Biblical Greek (Beginners): 02. Article, first and second declension (models λογος, τεκνον, ἡμερα, δοξα, ψυχη)
This lesson will teach you about the Greek article and the first and second declension (inflection of substantives).
In English, the definite article is „the“ and the indefinite „a, an“. The Greek language only has the definite article. There is no marker for an indefinite article. Therefore indefiniteness is marked by the omission of the article. The definite article can have these forms depending on its particular case and gender:
These forms then correspond with the endings of the first and second declension which we are dealing with below. Mastering this table will help you to master these two declensions. When the article is explicitly mentioned in a text, we are able to say what the case, number and gender of a word is without actually knowing the word or its declension. The article is our good friend.
Function of the Article
The usual function of the article in Greek is substantivization, repeated mention, or concretization. You do not need to know this in full detail. For now, we just want to provide the general picture of the article.
Substantivization of adjectives, adverbs, participles, and infinitives
Substantivization means that we make a substantive (noun) out of a different part of speech, or a participle, or an infinitive (it then has the function of a substantive in a sentence). In Greek, this is quite a common phenomenon. It is characterized by the placement of an article in front of a word which gives it a meaning of a substantive.
- adjective: ἀγαθὸς „good“ → ὁ ἀγαθὸς "the one who is good"
- adverb: ἀγαθῶς „good“ → ὁ ἀγαθῶς "good"
- participle: βαπτιζων „baptizing“ → ὁ βαπτιζων "the one who baptizes"
- infinitive: γραφειν „write“ → το γραφειν "the writing"
Repeated mention of a person or thing
When some person or thing is mentioned in a text for the first time, i.e., it is not known, it will usually be without the article (thus it is indefinite). When it is mentioned for the second time, it will have the definite article because the thing is already known due the previous context.
|Rev 1:10||ἤκουσα ὀπίσω μου φωνὴν μεγάλην ὡς σάλπιγγος||I heard a voice great as trumpet behind me|
|Rev 4:1||ἡ φωνὴ ἡ πρώτη ἣν ἤκουσα ὡς σάλπιγγος||the voice, the first, I have heard as trumpet|
The article is used when we need to express the concreteness of a person or thing known to everyone.
Inflection is an essential part of Greek. Unlike in English, every word in Greek has a particular case which you need to be able to recognize in order to understand the word.
In Greek, only substantives, adjectives, pronouns, and participles are inflected. From the inflection of substantives, principles to inflect other parts of speech and participles are drawn.
The First and Second Declensions
The most common declension groups in Greek are the first and second. The first declension is called α-stems because the root of its words ends with the letter α and contains primarly feminine words. The second group is called ο-stems because the root of its words always ends with the letter ο and contains only masculine and neuter words. Words which do not belong to these groups automatically fall to the third declension group which we will deal with in one of the followings lessons.
Here are the master tables for the first and second declensions:
The first declension (feminine)
|V||ὠ||V = N||V = N||V = N|
|V||ὠ||V = N|
The second declension (masculine and neuter)
|V||ὠ||λογε!||ὠ||V = N|
|V||ὠ||V = N||ὠ||V = N|
Let us make a few observations on the above tables:
- Notice how the endings always correspond to the form of the article
- N = Nominative → who, what?
- G = Genitive → whose, which? Plural always has ων ending (all Greek declensions!)
- D = Dative → to whom, which? Notice iota subscript here (dative in Greek loves letter ι)
- A = Accusative → who, what?
- V = Vocative → addressing, calling
The First Declension (α/η-stems)
This declension group is characterized by the root ending with α or η. We have three model words covering a particular eventuality of the case ending: ἡμερα, ψυχη, and δοξα.
For the feminine gender, we have a special rule to decide whether letter α or η takes preference over the other at the beginning of the case ending. This rule says that if the last letter of the word root is ε, ι or ρ the following letter will always be α instead of the usual η. This phenomenon is called the eir rule (letters ειρ). The rule applies only to singular words while the plural endings will always be formed with the letter α.
Now let's see all the possible word formations in the first declension:
- ἡμερα (alpha-purum):
- the last letter of the word root is ρ → case endings will always have the letter α (eir rule)
- ψυχη (éta-purum):
- ends with η → case endings will always have letter η (no eir rule or any other special case)
- δοξα (semi-purum):
- is the combination of both previous cases
- ends with letter α, but the last letter of the word root is not from the group of ειρ letters
- remember that sg. of N and A are forcing letter α here, G and D keep letter η
The Second Declension (o-stems)
The second declension is characterized by the root ending with the letter omicron. Its gender is always masculine or neuter.
- e.g., λογος "word"
- e.g., τεκνον "child"
- N and A sg. or pl. neuter always has both the same article and ending (typical for the neuter gender in all Greek). N and A are equal
- the article and ending in neuter are the same as in masculine. The only difference is in N and A
In general, these principles are all you need to know to be able to inflect any substantive in Greek. We will build upon this knowledge when dealing with the third declension and other grammatical categories that will follow.
Find at least ten words in the text below that belong to the I. and II. declension. For these words define: case, gender and number. You can also translate each word (use a dictionary for that ).
1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. 2 οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. 3 πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν 4 ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων· 5 καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.
6 Ἐγένετο ἄνθρωπος, ἀπεσταλμένος παρὰ θεοῦ, ὄνομα αὐτῷ Ἰωάννης· 7 οὗτος ἦλθεν εἰς μαρτυρίαν ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός, ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν διʼ αὐτοῦ. 8 οὐκ ἦν ἐκεῖνος τὸ φῶς, ἀλλʼ ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός.
9 ῏Ην τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. 10 ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν, καὶ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ ὁ κόσμος αὐτὸν οὐκ ἔγνω. 11 εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν, καὶ οἱ ἴδιοι αὐτὸν οὐ παρέλαβον. 12 ὅσοι δὲ ἔλαβον αὐτόν, ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τέκνα θεοῦ γενέσθαι, τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, 13 οἳ οὐκ ἐξ αἱμάτων οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος σαρκὸς οὐδὲ ἐκ θελήματος ἀνδρὸς ἀλλʼ ἐκ θεοῦ ἐγεννήθησαν.
14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. 15 Ἰωάννης μαρτυρεῖ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ κέκραγεν λέγων· οὗτος ἦν ὃν εἶπον· ὁ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἔμπροσθέν μου γέγονεν, ὅτι πρῶτός μου ἦν. 16 ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ πληρώματος αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς πάντες ἐλάβομεν καὶ χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος· 17 ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ Μωϋσέως ἐδόθη, ἡ χάρις καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐγένετο. 18 Θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.
One of the most important verses in gospel of John is John 1:18. It says: "No one has ever seen God: only begotten God who is at the bosom of the Father, He made Him fully known." (translation from Greek). This is how the gospel begins and Jesus is right when He answers Philip, that who ever...