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και γαρ ο θεος ημων πυρ καταναλισκον

Hebrews 12:29 TR - Stephens, Beza, Elzevir and Scrivener all identical.

... for also our God (is) consuming fire.

[Young's Literal and EGNT]

Here, θεος is nominative, there is no copular verb and it seems to me that πυρ is, also, nominative (third declension) with the adjective matching, in the neuter nominative.

Without a verb, what is the grammatical significance of what might be termed the 'equivalence' thus expressed ?

In both of John's similar expressions, he adds the copular verb :

ο θεος φως εστιν I John 1:5 'God is Light'

ο θεος αγαπη εστιν I John 4:8 'God is Love'

Why does the writer to the Hebrews express an 'equivalence' when John does not ?

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    You might find some useful thoughts in this link: textkit.com/greek-latin-forum/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=61959 Also, that forum has Latin and Greek which I believe are both of interest to you and I see some heavyweight linguists on the forum so you might want to look around. – Ruminator Nov 27 '18 at 1:47
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    @Ruminator Appreciated. – Nigel J Nov 27 '18 at 1:57
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The author quotes Deu. 4:24 verbatim with the exception of replacing the pronoun σου (“your”) with ἡμῶν (“our”) (and omitting the last clause). As the Hebrew lacks a copula, כִּי יָהְוֶה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵשׁ אֹכְלָ, it seems the author of Hebrew felt no need to include it either. This is, of course, acceptable Greek, as the copula can be omitted in certain constructions.1


Footnotes

1 Buttmann, p. 136, §129; Winer, p. 731–734, 2.

References

Buttmann, Alexander. A Grammar of the New Testament Greek. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Andover: Draper, 1873.

Winer, George Benedikt. A Treatise on the Grammar of New Testament Greek. 3rd ed. Trans. Moulton, William Fiddian. Edinburgh: Clark, 1882.

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    I checked your link to Buttmann. Excellent resource. Just ordered one from Amazon. Thank you. – Nigel J Nov 26 '18 at 23:52
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While not common, this practice of omitting the verb "to be" occurs sporadically in Koine Greek. I leave it as a simple exercise with a concordance to see how often "ego" is used without "eimi" where the "eimi" is implied.

In the case of Heb 12:29, the implied "is" is more strongly suggested by the earlier construction because of the inclusion of the conjunction "gar" = "for". This introduces an explanatory clause (with implied verb at least): "because our God [is] consuming fire".

There is another reason why the verb may be omitted and only suggested. If the verb were included, it would imply a category statement like "God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16), or, "The Word was God" John 1:1), etc. Here we do not understand "God is a consuming fire" in the same way we understand "God is love". That is, "consuming fire" is one of God's characteristics and not a statement of His essential essence, as is "Love".

NOTE:

The verse is also a quote (almost) from Deut 4:24 but the author of Hebrews elects to alter it in several ways:

  • "Lord" (LXX) or "LORD" (Heb.) is omitted
  • "your" is changed to "our"
  • The initial conjunction in the LXX is "hoti" but is changed to "kai gar" in Hebrews
  • The last part of the verse is omitted which in the LXX contains the verb to be, "estin" = "is".

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