The Use of Οὐ Μή in the New Testament: Emphatic or Mild Negation? -- By: Abera Mitiku
FM 22:2 (Spring 2005) p. 85
The Use of Οὐ Μή in the New Testament:
Emphatic or Mild Negation?
Dallas Theological Seminary
Dallas, Texas 75201
Greek uses οὐ and μή and their compounds as well as the double negatives οὐ μή and μή οὐ to express negation.1 Οὐ is used 587 times in the NT, and μή is used 886 times.2 In general, οὐ is used in the indicative mood in independent declaratory sentences and in questions that can be answered affirmatively or negatively to imply that an affirmative answer is expected.3 Μὴ is primarily used in the oblique moods (imperative, subjunctive, optative, participles, and infinitives) except in clauses introduced by μή (“lest”) which takes οὐ, and a few other exceptions.4 The double negative μή ὀυ is used in rhetorical questions equivalent to affirmative statements with each negative retaining its proper force, “Οὐ making the verb negative, and μὴ implying that a negative answer is expected to the questions thus made negative.”5
Regarding the semantics of μή ὀυ in the NT, there is a consensus among Greek grammarians. A. T Robertson writes, “This is very simple. It is in the N. T. confined to questions where μή is the interrogative particle, and οὐ is the negative of the verb. Each negative thus has its own force…”6 C. R. D. Moule concurs: “Μὴ7 followed by οὐ presents no difficulty grammatically, since οὐ simply negates the verb.”8 Both older and contemporary grammarians agree in this respect.
The double negative οὐ μή is used in the NT 94 times in 85 verses, mostly in eschatological and soteriological contexts.9
Click here to subscribe