subjunctive contingency

From: Mark House (
Date: Mon May 03 1999 - 09:34:13 EDT

Greetings, B-Greekers.

I'm new to the list. I've been reading Greek for some time, but am in my
fourth year of teaching beginning NT Greek in a seminary. I'm really
enjoying reading the discussions on the list so far.

A student raised a question the other day that I told him I would research
further. It relates to the use of the subjunctive mood, which I told my
students typically introduces a mild element of contingency. Specifically,
we're reading 1 John 1, and the question arose concerning the use of the
subjunctive in v. 9, where the writer promises that (pardoning any
DIKAIOS, hINA AFHi HMIN TAS AMARTIAS.... The question concerned the hINA
clause, which I explained as a result rather than a purpose clause.
Wouldn't the use of a future indicative (without hINA) have made the promise
more reliable? Something like: If we confess..., he is faithful...and he
WILL forgive.... Put another way, doesn't the subjunctive here lend to the
uncertainty of a promise that the writer seems to want to drive home to his
readers with certainty?

I ventured the guess that the INA clause is a standard way of expressing
results (or, more frequently, purpose), and doesn't necessary carry with it
any implicit uncertainty. But that answer did seem to run contrary to my
prior definition of the subjunctive as communicating contingency.

Any comments will be greatly appreciated.

Mark House
Adjunct Greek Prof.
Fuller Theological Seminary

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