When I decided that today I should explain some more Korean grammar in the Christmas story, I looked back at the last blog I did like this, and I didn’t realize it had been five days since I explained Korean grammar. My days have been a bit busy lately, and I usually only do these kinds of blogs when I have a little more time. Don’t give up because, if you are interested in Korean grammar, I will send a blog out like this every so often. We are now on verse 21 of Matthew the first chapter. (마태복음 1 장, 21 절) (Matebokum il jang, eeship il jeol).
Verse 21 (21 절): 아들은 낳으리니 이름을 예수라 하라 이는 그가 자기 백성을 그들의 죄에서 구완할 자이심이라 하니라
아들을 낳으리니 (ahdul ul nah-u-reenee)- “She will give birth to a son.” 아들 (ahdul) means “son.” 을 (ul) is the post position particle that means that 아들 is the direct object. 낳으리니 (nah-u-reenee) means “will give birth.” It is a form of the verb 낳신다 (nah-shin-dah) that means “to give birth.” 낳으리니 is a future tense form used inside the sentence. You have to put the 으 (u) inside of it because ㅎ(h) may be a consonant, but it really has no sound in Korean here, so the last sound you hear is 아 “ah” which is a vowel sound. In Korean, two vowel sounds can’t be together, so when they are, they insert 으. The 리 (ree) tells you that this is future tense. In Korean, if the subject is obvious, they just leave the subject out, and sometimes they even do it when the subject isn’t so obvious. You just have to listen or read close to figure out the subject often. Only women have babies, so the subject must be “her.” In Korean, the verb comes last. In this case, at the end of the clause.
이름은 예수라 하라 (eerum un yesu rah harah)- “His name will be Jesus.” 이름 (eerum) is the word for “name” in Korean. 은 (un) is the post position particle that tells you that 이름 (name) is the subject of the sentence. It must be 은 (un) and not 는 (nun) because 이름 (eerum) ends with a consonant, so the next letter must be a vowel, 으(u), in this case. 예수 (yesu) means “Jesus.” I have never seen the post position particle 라 (rah), and none of my sources tell me why it is there. However, I know that 라 is used when someone is talking from a very high level to a lower level person. The angel is talking to Joseph, so that is probably why 라 is there and probably why I have never heard it before. How many times are we going to hear someone from as high a station as an angel talking to a human being? You are only going to hear that in the Bible. Since 이름 has the post position particle that made it a subject, and 하라 (hara) is the verb of this clause because it is last, then the logical deduction is that 라 as a post position particle must mean that 예수 (yesu) is predicate nominative because it renames the subject. 하라 (harah) comes from 하다 (hada) which means “to do” or “to be.” 하라 (hara) is in a form of a command from a very high level meaning basically the angel was commanding Joseph to name Jesus “Jesus.” This verb signifies the end of a clause, but not a sentence in Korean.
이는 그가 자기 백성을 (eenun kuga jagee bekseong ool) – “This means that he___________his own people.” Because of the word order in Korean being so different from English, the English translation doesn’t have the verb yet. I didn’t include it because there are many other words there beside the verb, so we will have to wait for them so this section won’t be too long. 이는 (eenun), the full meaning of this is “This means that,” but the grammar is strange. 이 (ee) means “this.” 는 (nun) is the post position particle that comes after the subject, but there are two subject here, and if there are two subject, then 는 usually comes after the subject that is considered less important. 이는 becomes a clause all by itself meaning “this means that.”
그가 (kuga) is the most important subject. 그 is the masculine pronoun, and it can be changed from a subject pronoun or an object pronoun just with the post position particle. Here, the post position particle is 가 (ga) which means that 그가 means “he.” If it was 그를 (kulul), it would have been “him” or 그에게 (ku-eghee) would be “to him.) The 가 (ga) here not only means it is the subject, but also the most important subject in the sentence.
자기 (jah-ghee) means “his own,” “her own,” “my own,” “their own,” or “our own.” However, since it has 그가 before it, it means, “his own.”
백성을 (bekseong ul) – “People.”백성” means “people,” like the people of a nation. 을 is the post position particle that means that 백성 is the direct object. The last letter in 백성 is ㅇ(“ng” at the end of a syllable). That means that 백성 ends with a consonant, so 을 (ul) should be used, not 를 (lul).
그들의 죄에서 (kudul oo-ee joee e so)- “From their sins.” 그들 kudul) is the third person plural pronoun. According to what post position particle comes after it and the context of the sentence, is the only way we can know exactly which one it is. 그들은 (kudul un) means “They” because the post position particle tells you it is a subject. 그들이 (kudul ee) would also be “They” because 이 can also be used for a subject. 그들을 (kudu ul) would mean “them” because of the 을 which would make it a direct object. 그들에게 (kudul e ghe) would be “to them.” However, we have 그들의 (kudul oo-ee). That post position particle, 의 makes 그들의 into “their” because it is post position particle used to make a possessive pronoun.
죄 is strange to try to explain how it is really pronounced because the ㅗ on the bottom usually sounds like a long “o” in English. However, the “ㅣ” alone would also be pronounced “ee.” That means that if we followed the letter pronunciation specifically, we would pronounce it “Jo-ee,” but that is not how it is pronounced. In fact, the ㅈ (j) is not even pronounced like a “j.” The real pronunciation of this word is “chey” which means “sin.”
에서 (eh-soh) is one of those words that doesn’t translate straight through to English because it actually could be translated at lots of different things. One meaning it has is “because.” Another means is “since.” And still another meaning is “from.” If I saw it in more sentences, I may even realize they have more meanings for this word. However, in this case, it means “from,” so 그들의 죄에소 (kudul ee-ee jo-ee eh soh) actual means “from their sins.”
구완할 자 (koo-wan hahl jah) – “The one who will save.” 구완하다 (koo-wan hada) means “to save.” 자 (jah) is one of the ways of saying “a particular person.”
이심이라 (eesheemeerah) – ” He is a particular, different person.” “he” is not actually here because it is common to leave the pronoun out, but I actually kind of take 자 (jah) as the pronoun. 아라 (eerah) in a more common level of speech is 이예요 (eeyeyo) which means “is, are, am, or will be,” according to the context. 이라 (eerah) means the same thing, but it is coming from a very high level to a lower level, like an angel taking to man.
하니라 (hahneerah) – (will be) 하니라 comes from 하다 (hada) which can mean “to do” or “to be.” 니 (nee) is a sign of future tense in a verb. 라 (rah) means the level of speech is someone from very far up high speaking to someone very low like an angel speaking to a man.This is the main verb in the sentence because it is the last word of the sentence. That means verb goes with 이는 (eenun).
Let’s put this sentence all together: “She will give birth to a son; his name will be Jesus; This means that he is the one who will save his own people from their sins.”
Korean sentences get very complicated. That is why it took me so long to try to understand what I read in Korean. I have been using the New International Version in Korean, and my daughter who is much better at Korean than I am refuses to use the Korean International Version because she says it is too hard. With my struggling to understand it, I actually have learned to understand verses that stump her unless she decides to really work hard at it. I don’t mind sticking my head in there and thinking hard.
My daughter has a Korean version of the Bible called 우리말 (ooreemahl). She says that 우리말 is much easier to understand, so she uses it. I think she found it at a second hand library sale at the Christian university, so there was only one copy. 우리말 means “our language” or “our word.” The Koreans have stopped using the Chinese characters, so you could think of “our language” meaning that someone translated the Bible into modern language which is what my daughter says 우리말 has. Or, you could translate 말as “word” which would be referring to “the word of God.” I guess you can see why the scholars in Korea insist on continuing to use the hanmoon (What the Koreans call the Chinese characters) because the Chinese characters carry meaning, but 우리말 is written in hangul, the basic alphabet that is letters like English letters, but each letter doesn’t carry a specific meaning like hanmoon does. However, my daughter just wants to make what she is reading easier to understand, so she doesn’t worry about the things the scholars worry about.
The New International Version in Korean that I use was originally translated from the English New International Version into Korean. It also only has the hangul, the basic alphabet. My daughter’s 우리말 version is all Korean. My New International Version is a bilingual Bible with Korean and English on the same page. If I get too lost, I have the English easily available. I found mine at the big Kyobo book store in Mokdong in Seoul close to the Hyundai Department store and CBS, the Christian Broadcasting TV Station. There are more like my copy there if you go looking for a Korean/English Bible.
We will leave it here for now with the angel talking to Joseph and telling him about what Jesus will do. There was an awful lot of promise in that baby. If you have any questions about the Korean grammar or the meaning of anything we sort through here, just leave me a comment. In a few days, I will do another Korean grammar blog.