Historicity In Greek

It may just be me (my wife thinks so!) but I am somewhat appealed by a little discovery I made in Greek grammar during a lesson recently.

Many Christians (me included) defend the historicity of the Bible. The events told of really happened at a certain place and at a certain time.

There is a looming danger however of feeling that history is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, and so the flawed position can end up being something like: “We don’t know who wrote it or if the events recounted actually happened – Jesus may not have risen from the dead, the important thing is that he is risen for me. All we know is that it is God’s word and that it is written in the Bible“.

In fact it is this last phrase that struck me in Greek. It occurs 64 times in the New Testament about what is written in the Old Testament (e.g. Matt. 2:5; Mark 1:2; Luke 2:23; John 6:31).

The Greek word used is perfect and passive: γεγραπται.

This literally translates ‘it has been written’ but the logic of it is that if something ‘has been written’ it can at present be said to ‘be written’.

Although both translations carry the same semantic meaning, there is a pragmatic difference that is helpful for me. I suppose it has to do with the connotations of past as opposed to present that the two renderings have.

Knowing that ‘it is written’ actually reads ‘it has been written’ seem to anchor the word of God in history. Perfect is a past-tense.

Of the Gospel of Luke, for example, we can say “as it has been written” i.e.: long ago by the historical person Luke, not merely “it is written” now, in the sense of: we can’t deny the fact but who knows who really wrote it and when.

Does anyone else find this detail reassuring somehow?

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2 thoughts on “Historicity In Greek

  1. Yes, and to add to that: in 1 Cor 2:2 Paul writes (or rather: wrote :-), he had “resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (NIV). Here ‘crucified’ is perfect passive participle, perhaps: (him) ‘having been crucified’, i.e. not a word picture (crucified as a metaphor for something else) but rather a historical fact, the consequences and reality of which carries into the present.
    I appreciate your willingness to share your insights,
    V.P.

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