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

From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Fri Sep 12 1997 - 09:18:47 EDT

> From: (Paul S. Dixon)
> Date: Fri, 12 Sep 1997 04:02:13 EDT
> Again, I will try to kill two or more birds here with one sling.
> <snip>
> (From myself)
> >>>
> >>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?
> (Paul Dixon continues)
> Then there is always the KJV which renders it, "Whosoever is born of God
> doth not commit sin," which only encouraged the sinless perfectionism
> doctrine.
> The NASV renders it, "no one who is born of God practices sin," conveying
> nicely the customary/habitual nuance. The Amplified Bible has,
> "...habitually practices sin." But, of course, truth is not determined
> by weighing the translations.

This is true. The problem is that I'm never completely confident
in my own perceptions of things, so it helps if at least one
committee of reasonably well-informed scholars has come to the
same conclusion.

> The customary/habitual present tense does not denote constant,
> uninterrupted activity, perhaps as the progressive present does (which is
> denoted by the line). Rather, as Robertson says (p. 880), it is more
> iterative and graphically denoted by the continual dotting of points (. .
> . . . . .). Thus, when John says, "no one who is born of God practices
> sin ... and he cannot sin" (NASV), the customary/habitual idea
> communicated is that he is not characterized by a lifestyle of habitual
> sin. He cannot be characterized by sin, that is, if his sinful acts were
> graphed, they would not form a continuous dotted line. That is the
> meaning.
> Now, let me argue for the customary/habitual nuance, then I would like to
> hear your argument for persistence.
> Actually, I've already argued this (see way above). In summation: the
> customary/habitual nuance of the present tense is critical to John's
> argument, for he is giving ways by which the children of God can know
> they have eternal life. Essentially, the argument hinges around their
> habitual lifestyle of: confession of sin versus denial of it (1:6-10),
> obedience versus disobedience (2:3ff), love versus hatred, belief in the
> Son versus denial; righteousness versus unrighteousness, etc. As
> elsewhere in scripture (cf Mt 7:15-23; 2 Pet. 1) so here they are called
> to look at their own lives, especially in comparison to the lives of
> those who had left the fellowship (2:18 ff). There is a striking
> difference. Its called a radical change, that change which occurs in the
> life of a sinner and turns him around, so that the change is evident not
> only to others, but to himself.
> 1 Jn 3:6-10 may be the most persuasive in this line of thinking. We
> would undoubtedly agree that the present tenses throughout the passage
> should be taken in the same way. How should we take the present
> participle in 6b, hO hAMARTANW? If we say as "persistent sinning," then
> certainly the one who persists in sin has never seen or known God (same
> verse). That is, he was never saved. This is unescapable. Do you want
> to say this? This, of course, contradicts your interpretation of 1:6
> (above) where you say, "this doesn't mean we are necessary out of the
> kingdom ... but that at least for the time being we are continuing in a
> mode of hiding."
> Wow, its late. Better stop for now. Sorry that I couldn't get to Carl.
> Actually, I think I did answer his objections, since he was taking the
> same position.
> Paul Dixon
After some study last night of 1 Jn 3.6-10, I would agree with you
that that particular passage is trying to distinguish between
the "God's children" and "the devil's children". And customary
and habitual does seem to be the usual nuance there.

One exception may be the OU DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN taken from v. 9,
cited by Bultmann, quoted by Carl. Bultmann interprets this
"as the possibility of not sinning," but that doesn't seem to
be the way that either you or I am reading it. You would, I
gather, interpret as "he/she isn't able to sin ordinarily, as
a matter of course," whereas my inclination is to interpret
it as "he/she isn't able to keep on sinning" -- i.e., even
if we get involved in sinning from time to time, the seed
(SPERMA) in us is at work so as to keep us from being
comfortable in continuing in the sin. In the context, it
probably doesn't make a lot of difference, since John's point
is to distinguish God's children from those of the devil,
and either or both interpretations seem to apply.

But the antecedent question was whether the 1 Jn 1.6-10
passage was likewise trying to distinguish the children of
light from the children of darkness, or whether it describes
the somewhat seesaw-y experience of those who have already
committed themselves to the Christ.

I actually think that if one wants to interpret the 1 Jn 1.6-10
passage in the former way, it is logically possible. One does need,
I think, to interpret the EAN's as if's, and to treat the
present subjunctives as representing one's main mode (if
not exclusive mode) of behavior. To interpret it as
different modes of the believer's behavior, it does help to
interpret the EAN's as whenever's, and to consider the
present subjunctives as denoting continuing action at the
time. In other words, from what (little) I know, either
interpretation is self consistent.

BTW, do you believe that the present subjunctive _always_
denotes habitual and customary behavior, or do you agree
that it sometimes indicates other modes such as concurrent
(going on at the same time) or persistent?

I suspect that you and I can agree that 1 Jn 1.6-10 does
not support "sinless perfectionism". When v. 9 says
(your interpretation) "If we habitually and customarily
confess our sins," as characteristic of the child of light,
that suggests the ongoing sins are a part of the life
of the child of light. Is that so?

Jim Vellenga

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:38:28 EDT