Greek Word Studies: Time Substantives

By Charles Geiser

     There are at least five Greek terms denoting relative time factors in regards to “near future” events prophesied to take place within the first century milieu or genea (see Matthew 24:34). We think that many who have skirted the topic of Bible prophecy, or gone much further into it in their studies, may believe that those who have accepted a preterist chronology are isolated and very much in the minority. thus, we have done some research into several terms and have comments from a few lexicographers which may reveal some concepts heretofore unknown to some.


     This adverb is a hapax, i.e., found only once in the New Testament. It is translated “nearer” in the King James Version in Romans 13:11b. An interesting observation first, however, is that in 13:11a, “high time” in the King James Version should read translated, “and this, knowing the time, it is now an HOUR for you to be raised out of sleep,” hoti hoora eedee humas ex hupnou egertheenai…. Compare John in writing his first epistle a few years later from Romans, “young children, a last hour it is,” paidia, eschatee hoora estin…While Jesus was on earth He said, “marvel not at this, because is coming an hour in which all the ones in the tombs will hear the voice of him and will come forth the (ones) the good things having done to a resurrection of life, the (ones) the evil things having done to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:2829). In sequence then, in that first century setting, Jesus said an hour was coming. Paul says 28 years later it is now an hour for the Roman saints to be raised out of sleep, and John a few years after that said it was the last hour. Thus, we have this time element with the term hoora or hour indicating nearness and agreeing very well with Romans 13:11b. As mentioned, this adverb is derived from another adverb engus (next in our study), being a comparative in usage (Harper, Thayer, Vine, Liddel & Scott, and Arndt & Gingrich, under the term). The rendering here is favored by the word order in Romans 13:11b, “Salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.” “The reference is apparently to the Lord’s second coming, rather than to future glory” (Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, p. 747).”More specifically, eschatology now gives greater intensity to the exhortation, so that one occasionally speaks of a watchman’s cry” (E. Kasemann, Commentary on Romans, p. 362; comments on 11-14; compare J. Weiss, “Beitrage,” 245; Michel; Balz, TDNT, VIII, 554). “Certainly it is apparent here (Romans 13:11, CG) that imminent expectation was originally the basis of Christian admonition” (Grabner-Haider, Paraklese, 108ff.). We suggest that the salvation of the Roman saints was nearer than when they first believed because the second advent, the establishment of the kingdom of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment day (compare Romans 13:12a) were all nearer in collation to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 (look at Luke 21:28-32; Greek translation of Hebrews 1:14).


     This adverb is variously translated “nigh,” “near,” at hand,” “nigh at hand,” “from,” and “ready” in the King James Version. It is found some thirty times in the New Testament. It is “nigh” in such places as Matthew 24:32Mark 13:29Luke 19:11John 6:4Acts 9:38Romans 10:8Hebrews 6:8. It is translated “at hand” in Matthew 26:18John 2:137:2Philippians 4:5Revelation 1:322:10. It is “near” in Matthew 24:33Mark 13:28John 3:2311:54. It is “nigh at hand” in Luke 21:30,31John 11:5519:42. “From” in Acts 1:12; and “ready” in Hebrews 8:13b (this last passage literally becomes “(is) near vanishing” in reference to the first covenant or diatheekee.

     Harper’s Greek Lexicon says the term translates “near” (p.111). Liddell & Scott says “of time, nigh at hand” (p.189). Thayer remarks under the term that “it concerns things imminent and soon to come to pass. “Summer,” Matthew 24:32Mark 13:28Luke 21:30. Of the coming crucifixion, Matthew 26:18. (Writer’s note: does this term giving us “near” mean the same in Revelation 22:10 as it does in Matthew 26:18? No doubt about it in the Matthew passage, why doubt in Revelation passage?) Of the kingdom of God, Luke 21:21 (apply Luke 21:31 with Mark 9:1 and Matthew 16:27,28 rather than Mark 9:1 with Acts 2!) In reference to time, Revelation 1:3c. Of the near advent of persons: of Christ’s return from heaven, ho kurios engus, Philippians 4:5. With the addition epi thurais, at the door (“it”), Matthew 24:33Mark 13:29. Near to being cursed, engus kataras, Hebrews 6:8. Soon to vanish (the covenant), aphanismou, Hebrews 8:13 (Thayer, Greek Lexicon, pp. 164,165).

     “The term with echon (Acts 1:12), present participle neuter of echoo, to have, R.V., ‘nigh unto…off’ (KJV ‘from’ nigh unto’ with reference to death, Philippians 2:27) is the neuter of the adjective parapleesios, near, nearly resembling” (Vine, New Testament Words, under “Hand,” “nigh,” “Near,” “Ready”). Arndt & Gingrich on a few passages: of the parousia, Philippians 4:5; compare I Clement 21:3. “The word is close to you,” engus sou to hreema estin, explained by what follows, Romans 10:8. “At (your) very door,” engus epi thurais, Matthew 24:33Mark 13:29 (Greek Lexicon, p.213). “Drawing nigh” (John 6:19) is literally “becoming nigh” (Wycliff, “to be made next to the boat”). Romans 10:8 to Vincent, “very nigh thee is the word.” Hebrews 8:13 would read, “is nigh unto vanishing” (referring to the first covenant). the whole phrase would translate “but that which is becoming old and waxing aged is nigh unto vanishing” (see Vincent, Word Studies, under all verses under “Engus,” II).

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