The New Testament was written in the language used in the Greek-speaking world from about 300 B.C. to  A.D. 500. It was known as Koine or “common” Greek because it was street language—the language of the people—as opposed to the classical Greek of literature.
    Koine Greek was devised by Alexander the Great for one reason: to conquer the world. When Alexander first began pulling together an army from the Greek city-states over which he had won ascendancy, he found he had a serious problem. When his drill sergeants bellowed, “Left face, forward march,” every soldier moved in a different direction. There was no one Greek language. The men of Athens spoke with the classical eloquence of Attic Greek; the Spartans communicated in the monosyllabic grunts of Doric Greek.
    Before he could ever hope to conquer the world, Alexander had to conquer the tongue. His Greeks had to have one clear, easy-to-understand language. The language through which God would communicate the New Testament message was originally designed to be so clear, so exact, that in a combat situation every person on the battlefield would immediately understand his commanding officer’s instructions.
    Alexander had been taught by his tutor, Aristotle, to think with mathematical precision. When Alexander’s desire for accuracy and clarity in language met with his mathematical mindset, Koine Greek was the result. It was the perfect language in which to communicate absolute truth!
    Nowhere is the potential for accuracy more clear than in the Greek system of verbs. Every Greek verb has a three-fold fix so the reader can know exactly what the verb means. The three “fixes” are tense, voice, and mood.
    There are five tenses in Greek. Each tense tells the reader two things about the action the verb is describing: the “time” of the action and the “kind” of action. The possible times are past, present, and future. The possible kinds are linear (continuous or progressive action) and punctiliar (action that occurs at a point of time). A line (_______) illustrates linear action. A point (•) illustrates punctiliar action.
    The present tense shows progressive action in the present time (_______). When Jesus says in Mat 7:7, “Ask … seek … knock,” the present tense tells us that He does not mean, “Ask once and then quit,” but “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.”
    The aorist tense shows action that takes place at a point in time—that point could be in the past, present, or future (•).  In Act 16:31, Paul’s instruction to the Philippian jailer is in the aorist tense, telling him to make a once-for-all decision: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved.”
    The perfect tense, which cannot be adequately expressed in English, shows completed past action having present results (•_______). Joh 19:30, “It is finished,” says that the work of Christ on the cross was completed at that point in time, but its results continue forever.
    The imperfect tense shows continuous action in the past (_______•). In Act 1:6, the disciples “were asking” the risen Lord if He were about to restore the kingdom to Israel. The imperfect tense here tells us that they did not ask just once; they kept asking the same question over and over and over again.
    The future tense can show either continuous or completed action in the future.
    The three Greek voices show the relationship of the subject to the action of the verb. In the active voice, the subject produces the action (implying, therefore, choice on the part of the subject). In the passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb. In the middle voice, which has no English equivalent, the subject produces the action and participates in some way in the result of the action. The middle voice is like a boomerang.
    Mood shows the relationship of the action to reality from the viewpoint of the speaker. There are four moods in Greek. The indicative mood expresses real action. The subjunctive, optative, and imperative moods express three different kinds of potential action.
    1Co 15:1–2 gives a good illustration of how clearly Koine Greek can communicate—and of how inadequate English is to express the subtleties of Greek. In two verses, there are seven different verbs and five different constructions.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
I make known is present, active, indicative        _______
I preached is aorist, middle, indicative                    •
You received is aorist, active, indicative                  •
You stand is perfect, active, indicative              •______
You are saved is present, passive, indicative       _______
You hold fast is present, active, indicative          _______
You believed is aorist, active, indicative                  •
    The present tense and active voice of the verb “make known”  tell us that at the time Paul was writing this letter, he was choosing to continuously proclaim the Good News. When he says he “preached,” the aorist tense tells us that at some earlier point in time, he had told the Corinthians how to be saved and they had, in a moment of time, made a decision to “receive” the Word—they believed in Jesus Christ. With “stand” in the perfect tense, Paul is saying that at a point of time they took their stand, with the result that they will stand forever. The stand they took was faith in the only solid foundation: Jesus Christ. The present, passive, indicative “are saved” tells us that they did not save themselves—they received a salvation that is always in the present—it will last forever.
    Because of the phrases, “if you hold fast” and “unless you believed in vain,” this verse is often used by people who deny the eternal security of the believer. In English, it does sound as if salvation depends on our being able—in our own strength—to hold on. But there can be no question about what this verse says in the Greek.
    In Greek, there are four ways to say “if.” The first-class condition means “if, and it is true.” When Satan said to Jesus in Mat 4:3, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread,” he used a first-class condition. Satan had no doubt that Jesus was God.
    The second-class condition means “if, and it is not true.” When Simon the Pharisee in Luk 7:39 said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is,” he used a second-class condition. Simon was saying, “If Jesus were a prophet, but He is not.” He was displaying his unbelief.
    The third-class condition in Greek is closest to the English “if.” It means “maybe it is true and maybe it is not.” When Jesus said in Joh 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” He was saying that we have a choice. Maybe we will choose to love Him and maybe we will not, but if we do love Him, we will keep His commandments.
    The fourth-class condition, which is very rare, means “if, and I wish it were true, but it is probably not.” Peter used the fourth-class condition in 1Pe 4:16 when he wrote, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed.” The people to whom he was writing were suffering; Peter wished they were suffering because of their faith, but he knew most of their suffering was because of their lack of faith.
    In 1Co 15:2 Paul uses a first-class condition. A more literal translation would be, “by which … you are saved [since] … you hold fast the Word.”
    The meaning of the second “questionable” phrase in 1Co 15:2, “unless you believed in vain,”  is just as clear, but only when studied in the context of the entire chapter (cf. 1Co 15:12–19, especially 1Co 15:14, where “in vain” is defined).
    Koine Greek is by far the most accurate language known to man, but it is still a human language. In interpreting the Word, if we know the rules of the Greek language, but do not know the rules of Bible study, we will veer off course in our theology. Even if we understand the Greek language and the science of interpretation, but are not filled with the Holy Spirit when we study, we will not understand a thing God has to say to us (1Co 2:14).


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