Re: 1 John 1:9

From: Jim Beale (
Date: Mon Nov 30 1998 - 23:45:16 EST

At 10:09 AM -0700 11/30/98, 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?

I don't think so. The verse is constructed as follows:

EAN + <pres act subj 1st pl>, hINA + <aor act subj 3rd sg>

EAN introduces the protasis of the conditional. In this case,
since the protasis is in the subjunctive, uncertainty is implied.

The present tense of the verb in the protasis is intended to
indicate on-going action. The idea is, "if we keep on confessing
our sins, ..."

hINA typically introduces a purpose or final clause, but can
also introduce a result clause. I think there is somewhat of a
continuum from purpose to result, and it's not always easy to
determine the exact sense. Purpose is contemplated result. It
depends on the particular verb and the context.

If we understand hINA as introducing a purpose clause, then the
sense would be, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just
in order that He might forgive us our sins ..." Pure purpose
doesn't make much sense to me. The purpose of God's being
faithful and just isn't to forgive us our sins. I think that
there might be a pinch of purpose there, but that is a theological
consideration. A sub- or semi-final clause is somewhere between
purpose and result. A pure result clause would be, "If we confess
our sins, He is faithful and just so that He might forgive us our
sins ..." This seems the best to me.

And now for the only part you were interested in: ;-)

The pair of aorist subjunctives in the apodosis seem to me to be
quite similar to the future indicative. The aorist subjunctive
seems to be practically equivalent to the future indicative in
this sort of condition. Perhaps it wouldn't be unreasonable to
interpret the aorist subjunctive as future perfect.

John 4:48 has aor. act. subj in both protasis and apodosis:


This, I think, must be rendered, "if you don't see signs and
wonders, you will never believe." The negation might affect
the sense of the verbs, but the aorist subjunctive in the
apodosis has to be rendered as future, as far as I can tell.

John 8:51 also has aorist act. subj in both parts:


The condition is both this verse and John 8:52 are similar
to 1 John 1:9. I think the apodosis must be rendered as if
the future indicative had been present.


In Christ,

 A mystery is a problem which encroaches upon its own data, invading
 them, as it were, and thereby transcending itself as a simple problem.
 (Gabriel Marcel, On the Ontological Mystery)

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