Re: 1 John 1:9

From: Jim West (jwest@Highland.Net)
Date: Mon Nov 30 1998 - 09:20:17 EST

At 10:09 AM 11/30/98 -0700, you wrote:
>I recently read comments by a certain author on 1 John 1:9. He said that in
>light of the Greek in the passage, it should be translated, "If we confess our
>sins, he is faithful and just to have forgiven us our sins and to have
>purified us from all unrighteousness." Are the verbs "to forgive" and "to
>purify" really supposed to be understood as past tense?
> Casey Gagnon
> Tempe, AZ

The verbs are indeed aorist. As to whether or not they should be understood
as past tense is a matter of interpretation.

I suppose the problem arises because the first part of the verse (the "if"
clause) is a present tense verb, indicating present ongoing action, while
the second part (the "then" clause) is a set of aorist verbs; such a
combination somewhat jarring to our English sensibilities.... as the present
would seem to require at least a presnt and most likely a future.

Yet in this case the emphasis is most likely on the "kind" of action rather
than the "time" of action. That is, in the aorist infinitive it is the kind
of action that is stressed rather than "when" the action is done.

As Alford points out, "the two verbs are aorists, because the purpose of the
faithfulness and justice of God is to do each one as a great complex act -
to justify and to sanctify wholly and entirely" (Alford, vol 4, p. 430).

So, in short, dont let the time of the verbs throw you-- it is the
Aktionsart that is important in the infinitive here.


Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

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