googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: When “No” Really Means “No”

Thursday, November 22, 2007

When “No” Really Means “No”

I’ve been studying Koine Greek (the original language of the New Testament) for a while and have really been blessed by it. When reading the Bible in Greek, there are sometimes subtle nuances that aren’t easily translated into English. In this post, I’d like to talk about one such nuance.

In Greek, there are different ways of saying, “no.” One way is with the word, οὐ (ou) which is a simple term of negation: ἔχω, "I have," becomes οὐκ ἔχω, “I do not have.” Another way is with the word, μὴ (mē). μὴ is used in the subjunctive mood - the mood of contingency: ἔχητε, “you should have,” becomes μὴ ἔχητε, “you should not have.”

In English, we normally do not use two negatives together. In Greek, however, two negatives used together create a strong negation known as an emphatic expression: οὐ μὴ ἔχητε, “you shall in no way have!” When someone uses οὐ μὴ together, they are communicating in the strongest terms possible.

οὐ μὴ is used many times in the New Testament but we often don’t see the force of it in English. Take a look at some of these passages spoken by Jesus; the use of οὐ μὴ is highlighted in bold. As you read them, try to mentally insert a strong negation (i.e. shall not in any way possible):

>And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
>“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst” (John 4:14)
>“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
>“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)
>“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
>“Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John 8:51)
>“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
>“And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:26)
>“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)
>“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
>“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out…” (Revelation 3:12)

Isn’t Jesus wonderful? He not only promised all these great things to those who believe in Him, but He promised them in as strong as terms as possible. He does not want us to doubt His sincerity or His ability to keep His word.

So remember, when Jesus says “no,” He really means “NO!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is awesome. I haven't yet learned about the double negative in the greek. I've actually slacked off lately, but this is encouraging me to get back into my studies.

Thanks for that,

Roy Lindberry aka Carpenter