century to give your report, you say, "The peasants were chopping down trees. This allows a Greek writer to be specific about the three different types of action that can come into play: simple, continued, and completed.

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But there is only one future tense, and the Greeks had to use it to cover all the possible types of action. It is probably best to assume that most future tense verbs are describing simple actions, without including extra concepts like continued action. This is not an area where you should build elaborate arguments on the grammar.

What can we say about a future tense verb? Grammarians have rightly pointed out that there are at least two shades of meaning which can be conveyed by a future tense verb:. Prediction -- Most future tense verbs are simple predictions of what will happen. As we read the New Testament, it is important to remember that a prediction is only as good as the person who does the predicting. When God says something is going to happen, you can count on it. But when the Pharisees predict something, you might want to get a second opinion!

NT Greek Syntax Burton

Command -- Occasionally a future tense verb is actually a command or instruction. How can you tell which idea is in effect for a given verse? There is no difference in the spelling or forms of the word, so you must examine the context and use your common sense to determine which idea makes the best sense in that passage.


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The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe a completed action which produced results which are still in effect all the way up to the present. The action was completed at some time in the past, and the results continue up to the present. The apostle John is making the point that he was an eyewitness to the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and that personal experience serves as the basis for the message that he proclaims decades later.

You might paraphrase the first verb as "We saw Him, and we can still visualize what we saw. But the results continue. What he learned so many years ago remains with him now.

The pluperfect is a seldom-used tense related to the perfect. It occurs only 86 times in the New Testament, and most Greek teachers spend little time on it. But to be complete, here is an explanation:. The pluperfect has the same meaning as the perfect tense, except that it only brings the results of an action up to a selected time in the past. The perfect tense, in contrast, brings the results all the way up to the present. While perfect tense is usually translated "I have believed," pluperfect is translated "I had believed.

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On the other hand, suppose I have not studied Greek recently. I probably could not pass a quiz today, but I got a really good score on the quiz I took last month. Back Dr. John Bechtle The Ezra Project. Present Tense In English, we know that the present tense describes something happening right now. In the indicative mood, however, it can refer to other types of action. Imperfect Tense Students just learning Greek usually like the imperfect tense, because it only occurs in the indicative mood - no participles, no infinitives, no imperatives. The meaning of the imperfect tense is straightforward: Past time - Imperfect always describes something that happens in the past.

Grammarians have rightly pointed out that there are at least two shades of meaning which can be conveyed by a future tense verb: 1.

Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek
Syntax of the Moods & Tenses in New Testament Greek

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