Re: subjunctive contingency

From: Jim West (
Date: Mon May 03 1999 - 10:30:01 EDT

At 06:34 AM 5/3/99 -0700, you wrote:
>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.

Glad to have you.

>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

This is a 3rd class conditional sentence, which I would render something
like, "should we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and he will
forgive our sins.... "

> The question concerned the hINA
>clause, which I explained as a result rather than a purpose clause.

I agree. The intention is result rather than purpose here.

>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?

No- a first class conditional sentence would accomplish what you suggest above.

>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.

But the 3rd class conditional sentence is more uncertain than the first or
second. If we had an optative here we would be dealing with a 4th class
conditional and its possibility of reality is almost nil.




Jim West, ThD
Petros Baptist Church- Pastor
Quartz Hill School of Theology- Adjunct Prof. of Bible

fax- 978-231-5986
web page-

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