Help with the Greek!


#1

In a discussion with a Calvinist recently, I was presented with this curious argument regarding Romans 5:17:

"But the point is, that greek pronouns determine the range, the scope, the who, the what…of what it is being said : ) oι is a type, a class, a group - never a ‘universal all’. in order to mean a universal all - it must say ‘παντες oι’. which it does not…so the universalist is in error, beacause he does not truly understand ancient greek… "

I know that on exegetical grounds, his argument is unsound (the ‘they’ who receive grace are clearly the same ‘all’ that Paul refers to throughout the passage (Romans 5:12-21). However, I don’t know Greek, and was hoping for some help here.


#2

No universalist I know of argues that hoi by itself means “all” without qualification. How would any plural pronoun do that BY ITSELF? Of course further vocab and context are needed to determine scope and intent. But context is needed not just to determine universal scope/intent. It’s needed to determine scope/intent PERIOD. So the first mistake your friend makes is to misunderstand the universalist’s argument. The second mistake he makes is to reason that where no explicit claim specifying a universal intent is present that a non-universal (i.e., limited) scope is present. In other words, he takes the absence of an explicit universalizing qualification to be equivalent to an expicit limiting qualification. But what grammar did he get that from? Heck, even IF I say “all who…” (with the pantes your friend says is required), I may still have only a part of the whole of creation in mind, since I’m going to follow “who…” with a description of those I’m talking about, and that might be only a percentage of the whole of a larger class to which those specified belong.

So…the scope of plural pronouns is determined by context, in my opinion. Their just pronouns for crying out loud.

But what’s important to point out to your friend is that in v. 18 both context AND vocabulary come together to make a strong case for UR. In v. 18 the precise language which your friend agrees would carry universal intend is present: “…even so by the rigteousness of one dikiomatos eis pantas anthropous.” There’s your pantas if you need one. And given the context under consideration, I don’t know how Paul could have made the universal scope of his intentions any more explicit.

Tom


#3

…so the universalist is in error, beacause he does not truly understand ancient greek…

Tom: Am I the only one picking up on a certain condescension in this? We don’t “truly” understand ancient Greek (as does your friend, of course). That’s so smug of your friend in light of the universalism AND Greek of somebody like Gregory of Nyssa (or other ancient Fathers or modern Orthodox whose Greek pretty much rocks). Ugh.

Tom


#4

{hoi} is only a plural direct article, which serves in Greek like “those” or “the ones”. (Literally in English it would a plural “the”, “thes”. :wink: )

It’s a non sequitur to complain that it never means a “universal all”; it doesn’t mean “all” in itself anyway. Whether it means “all” completely depends on context, including grammatic context, with something else: does it refer back to a group of “all”? If so, and if that group is (on various grounds) considered exhaustive, then yes it means “those all”.

As you noted, exegetically the constructive parallel of the verse suggests all anyway: “For if through the offense of the one death reigned through the one” where Paul has previously said, as the Calv would agree, death reigned through all–so the “one” there stands for “all”–“much moreso the ones receiving the abundance of the grace and the gift of righteousness in life shall be reigning through Christ.” The construction would tend to overemphasize the inclusiveness of “ones” compared to a “one” that stood for including “all” (minus the special case exception of Christ).

However I want to note that I doubt Paul is primarily claiming the universal victory of salvation in verse 17. The grammar of the sentence, while incidentally pointing to an emphatic inclusion of all in the plural ones (compared to the all included in the singular one from the preceding phrase), is more about this comparison: if death reigns in these, how much moreso shall those receiving grace and righteousness reign in Christ. The comparison is primarily about relative superiority of reign, and who or what is reigning and why; not primarily about how many people are reigning.

Put another way, the universalist case for Rom 5 isn’t hung primarily (or even secondarily, I would say) on verse 17 anyway.

That having been said: I was very amused by your Calv opponent’s insistence that {hoi} can only mean a universal all if paired with {pantes}. Because of course this is what happens next in verse 18! (Except with “persons” instead of a plural “the” for “those” or “the ones”.)

“So then, as it was through one offense into all men {pantas anthropous} into condemnation”–which the Calv will certainly agree means all men universally (the special case of Christ excepted in a way)–“so also it was through one righteous act into all men {pantas anthropous} into righteous-ing (or justification) of life.”

But the whole structure of Rom 5 has to be added up: the universalist case for Rom 5 doesn’t rest only on verse 18 (which by itself might only mean that God has provided salvation for all through Christ, not that all shall be made righteous.)


#5

Jason: {hoi} is only a plural direct article, which serves in Greek like “those” or “the ones”. (Literally in English it would a plural “the”, “thes”).

Tom: Quite right. hoi is just the plural of ho [the].

T


#6

Thanks guys, that was very helpful!

Here’s the latest from my correspondent:


#7

Wow, this guy is a hoot! Here’s how the discussion started. His responses are in bold.

Me: I saw that you said that universal salvation is infeasible in light of the original languages of the Bible. Is that still your position?

**Him: yes. that is my position on many issues. without being fluent in the original languages of the bible…ones opinions are only vague shadows of the truth… forturnately for us, God does not require a perfect knowledge to be saved. the only requirement for salvation is a moment of faith in the Lord Jesus. but that moment of faith is required. and Christian Universalists make the error, of not understanding that in the greek NT, the word ‘all’ is never universal. it means all of a certain kind or type. what do u think of that ? **

Me: In the Greek NT, ‘all’ has a wide range of applications. Who do you think is the referent of ‘all’ in Romans 5:12?
**
Him: ok. we may have to mash this up for a while. but let me put it this way. there are over 125 verses in the NT, that place the requirement of believing or faith upon salvation… it is just not good hermeneutics to pick up one single verse that supports ur postion…and ignor the other 100 plus verses that smash u. if christian unversalism were true…than there would not be any requirement of believing in any bible verse : ) **

Me: I agree with the hermeneutic principle you mention above. However, you are simply incorrect in saying that if universal salvation is true then faith would be unnecessary. My conviction is that every sinner will finally be saved but only through faith in Christ. But let’s take this slowly and carefully.

**Him: just food for thought: one of elements that i believe to be relevant, is koine greek syntax. conditional clauses. volitional clauses. prohibitive clauses. do you know about those things? and i would like to establish a hermeneutical basis for our chat. i approach the bible from the perspective of “literal and grammatical hermeneutics”. although my view does allow for figures of speach, and metaphor, as long as we use greek and hebrew understanding…the syntax of greek and hebrew, as well as their idiom, are alien to an untrained english reader… **

Me: I am by no means an expert in Koine Greek, but I am able to keep my head afloat. But why don’t we just get into it and discuss specific texts. Would you care to begin with Romans 5:12-21?
**
Him: hey, how are u today? i am great. and yes i would love to start with that passage. as long as we do not try to make it a one shot solution. in proper hermenuetics: scripture must be compared to other scriptures that bear on that subject. and our interpretation of the overall doctrine must line up, with what all the related scriptures teach. the common error of heretics, is not using the whole council of God. they can take any passage or verse, and force any interpretation they want onto it - when they try to avoid using all of the Bible in their final interpretation. do you agree ???

that being said: i view the passage from the lapsarian perspective. because of the meaning of the greek text. i interpret the passage as “that salvation is universally available”. available meaning potential. in greek, the mood and tone of the statement is “indicative”, i will not deny that. But in verse 17, the “d.npm 'oι those” is used. the word means “them or those of a certain class or group”. it in no way shape or form, means “all or every”. period.

furthermore, paul himself in this same book 9.14-23, clearly states that God in His sovereignty - pharoah as an example - has chosen some for glory (heaven), and some for destruction (hell).

furthermore, paul, in the book of romans, continually uses the “catagorical pronoun - 'ημων - us or we” to state that some limited group has recieved justification only because they have believed. or requiring a personal choice in believing, before being justified. romans 5.1-2. this same verse also uses the greek phrase “την προσαγωγην” to demonstrate that we have “access” without any sure promise that we will for sure, obtain righteousness by faith.

so i side with the calvinist/lapsarian view: that salvation is available to all men, but not all men will obtain it, and God even chose some people for Hell… **

Me: You wrote: <<the word means “them or those of a certain class or group”. it in no way shape or form, means “all or every”. period.>>

Are you referring to ‘pas’? In any case, the context of this verse makes it quite plain that those who receive grace and righteousness are those who died in Adam. The parallelistic thrust of the passage makes this painfully obvious (e.g. verse 19).

“furthermore, paul himself in this same book 9.14-23, clearly states that God in His sovereignty - pharoah as an example - has chosen some for glory (heaven), and some for destruction (hell).”

Do not neglect to note that according to Romans 11 (see for example verse 23) the very vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction (cut-off branches) are able to become objects of mercy (able to be grafted in again).

You wrote: “furthermore, paul, in the book of romans, continually uses the “catagorical pronoun - 'ημων - us or we” to state that some limited group has recieved justification only because they have believed. or requiring a personal choice in believing, before being justified. romans 5.1-2. this same verse also uses the greek phrase “την προσαγωγην” to demonstrate that we have “access” without any sure promise that we will for sure, obtain righteousness by faith.”

I agree, and you should be aware that these facts are not at odds with the notion of a final, universal salvation of mankind.

**Him: wow bro…r u for real, or r u just messing with me? that passage does not contain ‘pas’. and in the other one, israel is the branches that were cut off, and the gentile church has been grafted ‘in their stead’…im going in to work now…i will explain later…and how do u just ignor the entire book of revelations, and all it says about the devil, his angels, and all nonbelievers going to hell ??? goodmorning and God bless u : ) **

Me: You wrote: <<<wow bro…r u for real, or r u just messing with me?>>>

No, not messing with you. Why do you ask?

<<<that passage does not contain ‘pas’.>>>

The passage in question, you’ll recall, is Romans 5:12-21. ‘Pas’ is used a number of times in this passage. Verse 17 does not use the word ‘pas’, but the people in view are quite obviously the same ‘all’ that Paul had been talking about up to that point. Or are you disputing that point?

<<<and in the other one, israel is the branches that were cut off, and the gentile church has been grafted ‘in their stead’>>>

Read verse 23 (and 24) again, and this time pay attention. The unbelieving Jews that were cut off can be grafted in again.

<<and how do u just ignor the entire book of revelations, and all it says about the devil, his angels, and all nonbelievers going to hell ???>>

I don’t.
**
Him: but the point is, that greek pronouns determine the range, the scope, the who, the what…of what it is being said : ) oι is a type, a class, a group - never a ‘universal all’. in order to mean a universal all - it must say ‘παντες oι’. which it does not…so the universalist is in error, beacause he does not truly understand ancient greek…

Him: See brother…u are commiting the “root error”. pas is the root of pantas, and pantes. but in greek, the minor spelling changes called “inflection” change the final meaning. sometimes in dramatic ways… logos means the word…but logon means what the word teaches, etc etc etc…u have formed ur view using roots, without truly understanding the language.

Him: and what i dont like, is that u are just trying to argue with me. again, show me where the word pas is, please…

Him: pas can even sometimes mean “none or not”, the actual inflected form tells this, not the root…

Him: the other real problem with the root method, which is clearly all u know. is that it also disregards “affected meaning”. u have formed ur view using the root, pas, and are are trying to force the “unaffected meaning” onto the passage. **


#8

Wow.

T


#9

Yeah, he blocked me from further discourse after my last response (below).


#10

I would say that this fellow has made up his Calvinistic mind, and doesn’t wish to be confused by the facts.

It is obvious that he knows nothing about Greek, but has incorrectly attempted to repeat what some of his Calvinistic teachers have affirmed.

He speaks of “koine Greek” and yet accuses Universalists of not knowing “ancient Greek”. Ancient Greek is at least as far removed from the koine Greek of the New Testament as is modern Greek.


#11

He claims to be a biblical greek instructor at his church.


#12

Incidentally, there are two specialistic and one general meanings of “koine Greek” in NT studies.

The more formal meaning is a class of Greek texts used mainly by the Eastern Church and mostly after the separation of the Eastern and Western Church from communion. For example, if I’m looking through a NT with a text-critical apparatus, and I see a fancy looking capital K (maybe with a letter or number subscripted afterward), that means the text or variant is generally supported by the Koine family of texts (roughly 9th century onward, but mostly after 10th century) or some significant selection among that family (which is what the subscripted designator would indicate).

In this case, “koine” means that the text is officially held in common by what a large social group believes to be the legitimate catholic (or ‘katholic’, thus also ‘k’) church, namely the Eastern Orthodox. But the texts are universally fairly late copies.

“Koine” is also a linguistic theory about “street Greek” in the early Christian centuries, which the NT texts (among some other examples, mostly but not entirely Christian) are supposed to be written examples of. The earlier versions of this theory ran on the notion that the writers, as inspired authors, couldn’t possibly be sloppy Greek authors, so had to be writing in perfect grammar, but the grammar obviously wasn’t polished classical Greek, so they had to be writing in a closely related dialect. The linguistic theory is a lot more nuanced now, but still holds some water.

Finally “koine” is also used in the field as a casual catchall description for ‘biblical Greek as it is written in the various texts’, mainly as a way of acknowledging the texts use Greek language a little (or in some cases a lot) differently than the top-level cultural examples of the society they were composed in. Relatedly, it’s a way of distinguishing Biblical Greek from modern Greek. This is how I usually use it, and most other scholars, too (the other uses being reserved for special technical topics as noted above.)


#13

His church needs a better biblical Greek instructor, if he thinks that suffixes are the same thing as inflections! :laughing:

(Inflections are things like emphasis on syllables or different ways of pronouncing the same letters. They’re kind of indicated by diacritical marks over the dipthongs of a word.)


#14

Actually, Jason, he’s also correct. Within grammar, inflection is defined as:

Sonia


#15

Another acquaintance of mine had this to say:

Thoughts?


#16

Gabe,

I’m really not sure what your friend is trying to communicate. Can you provide a little more context?

“Anarthrous” refers to the use of a noun without an article, but “oi” is an article… :confused:

Sonia


#17

Point taken there Sonia; he was right to call it “inflection”. (Though the suffixes for {pan} are irrelevant to his case, or to ours, in this instance. He certainly gave no details, so far as Gabe reported, to think otherwise. Merely noting that {pan} can mean various things based on affective meaning, without providing specific examples of application in the disputed passages, doesn’t count. No one anywhere, including Gabe’s respondent, treats any of the {pan} cognates in those verses as meaning a negation for example.)

Like Sonia, I can’t tell quite what he’s getting at here. In verse 17, {hoi} is used by itself in a pronoun function, not as an article. Maybe that’s what he means by calling it an “anarthrous” article: it’s an article, used as a noun, that does not itself have an article?

Anyway, verses 18 and 19 (as I noted) don’t feature {hoi}, but do feature a form of {pan} modifying ‘persons’ (instead of ‘the ones’ or ‘those’ from verse 17.) And I argued pretty extensively that the context in various ways does indicate universality (minus the special exception of Christ either way).

This reminds me that I was supposed to be discussing Rom 5 with Tom Talbott and Alex’s friend Luke over in another thread, but haven’t gotten back around to that recently… :wink: