A Question About New Testament Greek

I have a burning question for you. I’ve begun studying the Bible. I came across a post online you made about Hebrews, for my own learning has brought forth a huge question. You say that the works that are referred to in Hebrews 4:4 are “works” as in deeds and actions. James 2:14 also clearly talks about deeds and actions, calling them works as well. But the original ancient Greek words used there are different. In James 2:14, the word “works” is the Greek word erga, meaning “deeds, actions, undertakings.” In Hebrews 4:4, the word “works” is the Greek word ergon, which means “labor toil application.” Can you comment on this?

First, congratulations on your study of the Bible. There’s a beautiful adventure in front of you – not only of knowledge (which is good in itself), but more importantly of deeper relationship with God. For myself, I love God’s word and I love studying the Bible, because it is a place where I have wonderful, rich fellowship with God.

I also have to say that I am not a Greek expert. I cannot pick up a Greek New Testament and read it and translate it on the fly. I can pick out some Greek words, I know a little bit about Greek grammar and structure, but I am not a Greek expert. I’m beginning to learn more about these original languages and I’m very grateful for that – I would like to learn more Biblical Greek and Hebrew. However, I’ve put my focus on just the verse-by-verse exposition of the Scriptures, and my written commentary on the entire Bible. I think that’s work enough; maybe if I put a real focus onto Greek and Hebrew, I wouldn’t have had the time to do that. But it’s always a good thing to learn more and more about the original languages.

In contrasting the word “works” in Hebrews 4:4 and in James 2:14, let me read Hebrews 4:4: For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works” The word “works” in Hebrews 4:4: ergown, the genitive plural of the root noun ergon.

Now, here is James 2:14: What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? The word “works” in James 2:14 is the noun erga, from the root noun ergon, in the accusative plural form.

So, in both Hebrews 4:4 and James 2:14, the word works is actually the same root word, ergon.

One way that Koine (New Testament) Greek is different from the English language is that English uses word order in a sentence to communicate many things – what is the subject, what is the predicate, how those things work together.

In Greek, those parts of a sentence and the structure are not communicated by word order, but by variations on the root noun or verb – something is added or changed to the root word.

So, both Hebrews 4:4 and James 2:14 use the same root noun, ergon – but in Hebrews it is in the accusative plural, and in James in the genitive plural. That accounts for the difference in the words (ergownin Hebrews 4:4 and erga in James 2:14).

So here are some things to remember.

  • Keep studying – this is great!
  • Look to the root of the Greek noun or verb, remembering that the form of the root will often change to reflect its use and grammar in context..
  • Remember that translation is often determined much more by context than by what a word means in a dictionary.
  • We can’t just pick the meaning or the sense of the word that best fits our purpose and ignore the context.

Sometimes the Bible will use similar words and not make a significant distinction between them. I’ll give you an example. When you read your New Testament and see the word “word” there, it’s usually the ancient Greek word logos, or rhema. Now, sometimes there is a distinction to be made between logos and rhema – but sometimes not. Sometimes there is no significant difference between the words as they are used in their context. Again, context is key in understanding translation – and that’s why we want to keep studying our Bible.

There are many tremendous Greek and Hebrew resources out there we live, especially because of computer technology in something of a golden age of Hebrew and Greek resources. Take full advantage of great resources like that.

Are there modern prophets today

Are there modern prophets today that warn the body of Christ through dreams and visions?

We can start with this disclaimer: This is an area where there are Christians who love the Lord and honor His word who disagree on this. I’m not trying to say that I have the exclusive answer, but I’m going to give you my answer to that question.

I do believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for today, including such gifts as prophecy. However, you might almost say I’m allergic to calling anybody a prophet today. What is the difference between saying, “Here’s someone that God sometimes uses with the gift of prophecy,” and calling them a prophet? In my mind, there’s a significant difference. When you give somebody the title “prophet,” it changes things. People think, “Here comes the prophet in our midst.” It changes how people perceive them, and it often changes how they perceive themselves. I prefer that today, we don’t call anybody a prophet. We just recognize that there are people through whom God may exercise the gift of prophecy. Having said that, I would also say that no one speaks with the gift of prophecy today in an infallible way. Now the problem is not with how God speaks – God is God, and He can only speak infallibly. But there is no individual who has the gift of hearing, understanding, and communicating what God has spoken perfectly. That’s what the writers of the Old and New Testament had – they had a particular gift by God’s inspiration, giving them the ability to perfectly hear, to perfectly explain, and to perfectly relate what God’s word. There is nobody who has that gift today, and no one has not since the New Testament was written.

So while God may speak through a believer and what God speaks is perfect, but how that individual receives it can be imperfect. That’s why we always give the primary place to God’s word, this perfect word that God has given us. We don’t make any mistake on that.

I also hesitate to think that God gives any particular person a word for the church universally. In other words, I think that the gift of prophecy, if it’s legitimate (there’s a lot of illegitimate foolishness that goes on in the charismatic world today under that heading “prophecy”), it is for a local context for a particular individual for a particular church.

That is why I think that God isn’t speaking to the church universal through a modern day person with the gift of prophecy. God has spoken to the church universal, and it’s in the Bible. That being understood, it could it be possible that God would warn somebody through a dream or a vision in the body of Christ today, either an individual or a congregation. Just like every prophetic word, as the New Testament teaches us, words of prophecy must be judged. They are to be judged by the scriptures themselves and by wise and discerning mature Christians who have a sense of what the Holy Spirit would say.

Is it normal for a new Christian to doubt their salvation?

Is it normal for a new convert to sometimes feel unsure of his or her salvation?

I would say that’s entirely normal. We shouldn’t feel like it’s something unusual or ground shaking, if a new convert experiences some kind of lack of assurance regarding their salvation. That’s why one of the first things someone should do if they’re dealing with a new convert, is just walk them through what the Bible says about the assurance of our salvation. It’s something that is good that is helpful to instruct Christians on at a young age, so to speak in their own Christian life.

In heaven, will we remember our earthly lives and others?

In Heaven, we will we remember our earthly lives or people who weren’t saved?

The best answer I could give you is yes. We don’t have much information on this biblically, but we do have a story that Jesus told in the Gospel of Luke. I deliberately call it a story – and I don’t call it a parable. It’s the story of the rich man and Lazarus, where there was a rich man who was greedy and selfish and didn’t care about anybody. And there was a godly beggar. They both died, they went to the world beyond. In the account the rich man remembered that he had brothers, that were still alive on the earth. So that gives us some indication of what awareness a person may have in the world beyond. I know people who are virtually tortured over the question and they ask, “How could it be heaven for me? If I knew that a dear friend or relative was not in heaven with me if they were in hell?” All I can say is that God will know how to make that right. God will know. I believe that the glory and satisfaction and goodness of heaven and the revelation of God that we have in heaven will be so great, so transcendent, that honestly it won’t concern us then the way we think it will concern us.

Will God bring back extinct animals in the millennial kingdom?

Will God bring extinct animals like dinosaurs back to life?

I cannot give you a Bible answer to that question because I don’t think the Bible gives us any consideration that other to say that there will be animal life on Earth, but it doesn’t give us indication about what is now extinct animal life. But wouldn’t that be awesome if that was the case? That would be an amazing world. Maybe it will happen. I just can’t give you a Bible answer on that, because the Bible doesn’t tell us.

What is “the Father’s will” as in Matthew 7:21?

What is the Father’s will, according to Matthew, 7:21: Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven?

I would explain first and foremost this way: Somebody came to Jesus and said, what should we do to do the works of God? How do we do God’s work? How do we do what God wants us to do? Jesus said, if you want to do the works of God, you must believe on Him whom He has sent.

Therefore, the first and most primary way we keep the will of the Father is to put our faith on Jesus Christ: on who He is, and on what He has done for us, especially what He did for us at the cross and the empty tomb.

After that, the other ways are just by obeying what God tells us to do in the Scriptures. God tells us to live a certain way, and He expects those who find salvation by faith in Jesus Christ to live and walk that way.

But the first, foremost, and irreducible way to do the will of God is simply this: by believing on Him whom He has sent, believing on Jesus, putting your faith in the One that the Father has sent – who He is and what He has done for us.

What is the difference between “logos” and “rhema”?

What’s the difference between logos and rhema? Some say logos is the written word and rhema is the spoken word or active word. What’s an example of a rhema? word from God?

Well, first of all, Tyler, we need to recognize this, that when we’re talking about these Greek words, logosand rhema, obviously, we’re only talking about the New Testament and not the Old Testament. But in the New Testament, there can be a distinction between those words. It’s really in the sense that logos has more of an emphasis on the written word and rhema has more of an emphasis on the spoken word or active word.

But those distinctions are not absolute. As you carefully look at the context, you will find that logos is sometimes used in a different sense than the written word. When it says “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” (John 1:1), when it uses the word logos – we know that Jesus is not the written word of God, He is the living word of God. He is the word, the logos.

So, it’s fine to understand that sometimes there is a distinction, one with having more of an emphasis on the written word, the other with having more of an emphasis on the spoken word or the active word, but they’re not absolute differences. Context has to determine that.

Are the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28 still in effect today?

Are the blessings and the curses of Deuteronomy chapter 28, still in effect to this day?

I would answer the question just like this: only if a person is under the Old Covenant, the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, during the Exodus.

This covenant that God made with Israel, that covenant had three basic features: the law, the sacrifices (because nobody could keep the law perfectly, you need sacrifices), and the choice (the choice was to be either blessed by obedience, or cursed for disobedience). Those are aspects of the Old Covenant.

Someone who lives under the Old Covenant by genetic heritage or by choice. You could say that in some measure, those curses could apply to them, but not for those who are under the New Covenant. When a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ, that person is brought into the New Covenant community. In the New Covenant community, we recognize that Jesus bore the curse for us. Jesus crucified on the cross, received in Himself the curse of God, which He did not deserve and we did deserve, but it was placed upon Him instead of us. So, there is no curse under the New Covenant.

When the spirit goes back to God, what happens to the soul?

When the spirit goes back to God who gave it what happens to the soul because they are different?

We’re talking about something about this distinction between the soul and the spirit. I do believe that the Scriptures teach that there is some distinction to be made between soul and spirit. However, sometimes the Bible uses those words interchangeably. Again, you have to always go back to the context. Sometimes the Bible uses the terms “soul” and “spirit” merely to refer to the non-material or immaterial part of a person. Other times it uses those terms in a way that makes a distinction between the soul and the spirit. Yet, in the sense that you’re talking about, they are the same and they go together before God, as the immaterial part of my being which goes to God upon the death of a believer.

Are dementia or Alzheimer’s diseases from demons?

Are dementia or Alzheimer’s diseases from demons how to overcome?

When somebody brings a question about dementia or Alzheimer’s, it’s always painful. Because, you consider that this is a person whose life in some way is being touched by this I would simply put dementia or Alzheimer’s in the category of many other diseases, of which there is a biological, non-demonic, non-directly spiritual cause of these diseases.

Without being an expert, from my understanding most forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s are just caused by brain deterioration by certain things that happen as people get older. However, we also believe that there are times when Satan can attack people, and Satan’s attack can either bring disease or injury, or at least mimic those results. We see this in the Scriptures.

If somebody had dementia or Alzheimer’s, I would do both. I would take them to the best doctors I could, getting them the best treatment I could. And, I would also pray for them and pray against any demonic attack or strategy without giving into any kind of excessive fear or paranoia about it. Maybe it is beyond our ability to know if something is called just by a biological illness, or whether it’s caused by a spiritual thing, or by some strange combination of both. But we can get somebody the best medical care, and we can pray very strong, taking appropriate authority in the Holy Spirit, simply pray and stand with brothers and sisters, who need to do what the book of James says, simply to resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Why do some Protestants say that Mary is not the “Mother of God”?

Why do some Protestants say that Mary is not the Mother of God? Isn’t Jesus fully God and man?

This is a very good question. The reason why some Protestants are uncomfortable with the phrase, “Mary, the mother of God” really has nothing to do with Mary and her being the mother of Jesus Christ; they would just say that Mary is not the source of the deity of Jesus.

We understand that Jesus existed as God as the eternal second person of the Trinity, before He ever added humanity to His deity, and by a miracle He was conceived in Mary’s womb.

So, Mary is not the source, the cause, of Jesus’s deity, and that’s what makes some Protestants uncomfortable about the title Mother of God.

Of course, anybody who believes the Bible should be able to say Mary was the mother of Jesus Christ, who is God. However, Mary was not the source of Jesus’s deity.

The title “Mother of God” also has historic and theological significance. It’s been a phrase that has divided people in the church, especially between our orthodox brothers and sisters, in either Roman Catholics or Protestants. But again, the phrase itself, if properly understood, might be able to be accepted. But it’s a phrase that often lends itself to being misunderstood.

My church no longer teaches verse-by-verse, only topicals – what should I do?

My concern is my church. It has gone from doing a verse-by-verse study of the Bible to doing a topical lesson with less of God’s Word and more social justice. What can I do besides leave?

I’ll be very straightforward with you. There’s not a lot you can do besides leave, other than speak to people in leadership. I don’t know the leadership structure of your church, so I don’t know if it’s best for you to speak to the senior pastor or pastors on staff or elders or, but speak to somebody in leadership or authority and ask them without accusing.

When you have this conversation with them, remember that you’re looking for clarity. You want to know where things stand. You could say, “I have noticed this change in the pulpit ministry of our church. Is this deliberate?”

I suppose somebody could get into bad habits accidentally. They do a series and intend to go back to verse by verse teaching, but they feel that it’s so amazing that they just kind of stay there.

But you can ask if this change is deliberate, and ask if the change is permanent. You want to know if the change by the leadership is deliberate and permanent. Walking outside with a picket sign, trying to make other people sour against the leadership of the church. is not right, it’s not good. Then if there is a church that better suits where you’re at as a believer and better suits the needs of your family, then you should go to that church.

But again, just remember: when you speak with leadership, don’t speak in an accusatory manner, it just won’t do any good. And it’s not necessary. What you’re simply looking for is clarity. I do believe that a foundation of a church’s pulpit ministry is best done by going through books of the Bible; this is the best way to get the whole counsel of God’s Word.

Why are there 12 stars around the head of Mary?

Are there 12 stars behind the head of Mother Mary, what do those stars represent?

This refers to a vision that’s in the book of Revelation, chapter 12: Now a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet in on her head a garland of twelve stars.

The idea that many people have is that this woman is Mary. It’s absolutely held by Roman Catholics, who often in their imagery depict Mary as standing on a crescent moon and with the 12 stars around her head.

Roman Catholics are not the only ones who think that refers to Mary. Yet, I have to say I don’t. I think that it more generally refers to Israel, and that the 12 stars represent the 12 tribes of Israel.

It is observed that this woman in Revelation 12 gives birth to Messiah – so obviously, it’s Mary, and of course Mary gave birth to Messiah. I understand that. I don’t think the identification of Mary here is crazy, but I just don’t think it’s correct. Absolutely, it’s true that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and it was truly a virgin conception. She miraculously conceived in her womb

But there is also a real and legitimate sense in which Israel gave birth to the Messiah. God gave the nation Israel the responsibility to stay together as a people to bring for the Messiah. I believe that just as much as you could say that Mary gave birth to the Messiah you could, in a figurative sense, say that Israel gave birth to the Messiah.

Clearly here in Revelation 12, it’s speaking in signs. That’s the first few words: Now a great sign appeared in heaven. I look at that as not being Mary, but as being Israel.

How will Jesus return – on a horse, with fire, or in the clouds?

How will Jesus make his return? Revelation 19 says on a white horse, another places says on a cloud and Isaiah 66 says with fire. Which one is it? And if they are parabolic, then explain what they mean.

I think that you could take those in a parabolic sense. The White Horse being that of a conquering general, the fire being with judgment. The message is that Jesus will return to conquer, and Jesus will return with judgment, Jesus will return from the heavens, the sky to earth – coming in or from the clouds.

I don’t have a problem understanding the figurative meaning in those, but at the same time appreciating that they can and likely are literal as well.

Jesus can return on a white horse in the midst of great fire in and through the clouds coming from the sky. There’s really no contradiction between those. So again, I would just say this, I recognize the figurative element in those things, but I don’t think that necessarily the figurative element cancels out the literal occurrence of it.

Why do we say the name “Jesus” instead of “Yeshua”?

Someone said, Jesus is not his name, but Yeshua. Can you explain please?

Yeshua (or Yahshua) is how Jesus’s name would have been pronounced in Bible times. But that name translated into different languages can be Jesus can be Joshua, it can be Jesus, or the different ways it is pronounced in other languages and cultures.

We don’t normally pronounce Bible names the way that they were originally pronounced in the Hebrew or the Greek. We take our modern language understanding of them today and pronounce it – but it’s referring to the same person. It really is just a matter of how a name changes in the way that it sounded out between different languages.