Chapter OneNOUNS: You Ain't Nothing but a Noun Dog!
Mark 5:2-3 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an
evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the
tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain.
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
We have a new resident at our house. He was a gift from the
local humane society and his name is "Buddy." Buddy is a large,
beautiful golden retriever. The problem is that Buddy seems to
have been mistreated by his former owner, which has led to certain
eccentric behaviors. He has a great deal of difficulty going
through doors (a very serious problem for a dog who needs to go
outside); he walks around the house most of the time with all the
grace of a pig on ice skates, his feet slipping and sliding with every
step. Moreover, he is deathly afraid of thunderstorms-a fact that
we discovered when we came home to find the cat door torn off its
hinges and resting around Buddy's neck like some sort of a square
collar. In short, Buddy can be a nuisance, which is, I am sure, why
his former owners gave him away.
The man in today's Scripture reading is just such a nuisance.
He doesn't know how to act, he won't wear his clothes, he breaks
the chains whenever anyone tries to control him. If there was a
"human dog pound," he would be there. Instead, he lives by himself,
out in the cemetery where no one cares about him. The amazing
thing is that Jesus comes and changes everything. With a few
words he delivers the man from the grasp of Satan and gives him
his life back. The man puts his clothes back on and sits down, and
his life is forever altered for the better.
We have kept Buddy, though I have often been tempted (and,
yes, have even threatened) to take him back to the pound. I suppose
the reason why I have not taken him back to the pound is
because he needs us. And in truth we need him to remind us of
what God has done for us. He has taken us into his family, and
even though we are fearful and less than graceful, and we even
break things, he still loves us.
The message of Christianity is that we all belong in the pound.
But we have been adopted into the family of God through the sacrifice
of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us be thankful to God for the
ultimate sacrifice of his son, Jesus.
Science fiction author Ray Bradbury, when asked where he
comes up with his ideas, refers to his "noun list." He makes lists
of nouns and then develops characters, stories, and even novels
based on a single noun. You can see that the noun is a very important
part of the English language. It is as important, if not more
important, in Greek.
The noun, as you may remember from your elementary English
class, is a person, place, thing, or idea.
* person: Abraham, John, Matthew, Moses
* place: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Galilee
* thing: sickness, water, hand
* idea: truth, peace, fear
Nouns, then, can name something that you can touch (a door, a
person) or something you can only think about (truth, love). Nouns
are the backbone of sentences. They are not what make sentences
move along (that would be verbs), but they are what does the moving
or are moved along. How then are the English nouns like and
not like Greek nouns?
Similarities. In Greek the nouns indicate a person, place,
thing, or idea, just as they do in English. There are, however, certain
important differences in the nouns of these two languages.
Differences. (1) In English most nouns do not have gender.
That is, most nouns that do not refer to living beings are neither
masculine nor feminine. This is not the case in Greek. Every noun
is either masculine, feminine, or neuter. This does not indicate
anything about the meaning of the noun; rather, it is simply the
way that those who spoke the language thought of these words. You
will learn to determine the gender of a noun based on the article
that is attached to the vocabulary word when you learn it.
(2) A second difference has to do with a noun's function in the
sentence. In English we are able to determine the subject generally
because it occurs before the verb.
* John hit the ball. ("John" is the subject; his name
occurs before the verb.)
* The ball hit John. ("Ball" is the subject; it occurs
before the verb.)
In Greek, by contrast, we are able to tell what function nouns
play in the sentence not by their place but by the ending that occurs
on the noun. This is what we mean by declension. Greek, unlike
English, is a highly inflected language. That means that the reader
can tell how a noun functions in a sentence, regardless of where it
occurs, simply by its ending. In Greek, nouns are divided into three
different classes (called declensions) and each class has its own
small quirks. There are several important things to remember:
* A different declension is simply a different way of
spelling. It does not affect the meaning of the noun.
* All nouns take the same article. That is, despite
the fact that there are three different declensions
of endings for nouns, there is only one set of endings
(three genders) for the article. Thus, the article
will remain constant despite the change in
ending of the noun. See chapter 3 on the article.