Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The battle for my mind — helped by just a little Greek

When I told a friend that I was studying Greek, she quipped, “Oh that should come in handy.” I didn’t try to explain, perhaps because at that time I was still wondering if I’d lost my mind.

Greek is difficult. For one thing, the subject verb, and predicate are not determined by word order in a sentence as in English. Instead, these are distinguished by the way they are spelled. If that is not confusing enough, these words, as well as adjectives, conjunctions, and so on, can be in any order in a Greek sentence, like a dictionary thrown into a blender, but using a bunch of letters that don’t look like the English alphabet.

That being said, I am using Logos 5, a software tool that gives Greek students a big advantage. Many of my online Bibles have a panel at the bottom called an ‘interlinear’ and this shows the Greek words, how to pronounce them, and a description of their function.

For instance, for the first sentence in the Bible passage quoted below, the words ‘be strong’ are one word in Greek. Its transliteration is ‘endynamousthe’ and the morphology says: ‘VPPM2P’ meaning it is a verb, present tense, passive voice, imperative mood, second person, plural.

Is that valuable? I’m not sure, but knowing how to figure this out has shed some new light on the following passage. It is about fighting spiritual enemies who like to mess with my mind . . .

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . .” (Ephesians 6:10–20)

My Logos software just revealed to me that the personal pronouns in these verses are not singular but plural. For some reason, I thought they were singular and expressed to individuals, like me. I experience attacks by the liar who is trying to destroy my faith and with that understanding, I’ve felt like one of those heroes (or not) in a video game who has his back against the wall and is slashing at his attackers with all his might. Sometimes he gets out of that mess, but sometimes he blows up.

But the warrior in these verses is not alone. This is “you” plural, you Christians, you people of God, you who are wearing His armor and standing against the schemes of the devil. Each one fights as an individual, just like each soldier in a battle must fight, but we are fighting together, with each other, and for each other . . . and making supplication (prayer asked with urgency based on need) for all those who stand alongside us.

With those few letters, VPPM2P, suddenly I don’t feel isolated or nearly so helpless in my battles. I cannot always see the army that fights alongside me, but because of a few second person pronouns, I know that it is here . . . and my assurance of victory has increased.

Yes, dear friend, Greek does come in handy.

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