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The—Definite Article

Repost Feb 13, 2018: In English, the word most frequently used is the. In Early Modern English (KJV) this one word is classified as a definite article. Two other words, a and an, are indefinite articles: these articles mark a noun for the first time or indicate a group, or non-specific nouns. There are a few biblical exceptions, hold-overs from Norman based Middle English, where an article marks a verb (“...I go a fishing...” —John 21:3). But, for now, our brief discussion is about the only definite article in our language, the word the; and, therefore, the always marks a specific object.

The is gender neutral: neither male nor female is indicated. Neither is possession (genitive case is the grammatical name) indicated by the. It simply has one purpose: to introduce a specific noun (or pronoun). Examples: the boat; the river, the king, the summer, the skating rink (here skating is not a verb, but rather a gerund—treated as a noun). In each of these cases, a certain or a particular boat, river, king, season, and skating rink is introduced or recalled.

All that fuss about a simple three letter word! There is a reason. Let’s review these frequently misquoted passages of the Bible:

“Remember them which have the rule over you...” — Hebrews 13:7

“Obey them that have the rule over you...”— Hebrews 13:17

Usually, in some heated debate, these words are sternly metered out:

“ Remember them which rule over you” and “Obey them that rule over you.”

The definite article is dropped. The rule becomes rule. The rule, a noun set up and marked by the is changed to a verb, an action. The rule, the word of God (which is the rule, the measure, the standard, the final authority spoken to the flock) becomes an action—a justification for lording over. This surely affects doctrine, this surely affects our relationship with our teachers.

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