Re: 1 John 3:9

Date: Wed Dec 22 1999 - 09:52:43 EST

Here is what S.M. Baugh has to say about 1 John 3:6, 9. His full Excursus is
about two and a half pages. I'm not about to type all of that information
now. :-) But I'll try to accurately relate his comments and quote him where I
feel it is pertinent.

Baugh initiates the discussion of 3:9 in his First John Reader by noting that
1 John 3:9 has been understood in many ways. The RSV, NIV and NASB all render
this Johannine passage differently. Baugh posits the following view:

"In my opinion, the fact that John chose to use the present infinitive
hAMARTANEIN rather than the aorist hAMARTEIN, shows that he was thinking
about "sinning" in v. 9 as a characteristic action. Hence, John does not
teach "perfectionism"--that Christians can experience sinlessness in this
life. Rather, when he says OU DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN he teaches that the genuine
Christian cannot be characterized by a life of unrepentant sin" (pp. 50-51).

Baugh believes that three factors buttress his interpretation of 3:9.

(1) The immediate context.

(2) The lexical significance of hAMARTANEIN.

(3) The influence of DUNAMAI upon the tense form of its complementary

Basically Baugh feels that since the infinitive form of hAMARTANW does not
appear elsewhere in the NT, John must have used the infinitive in 3:9 to
signal an ongoing activity (not a state). He concludes: "the phrase OU
DUNATAI hAMARTANEIN in 1 John 3:9 expresses the fact that the Christian is
prevented by the new birth and the abiding presence of God from falling into
persistent sin" (52).

In ftn. 16 on page 52, Baugh also addresses the arguments of Smalley and
Wallace. He demonstrates that 1 John 5:16 with its use of hAMARTANONTA does
not eradicate the iterative force of 1 John 3:9. hAMARTANONTA is an adverbial
present participle employed to express action contemporary with the main
verb. 1 John 3:9 differs in this regard.

I hope these points shed some light on the debate,

Edgar Foster

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