Word study of the little Greek words epi, en, eis
In this rather more technical study, attention is concentrated on the correct interpretation of a Bible text.
This concerns the translation of the words ‘epi’,‘en’, ‘eis’.
All these three words are often translated as ‘in’, sometimes as ‘on’, ‘to’, or ‘with’.
Their meaning is usually understood correctly as a result of the context of the sentence.
Nevertheless, in a number of texts, the true and deeper meaning of the Greek is lost in translation, so that what is meant is unable to be fully understood.
This is the reason for an explanation of the different little Greek words, whereby in each case, a number of Bible texts are referred.
In the explanation of the words ‘en’ and ‘eis’ in particular, it is interesting to pause to consider the meaning of the Greek.
Once in a while is referenced to a separate study, because the correct interpretation of the Greek is important in order to understand the text correctly.
Explanation of the word ‘epi’.
According to the OLB ‘epi’ is a preposition.
It is translated in different ways depending on the declension used:
- (acc) to, over, on, at, across, against
- (dat) of position, on, at, by, over, against
- (gen) upon, on, at, by, before
‘Epi’ indicated a direction for an activity (the verb).
Some of the 772 Bible texts:
Plus the accusative (indicates the direct object):
And he directed the people to sit down on (epi) the grass. (Matthew 14:19)
The Spirit of the Lord is on (epi) me, because he has anointed me (Luke 4:18)
Go to the house of Judas on (epi) Straight Street … (Acts 9:11)
… and many people believed in (epi) the Lord. (Acts 9:11)
Plus the dative (indicates the indirect object):
It is written: ‘Man shall not live on (epi) bread alone, … (Matthew 4:4)
No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on (epi) an old garment, … (Matthew 9:16)
In (epi) them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: … (Matthew 13:14)
They were amazed at (epi) his teaching, because his words had authority. (Luke 4:32)
There was a written notice above (epi) him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Luke 23:38)
Then they ordered them not to speak in (epi) the name of Jesus, and let them go. (Acts 5:40)
Plus the genitive (the word is attached to, or the possession of another element in the sentence):
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on (epi) earth, … (Matthew 6:19)
… but you teach the way of God in accordance with (epi) the truth. (Mark 12:14)
Explanation of the word ‘en’.
According to the OLB ‘en’ is a primary preposition
- a primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively), i.e. a relation of rest
To be translated as:
- in, by, with etc.
A few translations which occur frequently:
- in – 1.902 texts
- by – 163 texts
- with – 140 texts
- among – 117 texts
- at – 113 texts
- on – 62 texts
- through – 39 texts
The little Greek word ‘en’ draws attention to the place or status (in) which an action takes place.
Some of the 2.098 Bible texts:
Remember that the little word that is underlined indicates the place where the action takes place.
In many texts it would actually be clearer to translate the Greek ‘en’ as ‘in’.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in (en) Judea, during the time of King Herod, … (Matthew 2:1)
But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by (en) heaven, for it is God’s throne; … (Matthew 5:34)
I am sending you out like sheep among (en) wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by (en) Beëlzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24)
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By (en) what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. (Matthew 21:23)
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with (en) power.” (Mark 9:1)
And these signs will accompany those who believe: In (en) my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; … (Mark 16:17)
Now there was a man in (en) Jerusalem called Simeon, … (Luke 2:25)
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in (en) me and I in (en) you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By (en) what power or what name did you do this?”
At (en) that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for by his family. (Acts 7:20)
I came to you in (en) weakness with (en) great fear and trembling. (1Corinthians 2:3)
So then, no more boasting about (en) human leaders! All things are yours, … (1Corinthians 3:21)
Explanation of the word ‘eis’:
According to the OLB, ‘eis’ is a primary preposition.
To be translated as:
- into, unto, to, towards, for, among
The little word ‘eis’ supposes there to be a movement from the outside to, or into the place where the action takes place.
A few translations which occur frequently, to be interpreted as ‘into’:
- into – 573 texts
- to – 281 texts
- unto – 207 texts
Some of the 1.473 Bible texts:
Remember that the little word that is underlined indicates a movement towards the place of the action.
On coming to (eis) the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. (Matthew 2:11)
Jesus sent him (the blind man who was healed) home, saying, “Don’t even go into (eis) the village.” (Mark 8:26)
The curtain of the temple was torn in (eis) two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:38)
And the news about him spread throughout (eis) the surrounding area. (Luke 4:37)
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to (eis) repentance.” (Luke 5:32)
And no one pours new wine into (eis) old wineskins. (Luke 5:37)
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against (eis) heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into (eis) a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (Romans 11:24)
For we brought nothing into (eis) the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (1 Timothy 6:7)
‘Into something else’ can also be ‘into someone else’, as Jesus said:
Whoever believes in eis) him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in (eis) the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:18)
Whoever believes in (eis) the Son has eternal life, … (John 3:36)
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in (eis) the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in (eis) him were later to receive. (John 7:29)
Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in (eis) me does not believe in (eis) me only, but in (eis) the one who sent me. (John 12:44)
See also the study:
- In – résumé and a few Bible texts.
- John 17:11 – protect them by the power of your name.
- Baptize in the New Testament.
- Matthew 14:31 – Why doubt.
- 2 or 3 witnesses.
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Word study of the little Greek words epi, en, eis.