John 7:1-9

Date: Thu Oct 24 1996 - 21:12:53 EDT

I think the problem you're having is the result of unfortunate confusion over
the "first class" condition as it is described in some NT grammars. In reality
this condition never means "since" rather than "if". It is easy to mistake
the meaning because of the frequent statement of a protasis which the speaker
evidently assumes to be true (hence "since"), but the grammar of the condition
itself does not suggest actuality. In these situations, the speaker is using
rhetoric in the attempt to get his listener or opponent to accept the apo-
dosis of the condition; i.e., the hope is that the listener will have to
agree with the protasis (so chosen by the speaker for that reason), and will
then accept the logical necessity of agreeing with the apodosis. The truth of
the challenge (and one could perhaps say of the speaker's integrity) depends
on the value of the logical connection between the "if" and the "then". IN
John 7:4, Jesus' brothers are using this rhetoric, hoping that Jesus will
agree to go more public as a "necessary" consequence of the protasis, which
they naturally believe he will have to accept, whether they really do or not.
Keep in mind, too, that the use of the indicative is not a moral commitment
on the part of the speaker to the truth of the statement, just the mode in
which the speaker chooses to put the statement for his listener's consumption.
As I like to tell my students, most lies are told in the indicative.

Don Wilkins
UC Riverside

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