Re: OU DUNATAI hAMARTIAN in 1 John 3:9

From: Steven Craig Miller (
Date: Wed Oct 20 1999 - 18:55:30 EDT

<x-flowed>To: Paul Dixon,

SCM: << Can anyone show me a clear example of a "habitual present" with the
negative particle "OU" where the resulting meaning clearly means that one
only occasionally does this thing, but one does not do it on a habitual
bases? I would like to see the NT usage which justifies this interpretation. >>

PD: << In the same context is a ready example. Verse 6b says: PAS hO
seen Him or has known Him. This makes sense only if the present tense
hAMARTANWN is habitual/characteristic. Any other nuance would suggest
whenever someone sins he gives away he has never seen or known God,
certainly a commentary to the effect he never was saved. >>

Perhaps I don't understand what you mean by "habitual/characteristic." But
the claim that OUC hAMARTANEI (1 Jn 3:6), hAMARTIAN OU POIEI, and OU
DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN (1 Jn 3:9), is a "habitual/characteristic" present
seems to me to water down what the author of 1 John wrote.

PD: << This teaching of John, of course, is consistent with that of His
Master's who taught, "by their fruit you shall know them" (Mt 7). >>

"You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or
figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but
the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a
bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut
down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits" (Mt
7:16-20 NRSV).

I don't see that this passage suggests that some grapes are gathered from
thorns, or that some figs are gathered from thistles. I don't see this
passage suggesting that a good tree bears mostly good fruit, and only a few
bad fruit. And I don't see how this passage supports your grammatical

What I would suggest is that what we have at 1 John 3:6,9 and at Mt 7:16-20
is a sweeping generalization, and that there is no grammatical
justification for watering down their sweeping generalizations so that they
don't appear to be so sweeping.

-Steven Craig Miller
Alton, Illinois (USA)

 From Luther's Large Catechism: "Why, do you think, is the world now so
full of unfaithfulness, shame, misery, and murder? It is because everyone
wishes to be his or her own master, be free from all authority, care
nothing for anyone, and do whatever he or she pleases. So God punishes one
knave by means of another" (BoC 386.154).

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