A Discussion of Mello: An Email Exchange

A good friend of mine– and excellent Bible student himself– recently posted to me asking me to comment on the word mello, as used in the NT. He has been taking a correspondence course, and in his studies had had some discussion with the instructor of the course on the use of mello in the NT. The instructor made some points on the word that my friend asked me to comment on, and I was glad to do so. Be sure to read the article on Kenneth Gentry’s latest attempt to negate the imminence of mello, as it will be helpful.


Here is the exchange with my friend “Jack.”:


I am taking a most interesting Bible course on 40 things every Christian should know about the Bible.  The guy is amazing and I have indeed learned much through his teaching.  As I have opportunity I have introduced him to Preterist thoughts and the interchange has been nothing but good.  In our last back and forth I ran into a little glitch that I probably could work out but I am pressed at the moment and thought I’d impose on a guy who has nothing to do but deal with my foolishness.  🙂

The lesson caused me to point out the weakness of a particular translation and one of the examples I used to sustain my point was it’s failure to correctly translate “mello.”  Below is his response and then my response back to him.  First off, I can’t recall who the dickens “BDAG” is but am sure you can fill me in on that in short order.  Then if you could, please give me a quick answer to points on 3 and 4 below.

Thanks Loads,

Here is what the instructor of the course said to “Jack” concerning mello:

> Finally, for the word mello.  Actually I have worked with this word many times. And like many adverbs and prepositions, it has a wide range of possible applications depending on context.  There are thousands of examples of this throughout Greek literature.  Just a quick glance at BDAG shows the word to have 4 primary applications, including:  (1) immediacy, (2) inevitability, (3) future event, and (4) delay.  “About to be” is a basic meaning learned by first year Greek students, along with the realization that all such words have range of possible applications. Just because the word is not translated as “about to be” in specific texts does not mean it is “inaccurate.”  I will have to put in some time on this one.  Hopefully I can get back to you shortly but will need to do some research.  While I respect the knowledge and work of those deemed Greek scholars I do not consider them above suspicion.>

Here is my response to the instructors comments (DKP):

Jack, as he notes, “about to be” is the primary definition.

I have been saying for years that mello, does not “demand” but does suggest, imminence. I have stated many times that I do not hang my hat on it. With all that said, there are some suspicious things in the translations.

1.) In non-eschatological texts, a large number of translations render mello, with the indicative, as “about to be.”

2.)  Then, in the same form, and in the same construction, in eschatological texts, they render it as “will be.” That is clearly inconsistent. I have a written breakdown of this that I could send you, done by a guy up in the NE as I remember. It is pretty amazing to see the disparity.

3.) The Blass-Debrunner Greek Grammar says that mello (item #356) with the indicative “indicates imminence.”

4.)  Very often, the context of passages—even eschatological texts—contain other words and indications of imminence, yet, the translators ignore the other words as well as mello. Romans 8:18f is a classic example. Notice that mello is used with apokaradokia and apekdekomai, and both of these latter words definitely indicate imminence. So, why in the name of reason do the translators ignore all three of these words of urgency and expectation? Um, I think we know why!

5.) Notice that the guy admits that “immediacy” is the first definition. By the rules of usage therefore, it would demand contextual proof that the first definition is to be rejected.

Perhaps this will help just a tad.

LMK how it goes!

PS: (BDAG= the Old Arndt and Gingrich, unless there is something out there I don’t know about—which is entirely possible!! But, I think it means Bauer, Danker, Ardnt Gingrich)

I forgot to mention that another place where mello is used in conjunction with other strong words of imminence is 1 Peter 4: 5, 7, 17. Those three verses contain undeniable language of imminence. Then, in 5:1, it speaks of the “glory about to be revealed.” This is the same glory about to be revealed as in Romans 8.

This combination of words and language of imminence just cannot be ignored, far as I am concerned. Thus, this all but demands that mello in 5:1 indicates imminence.

Don K