Greek Temporal Elements in Revelation 9:15

The study of New Testament Greek is vital to a fuller understanding of the New Testament truths.

By ROLAND E. LOASBY, Professor of Biblical Languages, Theological Seminary

Of all languages Greek Koine in many respects stands foremost. The study of New Testament Greek is vital to a fuller understanding of the New Testament truths. As we cannot aftora to neglect it I offer no apology for studies based upon it.

Having written of the syntax of the article of Revelation 9:15 (See June and July Ministry), I now wish to present for study a few thoughts on the syntax of the case of the temporal elements involved, which, in each instance, for hour, day, month, and year, is in the accusative. This should prove helpful to an understanding of the text. The following quotation will serve as a starting point:

"The accusative when used of time expresses duration over the period, the locative regards the period as a point even if it is of some length, , . . while the genitive implies nothing as to duration." 1

Accusative Case Expresses Extent of Time

This statement expresses the fact of Greek syn­tax, that when the New Testament writers wish to express time as extended, as duration, they use the accusative case, inasmuch as the genius of the ac­cusative, in fact, its normal use, is to answer the question "How far?" This is expressed by Rob­ertson in a discussion of the accusative case and its functions:

"Extent of Time." It answers the question 'how far?' time, or 'how long?' In the New Testament the amples of time are far more frequent than those of mere space. . . . The accusative is thus used for duration or extension in the Indo-Germanic languages generally."

Genius of Locative Case a Point of Time

"Time. It is expressed much more persistently with the mere locative. , . Here, of course, time is regarded from the point of view of a point, not of duration (accusative). . . . The accusative is easily differentiated from both the locative and the genitive." 3

"Just the locative case without a preposition is common for a point of time in Greek as in Sanskrit, Latin, Anglo-Saxon."'

"The Locative of Time. The limits indicated in the locative may be temporal, in which case we call. it the locative of time. The idea of position is quite clear in this use : it signifies the time at which; i. e., point of time." '

Genitive Case Expresses Kind of Time

This temporal use of the genitive is extremely common. It is, in fact, the true genitive, and a very old use of it. It is used to express the kind of time:

"The genitive with words of time means this time rather than some other time."'

"The Adverbial Genitive. The genitive is sometimes used to define a verbal idea by attributing local or temporal relations, or as qualifying an adjective. Here its attributive function is still clearly present, for it is kind of action which is being emphasized. Thus action nuktos does not mean action at night (point of time) or during the night (limit of time), but action within the night (kind of time), or, to put it literally, night-time action. . . .

"The Genitive of Time. As already indicated, the significance here is distinction of time rather than point of time (locative) or duration of time (accusative). It is 'this rather than some other time.' " 7

"There is marked penetration in the statement of Gessner Harrison that the genitive 'is employed to qualify the meaning of a preceding noun, and to show in what more'definite sense it is to be taken.' . . Thus the basal function of the genitive is to define. In this it quite clearly carries with it an idea of limitation, and thus shows kinship with the accusative, which also has the idea of limitation. But the genitive limits as to kind, while the accusative limits as to extent."

The foregoing statements make plain the prin­ciple of syntax involved ; namely, that to express duration, extension of time, the accusative case is used ; to express a point of time, the locative case is used ; to denote the kind of time, the genitive case is used. As I have already said, the temporal words in Revelation 9 :15 are all in the accusative case, thus denoting an extension of time and not a point.

I shall now briefly illustrate these three cases from the Greek New Testament. There are liter­ally hundreds of examples in the New Testament which the interested student may study for his own information.

First, consider the accusative—the one which most concerns us at present—as it applies to Reve­lation:

"She was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day." Luke 2:37.

The temporal expression "night and day" is in the accusative case, showing that Anna's service was of extent, of duration, continually engaged in fastings and prayers, and also probably trimming the lamps and doing other sacred work, which was looked upon as a high honor. She spent her entire life, "not merely in the ordinary hours of prayer, at nine and three, or the ordinary fasts on Monday and Thursday, but in an ascetic—devo­tional method of life."

The International Critical Commentary agrees with this and says of Anna's not leaving the temple:

"This is to be understood, like 24:53 of constant attendance, rather than of actual residence within the temple precincts, although the latter may have been possible. She never missed a service, and between the services she spent most of her time in the temple.'

"The words of St. Luke may seem to imply that she spread her bed (or mat) in one of the corridors of the temple, and made it her home (Godet); but the expres­sion probably denotes assiduous attendance at all serv­ices." 

Other commentators are equally precise in their understanding of the accusative of extent of time of these words "night and day":

"Accusative of duration of time, all night and all day. She never missed a service in the temple." "

"When he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard." Matt. 20:2.

The expression day, per se, refers to the working day of between eight and twelve hours of labor in the fields. In the parable it refers to the working time, the full extent of which is devoted to God's service. Jude was called later than Peter, and Paul after that, and we at this eleventh hour; but at whatever hour we may be called, we have to labor the full extent of our time "while it is yet day."

"'The day' the Greek has it, an accusative of extent of time.""

"Then began He to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time." Luke 20:9.

Here Jesus speaks of the vineyard, a favorite figure for the people of Israel ; and in a few minutes tells the history of centuries. This period of his­tory, described in the parable as "a long time," is in the accusative case, and is the history of mankind in miniature. God's ways and counsel, the beautiful work of grace, His long-suffering despised, as exemplified in the long history of Israel, are all repeated throughout history. The "long time" of the parable is the accusative extent of time and is described as follows :

"The nearly two thousand years of Jewish history. Comp. Matt. 25:19. In this long time they learnt to say 'the Lord hath forsaken the earth.' Eze. 8 :12 ; Ps. 10 :5." "

"Accusative of extent of time, considerable times or periods of time."

"Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me." John 7:33.

This "little while," an accusative of extent of time, was a period of grace, in which Jesus would -finish His work as Son of man on the earth among men. It was a statement that His labors were drawing to a close. At the conclusion of this period of time of some six months Jesus would then withdraw home to His Pather. Then would begin the tragic retribution of the Jewish people. They would seek, but would not find, the Comforter, the divine Saviour. No more tragic period of time in the history of a people has ever been recorded by an accusative of extent of time:

"About six months; from the F. of Tabernacles to the Passover.""

"Accusative of extent of time. It was only six months to the last passover of Christ's ministry, and He knew that the end was near.""

We have given several illustrations of the accusa­tive of extent of time, inasmuch as that is the case used in Revelation 9 :15, "For an hour and a day, and a month, and a year."

This is a strong buttress to accompany the evi­dence for cumulative time, time in the aggregate, which we gave in our first two presentations on the syntax of the definite article used in this proph­ecy.

—To be concluded in November


1A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1919, 3d ed.), P. 495.

2 Id., pp. 469, 470. See also H. P. V. Nunn, A Short


3 Syntax of New Testament Greek (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1938), P. 40.

4 A. T. Robertson, op. cit., p. 522.

5 A. T. Robertson and W. Hersey Davis, A New Short Grammar of. the Greek Testament (Harpers, New York, 1933), p. 236.

6 H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Macmillan, New York, 1943), P. 87. See also H. P. V. Nunn, op. cit., p. 47, under heading, "Locative Uses of the Dative."

7 Robertson and Davis, op. cit., p. 227.

Dana and Mantey, op. cit., p. 77.

9 Id., p. 73. See also H. P. V. Nunn, op. cit., p. 290 

10 Henry Alford, The Greek Testament (Riverton's, London, 1868), Vol. I, p. 462.

11A. Plummer, "Gospel According to St. Luke," in The International Critical Commentary (Scribner's New York, 1896), P. 72.

12 The Bible Commentary, New Testament (Scribner's, New York, 1878), Vol. 1, p. 324.

13 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Richard R. Smith, Inc., New York, 193o), Vol. II, p. 30.

14 Id., Vol. I, p. 159.

15 F. W. Farrar, "The Gospel According to St. Luke," in Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, (Cambridge University Press, 1899), p. 350.

16 A. T. Robertson, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 250.

17 A. Plummer, "The Gospel According to St. John," in Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges, p. 176.

18A, T, Robertson, op. cit., Vol, V, p. 129.

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By ROLAND E. LOASBY, Professor of Biblical Languages, Theological Seminary

October 1944

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