Re: INA subjunctive in John 17:4

From: David L. Moore (
Date: Wed Sep 03 1997 - 09:53:32 EDT

Micheal W. Palmer quoted and wrote:

>>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 =A7369(1) (pages 186 and 187). On INA + Subjunctive as
>a substitute for the infinitive of purpose see BDF =A7390.

        There is, of course, no question that hINA + subjunctive is the
common way to express purpose in 1st-century Greek. But isn't Larry Kruper
asking why we have the subjunctive expression hINA POIHSW in stead of an
indicative since Jesus is referring to a work that He has completed? I
believe the key to understanding why we have a subjunctive expression rather
than indicative is, as Larry has suggested - although he may not have made
it altogether clear - that the work referred to was contingent on its
fulfillment at the *time* it was given (DEDWKAS). Since the hINA clause
modifies DEDWKAS here, it expresses the sense of contingency present from
the point of view of an action that took place before completion of TO ERGON.

        It is probably safe to say that there is always some sense of
contingency in the use of the subjunctive. The subjunctive as such is not
very common in English. But it is available in certain verbs. There are
several instances of it in the Lord's Prayer. "Hallowed BE thy name. Thy
kingdom COME. Thy will BE done.... The difference between "Thy name BE
hallowed" and "Thy name IS hallowed" (subjunctive and indicative
respectively) is the sense of contingency conveyed by the subjunctive

David Moore

David L. Moore
Miami, Florida, USA
Southeastern Spanish District of the A/G Dept. of Education
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