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11. Insights Derived from the Four Classes of "if" in the Greek
By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida
There are no equivalents to these constructions in English, but in the Koine Greek, the construction surrounding the word "if" tells us what the writer means.
DESCRIPTION OF THE 4 CLASSES OF IF IN THE GREEK:
FIRST CLASS - REALITY - "IF" and it IS TRUE.
SECOND CLASS - UNREALITY - "IF" and it is NOT TRUE
THIRD CLASS - POSSIBILITY - "IF" and it has not happened yet, and IT MAY, and when it does - - -.
FOURTH CLASS - WISH/DESIRE - "IF" and it has not happened yet, and I WISH IT WOULD and when and if it does - - -
KOINE Greek CONSTRUCTION AND EXAMPLES:
FIRST CLASS - "ei" (if) + indicative mood verb = True
--- Gal 5:18 If, and you are to some extent, led by the Spirit.
--- Rom 6:5 If we have been, and we have been, planted together with Christ in death.
In both examples, Paul is assuming that he is speaking to born again children of God. (1 Cor 2:14 states that the gospel is foolishness to the natural man)
SECOND CLASS - "ei" (if) + "un" (not) = False
--- Gal 1:10 Paul argues, if I am pleasing men, and I am not.
--- Luke 7:39 The Pharisee shows no faith when he says "if Jesus were a prophet, but he is not".
--- Matt 17:20 "If you HAD, but you DON'T have" faith the equivalent of a mustard seed, you would go out and abuse it and do something silly, like casting a mountain into the sea! (Jesus refuses the request of his disciples, at that point, to increase their faith. We do not get faith by asking for it, it comes from hearing God's Word, and it is carefully measured out to each of God's children. (See page 5 link on the home page about Biblical faith for further information on "faith").
THIRD CLASS - "ean" + subjunctive mood verb = Maybe yes, maybe no
--- Rom 7:2 If a woman’s husband is dead, maybe he is and maybe not.
--- Heb 6:3 Leaving the foundational teachings and progressing to maturity, if God will permit, maybe He will and maybe He won't. (In the context, God will not allow their spiritual growth as long as the Hebrew Christians keep on sacrificing animals according to Old Testament Law, instead of trusting the blood of Christ.)
FOURTH CLASS - "ei" + optative mood verb = Wish/desire.
--- 1 Pet 3:14 If your suffering is for righteousness sake, and I wish it was, it would be a blessing.
The New Testament uses the first two classes with great frequency, the third often, and the fourth very rarely.