The definite article is the most common kind of determiner in Koiné Greek.
In Koiné Greek, the definite article describes a noun by identifying it specifically in some way. The definite article contains the same standard word endings as an adjective. Much like a typical adjective, the definite article describes a noun but includes a much wider range of functions than a typical adjective. The definite article must always agree in case, number and gender with the term it describes.
|Ἀβραὰμ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰσαάκ Ἰσαὰκ δὲ ἐγέννησεν τὸν Ἰακώβ|
|Abraam egennēsen ton Isaak Isaak de egennēsen ton Iakōb|
|Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob|
The definite article can function in many different ways in Koiné Greek.
Marks a noun as definite¶
the noun is definite or specific.
Ὡς δὲ ἔμελλον αἱ ἑπτὰ ἡμέραι συντελεῖσθαι, (Act 21:27)
Now when the seven days were almost over
Indicates a specific category of noun¶
It can indicate a category, rather than a specific person or item.
ἄξιος γὰρ ὁ ἐργάτης τοῦ μισθοῦ αὐτοῦ (Luk 10:7)
for the laborer is worthy of his wages (This is a general principle applying to all laborers [the entire category].)
Indicates that an adjective or participle is functioning as a noun¶
σὺν τοῖς ἁγίοις πᾶσιν (2Co 1:1)
with all the saints (lit., “the holy)
ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, (Mrk 1:7)
one who is stronger than me is coming after me,
Functions as a personal pronoun¶
οἱ δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας °τὸν Χριστὸν καταγγέλλουσιν (Php 1:17)
But they from envy preach Christ.
Functions as a possessive pronoun¶
The article can be used like a possessive pronoun.
τί γὰρ οἶδας, γύναι, εἰ τὸν ἄνδρα σώσεις; (1Co 7:16)
For how do you know, woman, if you will save your husband?
Functions as a relative pronoun¶
The article can be used like a relative pronoun.
οὕτως γὰρ ἐδίωξαν τοὺς προφήτας τοὺς πρὸ ὑμῶν (Mat 5:12)
For thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you
Personal names often have the article (which often will not be translated).
Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην (Mat 3:13)
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John
Indicates temporality when paired with an infinitive¶
The article can be used with infinitives and indicate temporality.
καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ σπείρειν ὃ μὲν ἔπεσεν παρὰ τὴν ὁδόν (Mar 4:4)
and it happened when he sowed (lit. in the to sow), some fell by the roadside
Indicates the subject when paired with the accusative of an infinitive¶
- The article can be used with infinitives to indicate the subject of
the action which is given in the accusative. (It is sometimes called an accusative of general reference).
ἐπεθύμησα τοῦτο τὸ πάσχα φαγεῖν μεθʼ ὑμῶν πρὸ τοῦ με παθεῖν· (Luk 22:15)
I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer (lit. before the me to suffer). (The idea is that the suffering has reference to “me”, i.e. Christ).
Indicates the subject of the verb εἰμί (to be)¶
καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (Jhn 1:1)
and the Word was God
Refers back to a specific thing mentioned previously¶
This is called the anaphoric (meaning “refers to again”) use of the definite article.
πόθεν οὖν ἔχεις τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ζῶν; (Jhn 4:11)
Where, then, do you get that living water? (referring back to ὕδωρ ζῶν in 4:10)
Functions as a demonstrative pronoun¶
This is called the deictic (meaning “pointing”) use of the definite article.
ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος. (Jhn 19:5)
“Behold, the man! (meaning “this man”, standing here)
Functions as a adjective par excellence¶
- The article can be used to indicate that a substantive is the very
best (or worst) of its kind, or “in a class by itself”. This is called par excellence.
ὁ προφήτης εἶ σύ; (Jhn 1:21)
Are you the Prophet? (referring to the prophet which Moses said would come after him [Deu 18:15, 18])
Functions as a monadic adjective¶
The article can be used to indicate that a noun is unique or one of a kind. This is very similar to the previous usage and thus there is debate over which usages are par excellence and which are monadic.)
καὶ ἀκριβέστερον αὐτῷ ἐξέθεντο τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ θεοῦ (Act 18:26)
and more clearly explained to him the way of God
In the construction ὁ δέ or ὁ μὲν … ὁ δέ, the article indicates a change of subject and is used as a third person personal pronoun in the nominative (e.g., he, she, they).
ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτοῖς Ἐχθρὸς ἄνθρωπος τοῦτο ἐποίησεν. οἱ δὲ αὐτῷ λέγουσιν … ὁ δέ φησιν· (Matt. 13:28-29)
and he said to them, “An enemy has done this.” And they said to him … and he said
Similarly, in the construction ὁ μὲν … ὁ δέ when the article is nominative, a contrast is indicated between groups.
ἐσχίσθη δὲ τὸ πλῆθος τῆς πόλεως, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἦσαν σὺν τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις οἱ δὲ σὺν τοῖς ἀποστόλοις. (Act 14:4)
and the crowd of the city was divided, and some were with the Jews but others were with the apostles
When two singular nouns are joined by καὶ (and):
- If both have the article, the reference is to two separate people.
ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης (Rev 20:10)
where also [are] the beast and the false prophet.
- If only the first of two singular nouns has the article, they are referring to the same person. (This is called the Granville Sharp rule.)
Τύχικος ὁ ἀγαπητὸς ἀδελφὸς καὶ πιστὸς διάκονος ἐν κυρίῳ (Eph 6:21)
Tychichus, the beloved brother and faithful servant in the Lord
- Some passages where the Granville Sharp rule applies are theologically important and often debated.
καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, (Tit 2:13)
and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ
The article is absent in NT Greek in many places where it is required in other languages, especially in prepositional phrases.***