Re: 1 John 2:6 translation question

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Thu Apr 17 1997 - 14:48:25 EDT

At 11:42 AM -0500 4/15/97, Knox Mike wrote:
> I have been working my way through 1 John, and I ran into a roadblock on
>Chapter 2, verse 6:
> I am having trouble understanding how the infinitive MENEIN should be
>translated here. Several translations, such as the NASB translate it as a
>present indicative ("The one who says he abides in him, ought...."). My
>question, is simply, why?

These translations are trying to find a way to express the clear sense of
the Greek text in a normal English style. If you wanted to treat MENEIN as
an infinitive in your English translation, you could translate translate
LEGWN as 'claim' rather than 'say': "The one who claims to abide in him,

>Also, according to Zerwick's Grammatical Analysis, the word OFEILEI normally
>means "owe", but with an infinitive means "ought". Is this the reason that
>verb MENW is an infinitive in this verse?

No. This is the reason that *PERIPATEIN* is an infinitive in this verse.

MENEIN is an infinitive because its clause (EN AUTWi MENEIN) is the
complement of the participle LEGWN. When the complement of LEGW is a clause
(rather than a Noun Phrase), and the subject of that clause is the same as
the subject of LEGW, then the clause which functions as the complement may
be stated as an infinitival clause and usually is.

It is important to recognize this grammatical flexibility of LEGW, since it
is different from the range of possibilities open to "say" in English. Our
Englsh verb "say" cannot take an infinitival complement unless the subject
of the infinitive is *different* from the subject of "say" and even then it
must imply purpose or a command. A mother might say to her stubborn child,
for example:

        "I said to go"

The subject of the verb 'go' would clearly *not* be the mother ('I'), and
the infinitive 'to go' would imply a previous command telling the child to
go somewhere.

The Greek word LEGW does not face these same restrictions. The infinitival
complement of LEGW can share the same subject as LEGW and can express the
content of what is said without any implication of purpose or command. In
the context we are discussing (1 John 2:6) the infinitival clause (EN AUTWi
MENEIN) expresses the content of what is said and its subject is the same
as the subject of the governing participle ('the one who says'). We can
communicate these relationships in any of the following ways:

        The one who claims to remain in him...
        The one who says he remains in him...
        The one who says "I ramain in him"...

It is okay to use an English word like "claim" in a context like this,
since 'claim' implies the right set of semantic restriction on the GREEK
infinitive here.

Personally I prefer the first and third translations listed above. The
second option is less precise. Someone might read 'he' as not referring to
the same person as 'the one who says' (though the larger context would soon
correct that misreading). The first and third options make the sense of the
Greek text clearer.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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