Israelology and Theology of the Old Testament, Part Two


Israelology and Theology of the Old Testament, Part Two

by Dr. Daniel E. Woodhead

Deposition by Peter Paul Rubens 1612-14

Deposition by Peter Paul Rubens 1612-14


In order to understand Dispensationalism one must have a working definition to begin a competent defense.

The term Dispensationalism is a system of theology, which seeks to unfold the absolute truth of Scripture. Several prominent theologians have provided us with concise definitions that can help us in reaching our definition. Theologians such as Arnold Fruchtenbaum, C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer and Charles Ryrie will be quoted. Fruchtenbaum provides us with a definition that closely parallels the Ryrie definition. Therefore one definition will suffice for both men. He says, “Dispensationalism is a system of theology which views the world as a household run by God. In this household-world God is dispensing or administering its affairs according to His own will and in various stage of revelation in the process of time. These various stages mark off the distinguishably different economies in the outworking of His total purpose, and these economies are the dispensations. In this system there are usually, but not always, seven such dispensations.”

Scofield simply defined a dispensation as a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.

Chafer speaks of a dispensation “as a specific divine economy, a commitment from God to man of a responsibility to discharge that which God has appointed him.” Therefore, we can conclude with another classic definition from Clarence Mason a former dean of the Philadelphia College of the Bible. He states: “A dispensation is God’s distinctive method of governing mankind or a group of men during a period of human history, marked by a crucial event, test, failure and judgment. From the divine standpoint, it is a stewardship, a rule of life, or a responsibility for managing God’s affairs in His house. From the historical standpoint it is a stage in the progress of revelation.”

Several other characteristics of Dispensationalism are essential for a fundamental understanding of this theological system. First is the method regarding elucidation of Scripture called the consistent literal or plain approach throughout the whole of Scripture. This approach applies the proper rules of grammatical usage of the text with appropriate deference given to the historical and contextual position of the text within the entire Scripture. In short you read Scripture as you would any other piece of literature where the author seeks to communicate with the reader. The second essential characteristic is a clear distinction between the purposes and promises of Israel and the Church throughout Scripture. Finally this system realizes that God’s main purpose in this world is to bring Himself glory.

Therefore, one may define Dispensationalism as: A system of theological interpretation, which seeks to unfold the absolute truth of Scripture. In it the world is viewed as a household over which God dispenses or manages His affairs and man has accountability to respond to God according to the degree of revelation that God has provided during each progressive dispensation. In this system Scripture text is taken literally within appropriate grammatical rules and governance of usage. The promises to Israel and the Church are consistently distinct throughout Scripture and all the while God’s glory is paramount.

Recently, scholars in dispensational seminaries have developed variations of Dispensationalism, which need to be addressed. These variations make necessary additional definitions for the now “two categories.” With the addition of a second form of Dispensationalism one must define each variety individually. Formerly Dispensationalism proper is now called classical Dispensationalism.

Within the realm of Biblical interpretation the word Dispensationalism means, a Biblical theological interpretive schema that during the various ages of time from creation to the New Jerusalem and eternity future whereby mankind has responsibility to respond to God according to the degree of revelation that He has provided about Himself and His requirements for mankind. That is, mankind has a degree of responsibility to respond to God according to the level of revelation He has given him. This revelation progresses throughout time. Ryrie states that, “Progressive revelation views the Bible not as a textbook on theology but, the continually unfolding revelation of God given by various means throughout the successive ages. In this unfolding there are distinguishable stages of revelation when God introduces new things for which man becomes responsible. These stages are the economies, stewardships, or dispensations in the unfolding of His purpose. Dispensationalism therefore, recognizes the unity of His purpose and the diversity in the unfolding of it.”

One very important aspect of the Classical Dispensationalism theological schema is recognition of the element of time. Time and space were created according to Gen 1:1 and man lives in time and space on this planet. The failure to recognize this realism can afford much distress to sound Biblical interpretation. Some interpreters view the bible as “all spiritual.” They refer to Jesus’ words to Pilate in John 18:36 where He says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” According to this verse some think they have hermeneutical license to evaluate each verse in the Bible as being “Spiritual” and not literal. That is, since Christ says His kingdom is not of this world then Biblical interpretation should not have to adhere to the normative rules of recognition of time and space. So they view all scripture as timeless or spiritual and there are no real eras or times to concern themselves with. This “spiritualizing” the text leads to a plethora of private interpretations and God’s communication to us is fractured and confused because the text can mean anything the reader decides it means. Peter warns us about this in 2 Pet 1:20. This leads to the next important aspect of Classic Dispensationalism. That is, the Bible must be interpreted literally.

The literal interpretation of the Bible is the only way God can communicate to mankind and have a common understandable communication medium. God has given us logic and reason for understanding and He is not the author of confusion, 1 Cor 14:33, He wants to convey His message to us. Literally means using the normal contextual and grammatical rules that we would normally adhere to while reading any other form of literature. In this method words are given the same ordinary meaning that they had in the historical time period that they were originally used.

This subject word, Dispensationalism, means the acting out or administrating, the concept of managing and the act of dispensing something to someone such as a responsibility to fulfill. The Greek word for dispensing is Oikonomia, from which we get our English work economy, means to manage something, to regulate to administer or plan something out. The central idea of dispensing is to manage the affairs of a household as a steward. Chafer in his epochal work, Systematic Theology, defines a dispensation as, “A specific divine economy, a commitment from God to man of a responsibility to discharge that which God has appointed him.” We see God dispensing grace for example with the present dispensation of grace and the responsibility that He has given us to respond to him through belief and walking with Him (Eph 3:2). This is of course a different level of responsibility to God that man has than the period of the dispensation of Mosaic Law. Some such as Scofield refer to this responsibility as a test. So therefore, we can say that man is required to respond to God as a type of test according the revelation He has provided of Himself and his requirements.

For each dispensation there are 7 aspects. Since brevity is the soul of wit they will be simply listed here. 1) Each dispensation has a “Chief Person” 2) Each dispensation has a “Name” 3) Each dispensation has been provided a responsibility to God. 4) Each dispensation has been given a “Test” from God. 5) In each dispensation man has “Failed” the test. 6) For each dispensation God has provided a “judgment”. 7) God has provided a measure of “grace” for each dispensation. Further, a new covenant is often the basis for a new dispensation.

Finally we can conclude with another salient aspect of Classical Dispensationalism that requires introduction. That is the distinction between, Israel and the Church. Prior to the incarnation there were two types of people on earth in God’s economy, the nation Israel and the gentiles (nations). Since the incarnation there are now three, Israel, the gentiles and the Church (Ecclesia). Through normative reading of the Bible we see that it clearly distinguishing the difference between Israel and the Church. They are separate entities and the Church is not Israel and Israel is not the Church.

Therefore, one may define Classical Dispensationalism as: A system of theological interpretation, which seeks to unfold the absolute truth of Scripture. In it the world is viewed as a household over which God dispenses or manages His affairs and man has accountability to respond to God according to the degree of revelation that God has provided during each progressive dispensation. In this system Scripture text is taken literally within appropriate grammatical rules and governance of usage. The promises to Israel and the Church are consistently distinct throughout Scripture and all the while God’s glory is paramount. Finally, in Classical Dispensationalism there are usually seven dispensations. They have at various times had different names. One set of titles is: 1) Innocence 2) Conscience 3) Human Government 4) Promises 5) Law 6) Grace & 7) Kingdom.

The new version of Dispensationalism is called Progressive Dispensationalism. It is difficult to concisely define.

According to the various descriptions its adherents and proponents have provided, little clarity is provided to convey a succinct definition to their readers. They describe a dispensation as a “particular arrangement in which God regulates the way human beings relate to Him”. They also describe the dispensations as successive arrangements in the progressive revelation and accomplishment of redemption. One wonders what the difficulty is in clearly defining a system that seems to be attracting adherents in previously dispensational seminaries. Pate asserts that the “Hermeneutical key to Revelation and for that matter the New Testament in general is the “already/not yet” eschatological tension” Pate further describes one aspect of the attraction to Progressive Dispensationalism is the PDer’s are “growing weary over sensationalist treatment of prophecy”. Perhaps the PDer’s will define the movement as: they eschew the clear presentation of prophecy. Perhaps this is one motivation to formulate a different theological schema. Some of the key aspects appear to be: 1) The kingdom of God is the unifying theme of biblical history, 2) There are four dispensations 3) Christ is already on the Davidic throne 4) There is a blurring of the distinction between Israel and the Church 5) The new covenant has already been inaugurated but, the blessings are not realized until the millennium, 6) The hermeneutic moves away from a literal to a “complimentary” 7) The one divine plan of holistic redemption encompasses all people and all areas of human life.

There are several strong concerns that are apparent within Progressive Dispensationalism. 1) Any system of Biblical interpretation that does not hold to a literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic is in danger of private interpretation. 2) One must be suspect of a system if its adherents and proponents cannot with great clarity describe the system. 3) Finally, any system that seeks to blur the distinction between Israel and the Church must be viewed with suspicion. Israel is the apple of Gods eye and His elect. We have seen the persecution they have suffered through the marginalization of their position with God through other replacement theological systems. It therefore is incumbent on scholars to be suspect of any new theology, which seeks to marginalize the Jew.

Dispensational theology is born out of a “right” reading of the biblical text. It is not a contrived theology wherein the adherents developed the theology and then sought to impress it upon the text to make it fit. If this were the case the meaning of the text would of necessity be adjusted to comply with the theology. Since this theology comes from correctly reading the text, we can look to the text to explain the theology.

  1. The unifying factor in Dispensational theology is that to God alone is the glory demonstrating the fact that He alone is the sovereign God. (Acts 7:2; Eph 1:17: Ps 24:7-10; Rom 11:36 etc.)
  2. The Bible shows that God is glorified with His sovereign dealings with nations (Ezek 39:17-21) rulers (Rom 9:17; Dan 4:17; 34-37), Israel (Isa 43:1,7; 46:13; 60:1-3; Jer 13:11), the Church (Eph 3:20-21), and the nonelect (Rom 9:17-18;21),. God is glorified by His sovereign acts of creation (Ps 19:1; Rev 4:11), His sovereign judgments (Isa 2:19; 21; 59:18-19; Ezek 39:17-21; Rev 11:13; 19:1-2) and His sovereign act of hiding knowledge from humans. (Prov 25:2; Matt 24:36) etc. etc. etc.
  3. The successive dispensations glorify God in several ways. They demonstrate that God is the ruler in spite of Satan’s attempt to overthrow His rule and man’s rebellion against God’s rule.
  4. God holds man responsible for the different ways He administers His sovereign creation though each successive dispensation.
  5. The dispensations show how desperately man needs to submit to God in order for the events of earth to be right. They show the tragedy and disorder that occurs as a result of man’s failure to accept God’s rule.
  6. The dispensations progressively move all human history toward the God intended climax of all civilization and restoration of the eternal order.
  7. In the final dispensation of the fullness of times (Eph 1:9-10) God will fully glorify Himself by crushing Satan and Satan’s kingdom (Rom 16:20; Rev 20:1-3), restoring His own Kingdom rule on earth with Jesus Christ on the Davidic Throne in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:15; 20:4-6) and reversing the consequences of man’s rebellion. (Matt 19:28; Acts 3:19-21)
  8. Dispensational theology takes in to account the way the Bible provides distinction in God’s actions in ruling His creation in different periods of history. The Bible is chronological starting with creation of time space and matter in Genesis 1 moving to the restoration of the eternal order in Rev 22. Through each of these dispensations God works in different ways with His creation.
  9. Dispensational theology clearly shows that the Bible demonstrates that God progressively reveals Himself through the different dispensations.


Since dispensationalists and covenant theologians both adhere to Premillennialism both must be defined before defending the theology.

Within the realm of theology this is an eschatological position that states that Jesus Christ returns to the earth to establish His 1,000 year kingdom at the beginning of the kingdom. This interpretation of Scripture comes to us by a literal reading of Revelation 19:11 – 20:4.Namely, Christ returns and He sets up His Kingdom. The term millennium is of Latin origin meaning thousand years. This term is not found in our Bibles but the Greek equivalent appears six times in the 20th chapter of the Revelation. So with the prefix “Pre” the term describes the belief that Jesus Christ returns to the earth and establishes the millennium when He returns to the earth. The believers that hold to this end time’s position believe that it is the historic faith of the church and hold to a literal scriptural interpretation. Further, their belief system holds that the literal covenants that God made with Abraham and David are unconditional and have literal fulfillment. In no sense has the church replaced Israel and abrogated or received these covenants in place of Israel. Most premillenialists also believe that the Lord will “Rapture” His church out of the world prior to the Great Tribulation. The final battle of the Tribulation will result in the Second Coming followed by the millennium and then the fulfillment of Gods promises to Israel. This view prevailed in the early church until the allegorical method of interpretation of Scripture was developed by Origen (cir 210).

There are several differences within the Premillennial system of end times understanding. These mostly pertain to the timing of the rapture. Some view that rapture as occurring prior to the Great Tribulation. Some view the rapture as occurring at the end of the Tribulation. Still others view it as occurring in the middle of the tribulation, with at least two timings during this period. One system even views a partial rapture of only those who are ready for the Lord to return. Those not living spiritual lives will have to go through the tribulation.

Finally, premillenialists all agree that Christ returns prior to the Millennium, Old Testament promises to Israel will then be fulfilled and the covenants God made with David and Abraham will be fulfilled. They also agree that there will be a literal seven-year period called the Great Tribulation, The Time of Jacob’s Trouble or “That Day”. The fundamental text supporting Premillennialism are chapters 19 and 20 of the Book of Revelation.

Finally, it is important to emphasize the text in Revelation chapters 19 and 20. With a “normal consistent” reading of these two chapters one can only come to a single conclusion regarding the timing of the second coming in relation to the Great Tribulation and the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. The book of Revelation has emphasized the duration of the Great Tribulation as seven years. The Lord Jesus arrives from heaven at the culmination of the Great Tribulation and just prior to the millennium.

Rev 19:11  

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him [was] called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

Rev 19:12  

His eyes [were] as a flame of fire, and on his head [were] many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.

Rev 19:13  

And he [was] clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

Rev 19:14  

And the armies [which were] in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

This demonstrates the arrival of Jesus to complete the battle of Armageddon and take control of the earth. From the sixth chapter until this nineteenth chapter we follow the chronology of the Great Tribulation. It concludes with Jesus’ arrival. The next stage in the chronology of all world events is the establishment of the long awaited Kingdom. Chapter twenty tells us of the duration of the Kingdom. In fact it clearly states the duration six times. It is a thousand years. Some theological constructs, which are not based upon normal word usage and traditional grammar, see some period other than a thousand years. This writer sees a thousand years as written. He is not in possession of enough imagination to devise alternate meanings for the word thousand. A thousand seems to be a thousand here and there is no compelling reason to change the normal meaning of this word for these six instances. We know much about the character and nature of the Kingdom for the Old Testament. We learn here in Revelation chapter 20 its duration.

Covenant Premillennialism

Largely, the adherents of this position believe that Christ will return after a long period of time. Since they hold to a symbolic interpretation of Scripture in many areas they treat the one thousand year period known as the Millennium as symbolic too. They think that the entire age since the beginning of the world is the Millennium and that gradually during this period of all ages on the planet where the will of God is done in the hearts of born again believers. They think that the kingdom is spiritual and that entrance to is by being born again. This kingdom is a state of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

They make no distinction between the kingdom of heaven, kingdom of Christ, and the body of Christ. There is a general blurring of spiritual (eternal) activities and those taking place in time and space. The kingdom of God has been in existence since the beginning of the world, is extended by preaching the Gospel and will continue until the entire has been for the most part Christianized.

There will be mixed growth characterized by, great crisis, and a long period with great continuity. At the end of this long kingdom there will be the Great Tribulation, which will be followed by a general resurrection. Finally the earth and heaven will be dissolved by fire, leading to a new heaven and earth, which will have no evil.

Biblical Interpretation:

Some final words must be said on the methodology one utilizes when reading the Biblical text since various methodologies employed have produced different outcomes. One should read the Bible, as one would approach any other piece of written literature.

While reading the reader should employ the same normal word meaning that is used in other forms of written material unless the context demands a different meaning. It is also mandatory to consistently apply normal grammatical usages to the text. In other words the reader is not to create word meanings or develop independent grammatical techniques to provide personal meaning to the Biblical passage under observation. The net result will be someone else speaking instead of God.

The International Inductive Study Bible teaches some aspects this method with the following excerpted text:

Although the Bible is to be interpreted literally, it is important to remember that, as with other writings, it contains figures of speech, which must be interpreted for what they are and in the light of their intended purpose. As you seek to handle the Word of God accurately, you will find it helpful to understand the definitions of the different types of figures of speech.

figure of speech is a word, phrase, or an expression used in an imaginative rather than a literal sense.

Discerning the use of figures of speech is important in biblical interpretation. For example, there has been much controversy in the church over Jesus’ statement regarding the bread at the Last Supper: “When He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). Some believe that the bread actually becomes His body (the doctrine of transubstantiation); others believe that Jesus was simply using a metaphor and that the bread is representative of His body.

Three principles for dealing with figurative language are:

  • Identify the fact that the author is using figurative language.
  • Identify the type of figurative language in use: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and so on.
  • Follow guidelines for interpreting what the author meant by his use of that particular figure of speech

You will be aided in your study of Scripture if you are able to identify when the author is using a figure of speech. The following are brief definitions of the types of figurative language used in the Bible.

h A metaphor is an implied comparison between two things which are different. In a metaphor the words of comparison-like, as, as….so is, and such as-are not used. An example is John 6:48, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”

h A simile is an expressed comparison of two different things or ideas that uses the words like, as, as….so is, and /or such as. An example is Revelation 1:14b, “His eyes were like a flame of fire.”

h Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration for effect or emphasis. Hyperboles are found in all languages, and they are frequently used among Semitic peoples. For example, “My soul is crushed with longing” (Psalm 119:20).

hMetonymy is used when the name of one object or concept is used for that of another to which it is related. This is a figure of association. An example of metonymy is found in the statement, “All the country of Judea was going out to Him.” The metonymy is country, which refers to the people rather than the region itself. Note also the hyperbole, all the country.

Synecdoche is another figure of association where the whole can refer to the part or the part to the whole. This is often found in the use of the term the law, which can refer to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), the Ten Commandments, or the whole Old Testament.

A synecdoche can also be a singular for a plural or a plural for a singular. An example is in Jeremiah 25:29. God says He is going to summon “a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth.” The singular sword represents many swords.

h In personification and object is given characteristics of attributes that belong to people- for example, when the trees clap their hands and the mountains sing for joy (Isaiah 55:12).

h Irony is a statement which says the opposite of what is meant. Irony is used for emphasis or effect. When it is not easy to discern if a statement is ironic, then examine it first as a true statement. As such does it make sense in its context? Second, examine it as a figurative irony. If this makes sense and fits with the context, then accept it as irony. Otherwise, treat it as a truth.

The Study Bible goes on the add various other grammatical elements and explain them. Items such as parables, allegory, types, and symbols. Other techniques of composition need to be understood in order to elucidate the Scriptures. What follows is a list of these and their description.

A literary composition is an arrangement of thoughts which conveys meaning to a reader. An understanding of the laws of composition can help you discern what the author is saying.

The following laws of composition can help in the study of the Word of God.

1. Comparison – to compare in order to show similarities. A comparison is the association of like things.

2. Contrast – to compare in order to show differences. A contrast is the association of opposites.

3. Repetition – to use the same word of phrase a number of times.

4. Progression – to extend a specific theme throughout a portion of Scripture. Many times the author will amplify what he is saying as he progresses in his writing or adds to what he has said.

5. Climax – a high point built by a progression from the lesser to the greater. A climax is simply an extension of the law of progression until it reaches a peak of intensity.

6. Pivotal Point – a changing or a turning so that the elements on each side of the point differ in some way, In the Gospel of John the pivotal point comes in 11:54, when Jesus turns from ministering mainly to the public to ministering to His disciples. (Read John 11:54). In Genesis the pivotal point of the book comes in chapter 12, where Moses turns from recording major events to tell us of major characters.

7. Radiation – the central of single point from on to which other truths point. An illustration of this is 1 Corinthians 15, where the truths of that chapter radiate to resurrection.

8. Interchange – to alternate, in sequence, at least two main thoughts, subjects, or characteristics. This is most apparent in the Gospel of Luke. Luke opens with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, and then moves to the announcement of Jesus’ birth. He then returns to John the Baptist’s birth, then to the birth of Christ. This is interchange.

9. General to particular (or vice versa) – to move from the extensive or general to the specific or particular. This is beautifully seen in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 gives the general overview of creation, including the creation of man, male and female, on the sixth day. Genesis 2 moves from the general to the particular, giving more details of the creation of woman.

10. Cause and effect (or vice versa) – to move from the source to the consequence of it. An example of this is found in John 11. Verse 4 states that the cause of the death of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Christ, was to glorify the Son. The effect is seen in verse 45, where the people believed on Christ after seeing His power in raising Lazarus. The effect is also seen in John 12:17, 18, where once again the Son is glorified.

11. Explanation or analysis – the presentation of an idea or event followed by its explanation. This is expertly done by our Lord in John 6, where He multiplies the loaves and the fishes and then brings forth His discourse stating that He is the bread who gives us life.

12. Interrogation – the presentation of a question, usually followed by its answer. Paul masterfully uses this technique in writing Romans. Paul anticipates his readers’ questions or objections, states them usually in the form of a question, and then proceeds to answer the very questions he has raised. Romans 6 beautifully demonstrates this technique.

13. Preparation of introduction – the presentation of background information to prepare the reader for that which follows. The purpose of the Gospel of John is to prepare the reader to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In John 1:1-18 the writer thoroughly introduces his subject and prepares his readers for what is to come.

14. Summarization – to restate the main points, to sum up, or to briefly restate particular truths. Moses does this in chapters 1 to 4 of the book of Deuteronomy as he rehearses before the children of Israel those things that took place following the exodus from Egypt. Acts 7 provides a masterful summarization by Stephen of Israel’s history.

Finally, it is imperative to adhere to the issue of verbs.


(Shows the Kind of Action)

Greek verb tenses differ from English verb tenses in that the kink of action portrayed is the most significant element, and time is a relatively minor consideration.

Action as continuous

Present tense-continuous action. It is primarily progressive or linear; it shows action that is continuing.


Jeff is studying the Bible

John 15:4b—”As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

John 15:6—”If anyone does not abide in Me.”

Imperfect tense—continuous action, usually in the past


Jeff was studying the Bible.

John 15:19a—”If you were of the world, the world would love its own,” (Literally, “would have been loving” its own.)

h Action as completed

Perfect tense—punctiliar action in the past with results continuing into the present.


Jeff is being transformed by having studied the Bible

John 15:3—”you are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

John 15:10b—”Just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”

Pluperfect tense—punctiliar action in the past with the results continuing in the past


Jeff was transformed because he had studied the Bible.

John 9:22—”For the Jews had already agreed.”

h Action as occurring

Aorist tense—punctiliar action. The aorist tense states an action as completed without regard to its duration; that is, it denotes the fact of an action without any reference to the length of that action. Compared to the present tense, the aorist tense expresses the action like a snapshot while the present tense action is like a moving picture, continuing on.


Jeff studied the Bible.

John 15:4a—”Abide in Me, and I in you.”

Future tense—indefinite action to occur in the future. Indicates continuing or punctiliar action in the future. This is the only tense that reflects the time of the action.


Jeff will be studying his Bible

John 15:7—”It shall be done for you.”

John 15:8—”So prove to be my disciples.”


(Shows How the Subject Is Related to the Action)

h Active voice-indicates that the subject produces the action.


Jeff hit the ball

John 15:2b—”And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it.”

hPassive voice—indicates that the subject is acted upon.


Jeff was hit by the ball.

John 15:6—”And they are burned.”

hMiddle voice-indicates that the subject initiates the action and also participates in the results of the action. (This voice is unique to Greek construction.)


Jeff hit himself with the ball

John 15:26—”That is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father; He will bear witness of Me.”

One note of interest when looking up a verb in a Greek study tool: The middle and passive voices will have identical forms, but the context will show you if the subject is receiving the action (passive voice) or if the subject initiated the action and participated in it (middle voice). Also, some verbs are deponent verbs. This means that their form in a Greek study tool may be listed as a passive or middle voice verb but their function or action is active. Usually your Greek study helps will list these as deponent verbs.


(Shows How the Action Is Related to Reality from the Speakers Point of View)

h Indicative mood—the declarative mood or mood of certainty. It is a statement of fact which assumes reality from the speaker’s point of view. This mood simple states a thing as being a fact.


Bible study has changed Jeff’s life.

John 15:6—”He is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

h Imperative mood—usually a command or entreaty. It is the mood of volition or will. The imperative mood in the Greek makes a demand on the will of the reader to obey the command; it is used to indicate prohibition and authority.


Jeff, study your homework.

John 15:4—”Abide in Me.”

John 15:7—”Ask whatever you wish.”

John 15:9—”Abide in My love.”

John 15:20—”Remember the word that I said to you.”

One aspect which will help your study of God’s Word is the understanding of the combination of the present tense and the imperative mood that is stating a negative command (a prohibition). The present imperative prohibition demands cessation of some act already in progress.


John 20:17—”Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me.” In other words, Mary was already clinging to Jesus, and Jesus was telling her to stop clinging and to go on refusing to cling to Him.

h Subjunctive mood—the mood of probability. It implies some doubt regarding the reality of the action from the speaker’s point of view. It expresses and uncertainty or an action which may or should happen. This is the mood used for conditional clauses, strong suggestions, or “polite” commands.


Jeff may have done his homework. Jeff, if you do not do your homework, you cannot participate in the class discussion

John 15:2—”That it may bear more fruit.”

John 15:4b—”As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

John 15:6—”If anyone does not abide in Me.”

John 15:7—”If you abide in Me and My words abide in you.”

Something else, which may help you in your study of God’s Word, is an understanding of the combination of the aorist tense and the subjective mood that is stating a negative command (a prohibition). The aorist subjunctive prohibition is a warning or an exhortation against doing a thing not yet begun.


John 13:8a—”Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” In other words, Peter was telling Jesus that He was not to wash his feet and Jesus was not even to start washing his feet.

h Optative mood—the mood of possibility.

This mood presents no definite anticipation of realization but merely presents the action as conceivable from the speaker’s point of view. (Used less frequently than the other moods)


wish my neighbor, Jeff, would take the Bible Studies.

2 Thessalonians 3:5—”And may the Lord direct your hearts.”

Clearly there is a way to understand any literature and the Bible particularly. It is through normative word and grammar usage. Any other way will produce results that the author did not intend. God has spoken and it is up to us to listen. This proper reading of the Bible is the hallmark of Dispensationalism.