"Plain Old Vanilla"

I have to admit that the one thing that intimidated me more than anything about going to one of our brotherhood schools of preaching was having to take Greek. I was fortunate to have a very patient and understanding teacher and believe it or not, Greek wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. That may sound rather “after the fact” but it was nonetheless true. Almost immediately after I started learning Greek, we learned about the Greek verb. The Greek verb is complicated and truly dizzying when looking into all of its various facets. There was one aspect of it that we kept coming back to time and time again, namely, present tense, active voice, and indicative mood -? present, active, indicative.
This was the first aspect of the Greek verb that we learned as it is perhaps the most simple for the new student to understand. Everyone knows what present tense is. It is action that is occurring in the present. An active voice verb contains actions that happen to something other than the subject, and indicative mood simply means that it is a statement of fact. “I see spot run.” There’s a present, active, indicative verb in that sentence, “see.” As we advanced into the more difficult aspects of the Greek verb in our studies, every once in a while the book would throw us a present, active, indicative verb just to make sure we were paying attention. Usually it would throw us off and we would say, “Is that …?” To which the teacher would reply, “Yup, plain old vanilla.”
Understanding the present, active, indicative verb in the New Testament plays an important role in studying the Bible. The action of the present, active, indicative verb represents ongoing action. This can be represented by an ongoing horizontal line (———). The King James Version translators, in an effort to try to convey this particular aspect to the Greek verb, placed a special ending on the verb, -eth. Many times we wonder why such funny sounding words are still in that version today. If we understand what the translators were trying to do, then we can learn more about God’s word. The words that have that ?eth ending on them usually correspond to a present, active, indicative Greek verb. This means that the action in that verb is ongoing, or continual.
One really significant example of this is found in the book of 1 John. In the KJV, 1 John 3:6 reads, “Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” Notice the words “abideth,” and “sinneth.” When we understand that the ?eth ending represents continual action, then we understand that the meaning behind this verse is in regard to those who keep on abiding in Jesus, that is, those that do that, do not keep on sinning. However, the one who keeps on sinning, doesn’t know who Jesus is. One might read these verses and conclude that if one is in Jesus that one cannot sin at all. Such would not be the case. They may sin occasionally (1 John 2:1), but they do not sin continually. We know that because of the significance of the present, active, indicative verb in the Greek language.
So, the next time you see that ?eth ending on a verb in the King James Version, remember “plain old vanilla” and the continual action of the present tense Greek verb.

3 Replies to “"Plain Old Vanilla"”

  1. Thanks brother Cauley,
    It was good to see this section added to the efforts from the Berryville congregation.
    I have another brother
    who attends worship with myself at Groesbeck(Cincinnati,Ohio) as we have discussed the Greek language as it applies to lessons we might hear and/or give.
    I,m hoping to tell Jonathan about the addition to the magazine from Berryville as he is planning attending FHU
    after he graduates from
    high school. Maybe he’ll encourage me to attend preacher’s school?
    Thanks Kevin; Thank you
    brother Al Rohner
    Groesbeck Church of Christ(Cincinnati,Ohio)

  2. Hello, I have enjoyed reading your columns and generally agree with your conclusions; however, I do have a minor disagreement with one statement in your article entitled “Plain Old Vanilla.” My contention is your definition of active voice as “An active voice verb contains actions that happen to something other than the subject . . .” Unfortunately, when looking at active voice — this is not quite correct. Active voice is when the noun or pronoun acting as a noun (any noun – subject, object, etc.) is performing the action. Your example, “I see spot run” has two examples of what would be present active indicative verbs.
    “I see” (1st person singluar present active indicative) of the subject “I” performing the action of seeing – hence I am seeing (Bleppo). “Spot run” (3rd person present active indicative); thefore, Spot (the object) is performing the action — i.e., running. I am seeing Spot running.
    The other two voices are Passive – where the action is performed on noun or pronoun in question. “Spot is being seen by me.”
    The Middle voice where the action is being accomplished on the noun or pronoun by itself/herself/himself. “I am seeing myself.”
    I hope this helps. Keep up the great work.
    Jim Owston

  3. Thanks for your comment, Jim. I believe I did confuse “voice” with “transitiveness.” Thank you for pointing that out.

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