Vol. 11 August, 1949 No. 4

Emphasis In the Scriptures

A FRIEND once told me that although he had a profound interest in the most exact version of the Scriptures that could be obtained, he had not the slightest interest in emphasis, which he derided.

Very few versions of the Scriptures have made any real effort to exhibit the emphasis. The result has been that almost every version is like a painting minus the colours. The entire sense of a verse may be altered by one word which is emphatic Every one of us, every day, in ordinary speech, makes certain words emphatic, and often quite unconsciously. When we write letters, we will occasionally underline certain words to express our minds and feelings. I well recollect a letter received from a man who denied the Virgin Birth many years ago. It was so very emphatic that few words were not underlined in one of the hues of the rainbow. Such over emphasis, however, destroyed itself.

"The Emphatic New Testament" by John Taylor was published by Bagsters of London in 1854. To a great extent the emphasis which he showed depended upon the presence of the Greek definite article. Emphatic pronouns were also displayed. He was followed by Benjamin Wilson, in his Emphatic Diaglott, who appears to have followed out Taylor's rules. Neither of these efforts seems to have paid any attention to word-order, and it is this, in the Greek, as in the Hebrew, which plays the major part in expressing emphasis.

A work which ought to be in the hands of every lover of God's Word is Joseph B. Rotherham's emphasized New Testament, published by Bagster's in 1872. Unfortunately, however, this first edition is now very scarce, although the fifth edition is to be had without great difficulty. The latter, however, uses a very different system for marking emphasis, and in other respects is not nearly so good as the first edition. The first edition, moreover, attains a great degree of concordance. In general, it is by far the finest edition of the New Testament in existence. To exhibit slight emphasis, two lines appear under a word, while three lines indicate decided emphasis. Emphatic pronouns are indicated by being in thicker type. No other system can express the emphasis so well, but unfortunately, this method was very expensive, as the compositor's work was very much increased. For that reason, Rotherham's last edition expresses emphasis by a different system, which, however, is not so effective.

In Greek, the general order of the words in a sentence is the same as in English. That is to say, there is first the subject, then the predicate, then the object. In Hebrew, the verb, or predicate, often comes first, thus, "And is saying Jehovah . . . "

To express emphasis in written Greek, the rule is to pull forward out of its natural order the emphatic word or words. Where the normal order is altered, look out for emphasis. Some have said that the final word in a clause may also be emphatic. This might be the case in spoken Greek, when the tone would show the emphasis. Thus, the superscription upon the cross may have been in the Greek language, what Luke gives (23:38), "The King of the Jews—this!" Here the final word seems to be very emphatic, and thus conveys the sarcastic sneer of those who read the superscription, for it was meant to be read by many there and then.

Pronouns which appear in addition to a verb tense from (which always incorporates the pronoun by way of suffix) are always emphatic, and can stand at the close of a clause.

Possessive Pronouns, such as emos (my very own; my personal); humeteros (your very own; your personal), are emphatic as to ownership. No version hitherto appears to have distinguished them properly from the common genitive pronoun forms, mou, of-me, mine; humOn, of-you, yours.

In another direction, Middle Voice verbs are frequently emphatic, in respect of their luminosity. Often they glow with feeling. The grammars are correct to say these Middles are connected, in some way, with "self." Grammarians have demonstrated that the person-suffixes of Middle verbs have such a meaning. Often in business, to obviate the need for copying out a third party's letter, the letter itself is sent on for perusal as it is, with the remark, "the letter speaks for itself." This bears quite a different nuance from saying, "the letter speaks." One of the finest examples of this kind of emphasis in the New Testament is to be found at Acts 28:28, "to the nations was sent this salvation-operation (sOtErion; not the abstract sOtEria) of God; they (emphatic) will also hear-for-themselves." They were to hear the good news apart from the mediancy of Israelites. The Middle Voice verb form (akousontai) must be distinguished from the Active Voice form as found at John 5:25 ( akousousin).

Sometimes the exegesis of a verse will depend on whether one word is emphatic or not. An example will illustrate. At Heb. 10:38 some versions, including the Revised, read, "My righteous one shall live by faith." The quotation is from Hab. 2:4, which in the Greek version reads, "Yet the righteous one out of My faith (ek pisteOs mou) shall live." Now in Heb. 10:38 the literal Greek order is, "Yet the righteous one of Me out of faith (mou ek pisteOs) shall live." What is the mou (of Me, My) connected with? Should it be emphatic, the mean ing is "out of MY faith."

For long years it was a problem to find out exactly what a pronoun in the Greek in such a position signified. There was emphasis of a kind, but it became clear it was not ordinary emphasis. I knew there must be some method of expressing this meaning in English, when the pronoun is pulled forward out of its ordinary location.

I was checking over the translation of the ninth chapter of John, and observed that every time the eyes of the man born blind were mentioned, the pronouns were emphatic, that is, they were placed before the word "eyes." Thus, verses 10 and 17 and 26, "of thee the eyes;" verses 11, 15, and 30, "of me the eyes;" verses 14 and 21, "of him the eyes." Suddenly it became apparent that the emphasis was not so much that of personality or ownership, as of kind or quality of the man. "How does he open the eyes of such as you?" (verse 26). 'How does he open the eyes of one of your kind (born blind)?"

In his first edition, Rotherham shows the emphasis in these cases, merely by underlining. But in his fifth edition he shows no emphasis. In other words, he did not apparently understand the nature of the Greek emphasis.

This little discovery will open up to us many delightful little touches in the Scriptures. For example, why should the Lord address the Father in John 17: 1, by saying "Glorify THY Son" (literally, of Thee the Son)? The true sense appears to be, "Glorify, of such a person as Thee, the Son." Glorify Him who has been a complete representation, as Son, of Thyself.

A beautiful example is found at John 19:2, which is, literally, "And the soldiers, braiding a wreath out of thorns, place it on the head of such as He." John is impressed, frequently and deeply, with the grand paradox, that of all beings, it is the sinless One, who came forth out from God, who has to bear the supreme humiliations. It is such a One as that who suffers the deepest indignities.

We cannot tell whether Plato, in ancient times, was in contact with Hebrew revelation. There have always been, among the Gentiles, a few humble individuals, ready to beat their breast. In the days of Solomon, Hebrew wisdom and influence were paramount in the known world. At any rate, Plato reasoned out logically that if there was but one supreme Deity, and if He cared for the world of men He had made, there was one way in which He could prove that. Let Him incarnate Himself, and come and live among the evil human beings He had made, suffering at their hands ignominy and rejection because of the spotlessness of His life, to such a degree that finally they would put Him to death as an intolerable nuisance.

John observes (verse 29) that it was to His mouth, to the mouth of such a person, that they brought a sponge soaked in vinegar, upon a javelin (we are obliged to read hussO, javelin, in place of hussOpO, which is a wall plant; Matt. 27:48 and Mark 15:36 read kalamO, a reed). His legs they did not fracture (v. 33), but His side a soldier pierces (v. 34). John's emphasis is that of paradox. John is the one who has seen and testified, and his testimony is true (v. 35), because such a one, who has seen for himself, is reliable.

At John 4 :34 we encounter two emphatic pronouns, where Jesus says, "My-own-personai (emon) food is that I should be doing the will of Him who sends Me, and should be perfecting of such a One the work." This is better than reading His work, as the Lord had in mind the kind of God who had sent Him.

What the Lord impresses upon the Jews at John 6:53-56 is His uniqueness. "If you should not be making-a-meal (phagEte) of the flesh of the Son of Man, and drinking of such a One's blood, you have not eonian life in yourselves." The same sense is required in verses 54 and 56 (My flesh; My blood).

Isaiah saw clearly (John 12:40) that "He has blinded of them the eyes, and He makes callous of them the heart." That is to say, those in such a condition Jehovah blinds.

What does Peter mean when he asks the Lord (John 13:6) "Art THOU of me washing the feet?" He means, Art THOU (of all people) washing the feet of such a person as I am, It is not as though Peter is comparing the washing of his feet with the washing of the feet of the other disciples.

In John 14:27 the Lord's meaning is, Let not the heart of such people as you are go on being disturbed. My-own-personal peace am I giving to you. When the storms of life are raging, let us keep in mind that they are very temporary, just like physical storms. Indignation is not always wrong. But should you be indignant, do not also be sinning. It is not for people such as we are to let the sun sink upon any exacerbation or angry-mood.

It is sometimes reasoned that because the Lord told the disciples that the hairs of their head were all numbered (Matt. 10:30), the same must necessarily be true of all human beings. What the Lord said, however, was "Now of such as you even the hairs of the head are all numbered." God has a very special interest in His own people.

I Thess. 5:16-22 provides a very fine example of simple emphasis. "Always go on rejoicing. Unintermittingly go on praying. In everything go on giving thanks, for this is God's will in Christ Jesus for you. The spirit do not be quenching. Prophecies do not be scorning, yet all things be testing. The ideal be holding fast. From every appearance of wickedness be getting you away."

At I Cor. 15:12 any reader might imagine that the ordinary versions were somewhat clumsy. Now if Christ is preached that he has been raised (or roused) from the dead. This statement is not so straightforward as one would expect from Paul. This shews the order in the Greek, but supposing the word "Christ" has been drawn forward in order to make it very emphatic, we might re-cast the statement thus, "Now if it is being proclaimed that CHRIST from among dead ones has been roused. . . " That was enough to destroy the arguments of those who maintained that there was no up-standing of dead ones.

In Matt. 6:30 we find the order somewhat involved. We shall shew the most emphatic part in capitals, and the less emphatic part in italics, thus, "Now IF THE GRASS OF THE FIELD, to-day being, and tomorrow into a stove being cast, God thus is garbing—not by much rather you, scant-of-faith-ones?" In English we require to reverse the order very much, as shewn in any idiomatic version.

Peter, as might be expected, wields emphasis with powerful effect. In his first epistle, ch. 2:24, the Greek exhibits the fol, lowing order and ,stress, "Who, OUR SINS, Himself, carries up in His body, on to the tree; that, FROM THE SINS COMING TO BE AWAY, to the righteousness we should be living; (He) in whose wale you were healed."

Ch. 3:18 reads literally, "seeing that Christ also, ONCE, CONCERNING SINS, for our sakes dies, a just One for the sake of unjust ones, that US He may be introducing to God." Verse 21 has been described as difficult. Very literally it might be reproduced thus: "Which in anti type is now saving you also—baptism (not a putting off of filth of flesh, but an interpellation unto God for a good conscience), through Jesus Christ's resurrection." Goodspeed illustrates thus, "Baptism, which corresponds to it, now saves you also (not as the mere removing of physical stain, but as the craving for a conscience right with God)—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." True baptism implies not only the enquiry for a good conscience, but the answer. That is why the A. V. reads "answer," while the R. V. reads "interrogation" (or, inquiry, appeal).

Rotherham, at Luke 14:34, reads, "Good, then, (is) the salt." Here the first word takes the emphasis. But at John 4:24, we could hardly render by "Spirit (is) (the) God!" Yet the Greek has pneuma ho Theos. Evidently the word "spirit" takes the emphasis. We must thus express it, "God is SPIRIT'" But what shall we do with John 1:1? Shall we say, "and GOD was the word," or rather "and the word was GOD"? The former seems very pointless, and no reasonable explanation has yet been given. In each of these three examples the first word in the Greek bears the emphasis. Ought we not to render each verse consistently? The Logos was certainly GOD, and no other. And we are just as certain that the Word or Logos was no other than the person who was later known as the Anointed. On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah did not appear to have any difficulty in recognizing the well known face of Him whom they had conversed with long hundreds of years before, Him whom they addressed as Jehovah. The Word was and is GOD, and He is the only One who can express God.

In the first few verses of Romans 13 it is important to note the emphasis. At the end of v. 1, "by God" is emphatic. In verses 2 and 4 (twice) "God" is very emphatic. In v. 2, "for themselves" is strikingly emphatic. To read such a passage without the proper emphasis is like eating food which has no taste.

Verse 12 of Romans 14 becomes alive with power when we observe the word order. "Consequently then, each of us—CONCERNING HIMSELF—an account will be giving to God." Is not that why Paul tells us no longer to go on judging one another? If, however, we ignore the emphasis, we shall miss the vital part.

Sometimes words are emphatic because of their form, rather than their position in the clause. Thus, the common word for "all" is pas, pasa, pan. This word is very frequent in the New Testament. Another form of it; however, occurs over forty times, hapas. For this word Rotherham makes very good use of the expression, "one and all", or "all together." The flood came and took away one-and-all (Matt. 24:39). One-and-all were holding John that he was IN REALITY a prophet (Mark 11:32). Being gone into the world, all-of-it, proclaim the gospel to the entire creation (Mark 16:15). To thee shall I give this authority, all-of-it, and the glory of them (Luke 4:6). And amazement took one-and-all, and they glorified God (Luke 5:26). The infirm people got cured one-and-all (Acts 5:16). The Jews knew, one-and-all, that Timothy's father all along was a Greek (Acts 16:3).

In the whole New Testament, probably nine verses out of ten bear some emphasis, but the amount will vary with each writer.

The cases cited above are only a few samples out of a very wide field which lies before the student of Greek, which is a language extremely easy to learn when one really desires to master it.

Last updated 27.8.2007