Simple Definition of the Participle (From the 'Terms'
A participle is considered a "verbal adjective". It is often a
word that ends with an "-ing" in English (such as
"speaking," "having," or "seeing"). It can be used
as an adjective,
in that it can modify a noun
(or substitute as a noun), or it can be used as an adverb
and further explain or define the action of a verb.
Adjectival use: "The coming One will come and will not delay."
Adverbial use: "But speaking truth in love, we may grow up into Him
in all things." Eph 4:15
Introduction and Importance of the Greek Participle
Greek has been called a 'participle loving language'. "There are few
languages which have equaled the Greek in the abundance and variety of its use
of the participle, and certainly none has surpassed it.... This wealth of
significance which belonged to the Greek participle at the zenith of its development
lies undiminished before the student of the New Testament, and becomes a valuable
asset in interpretation when adequately comprehended." (Quote by Dana and
Mantey, pg 220.)
Use of the Greek Participle
A participle is called a 'verbal adjective' because it is formed from a verb,
yet often modifies other words. Oftentimes it may be hard to to translate a
participle into English and still bring out the same force as it has in the
Greek. First try to understand the meaning of the Greek participle is trying to
convey, then worry about an appropriate English translation. The translation may
have to be as an English relative clause when used adjectivally in Greek.
The participle can be used in one of three major categories of use:
- Complete Classification of Adverbial
Participles (Version 2.7) - Please see this PDF document for a detailed description (and
handy summary) of the use and formation of adverbial participles. (Please note that you need to have Adobe
Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to read this PDF format.
it free if you don't already have it).
A participle can be used as an adjective to modify
a noun or assert something about it. This is a common use of the adjective
E.g. Colossians 1:12 "to the Father who made us sufficient". The
word 'made sufficient' is a participle in Greek, but it needs to be
translated into a relative clause
in English to make sense.
- Substantively (This category is really a subset of the adjectival
A participle can be used as a 'substantive'
to take the place of a noun.
Participles can also be used in the same way that an adverb
is, to modify a verb. There are different classifications and uses of
adverbial participles. (These are also referred to as 'Circumstantial
participles'.) One of the most exciting and enlightening areas of Greek
grammar for the student of the New Testament comes in identifying the use of
these adverbial participles. Listed below are some of the most common uses
found in the New Testament. For a complete list of all adverbial participles
(and all non-adjectival uses), please view the chart at the bottom of this
i) Translated with English words
while or after
ii) Shows when something
iii) Mark 9:5 All the crowd, seeing Him,
the crowd saw Him, they were amazed.)
i) Indicates the Cause or Reason
ii) Answers the question Why?
iii) Translated by because (or since)
iv) John 4:6 Jesus, being wearied, sat. (Because
Jesus was wearied, He sat.)
v) Perfect Adverbial participles very often belong to
this category (i.e. convey this meaning).
C) Instrumental Participle (Participle of Means)
i) Shows How?
ii) Translated with by or by means of
iii) Matt. 27:4 I have sinned by betraying
D) Participle of Purpose (Telic Use)
i) Indicates the purpose of the action of the finite verb
ii) Answers the questions Why?
iii) Should be translated with the English
infinitive or with the purpose of or in order to.
A simple -ing translation misses the
iv) (A future adverbial participles always belong
v) Luke 10:25 A certain lawyer stood up testing Him
(in order to test Him), saying, Teacher, what must I do to gain eternal
E) Participle of Concession
i) Indicates that the action of the main verb is true in
spite of the state or action of the participle.
ii) Usually translated 'although'
iii) Romans 1:21 although they knew God, they did not
glorify (honor) Him as God.
iv) 1 Peter 1:8 whom having not seen (although you
have not seen Him), you love
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