Re: Contradictions in 1 John?

From: James H. Vellenga (
Date: Tue Sep 16 1997 - 15:31:47 EDT

> Date: Tue, 16 Sep 1997 15:02:42 -0400
> To: "Paul S. Dixon" <>
> From: Jonathan Robie <>
> At 05:20 PM 9/15/97 EDT, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
> <snip>
> 2. If we can't sin, how can we sin?
> I think that 1 John 3:9 clearly says that we can not sin. As I said in my
> previous message,
> >There is a logical contradiction here. Paul wants
> >to take the present POIEI as a habitual present,
> >and argues that a child of God may sin, but can
> >not dwell in sin. Dale disagrees, pointing out that
> >verse 3:9 also says that that the child of God OU
> >DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN. I think that some people missed
> >the fact that DUNATAI is also present tense - at the
> >raw, literal level, I think that this phrase really
> >does say that a child of God can not sin. If I am wrong
> >about this, I would appreciate it if someone would explain
> >how it could be interpreted differently.
> Jonathan

This is one part of your argument that I don't follow.
Isn't the infinitive hAMARTEIN a present infinitive?
If so, one could interpret it either as persistence
or custom/habit, and translate it as

  "he isn't able to keep sinning"


  "he isn't able to sin as a customary thing"

In either case, it doesn't necessarily imply that he is
free from sinning.

As to Jonathan's point 1 ("The omens speak against it"), I tend
so far to agree with Jonathan in that particular passage.
What I don't understand is why chapter 1 can't be describing
the varying experiences of the believer while chapter 3 is
describing the differences between the believer and the
non-believer. Apparently both Paul Dixon and Carl Conrad
(and maybe Jonathan) believe they both have to be one or the
other. I may have missed something over the week-end
(I got bounced from the mailing list because of a net failure
at our end), but why is it they can't differ in this respect?

Jim Vellenga

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