From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Sat Sep 20 1997 - 14:36:47 EDT

On Sat, 20 Sep 1997 06:59:22 -0500 "Carl W. Conrad"
<> writes:
>At 6:04 AM -0500 9/20/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>>At 02:37 AM 9/20/97 EDT, Paul S. Dixon wrote:
>>>In this verse of luscious exegetical nuggets comes this intriguing
>>>phrase, hAMARTANONTA hAMARTIAN (1 Jn 5:16). It is translated,
>>>"committing a sin" (NASV), " committing ... sin" (RSV), "sin a sin"
>>>(KJV), and "commit a sin" (NIV).
>Since Jonathan was too busy (uxorious?) to finish his response, let me

Yes, I can't understand how anybody could be too busy for the Greek NT.
I'm going to have to talk with Jonathan.

>just say that the "cognate accusative" is really a pretty common thing
>have an elderly lawyer friend who likes to say that he vowed as a young
>never to marry a woman who didn't know what a Cognate Accusative
>was--but he broke that vow about sixty years ago--he's now in his 90's).

Well, before you're threatened to sever our relationship, let me assure
you I already knew it was a cognate accusative. Was just asking for
other examples of it, not having bothered to check out BYT (i.e.,
Jonathan's new acrostic for ATR). But, hey, why bother when we have each
other :).

>in English, Greek, and Latin and probably in several other languages as
>well: "fight the good fight," "see the sights," PUGNAM PUGNARE, etc.
>called that because both verb and nominal object are from the same root,
>obviously. Superficially it's like the Hebrew construct infinitives,
>which are used for emphasis and which are rather quaintly translated in
>LXX as cognate accusatives. In those particular instances I think we
>probably should read special emphasis, but an ordinary cognate
accusative is
>little more than a matter of idiom.
>BUT, is it possible, Paul, that you have opened up yet another can of
>worms by reminding us of this phrase in 1 John, in fact, perhaps two
cans of
>worms, or should I say a can with two worms in it?

Ah, yes. I was really chomping at the bit, but having been corralled
once already, was trying my best to avoid being roped. So, after
loosening the can of worms, I was kind of hoping somebody might take a
bite, or at least a nibble. Thanks.
>(1) The lesser worm is the phrase in 5:16 hAMARTIAN MH PROS QANATON.
>We (read "I") learned that a prepositional phrase cannot modify a noun
>an adjective. One might argue that MH PROS QANATON really construes with
>hAMARTANONTA rather than with hAMARTIAN, but that seems ruled out by
hINA ERWTHSEI. I suppose (I've never studied canon law >and have no plans
to do so) that this passage, 1 Jn 5:16-17, is the chief source >of the
distinction between a "mortal" and a "venial" sin--and that "venial"
>probably derives from the Latin equivalent of a MH PROS QANATON used as
>an adjective in Johannine Greek in our passage. So that usage in
Johannine >Greek of a prepositional phrase as an adjective is an
>"irregularity"--I suppose we might call it a "grammatical venial sin."
One might >also say that it's a worm we can live with.

You are right. This is a favorite passage for the mortal/venial sins
>(2) The greater worm (nibbling at my mind, at least) is the question,
>how does this bifurcation of hAMARTIA into mortal and venial sin bear
>our former worm (if I may speak thus affectionately of it), namely the
>relationship of 1 Jn 3:9 and 1 Jn 1:5-10? Does 1 Jn 3:9 mean that one
>CANNOT commit a "mortal" sin but CAN commit a venial sin? Are the
>subjects of 1 Jn 1:8 and 9 possessors and confessors respectively of
>or of "venial" sins? Perhaps the answers to these questions are
>evident to a keen logician and canon lawyer, but as I am neither the
>one nor the other, I'm a bit curious about how the relationship of 1 Jn
>5:16-17 and 3:9 and 1:5-10 is to be understood.

Exactly. I knew this would appeal to you and Jonathan, and frankly as I
was recently reading through 1 John in light of our recent discussions I
was reminded afresh of this passage (reading scripture does have a
tendency to do this). In the context of such discussions the present
tense hAMARTANONTA will have a tendency to jump out at you. While the
customary present is highly significant in the epistle (as I have
argued), this does not mean we should expect the present tense to always
be customary in the book. Of course, you have no problem with this,
especially in your view 1 Jn 1:6-10. Here (5:16) the nuance is
undoubtedly progressive, if any one see his brother in the act of

If we impose a customary nuance on it, we have all kinds of problems. I
hardly need to elaborate here, especially since I doubt anybody has any
serious problems with the progressive nuance. If so, let me know.

>I'm halfway facetious about this worm, for I fear the thread that it
>might unleash (Away with you, Clotho!), but it's nibbling away at my
>Can someone slay the dragon?

If this is an approprate time to unleash all the worms, then I'm game.
Let me, at least, identify the worms as they come out.

1) TON ADELFON AUTOU - does this necessitate a genuine brother in the
faith, or can it include all those who consider themselves brothers in
the faith, or can we extend it to include the brotherhood of mankind?
Some have argued, it matters not how we take it, or that we ought to take
it as broadly as possible, the point being if we see anyone in the act of
committing a sin MH PROS QANATON, then we should pray for him (and if it
be God's will - 5:14-15), then God will give to him life.

2) the nuance of the present tense here, as identified above.

3) hAMARTIAN PROS QANATON/ MH PROS QANATON - a) mortal sin versus venial
sins, b) the unforgiveable sin (Mt 12:30-32), c) discipline upon
Christians resulting in physical death (1 Cor 11:28-34). This latter, I
believe, is Dale's view (also, Hodge, Fanning, etc.). The second view is
more the traditonal reformed position, while the first is the Catholic

4) AITHSEI KAI DWSEI AUTWi ZWHN - Is this a categorical promise that God
will always give eternal life in response to our prayers, or should we
take this in line with the immediately preceding verses (14-15), i.e.,
EAN OIDAMEN KATA TO QELHMA AUTOU? Of course, if the latter, does this
imply it is not always God's QELHMA to give life? If not, then we are
left with the assurance and guarantee, assuming ZWHN refers to eternal
life and the ADELFOS in question does not yet have eternal life, that our
prayers for such will always issue in the granting of eternal life.

These are just four of the worms. Perhaps others can find some more.
What think ye, Waldo?

I'd be happy to give my understanding of the passage (not set in
concrete, mind you, and if you haven't already figured it out), but will
bite my tongue for now.

Paul Dixon

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