When being negative is a most beautiful thing" /> When being negative is a most beautiful thing" /> When being negative is a most beautiful thing" />

Double Negatives - beautiful things  - ου μη together in the Greek New Testament.


A careless English student was corrected by his teacher for saying "I don't know nothin' about it."  Why? Because (besides poor grammar) in correct English this means the same as "I DO know about it", since the two negatives cancel each other out.

  • don't know nothin'  -  to NOT know nothing...is to know something...in English.

The Greek New Testament is just the opposite. Greek Grammarian Dan Wallace wrote: The double negative "is the strongest way to negate something in Greek" . The meaning is something like this:  "Never, positively not!  It will never happen!  It's unthinkable!  There is not even the slightest possibility that it will ever happen!"  (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics page 468)


I first noticed this when looking at the Greek for John 10:28. Let us compare the English NKJV to the Greek NT, and thereby unpack this beautiful verse:

  • and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish  nkjv
  • and I- life eternal- give to them-, and- not not (ου μη)- they shall perish. interlinear

Other examples of this interesting construction include:

  • Regarding forgiveness of sins:  Romans 4:8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. Literally "not - not" impute sin.
  • Regarding a brash statement by Peter to Jesus:  John 13:8  You shall never wash my feet.  Literally "not - not" wash my feet.
  • Regarding entrance into the New Jerusalem:  Revelation 21:27   And there shall in no way enter into it any thing that defileth.    Literally shall "not - not" enter into it...
  • Regarding walking in the Spirit:  Galatians 5:16   Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.    Literally you shall "not - not" fulfill the lust of the flesh.
  • Regarding the Rapture  1 Thess 4:15  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  Literally  shall not - not precede those...

Perhaps the most beautiful of all is found in Hebrews 13:5, but here there are FIVE negatives present, as the Lord is being quoted to show His care for His own:

  • ου     μη    σε         ανω             ουδ   ου     μη    σε     εγκαταλιπω
  • not - not - you - shall I desert, - nor - not - not - you - shall I forsake
  • I will never leave you nor forsake you (Modern English just cannot account for FIVE negative words here, but it is pregnant with meaning is it not?)

These are wonderful things for the head to grasp, but how sweet when it gets to the heart.


This construction, ου - μη, is present nearly 100 times in the New Testament as listed below, per the New Englishman's Greek Concordance/Lexicon (Hendrickson, pages 568-9)


Matthew 5:18

Matthew 5:20

Matthew 5:26

Matthew 10:23

Matthew 10:42

Matthew 13:14  twice

Matthew 15:6

Matthew 16:22

Matthew 16:28

Matthew 18:3

Matthew 23:39

Matthew 24:2  twice

Matthew 24:21

Matthew 24:34

Matthew 24:35

Matthew 26:29

Matthew 26:35

Mark 9:1

Mark 9:41

Mark 10:15

Mark 13:2  twice

Mark 13:19

Mark 13:30

Mark 13:31

Mark 14:25

Mark 14:31

Mark 16:18

Luke 1:15

Luke 6:37  twice

Luke 9:27

Luke 10:19

Luke 12:59

Luke 13:35

Luke 18:7

Luke 18:17

Luke 18:30

Luke 21:18

Luke 21:32

Luke 21;33

Luke 22:16

Luke 22:18

Luke 22:34

Luke 22:67

Luke 22:68

John 4:14

John 4:48

John 6:35  twice

John 6:37

John 8:12

John 8:51

John 8:52

John 10:5

John 10:28

John 11:26

John 11:56

John 13:8

John 13:38

John 20:25

Acts 13:41

Acts 28:26  twice

Romans 4:8

1 Cor 8:13

Galatians 4:30

Galatians 5:16

Thessalonians 4:15

Thessalonians 5:3

Hebrews 8:11

Hebrews 8:12

Hebrews 10:17

Hebrews 13:5  (see especially)

1 Peter 2:6

2 Peter 1:10  twice

Revelation 2:11

Revelation 3:3

Revelation 3:5

Revelation 3:12

Revelation 15:4

Revelation 18:7

Revelation 18:14

Revelation 18:21

Revelation 18:22  thrice

Revelation 18:23  twice

Revelation 21:25

Revelation 21:27