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Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 25th, 2013, 3:14 pm
by James Booth
I am stumped on something in Revelation 3:8. I have searched the net and this forum's archives with google and I have found nothing about it.
The phrase in question is (KJV): "...for thou hast a little strength..." - the problematic word for me being "little" or "a little".

In the Greek texts I have looked at so far, the word for "little" is μικρον, but in the Strong's Concordance it is listed as 3398 which is μικρος. Is this an error, or a word ending difference that is not significant to the meaning?

I believe that it could cause a subtle but profound change in meaning. In English, there can be a big difference between "little" and "a little" For example: We go to a shop, and my wife likes something there. She asks me if we can afford it. I say, "Well, I've got a little money." What my actual meaning is: "I don't have much money, but I have enough." If, on the other hand, I say: "I have little money." My actual meaning is: "I don't have sufficient money to pay for the item."

So that is why "little strength" or "a little strength" becomes an important difference in this verse. So is it μικρος or μικρον? How much of a difference does it make in the original Greek?

Re: Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 25th, 2013, 4:25 pm
by timothy_p_mcmahon
The difference between μικρος and μικρον (actually in Revelation 3:8 it's μικραν) is purely grammatical. μικρος is nominative singular masculine (which, for Greek adjectives, is the lexical form, the form that appears at the beginning of a dictionary's entry for the word) while μικραν is accusative singular feminine (to agree with the noun it modifies, δυναμιν). Whether the nuance here is positive or negative is in the purview of the interpreter (I would take it in an affirmative sense, but that's just how I see it in context).

Re: Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 25th, 2013, 6:11 pm
by Jason Hare
Greek, unlike English, is a highly inflected language. The endings of nouns and adjectives show what function they play in a given sentence or phrase, the relationship that they take with regard to the other words in the sentence.

The verse that you're referring to reads in Greek:
Οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα— ἰδοὺ δέδωκα ἐνώπιόν σου θύραν ἠνεῳγμένην, ἣν οὐδεὶς δύναται κλεῖσαι αὐτήν— ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν, καὶ ἐτήρησάς μου τὸν λόγον, καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὸ ὄνομά μου.
The phrase in question is ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν.

The reason that μικράν is the form here is because this is an adjective modifying δύναμιν, which is a feminine noun and is functioning as the direct object of the verb ἔχεις ("you have"). If the noun were "time" (χρόνος), then we would again have the accusative case, but then it would masculine. In other words, ὅτι μικρὸν ἔχεις χρόνον ("because you have little time").

MASCULINE SINGULAR
nominative: μικρός
genitive: μικροῦ
dative: μικρῷ
accusative: μικρόν

FEMININE SINGULAR
nominative: μικρά
genitive: μικρᾶς
dative: μικρᾷ
accusative: μικράν

There are actually more forms than this (of course), but basically, that's how it works with this adjective.

Generally, here is a VERY basic approach to the various cases:
nominative = subject or predicate nominative
genitive = possession
dative = indirect object
accusative = direct object

Regards,
Jason

Re: Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 25th, 2013, 7:38 pm
by James Booth
Wow! Thanks guys for clearing this up for me!

Timothy, I hadn't noticed the little ό to ά difference. Now I can clearly understand that the Strong's is not necessarily "lying" - it is just that I don't understand much about Greek! :oops:

Jason that is a very helpful post. You laid that out in a way that even I can understand! I understand now why the Greek dictionary I found online lumps all those words together under one entry. Now I am wondering why the Strong's has 2 entries: μικρόν and μικρός ? That is what got me confused and wondering about any subtle shades of meaning that may be in the original text.

It seems now to be merely grammatical and the meaning subject to context and interpretation. Does ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν mean that Philadelphian's strength is almost gone (as in Deuteronomy 32:36), or does it mean something affirmative like in 2 Corinthians 12:10 ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι ? I guess the original Greek is not definitive here!

Re: Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 25th, 2013, 9:58 pm
by Jason Hare
James Booth wrote:Does ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν mean that Philadelphian's strength is almost gone (as in Deuteronomy 32:36), or does it mean something affirmative like in 2 Corinthians 12:10 ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι ? I guess the original Greek is not definitive here!
"You have a little strength" - that is, you are not wiped out and have stood the test. This was said as a praise.

Re: Revelation 3:8

Posted: May 26th, 2013, 10:42 pm
by David Lim
James Booth wrote:Now I am wondering why the Strong's has 2 entries: μικρόν and μικρός ?
Adjectives can sometimes function as adverbs when it is in the (accusative) singular neuter form. In such cases Strong's dictionary sometimes lists both. It is not consistent though. Also, the "meaning" that is given in Strong's dictionary is rather inadequate, and what is listed after the "--" are merely examples of renderings in the text of the KJV (and even then it doesn't list all), so it is hardly helpful in learning the meaning. A better dictionary would be the LSJ, of which an older version can be found at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/mor ... ek#lexicon.
James Booth wrote:It seems now to be merely grammatical and the meaning subject to context and interpretation. Does ὅτι μικρὰν ἔχεις δύναμιν mean that Philadelphian's strength is almost gone (as in Deuteronomy 32:36), or does it mean something affirmative like in 2 Corinthians 12:10 ὅταν γὰρ ἀσθενῶ, τότε δυνατός εἰμι ? I guess the original Greek is not definitive here!
Yes it depends on the context, as others have said. But it seems quite neutral to me, neither implying that their power was too little or that it was disappearing, nor really implying that it was good to have little power. Instead it seems to mean that though they had little power, they used it rightly. Just my guess. :) On checking, indeed some commentators take it that way, but others take it to refer to only outward strength, and still others take it as a "gentle reproof"! So to each his own I suppose.