Re: The anaphora of 1 John 3:5 & 8 & the Subjunctive

From: Jay Adkins (
Date: Fri Oct 15 1999 - 10:44:39 EDT

In a message dated 10/15/99 2:01:49 PM !!!First Boot!!!, writes:

> (1) any language that is widely spoken is always changing;
> (2) there's always (or usually) a difference between the diction and
> grammatical usage that most people use conversationally or in
> informal documents and what they write in more formal documents;
> (3) the "dignity" of a document or text has a considerable bearing on
> the diction and grammatical usage employed in it;
> (4) religious and legal documents and texts and other documents and
> texts of a similar "dignity" are likely to employ more archaic,
> obsolescent, or even altogether obsolete diction and grammar (although it
> could be argued that if anyone is still reading and understanding an
> obsolescent diction or grammatical usage for a reason other than
> antiquarian scholarly interest, that diction or grammatical usage cannot
> really be quite obsolete--I still remember as a child memorizing and being
> told the meaning of what Jesus said to his parents when found in the
> Temple: "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"--but I'd
> question whether anyone conversationally today uses "wist" as a
> second-person plural preterite of "know");
> (5) although I don't think there's any one-to-one correspondence
> between theological conservatism and preference for 'obsolescent' diction
> and grammatical usages, I do think there's something of a tendency for
> theologically conservative groups to prefer language that preserves more of
> the discernible grace and dignity of the King James Version, inasmuch as it
> and Shakespeare have probably influenced the nature of historical English
> more than any other literary texts. It hardly surprises me therefore that
> NKJV should still use "that he might destroy the works of the devil" for 1
> John 3:8--surely one can still hear/read remnants of 17th century English
> in that. Nor does it surprise me that NIV, however much it represents a
> compromise with more recent English idiom, should still use the obsolescent
> "so that he might take away our sins" for 1 John 3:5; I think that these do
> indeed reflect a sense that this older usage has greater dignity than the
> now much more normal standard English usage, "appeared in order to take
> away our sins" for 1 John 3:5 or "The reason that the Son of God appeared
> was to destroy the devil's works" for 1 John 3:8. I don't mean to imply
> that these are the only ways to convey the Greek of those verses in
> "formal" English, but they may be sufficient to show why the tastes and
> inclinations of some people are more attuned to the archaic diction and
> usage. And I have no quarrel with those to whom such language speaks
> clearly and eloquently, even if it is not my own preference.

Again, thank you. I had not even considered the differences between
written and spoken English in regard to this construction. This makes good
sense to me and can easily agree, however, I am wondering though if there
is still another possible purpose in using this type of phrasing. Since
the dual purposes of Jesus' appearance in these verses could not be
achieved unless He did appear, could the terms 'might' or 'may' simply be
expressing this as the contingent aspect of the phrase? Not that there was
any doubt the results would be achieved, but it was contingent on His
appearance. Or am I really confused now? Even so, I could still
understand that using these terms would still not be the best way to
express it, as it is already implied.

As for my own translation, I agree with you and will use the infinitive.
My preference for being as literal as possible, includes using recent
English idiom that is more conversational than most formal written
documents, as my understanding of the NT Greek is that it was/is
conversational and not formal. I asked the question in the first place
because I did not understand the construction. Thanks to you, I think I
have a much better grasp of it, not that it still could not be improved
upon. The above questions are again merely to better understand the
question that slows us all down, why?

Sola Gratia,
Always Under Grace!

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