Bible Review 7:6, December 1991

Greek for Bible Readers

A simple word study

By David Alan Black

Bible Review

Word study, or lexical analysis, the process we use to determine the meaning of words in a foreign-language text, was the focus of our last column. We discussed the principles—considering the range of meanings, the context and the significance of the words—as well as the procedures and dangers of doing Greek word study in the New Testament. Here we give an example of a word study based on 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (please turn to this verse). Paul commands the Thessalonians to help “the weak” (twßn ajsqenwßn, toµn asthenoµn, genitive plural). But who are “the weak”?

The dominant sense of the adjective ajsqenhv~ (asthenes, “weak,” nominative singular) in classical Greek was “powerless,” and thus the term was capable of a wide variety of specific meanings in different contexts. The clause “help the weak” in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is part of a larger series of exhortations in the letter. These exhortations all seem to address specific issues facing the Thessalonian believers.

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