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Bible Studies/Use of the definite article in Greek


In John 2:18, the first appearance of antichrist in both my Greek N.T.s lack the definite article. My understanding is that generally this means that the word should be translated to English with an indefinite article: "an antichrist." Although this translation seems to fit the context very well, I've noticed that most translations render this "the antichrist." Although I know that in some situations this is correct (as in "and the word was God", not "a god was the word" John 1:1), I question whether it is here, especially as some newer translations render John 2:18 as "an antichrist."

You are right that the word lacks the definite article in the best manuscripts (Textus Receptus has the article). I think it is good to translate it with the indefinite article in English also.

"[My] children, it is the last hour. And as you know, an antichrist is coming. In fact, many antichrists have already appeared [lit. "...coming, and now many antichrists have appeared."].

It is also reasonable to give it a definite article because of two factors: (1) the notion of a last antichrist before the appearance of the Messiah/Christ was known in Judaism at that time. (2) John says "as you know." In English, when you're referring to something definite and specific, which the reader/hearer also knows, it is common to use a definite article.

Nonetheless, I'm persuaded that the balance tips towards the nuance of a little indefiniteness, so I'm with you. No article.

Webb Mealy

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J. Webb Mealy


Qualified to answer questions about the New Testament, including ones that require expert knowledge of Greek, New Testament History, and New Testament Theology. Particular area of expertise is New Testament eschatology (teachings on the end of the world), the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel and epistles of John. Questions about English translations--how they are arrived at, whether they are accurate, and whether there are alternative possibilities. Textual criticism.


Have taught the Bible and New Testament to lay people for 20 years. Translator of the Spoken English New Testament (, author of After the Thousand Years: Resurrection and Judgment in Revelation 20 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992). Senior Biblical Studies Editor, Sheffield Academic Press, 1990-1995.

Instructor, Seminary of the Street, Oakland, CA

See my online publication,, which gives an easy-to-understand but thorough introduction to the Christian Good News. See, home of the Spoken English New Testament, the most accurate available translation of the New Testament into natural contemporary English.

PhD, Biblical Studies, Sheffield, UK MA (Honors), Humanities, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY BA (Cum Laude), Religious Studies/New Testament, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA

Awards and Honors
Research Paper, "Tracing the Rise of Modalism in Rome," named best graduate paper of the year, Western Kentucky University, 1981

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