Re Conditional sentences
Fri, 10 May 1996 14:40:02 -0700 (PDT)

Mike cites the conditional sentence in Luke/Mat 4:3 and asks whether "since"
would be better than "if", assuming that the temptor is challenging Jesus'
character rather than his identity (a point with which I would agree). He
also wonders whether grammar has any bearing on the issue.
As it happens, I think this is an excellent opportunity to see the rhetorical
value of the condition in action. My argument was that the person using the
condition sets up a protasis with which he expects his listener/opponent to
agree, often an ad hominem statement, which is exactly what we find in this
passage--i.e. the temptor is granting the possibility that Jesus is the Son
of God because he expects Jesus to accept this designation. He (the temptor)
hopes then that Jesus will admit the necessity of the apodosis. In this case,
as is very common, the indicative of the apodosis is replaced with a command.
Thus the overall goal of the temptor is to force Jesus to do his bidding
based on the latter's acceptance both of the protasis and its logical result.
The logical refutation of this statement is to accept the truth of the pro-
tasis (if it is true, of course) but deny the false connection of necessity
between the protasis and apodosis. Jesus, a superb rhetorician in His own
right, does this effectively by citing Deut 8:3, when a simpler mind might
only have pointed out that he does not need to do the miracle just because
he is the Son of God. In my view the grammar obviously has a great deal of
bearing on the argument. Such challenges as that by the temptor here rests
on the assumption of logical necessity for the apodosis, dependent on the
protasis, as is true for all conditions except for concession ("even if...
nevertheless..."). The form of the conditional sentence itself is thus used
as a means of adding false legitimacy to a statement.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside