From: John M. Moe (John.M.Moefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon May 03 1999 - 12:08:47 EDT
Message text written by "Mark House"
>A student raised a question the other day that I told him I would
>further. It relates to the use of the subjunctive mood, which I told
>students typically introduces a mild element of contingency.
>we're reading 1 John 1, and the question arose concerning the use of
>subjunctive in v. 9, where the writer promises that (pardoning any
>transliteration flubs) EAN hOMOLOGWMEN TAS hAMARTIAS hHMWN, PISTOS
>DIKAIOS, hINA AFHi HMIN TAS AMARTIAS.... The question concerned the
>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
>more reliable? Something like: If we confess..., he is faithful...and
>WILL forgive.... Put another way, doesn't the subjunctive here lend to
>uncertainty of a promise that the writer seems to want to drive home to
>readers with certainty?
>I ventured the guess that the INA clause is a standard way of
>results (or, more frequently, purpose), and doesn't necessary carry
>any implicit uncertainty. But that answer did seem to run contrary to
>prior definition of the subjunctive as communicating contingency.
>Any comments will be greatly appreciated.
>Adjunct Greek Prof.
>Fuller Theological Seminary
I think the reason this passage is a problem is that it is seen as
an (if A, then B) conditional clause. If it were that, then John would
be saying that the condition brought about by our confession is God's
faithfulness and justice, not our forgiveness (a notion that is
ludicrous if not blasphemous). It must be understood in light of its
context. It is subjunctive because the confession is not seen as fact,
but what the author is urging. God's faithfulness and justice are held
up as assurance to remove reluctance to confess.
In my opinion, part of the confusion results from translation of EAN
with English "if" (Hard for us to read such a familiar passage without
the English rendering with which we grew up ringing in our ears). I
believe "when" (as EAN is almost always rendered at 3:2 in this same
letter) would be better here.
For what it's worth, I discussed this question in an article -
"Conditional Forgiveness and the Translation of 1 John 1:9," Logia,
Epiphany/January 1994, III, 1, pp. 11-12
Rev. John M. Moe St. John's Lutheran Church, Rich Valley http://www.state.net/sjrv/
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