Re: INA subjunctive in John 17:4

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Tue Sep 02 1997 - 23:59:06 EDT

At 10:00 AM -0700 9/2/97, lakr wrote:
>Dear b-Greekers,
>I'm trying get a feel for the Greek of John 17:4, and I'm a bit
>stumped with the 'INA POIHSW'. My copy of Porter's Idioms calls this
>a 'content clause'.
>The other place I see this used is John 4:34. I have conditioned myself,
>probably in error, to always look for a meaning when I see a subjunctive
>that relates to 'might', something that has not happened, etc.

One common use of INA + Subjunctive is to express purpose. In such cases
the issue of time is often irrelevant. You might view O DEDWKAS MOI INA
POIHSW as something like "which has been given me to do", using an
infinitive in English ("to do") where there is INA + Subjunctive in Greek,
since an infinitive is often used to express purpose in English. That is,
the work was giving Jesus with the purpose that he do it. Whether it has
been done at the time the author writes or the time Jesus speaks is not
stated or even implied.

I'm not sure that calling this a 'content clause' really helps. (If it
helps you that's great.) It's a pretty normal use of the Greek subjunctive.

>I'll admit I don't understand subjunctive. But in verse 17:4, Jesus
>has already completed the work 'TO ERGON TELEIWSAS' and yet this
>work is described as 'INA POIHSW'. This work was not completed when
>Jesus spoke the words in John 4:34, so I don't see a conflict between
>this instance and my understanding of the use of the subjunctive.
>Why is 'INA POIHSW' not in the indicative in John 17:4 ? The only thing
>I can come up with is that the 'INA PIIHSW' is refering to the time
>when he was given the work and before he completed it.

As stated in the subjunctive, INA POIHSW is not refering to any time
explicitly. We may infer a time because of our larger knowledge of the
story, but the grammatical form does not inherently refer to any time.

>PS I'll try not to introduce elementary questions on B-GREEK by doing
>research before I post and so I am also interested in what resources might
>be available to which I can refer to answer questions like this.

You might look at BDF 369(1) (pages 186 and 187). On INA + Subjunctive as
a substitute for the infinitive of purpose see BDF 390.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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