In English, we use the present tense to show that something is happening right now -- in the present. That's
simple and obvious. When you say, "It is raining," I know I'll need an umbrella if I'm on my way out
In Greek, the present tense is more versatile . . . and more complicated. Sometimes the present
tense does tell us something about the time when something happens. But sometimes it doesn't.
present tense always tells something about the type of action. In Greek, the present tense is normally used
to show continued action. It goes beyond a bare statement that the act happened, and lets me know that the act keeps
on happening. (See "Tenses: Time or Type?" for a fuller explanation.)
What do we mean by "continued action"?
Continued action can come
in three variations:
1. Progressive -- the standard use of the present, it describes an action that is
in the process of happening. The act has begun but it is not yet finished; we are watching it in the middle of the action.
Example: "The sun is rising." During the few moments when the fiery disk is sliding above the horizon,
we watch it make the transition.
Matthew 25:8 -- "Our lamps are going out."
One by one, the lamps are in the process of running out of oil, then flickering weakly, and then dying out with a thin column
of smoke. We are watching the process happen.
2. Iterative or Repeated -- the present tense may describe
an event that happens repeatedly, at regular intervals. Example: "The sun rises every morning."
Used in this way, the tense does not imply that sunrise happens all through the day. It simply means that it occurs
1 Corinthians 15:31 -- "I die daily." Paul is not describing
a long, agonizing death scene. He is reporting the fact that he has to die to his sin every day; it is a fresh decision
3. Customary -- The verb here refers to something that occurs habitually. It does not
recur according to a schedule, but you may expect it to occur from time to time. Example: "The sun melts
Hebrews 3:14 -- "For every house is built by someone." This
verse does not envision a daily routine of housebuilding or a long process of construction. It simply states the fact
that houses are built all the time, and someone is responsible for each.
These are the most obvious ideas conveyed by
the present tense. But in certain situations, you may find some unexpected variations on the tense. Next time,
we will look at a few of these.
No one has a corner on the market of user-friendly tools for mastering the Greek language, including me! From time
to time, I will mention helpful Web pages that I have encountered, and that's the agenda today.
vocabulary is always a heavy burden unless you are blessed with a photographic memory. Most of us have to invest a lot of
time and sweat to reprogram our brains with the meanings of foreign words. And we all have our personal study practices.
Some write out a word over and over. Others pace the floor, shouting or whispering it. Some have a ring of flash
cards perpetually in hand.
One practice often recommended by memory coaches is the use of cartoons as a study aid.
We tend to remember the extreme and the ridiculous much more quickly than the routine, so a cartoon that makes outlandish
connections is just likely to stick!
VisualGreek.com has a variety of features, but you will want to start by looking
at their cartoons for the 320 words that occur 50 times or more in the Greek New Testament. The approach might not spark
an interest for everyone, but it might be just what you need to surge forward in learning the Greek vocabulary.
site also contains a link to a more comprehensive Greek study site . . .
Greattreasures.org (formerly GreekBiblestudy.org)
access this site, you will need to provide a user name and password. But once you've set up your account, you can
find a remarkably simple set of tools for studying the Greek New Testament.
Click on Passage Study and insert
a reference, and you will see the verse in Greek and four English translations.
Click on a Greek word, and you will
see a short definition, a long definition, and a list of the passages where it occurs in the New Testament.
study," and you will see the parsing, or grammatical identification, of each word.
Other sites take you deeper,
but this site covers the basics more painlessly than any I've found. Give it a try and decide what you think!