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

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Fri Sep 12 1997 - 14:28:36 EDT

On Fri, 12 Sep 1997 09:18:47 -0400 (EDT) "James H. Vellenga"
<> writes:
>> From: (Paul S. Dixon)
>> Date: Fri, 12 Sep 1997 04:02:13 EDT
>> Then there is always the KJV which renders it, "Whosoever is born of
>> God doth not commit sin," which only encouraged the sinless
>> doctrine. The NASV renders it, "no one who is born of God practices
>> conveying nicely the customary/habitual nuance. The Amplified Bible
>> "...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.
Well put, which is why there is a place for such, as you suggest.

>> 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
>> (. . . . . . .). Thus, when John says, "no one who is born of God
>> practices sin ... and he cannot sin" (NASV), the customary/habitual
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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 the mode of hiding."
>> 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.

Exactly. Whether we say he is not able to persist in sin, or
he is not able to practice sin, the point remains. He is not able
to remain in sin as he once was enslaved to it and dead in it. But,
this is not because of himself. It is because of the transforming
power of God at work in him. This is often overlooked. This is
the basis for all joy, hope, and security. If it is dependent upon
ourselves, then we are indeed in serious trouble.
>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.

This is where we still disagree. I think 1 Jn 1:6-10 must not and
cannot be interpreted except as it is consistent with the interpretation
of 3:6-10 where it is affirmed that no one who practices (or persists) in
sin has ever seen God or known Him (3:6) and that no one who is born
of God is able to practice (or, persist in).
>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?
Hmm, good question. I'd have to think about it. But, just as I
that the present tense can have at least a half dozen nuances, I
would have no necessary problem is seeing the present subjunctive as
having different nuances.

>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?

Yes, no passage in scripture supports sinless perfectionism.
While 3:6-10 clearly differentiates the lifestyle of the children of God
from the children of darkness, by the practice of righteousness versus
the practice of unrighteousness (flip side of the non-practice of sin
versus the practice of sin), the child of God will commit sin in the
sense of 2:1.

But, when he commits sin he will be characterized (contrast non-believers
who deny sin even exists) by the confession of it (1:9). This does not
imply, however, that he will be characterized by sin, just that when it
happens, he typically is aware of it, agrees with God that it is sin, and
desires to repent of it.

Thanks, James. This has been very stimulating and most profitable.

Paul Dixon

>Jim Vellenga

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