Re: Question on Present Participles

From: Paul S. Dixon (
Date: Mon Feb 09 1998 - 23:58:14 EST

On Mon, 9 Feb 1998 10:51:45 +0000 JPDow <> writes:
>Hello b-Greekers!
>I am currently having a discussion/dispute with a member of another
>list regarding the ever-popular topic of "total depravity". I have
>been placing heavy emphasis on Genesis 6:5:
> "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in
> the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his
> heart was only evil **continually**."
>I have been emphasizing the fact that *every* intent of the thoughts
>of man's heart is "only evil continually" in order to show that this
>verse allows no room whatsoever for any inherent goodness in mankind.
>To make a long story short, the individual with whom I have been
>discussing this has used a supposedly literal translation to pit
>Romans 3:10-12 against Genesis 6:5. Here is exactly what he said
>(between the two *** lines):
>> I have been studying Romans 3:10-12 and have had some interesting
>> discoveries which could clear up this whole "total depravity" mess.
>> I have in my possession a Bible which claims to be the Most
>> "Literal" translation when it was published in 1991 by the Christian
>> Bible Society of Mammoth Spring, Ar. Here is the way that they
>> translate the Greek in the verses in question:
>> Romans 3:
>> v.10 "just as it has been written, "There isn't anyone who is
>> continually doing things that are just[and right], not even one."
>> v.11 "There isn't anyone who is continually understanding. There
>> isn't anyone who is continually seeking out God."
>> v.12 "All have avoided Him, and they have at the same time become
>> unprofitable. There isn't anyone who is continually doing kindness;
>> there isn't even one."
>> Jeremy, I believe you stumbled across the answer when you stated
>> that being "Blameless" was not equal to being "Sinless." This is
>> EXACTLY what Paul is saying in these quoted verses. He WAS NOT
>> saying that the entire human race was "Totally Depraved," he was
>> simply stating that NO ONE is "Sinless," Therefore EVERYONE is in
>> need of a "Savior."
>What he apparently means by all this is that the verse does not say
>that all of mankind is continuously wicked but wicked only some of
>the time (i.e., not continually). IOW, that the statement "There
>isn't anyone who is **continually** understanding. There isn't
>anyone who is **continually** seeking out God" actually means,
>"Everyone understands sometimes and everyone seeks God sometimes."
>Sinfulness, but not total all-encompassing sinfulness.
>My response to him regarding v. 10 is that there is no present
>participle in that verse to support the idea of continuous action.
>My response regarding v. 11 is that, while it does have two present
>participles for "understanding" and "seeking" and they can indeed
>denote ongoing action, this need not be translated as his literal
>translation rendered it. One could translate "OUK ESTIN hO SUNIWN" as
>"Not there is the one ever understanding" -- that is, there is no one
>who ever (at any time = at all times = continuously) understands;
>hence, no one ever understands. If I'm right, the same could be said
>about the second half of the verse.
>What think ye? Am I way off base on this, or do you think my
>interpretation of the use of the present participle in those verses
>is proper?
>Any help would be appreciated.

 In summation: you are right that there is no participle in v. 10, but
you have gone too far in asserting:

>"Not there is the one ever understanding" -- that is, there is no one
>who ever (at any time = at all times = continuously) understands;
>hence, no one ever understands. If I'm right, the same could be said
>about the second half of the verse.

Literally it is, "he who characteristically (habitually, customarily)
understands is not, he who characteristically seeks God is not." Not
always, or not characteristically does not imply or suggest never. While
that may be true, it is not implied by the negation of these present

The relationship between v. 10 and verse 11 is instructive. Verse 10
gives the topic statement: there is none righteous; no not one.

Verses 11 (as do verses 11-18) is the proof or demonstration of such.
The underlying message is this: the righteous necessarily demonstrate it
by righteous behavior, such as characterisitic righteous or sanctified
understanding and a seeking after God. Those who do not
characteristically understand and characteristically seek after God are
not righteous. This is not to say, of course, that such behavior is what
does or does not make them righteous; rather, that it is the
demonstration of righteousness, or the lack of it.

The point is that apart from the grace of God (Paul is demonstrating here
man's need for justification) there is no one who is righteous. This is
argued from the fact that no one characteristically understands and seeks
after God, among other things (12-18).

The good news, however, is that the children of God do (1 Jn 3:9).

Paul Dixon


Rather, verse 10 gives the summary statement:

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