Re: hINA, this time in 1 John 1:9

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 11 1997 - 16:01:22 EDT

At 1:12 PM -0500 9/11/97, James H. Vellenga wrote:
>> From: "Paul S. Dixon" <>
>> Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 13:01:00 EDT
>> <snip>
>> Carl, thanks for leaving the door open. I do think you may be missing
>> something. I will use this opportunity to respond to you, John V, and
>> Jonathan, since they also responded in agreement with you.
>> If: 1) the present tenses in 1:6-10 are customary/habitual, and if 2) the
>> children of God cannot be characterized by customary/habitual sin (1 Jn
>> 3:9), synonymous with and parallel to "walking in darkness" (1: 6), and
>> exemplified in both the denial of the presence of sin (1:8) and a denial
>> of ever having committed sin (v. 10), then it follows that those passages
>> cannot ever be true of the children of God. They reflect only the
>> children of darkness. Even if the EIPWMENs in 1:8 and 1:10 are aorists,
>> certainly hOMOLOGWMEN and PERIPATWMEN (9,7 respectively) are
>> customary/habitual presents.
>> The present tense in 1 John does seem highly significant and the
>> customary/habitual nuance with it. John wants the believers to know that
>> they have eternal life (5:13) and the whole epistle is written around
>> these tests by which they can know: confession versus denial of sins
>> (1:8-10), obedience versus disobedience (2:3 ff), love versus hate,
>> profession of the Son versus denial (2:18 ff), practice of righteousness
>> versus practice of unrighteousness (2:29-3:10), etc. All these tests
>> contain present tenses where the customary/habitual nuance is prevalent.
>> Furthermore, still amplifying here, 1 Jn 3:9 rules out the possibility
>> that a child of God will ever or is even able to sin. Of course, this is
>> present tense and can only be customary/habitual.
>> Paul Dixon
>Hmmm. This seems to raise the question of what the customary/habitual
>tense means.
>The NIV, for example, in 1 John 3.9, translates the present tense
>POIEI as "will continue to" -- more of a persistence than a custom
>or habit. I've often found it useful to translate the imperfect
>or present subjunctive as "keeps Xing" (X representing the root
>verb) -- this seems to indicate persistence rather than custom
>or habit. Thus in 1.6, for example, one could read
> Whenever we say that we're having a partnership with him
> and [yet] keep going around in the darkness
>This doesn't mean that we're necessarily out of the kingdom,
>or even not in it yet, but that at least for the time being
>we're continuing in a mode of hiding (my interpretation).
>This also doesn't mean that we were never walking around in
>light, but that at the time "we say" we're having a partnership
>that we're persisting in contrary behavior.
>I didn't try to memorize all Rolf Furuli's diagrams, but they
>did seem to allow for different places of stopping and starting
>behavior for both aorist and non-aorist verbs. So I think the
>most we can say is that the deprecated behavior is occurring
>just before, just after, and during the "we say". Yes? No?

Yes, I do think that Paul's opened up a can of worms here. The only sense
in which I would really be willing to accept his notion of a sharp line
between what children of darkness do and what WE as believers do in 1 Jn
1:6-10 would have to be in the same manner as I accept both Romans 7 and
Romans 8 as a description of a believer's existence simultaneously in flesh
and spirit. I really don't believe that half the verses in 1 Jn 1:6-10 are
talking about what others rather than ourselves are doing. So yes, what
about 1 Jn 3:9 and the apparent paradox?

In checking through resources I have at hand, I find one discussion of the
"paradox" of these two passages:

In his Hermeneia commentary Bultmann resolves this "contradiction" between
1 Jn 3:9 and the understanding of 1:6-10 that I argued this morning thus:

"The resolution of the contradiction lies in the fact that the MENEIN
('abiding') of the SPORA ('seed') is understood as the gift of God's AGAPH
('love', 3:1), which remains for the believer a possibility not to be lost,
so that he can always call upon that gift, even though he in fact sins. OU
DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN ('he is not able to sin') is therefore to be understood
as the possibility of not sinning, which the believer has received as the
unforfeitable gift of God's love, a possibility that is always to be
realized, as v 10 immediately indicates. The gift of a possibility always
includes a demand, and thus the demand itself can be understood as a gift.
Consequently, v 9 can speak one-sidedly of a gift." (Fortress Press, 1973,
p. 53).

I do think that James is right here about these present tenses: that
customary or habitual action may not be the point of the present
subjunctives so much as persistence, continuing on (to sin, to walk in
darkness)--whether or not one really wants to and intends to do so.

Let's leave that door open in both directions, Paul.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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