The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament Part II: The Eloquence of Greek Tenses and Moods -- By: Kenneth S. Wuest

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 117:466 (Apr 1960)
Article: The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament Part II: The Eloquence of Greek Tenses and Moods
Author: Kenneth S. Wuest


The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament
Part II:
The Eloquence of Greek Tenses and Moods

Kenneth S. Wuest

[Editor’s Note: This article is the second in a series on the general subject “The Practical Use of the Greek New Testament.”]

Emmett Russell, commenting upon the Authorized Version in a letter to the author, writes: “That mighty stream of poetic prose which issued from the Jerusalem chamber in Westminster needs to be clarified—or rather, men and women need to be handed cups of that stream to drink, men and women who have through the years only listened drowsily to the wash of its waves against the shoreline of their lives.” It is right here that the Greek exegete must fill the need. Standard translations such as the Authorized Version are held down to a minimum number of words, providing a norm that is the basis upon which the person not conversant with the original writings may interpret the Bible. But the translators when practicing word economy climb into a linguistic straight jacket and put on linguistic handcuffs. As a result their movements, while correct, are restricted. They can reproduce the approximate total meaning of each Greek word but must leave much detail and color in the Greek text. It is this detail and color which the Bible expositor must bring out for those not acquainted with the original language. Much of this which the standard translations cannot bring out is contained in the Greek tenses and moods.

The perfect tense in Greek abounds in color and detail. This tense speaks of action that went on in past time, was completed, and which has existing results in present time, the present time referring sometimes to the time when the action was completed, and sometimes to the time when the happening was recorded. In certain contexts the results are permanent. The idea, however, of permanency never comes from the genius of the perfect tense but from the nature of the verbal idea and the context.

Our Lord says, “It is written” (Matt 4:4, AV). The expanded translation1 reads: “It has been written and at present is on record.” Then He quotes Moses in Deuteronomy. What a comment upon the preservation and authenticity of a text which had been transmitted in writing for 1500 years. He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30, AV). The ET offers: “It has been finished and stands complete.” In both of these instances the ET brings out the present results of the past completed action of the perfect, which the AV fails to do.

Paul writes, “By grace are ye saved” (

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