Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Easter Grammar Lesson: He is Risen

Sitting here on this snowy April 15th morning (yes, in Kentucky), I got the idea to do an Easter bunting with Jude as part of our school work. I could print out the letter outlines and he could color them, and then together we could glue them onto bunting flags and hang them in our new standard bunting location: across the big map in the dining room, as seen below with the fall leaves Jude painted back in November:

It didn't take me long to decide I wanted the bunting to say, "He is risen." Or is it, "He has risen?" I googled. It's definitely, "He is risen." But why?

Wait a second. Haven't I been here before? Yes, I have! I had the same issue come up a couple of years ago (or FOUR.... goodness, how time flies) when I made a Christmas bunting that said, "The Lord is Come."

As I learned while making that bunting, the now practically extinct unaccusative intransitive form of risen, in this case, actually packs more of a theological punch than you might expect at first glance. 

To say, "He has risen," puts the emphasis on the action of rising, and implies that Jesus is the one who initiated the rising.

But to say, "He is risen," puts the emphasis on the fact that he is now alive, and implies that Jesus is not the one who initiated this rising, but that he was raised by the Father.

I know grammar isn't the most exciting thing in the world, but I hope that moves you like it does me. Have a blessed Holy Week and Resurrection/Easter Sunday, friends.


ETA: Since writing this, I've realized that most translations actually do say, "He has risen" in Matthew 28, but the KJV says, "He is risen." Warning: serious grammar nerdiness ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

I asked my Greek scholar husband to look at it for me in the Greek, and he said that "risen" is in the aorist tense, which isn't marked as a specific form of past tense, so it is free to be interpreted either as:

1. "He is risen."

2. " He has risen."
3. " He was raised."

I thought it was interesting that the aorist tense can also be used to emphasize the success of an effort. God raising Jesus from the dead was certainly a success, as was the more overarching effort of Jesus' perfect life, his becoming our sin on the cross and dying in our stead, and his conquering of death and Satan in his resurrection.

So, although "He has risen," is certainly not incorrect, I like the emphasis that the KJV form of this sentence gives us. Like I said before, it packs more of an inherent theological punch than the others.

1 comment:

  1. I thought I was the only one troubled while kneeling at my Catholic Mass and looking at the altar with the words "He is Risen" inscribed ... I couldn't concentrate on the Mass but rather spent the time wondering if it should read "He has Risen." I still don't know as I just can't utter the words "He is Risen." Oh well...I only minored in English.