When is an Adjective not an Adjective? - Mondays with Mounce 281
Wouldn’t it be nice if grammar rules were absolute? What if nouns were always nouns, adjectives were always adjectives and nothing else, and adverbs were adverbs and not particles? But that’s not the way it is with grammar in general. As I like to say, grammar is analog, not digital. There is rarely, if ever, a hard and fast rule that is always followed as if there were a digital on and off. Language is analog; it exists on a continuum.
A good example of this is the well-known admonition from Jesus to his disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give (δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.)” (Matt 10:8). δωρεάν is technically the accusative singular of the noun δωρεά meaning “that which is given or transferred freely by one pers. to another, gift, bounty” (BDAG). The root is also visible in the noun δῶρον, meaning “gift, present.”
The rules is that the accusative neuter form of an adjective can function adverbially (see Wallace, 293). In the case of δωρεάν, it is feminine since it is formed from a feminine noun. It is used in the Greek Testament both as a noun and adverbially (14x).
Matt 10:8 caught my eye because it is a powerful summation of the nature of the Christian life when it comes to generosity. When Jesus sent out the Twelve to spread the good news of the kingdom, he sent them with these instructions. “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts — no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep” (Matt 10:8-10, NIV).
As I read these words, I realized that they speak to both the very heart of BiblicalTraining as well as the spiritual health of our users. The same could be said for charitable giving to a church or any other ministry (Christian or not). Let me explain.
Those of us who run BiblicalTraining, and the professors who have donated their classes, are the beneficiaries of God’s free grace. We have been saved by grace, and we have been gifted by grace with the abilities to perform our mission.
Likewise, our users received the good news of God’s saving grace freely. They have received world-class biblical instruction freely. And God has placed much of his wealth graciously under their care to be used to advance his purposes.
The other side of the coin is that those who have freely received must freely give. The Twelve were to make no provisions for their journey because workers are worth their keep. Paul agrees: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages’” (1 Tim 5:17-18).
We have freely received, and so we freely give, but with the understanding that the one who receives freely must also give freely, graciously.
It is a well known that fact that about 2.2% of active church attendees tithe. The vast majority spend more on lattes than the work of God in this world. They have freely received, but they are stingy and selfish in return. I wonder if we realize that Jesus’ words apply to us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy (ἁπλοῦς, which also means “generous”), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy (πονηρός, which can also mean “stingy”), your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matt 6:22-23).
δωρεὰν ἐλάβετε, δωρεὰν δότε.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament is available to freely read on Bible Gateway.
Learn more about Bill's Greek resources at BillMounce.com.
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