Question:

I don't know how to begin without being wordy, so here goes. How do you know when the definite article (the) is in front of a word in the Greek? I have the Online Bible program that has Strongs in its King James Version. I was wanting to check more on a speaker and how he made some interpretaions of Galatians 2:16-21. The speaker took out many of the "the"'s and the passages made better sense to me than before. I realize that context is one of the top things in finding the meaning of the Scriptures; I think the speaker and primary audience are important too. I began looking in my free Bible program but it doesn't seem to have a Greek for our word "the." I was looking for "the" article in Jude 3 talking about the faith. Do you have any thoughts on my ramblings here or have I really worded up my mess?


Answer:

Most Bible programs that give the Strongs' indexing for Greek words do not give you the actual text. They give you the base word, just like you get in an English dictionary. For instance, the words "waters," "watered," and "watery" all appear under the same dictionary entry of "water." The same is true in Strong's dictionary, only in Greek they have a large number of case endings to modify the root word. Like English there are rules from dropping a final vowel or changing a final vowel before certain endings are added.

Some of those endings handle the things we use articles for in English, such as determining number and whether it is a definite or indefinite quantity. Greek has no indefinite article and only one definite article whose endings must agree with the word it modifies. It gets confusing to English speakers because the one article is spelled ten different ways because of the case endings. And since the article is a single vowel (ó), it gets modified depending on the ending.

"You will soon discover that the Greeks do not use the article the same way we do. They use it when we never would, and they omit it when English demands it. ... Greek often uses the definite article before a proper name. For example, you will often find ó θεóς (the God) or ó `Ιησονς (the Jesus). ... Greek often includes the article with abstract nouns such as "the Truth," although English does not normally use the article." [Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, by William D. Mounce, p. 39].

When a word has no article, it is generally translated as is or with an indefinite article before it, depending on the context. Thus the Greek word for man can be "man" or "a man" depending on the context.

For what you want to do, you need an Interlinear Greek-English text. Preferably find one that lists the case of the word you are looking at along with a brief English translation. Then you can see when a definite article is being used. Typing in Greek is awkward on my system, so the following is Jude 3 with transliterated letters.

Agapetoi pasan spouden poioumenos graphein humin peri tes koines [hemon] soterias ananken eshon grapsai humin parakoion epagonizesthai te hapax paradotheise tois hagiois pistei.

(Beloved) (all) (diligence) (using) (to write) (to you) (concerning) (the) (common) [(our)] (salvation) (necessity) (I had) (to write) (to you) (exhorting) (to contend earnestly) (for the) (once) (having been delivered) (to the) (saints) (faith).

Greek word order is very different from English and words connected to each other do not necessarily appear near each other. Connections are made based on having the same form. As confusing as it might appear, the "for the" in the above connects with "faith" at the end because both are in the dative, singular, feminine form. What comes between the two words is a preposition modifying "the faith" -- it had been delivered once to the saints.

A dictionary added to the King James Version can't show all of this because some words are dropped or added in the move from Greek to English, so sometimes you don't have a word to hang the dictionary entry onto or the word is repeated because it generated two or more words in English. In addition the word order must be drastically changed to match the English flow so you lose the Greek grammar rules.