Greek grammar hits the beach!

Grammar is relaxing and fun!

The New Testament was originally written in a form of the Greek language called “Koine,” or “common.” This dialect came about before the time of Jesus as a result of the interplay between the Classical Greek language and the languages spoken by the peoples conquered by Alexander the Great. No language is ‘simple,’ but Koine reduced the complexity of Classical Greek and enabled the New Testament authors to write to a broad audience.

I encountered Koine Greek during my studies at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and began to understand the intricacies of the language’s structure and word meanings. I’m far from an expert, but I was able to learn from some true scholars of the Greek language. Grammar is important to identify the original author’s intended meaning and develop sermons based on it.

In our current series on Ephesians, we encountered what E. Norton calls, “the most monstrous sentence conglomeration that I have ever found in the Greek language.” That’s right, Ephesians 1:3-14 is a single, grammatically monstrous sentence of 202 words. It is packed with relative clauses and prepositional phrases. Modern translations don’t even try to keep it all together, but break the sentence up into a varying number of sentences. I tried to analyze the sentence… and it beat me up, took my lunch money and gave me a swirlie.

The sentence is full of praise for all that God has done for His people, and it uses key phrases to identify the central point of God’s blessings to us; all our blessings are “in Christ.” As I thought about the impossible grammar and looked for a key image to tie it all together, the image of a beach ball came firmly into my mind. Yep. Beach ball. The whole ball is the “in Christ” aspect of the sentence, and every panel is a different blessing that Paul looks at. And, in my mind, Paul was inside the beach ball, excited to see all that God had done for the Christian “in Christ.” And so, this sentence, grammatical monster that it is, became a beautiful monster which declares the great blessings of God… “in Christ!”

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