At least one elementary grammar that I have consulted says that the
negative particle with a non-aorist imperative means to "stop Xing"
-- i.e., "don't keep Xing" -- as opposed to "don't habitually X".
If we apply the same approach to 1 John 3.9, we get something like
"isn't able to keep sinning". If I heard this in English (given
my personal experience of struggling with sin), I wouldn't interpret
it as never sinning again, but that with any given sin, there comes
a point where I have to face up to the wrongness of it and do
something about it. My commitment -- my being "born of God" --
ultimately won't let me do otherwise. Seen in this way, the
use of OU with the imperfect could almost be described as
"anti-inceptive" (in computerese, we talk about "terminating"
Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any purely mechanical
way, divorced from our own life experiences, of interpreting
a particular passage in either Greek or English. Using formal
or mechanical methods merely gets us to a better doorway into
James H. Vellenga | firstname.lastname@example.org
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