The Ezra Project
the Serious Starter in New Testament Greek
Welcome to the
Ezra Project! Whether you're gearing up to take a seminary Greek course or looking for ways to go deeper in your
personal Bible study, this site is your personal resource. Our goal is simple: to help you take your first steps
in New Testament Greek - and do it right!
I have been introducing
students to New Testament Greek since 1972, and it's my delight to take the mystery out of the language for men and women
who want to become serious students of Scripture.
Dr. John Bechtle
The Ezra Project: First Stop for Greek Beginners.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Dismantling a Word
1:59 pm est
My daughter is married to a man who loves to take things apart, just to see how they work. I enjoy doing that too,
but Joe can put the machine back together again . . . with no parts left over!
Preachers and Bible students share the
same instinct when they are studying a Greek word. How often have you heard your pastor say, "This word is made
up of two Greek words." He then launches into an explanation of how the two original words combine to make the
newer, bigger term.
When you dismantle a Greek word to look at its component parts, you are studying etymology.
More simply, you are analyzing the history of a word, checking to see if it was originally formed by combining other Greek
words. (Of course, not all words are formed from smaller words, but Greek does have a remarkable number of such combination
Is this a legitimate way to study words? Of course!
We just spent several posts studying
the uses of the word homologeo, usually translated "confess" or "acknowledge." If you check
a reference source like the Strong's Concordance, you will find a notation that homologeo comes from
two Greek words, homos ("same") and logeo ("to speak, say"). Put the two ideas
together and you get the commonly-expressed idea that homologeo means "to say the same as." In reality,
that is a useful way to think about the term. When we confess our sins, we are agreeing with God that our actions really
are sinful, and we are the ones who committed those sins!
However, the field of etymology contains some pitfalls and
we need to use such observations with caution.
1. We may misunderstand the meaning of the original, shorter words.
Take the English word supervisor, for instance. It's easy to see that it comes from the words super
and visor. Can't you see some linguist of the future deciding that visor means "an eye shade"
and super means "higher quality, extremely good." Thus a supervisor becomes an extremely high quality
2. We may find that a word has multiple meanings, and some of them seem rather remote from the original
words. If you decide that undertaker comes from the words under and take, describing someone
who takes a corpse under the ground, how will you explain the origin of a phrase like "I will undertake this
task"? Perhaps you're going to run it into the ground?
3. The biggest problem is that the
word you are studying may have originated several centuries earlier than the New Testament, and the meaning could have changed
during that time. You can see that process working in English:
1 Thessalonians 4:15 in the King James
Version -- "We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are
The same verse in the New American Standard Bible -- "We who are alive and remain until the coming
of the Lord shall not precede those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.
In 1611, the word
prevent meant "to come before." It came from the Latin words pre ("before")
and venire ("to come"). However, English has changed in the last 400 years, so the word has almost
flipped to the opposite meaning. It is possible for the same thing to happen in Greek, so we must be cautious when we
talk about the etymology of a word.
The key: Usage trumps etymology.
To find out what a
word means, look at the way it is used. Follow the patterns we have described elsewhere, studying all the places where
it is found. Then once you have done your research on the usage, take a look at the etymology or history of the word.
Sometimes you will find that the meaning has changed, so history doesn't help.
passages, you will find that the etymology gives you a vivid, easily understood way to describe the meaning of the word.
By all means, take the word apart. Tell people when "This word is made up of two Greek words." But make
sure you can put it back together again. Do your homework. Don't depend on the etymology alone.
For a fuller discussion of this issue, see D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, pp. 28-33. In his discussion,
he uses the term root fallacy to describe the problem of misusing etymology.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Confessing My Sins - A Sample Word Study (Part 4)
3:07 pm est
The project: Study the meaning of the word "confess" (Greek homologeo) in order to
understand more fully what 1 John 1:9 means when it says, "If we confess our sins. . . ."
In previous postings, we examined several verses where homologeo appears. In some of those passages, we see
that you can homologeo a person. In other words, you acknowledge that he is who he claims
to be and you place yourself on his side.
We also studied a group of passages where you can homologeo
a statement. In other words, you declare that you personally believe that the statement is true. You
put the weight of your influence behind it.
However, the New Testament contains one final group of uses that do not
fit neatly into either of the categories we just discussed. Today, let's look at those!
The apostle Paul was on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, or council, and his testimony threw the hearing into an uproar.
There was a furious debate between two Jewish factions, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. This verse explains the source
of the friction: "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees
homologeo them all."
The Sadducees denied the existence of these things, but the Pharisees
said that they all exist. Here homologeo means "acknowledge that they exist." They were taking
sides, and they took the side of belief.
1 Timothy 6:12 "Fight the good
fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and homologeo'd a good homologian
in the presence of many witnesses."
Here Paul doubles up: he uses the verb homologeo
and the matching noun homologian together. Some translations render it "confess a good confession."
Whatever a homologian is, Timothy did a good job of doing it! This verse adds one important point to our understanding
of the word: homologeo is something that you can do in public, "in the presence of many witnesses."
We have studied other verses with the same concept: in Luke 12:8, Jesus promised to homologeo his followers
in the presence of the Father and the angels.
Hebrews 13:15 "Through Him then,
let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that homologeo His name."
3:5 "He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from
the book of life, and I will homologeo his name before My Father, and before His angels."
both of these passages, we find that you can homologeo someone's name. The idea seems similar to what we
have already viewed. I homologeo the name of a person when I verbalize my recognition and approval. Hebrews
13:15 mentions the "sacrifice of praise," and that may well be included in the concept of homologeo here.
Based on the context, the New American Standard version translates the word as "give thanks."
14:7 One more passage -- a rather unusual one. King Herod had just watched his daughter perform a dance
at his birthday party, and he had rashly promised to grant any request she might make. As verse 7 phrases it, "Thereupon
he homologeo'd with an oath to give her whatever she asked."
What word would you use to
fill in the blank? I can't resist using the word "promise." This seems out of line with all the
other passages we have studied. However, you can see a connection, at least faintly. In effect, Herod was saying,
"I have made a statement promising you whatever you wish. I acknowledge that the promise was made, and I will stand
Thus concludes our tour of all the New Testament uses of the word homologeo.
What have we learned? And how does it help our understanding of 1 John 1:9?
We could study more deeply and we
could say much more about the word. But this quick survey of the word's New Testament use has uncovered a few clear
trends. Though there is quite a bit of variation from one passage to another, there are some common threads that appear
in all. In each case, the person makes a public statement, acknowledging that something is true, or that a person is
genuine. The speaker goes beyond that to declare his personal commitment to that truth. He says, "This is
the truth, and I am the one who takes His stand on that position."
1 John 1:9 is the only passage in the New Testament
where anyone homologeo's sin. Based on our study, I suggest that the verse calls on us to acknowledge that
our sins really are sin. Not only do we acknowlege them as sin, we acknowledge them as our sin. We "own
up" to the reality that our attitude or action was truly a sin. The usage of the word also suggests that homologeo
is public in some way, not just a private thought. 1 John 1:9 does not specify who must hear our acknowledgement of
sin, but the overall context suggests strongly that God is our primary audience. We may or may not acknowledge our faults
before the neighbors, but we definitely need to admit them to the Lord!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Confessing My Sins - A Sample Word Study (Part 3)
11:14 am est
In our study of the Greek word homologeo, which is translated "confess" in 1 John 1:9, we have seen
that it is possible to homologeo a person or a fact about a person. In the seven verses where the word is used
in this way, it seems to mean that you openly acknowledge that person, or agree with a claim about his identity. You
are saying, "I am taking a personal position. I choose to be connected with that person, and I acknowledge that
he is who he claims to be."
Now let's look at another group of verses where homologeo is used.
In these verses, the object of the verb is not a person, but a statement.
Hebrews 11:13 All
these [the patriarchs like Abraham] died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and welcomed them
from a distance, and having homologeo'd that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
The word can apply to a statement like "they were strangers and exiles on the earth."
John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that homologeo's that Jesus
Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not homologeo Jesus is not from God . . .
In the first case, the direct object of homologeo is again a statement: Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
In the second use, the direct object is simply the name Jesus, though this is probably a shortened version of the earlier
statement about coming in the flesh.
1 John 4:15 Whoever homologeo's
that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
- Once again, the object of the verb
is a proposition: Jesus is the Son of God.
In other passages, the verb homologeo is used
to introduce a statement almost as we would use the word "say."
Matthew 7:23 And then
I will homologeo to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness."
Jesus is talking about counterfeit prophets who claim His name without obeying His word, using homologeo to introduce
His verdict on their hypocrisy.
John 1:20 And he homologeo'd, and did
not deny, and he homologeo'd, I am not the Christ."
- John the Baptist used the word twice
to make it clear that he was merely the forerunner of the Messiah. Notice that this verse gives us both the word itself
and its opposite. From this we learn that homologeo is the opposite of "deny."
24:14 But this I homologeo to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the
God of our fathers . . .
- Paul on trial is defending himself against false charges that he had stirred
up trouble among the Jews and tried to desecrate the temple in Jerusalem. Here he uses homologeo to introduce
his version of the facts. It could very well include the idea of "admit" here, for he is denying the charges
made against him, but acknowledging that there is a basis in fact for some of it.
They homologeo to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him. . . .
- The troublemaking
false teachers in Crete claim to know God, but their actions speak loudly against that idea. The word here carries the
idea of "claim"; they say that they know God. Here is another passage where homologeo is used in
contrast to "deny."
In all of these passages, the word homologeo is clearly something
that you can do to a statement or proposition. What does it mean? You are saying that the statement is true, and
that you put yourself on record supporting its accuracy. It is the opposite of denying its truth. You are saying,
"I openly state that this is true."
Next time, we will look at the last few verses. When we do, we will
find some less common twists of meaning.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Confessing My Sins - A Sample Word Study (Part 2)
4:05 pm est
We want to learn more about the word confess in 1 John 1:9, and we have discovered that it is a translation of
the Greek word homologeo. In the June 23 posting, we listed all the places where that word appears in the New
Testament. Now we will take a closer look at each verse.
Several references are quite similar.
In each case the direct object is a person.
Matthew 10:32 Everyone therefore
who shall homologeo me before men, I will also homologeo before my Father who is in heaven.
12:8 And I say to you, everyone who homologeo's me before men, the Son of man shall homologeo
him also before the angels of God.
-- People can homologeo Jesus,
and He promises to homologeo those people before His
Father and the angels.
John 12:42 Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him,
but because of the Pharisees they were not homologeo'ing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.
-- Some of the Jewish rulers believed in Jesus, but failed to homologeo
Him, because such
an action might lead to their
expulsion from the local synagogue.
Other verses use homologeo for a fact about
John 9:22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews;
for the Jews had already agreed, that if any one should homologeo Him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
Romans 10:9-10 That if you homologeo with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in
your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes unto righteousness, and
with the mouth he homologeo's unto salvation.
2 John 7 For many deceivers have
gone out into the world, those who do not homologeo Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.
-- It is possible to homologeo Jesus as the Christ or Messiah.
-- It is possible to
homologeo Jesus as Lord.
-- It is possible to homologeo Jesus as coming in
How can you "confess" a person? It seems different than confessing a sin, doesn't
At the least, it seems to include the idea of agreeing or acknowledging that a person is who he claims to be.
And it seems to include some level of personal commitment. When I homologeo a person, I say, "He is who
he claims to be, and I will declare my agreement with that identification."
Next time, we will look at passages
where the word is used in some other settings.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Confessing My Sins - A Sample Word Study (Part 1)
1:14 pm est
What does a Greek word study actually look like? Let's select a simple sample and walk through the process.
Pick a Word
Word studies usually begin with a moment of curiosity. You are reading through
a verse and find yourself thinking, "I wonder what that word means." Today we will use an example from 1 John
1:9 -- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Suppose you are reading this familiar verse. What does it really mean to "confess" our sins? A visit
to a priest? Recitation of a memorized prayer?
The best place to start is by studying the word "confess."
Find the Greek Word
Studying an English word is useful, but there's no substitute for investigating
the original Greek or Hebrew word. How do I find out which Greek is lurking behind my English text?
(and simplest) method uses Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. Look up confess and you will find
a listing of all the verses that use the word, including 1 John 1:9. Here is the entry:
1Jo 1:9 If we c' our sins, he is faithful and 3670
Notice the number at the end
of the line. It serves as the key, showing that the word you want is #3670 in the Greek Lexicon which you can find at
the back of the book.
Check #3670 and you will find the following entry:
hom-ol-og-eh'-o; from a comp. of the base of 3674 and 3056; to assent, i.e., covenant, acknowledge:
-- confess, profess, confession is made, give thanks, promise.
Take a moment to analyze the information that appears
1. The Greek word you want to study is homologeo.
It is pronounced "hom-ol-og-eh'-o."
3. It was originally formed from two
other Greek words. We will investigate that further at another time.
word means "assent, i.e., covenant, acknowledge."
5. In the King James Bible,
it is translated "confess, profess, confession is made, give thanks, promise."
You can find the
same information on the Internet, using sources like www.blueletterbible.org.
If you're in a hurry, you can simply survey the list of meanings and select the one that makes most sense
in the passage. But if you can take the time to go deeper, you can finetune your picture of the word.
List All the Verses Where It is Used
You can find lists of all the passages where
homologeo appears by using Strong's or the Blue Letter Bible, but I am doing that task for you. You will
find a complete list of the references in the June 23 posting. In the next part of this sample study, we will
begin looking at each verse, asking key questions that will unlock the meaning of the word more fully.
WHAT'S ON THIS SITE?
Multilevel Greek - How deep do you want to go?
When people say they want to study New Testament Greek, they don't all have the same picture
in mind. You can investigate Greek at several levels. Some are relatively simple; others require a larger investment
of time and effort. Here are the most common choices:
Level 1 – Exploring Word Meanings
To understand the meaning of a Greek word.
for Word Study" - Basic steps in Greek word study
Study Resources" - Links to online word study tools [in development]
Level 2 – Understanding Grammar Concepts
Goal: To learn how Greek grammar works, so you know what aorist or subjunctive really
"Grammar Basics" – an overview of Greek grammar
of Grammar Terms" [in development]
3 – Translating the Greek Text
sit down with a Greek New Testament and lexicon and translate a New Testament verse for yourself
Greek Behind the Prof’s Back – a self-instructional workbook
Level 4+ - Mastery and Beyond
You can continue to grow in your grasp of Greek for the rest of your life, going deeper and deeper into the Word of God.
Once you have mastered the basic content of the language, you can delve into the endless list of books and electronic resources
available to you. The Ezra Project provides you with a launching pad for a lifetime of study.
WORD STUDY BASICS (Level 1)
When you decide to
dig a little deeper into the meaning of a Bible word, you should know that there are:
Two facts about words
Two stages to word study
Two methods for doing each stage
Two facts about words
First, words have more than one meaning. Take a simple English word such as run.
It can be a verb that means "to get from one place to another by moving your legs quickly." Or it can mean
"to keep the engine of your car operating" (even if it's just idling in the driveway). When your watch
runs, the hands go around. When the lawnmower runs, it cuts grass. When a stream runs, water flows over rocks.
When your nose runs, you grab a tissue. Run can also be a noun, whether it refers
to a point scored in a baseball game or a torn place in a stocking.
Please get in touch to offer comments and ask questions about New Testament Greek! You can e-mail
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