Biblical Eschatology

A Biblical study of eschatology and the pre-tribulational & post-tribulational rapture views of the end times.

Understanding Greek Pronouns and Their Importance

One topic that seems to be universally misunderstood is that of pronouns in Greek. First-person plural pronouns in Greek, which are generally translated "we" or "us," include the speaker, as well as the group being spoken to. Therefore, if a first-person plural pronoun is used in Romans, the group Paul was referring to would include himself and the group written to, the congregation of Christians in Rome. The only exceptions to this would be if the context clearly showed that Paul was referring to a different group of people. However, no matter who the group is, if a first-person plural pronoun is used in Greek, the group always includes the writer.

As Richard Young pointed out, "Many languages have two different forms of the first person plural pronouns (we, us) to indicate whether the speaker includes himself with the people spoken to (inclusive) or simply refers to himself and his associates (exclusive). Neither Greek nor English has forms that distinguish the inclusive and exclusive use of pronouns."1

A good example of the significance of the pronoun is found in 2 Thessalonians 2. Many pre-trib commentators claim that the "gathering" and the "catching up" in 2:1 are two separate events. However, the late Dr. Paul D. Feinberg, who was a pre-tribulationist, realized that he couldn't ignore the meaning of the first person plural pronoun. In reference to 2 Thessalonians 2, he correctly stated, "Paul calls it our gathering to him. He is definitely speaking to Thessalonian Christians who were members of the church. He uses the first person pronoun in 1 Thessalonians 4. Therefore I cannot escape identifying the gathering with the catching up."

Here is the breakdown of the Greek in 2 Thessalonians 2:1 (NASB):

Now we request you, ὑμᾶς (Second Person Plural)
brethren, with regard to the coming of our ἡμῶν (First-Person Plural)
Lord Jesus Christ and our ἡμῶν (First-Person Plural)
gathering together to Him,
As Young pointed out, a first-person plural pronoun includes both the speaker and the group being spoken to. As Feinberg pointed out, that group were members of the Church of Thessalonica. The audience of the letter is clearly pointed out in 2 Thessalonians 1:1 "To the church of the Thessalonians" (NASB). Additionally, this must be referring to Christians, because Paul uses the first-person plural pronoun, which means he was included in the group. If you were to say this "gathering" was of tribulation saints, then that would mean that Paul was one of the tribulation saints.

Most books of the Bible clearly identify the audience being written to. Therefore, each time you see a first-person plural pronoun, such as us or we, it is clear that the writer is involved in the thing or event mentioned, and therefore so also must Christians be involved.

I will be adding additional passages as I have time to outline further other places of significance where pronouns are used.

So even if you don't know Greek, you can now understand the Bible better. Every time you see "us" or "we," know that you are, by extension, part of that group because the writer was making themselves part of that group, and they were Christians.

(1) Young, Greek, 74.
(2) Feinberg, Trumpet, 3.

Young, Richard A. Intermediate New Testament Greek. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
Feinberg, Paul D. When the Trumpet Sounds. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995. Viewable online.

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Blasted Hope or Blessed Hope?

Understanding Greek Pronouns and Their Importance

The Comfort Given by Paul

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 1

The Rapture in Revelation 7, Part 2

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