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Matt Bondaruk | Forum Activity | Posted: Tue, Jul 6 2021 5:39 AM

I am learning NT Greek and working on the ARTICLE. I am also using John 1 in Greek as my learning passage. My question is this: How come there is no article before the word “beginning” in John 1:1?

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

I would really appreciate it if someone could explain this to me. Does it have something to do with the preposition “Ἐν”?

Thanks, Matt

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 6 2021 5:50 AM

Hi Matt

Matt Bondaruk:
My question is this: How come there is no article before the word “beginning” in John 1:1?

It is not always necessary for the article to be present as per:

Note on the article: In certain contexts the presence of the definite article is not required for the object, place, or person to be considered definite. E.g., God is considered specific in monotheistic religious contexts without the definite article, whether God is used as a proper noun or not.

 William Hersey Davis, Beginner’s Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Revised and expanded edition. (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2005), xxxii.

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Damian McGrath | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 6 2021 6:00 AM

Notwithstanding the prior excellent answer, Genesis 1:1 begins with  Ἐν ἀρχῇ in the Septuagint. 

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Matt Bondaruk | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 6 2021 6:33 AM

Thanks, Graham … much appreciated for the explanation.

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Matt Bondaruk | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 6 2021 6:33 AM

Thanks, Damien … much appreciated for the Genesis example.

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Jul 6 2021 2:28 PM

Matt Bondaruk:
Does it have something to do with the preposition “Ἐν”?

Yes. The preposition is a finger pointer like the definite article.

Objects of Prepositions

Certain words when used as objects of prepositions can be definite without an article. This is similar to our expressions “He is in bed” or “She has gone to town.” The words “bed” and “town” are definite without articles. The words are usually geographical or temporal, such as Matthew 17:27 (to the lake), Matthew 24:27 (from the east), Mark 2:1 (at home), Mark 15:21 (from the country), Luke 7:32 (in the marketplace), Luke 17:29 (from heaven), John 1:1 (in the beginning), and Acts 16:13 (to the river). The Greek article is absent in each of the above phrases.

 Richard A. Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek: A Linguistic and Exegetical Approach (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 67.

 - - - -

A. Introduction

One of the greatest gifts bequeathed by the Greeks to Western civilization was the article. European intellectual life was profoundly impacted by this gift of clarity. By the first century ce, it had become refined and subtle. Consequently, the article is one of the most fascinating areas of study in NT Greek grammar. It is also one of the most neglected and abused. In spite of the fact that the article is used far more frequently than any other word in the Greek NT (almost 20,000 times, or one out of seven words), there is still much mystery about its usage.3 The most comprehensive treatment, The Doctrine of the Greek Article by Middleton, is over one hundred and fifty years old. Nevertheless, although there is much that we do not understand about the Greek article, there is much that we do understand. As Robertson pointed out, “The article is never meaningless in Greek, though it often fails to correspond with the English idiom.… Its free use leads to exactness and finesse.”5 In the least, we cannot treat it lightly, for its presence or absence is the crucial element to unlocking the meaning of scores of passages in the NT.

In short, there is no more important aspect of Greek grammar than the article to help shape our understanding of the thought and theology of the NT writers.

As a side note, it should be mentioned that the KJV translators often erred in their treatment of the article. They were more comfortable with the Latin than with the Greek. Since there is no article in Latin, the KJV translators frequently missed the nuances of the Greek article. Robertson points out:

The translators of the King James Version, under the influence of the Vulgate, handle the Greek article loosely and inaccurately. A goodly list of such sins is given in “The Revision of the New Testament,” such as “a pinnacle” for τὸ πτερύγιον (Mt. 4:5). Here the whole point lies in the article, the wing of the Temple overlooking the abyss. So in Mt. 5:1 τὸ ὄρος was the mountain right at hand, not “a mountain.” On the other hand, the King James translators missed the point of μετὰ γυναικός (Jo. 4:27) when they said “the woman.” It was “a woman,” any woman, not the particular woman in question. But the Canterbury Revisers cannot be absolved from all blame, for they ignore the article in Lk. 18:13, τῷ ἁμαρτωλῷ. The vital thing is to see the matter from the Greek point of view and find the reason for the use of the article.

B. Origin

The article was originally derived from the demonstrative pronoun. That is, its original force was to point out something. It has largely kept the force of drawing attention to something.

 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 207-208.

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Matt Bondaruk | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 7 2021 8:18 AM

Thanks  brother, for the in-depth explanation to my question.

May I ask you another related question?

In John 1:1, the word “θεόν” is preceded by the article “τὸν’ (Accusative case) but the word “θεὸς” (Nomitive case) is NOT preceded by the article. Why is God sometimes preceded by the article and other times it is not?

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Wed, Jul 7 2021 12:42 PM

Matt Bondaruk:
In John 1:1, the word “θεόν” is preceded by the article “τὸν’ (Accusative case) but the word “θεὸς” (Nomitive case) is NOT preceded by the article. Why is God sometimes preceded by the article and other times it is not?

Screen shot shows the 1 footnote in Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar can be used to open Greek Grammar beyond the Basics.

 William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek: Grammar, ed. Verlyn D. Verbrugge, Third Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 27–28.

 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 266–269.

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