GoedBericht.nl logo
Translate page English Blog

evangelize – ‘active’ or ‘passive’?

11-02-2015 - Posted by Andre Piet

images7 A short time ago, I asserted that the special form of the verb to “evangelize” in Greek (euaggelizo) means more than just bringing the good news message. The ending ‘ize’ indicates that the other is made into an evangelist, the same as crystallize means’ to make into crystal and ‘nationalize’ means ‘to make national’. The ending ‘ize’ says what it does with the object. I explained that linguistic phenomenon in connection with what it characteristically does, when a good news message is heard and believed. Whoever believes a good news message will naturally want to pass it on. Not the sharing of good news is difficult, but keeping it to oneself requires much effort (cp Mar.7:36). In this blog I would like to point out yet another linguistic phenomenon that confirms the above. But in order to be able to understand this, the following is important to know: The language in which the New Testament is written (koinè Greek) is unlike most modern languages that, in addition to the active and the passive voice, it also has a voice in between. The active voice reads, e.g., the man paints the house. The passive voice reads: the house is painted by the man. However, the Greek of the New Testament has a ‘voice’ form in between, which very often (more than 5300 times!) occurs: the middle voice. As the word ‘middle’ indicates: it is between active and passive. It has both elements. In most modern languages, we know also know the so-called ‘reflexive’ voice, e.g., to wash oneself, to resign oneself or to hide oneself. That are verb forms, too, expressing both, activity as well as passivity. E.g. I wash my hands: then I am active (I wash), but at the same time also passive (my hands are washed). In the Concordant Version and in the Interlinear editions of ‘Scripture4all’, this form (‘middle voice’) is indicated by a small symbol behind the verb. And now I come back again to the verb ‘evangelize’, which occurs 54 times in the NT. Only 2 times is it used in the active voice (e.g. Rev.10:7) and 4 times in the passive voice (e.g. 1Pet.1:25). The remaining 48 times it is used in the middle voice form. In other words: in the vast majority of the occurrences. Different than in our languages, evangelizing in the language of the NT is not expressing only activity. It’s not just something one does (actively), but also what one experiences (passively). How is that to be understood? I do not know a more appropriate answer than what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:10,

Yet, in the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace, which is in me, did not come to be for naught, but more exceedingly than all of them toil I – yet not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

Here we see two things. Evangelizing is an activity. Paul toiled more than anyone else of the apostles. But when Paul wrote this, he pointed out that it was not his activity, but the grace of God which was with him. Paul was very active, indeed, but in his experience also passive, because he experienced the grace of God and, therefore, he could not do otherwise, but pass on the good news. He was only an instrument. He played, because he was being played. Paul was the trumpet, but God the trumpeter, Who had taken him in hand and blew into him (> inspired him), so that everyone heard the joyful sound of it.