[forthright] Neither to the Right nor to the Left / Greek Conditional Sentences (Part 1)

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 08 Jan 2005 17:11:43 -0200
Forthright Magazine
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Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes
 
Neither to the Right nor to the Left
by Michael E. Brooks

   "Only be strong and very courageous, that
   you may observe to do according to all
   trhe law which Moses my servant commanded
   you; do not turn from it to the right hand
   or to the left, that you may prosper
   wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7).

When trekking to remote villages in the mountains
of Nepal I often go ahead of my Nepali companions
and guides. At some point however I always come to
a crossing of or fork in the path(s). Sometimes I
guess as to the correct route and go on, only to
usually be called back to take the other way. It
always amazes me however how easily even those
Nepalis who have never traveled this way before
can determine the proper path. On one early trip a
young boy of eleven or twelve would often lead and
invariably he would take the right turn, although
he had never been in that particular area before.

One develops a feel for direction and a sense of
the proper route. Experienced drivers in our
country can often predict a turn or route from the
general direction indicated, the appearance of the
roads, or even subtle differences in road surface
and quality. If a wrong turn is taken the mistake
is frequently "felt" within only a few miles.

This principle also works in the spiritual realm.
Most people want to "do right." They desire
consistency of faith and virtue. Yet temptation is
strong and sin is frequent. As Paul said, "The
good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil
I will not to do, that I practice" (Romans 7:19).
As we often paraphrase it, "the spirit is willing,
but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

The answer to this dilemma is found in God’s
command to Joshua: "Observe to do all the law
which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn
from it to the right hand or to the left."

There is a correct path which we must travel. It
is defined by the commands of the law of God. If
we continue in that path, never deviating from it,
we will prosper. If we leave that path we will
fail. Jesus endorsed this principal with these
words:

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord Lord,’ shall
enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the
will of my Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Those who seek the will of God soon develop a feel
and a preference for the right path. We learn
quickly the kinds of things God approves and the
kinds of things which are temptations from Satan.
God’s path looks different, feels different, and
points in a different direction. To those
accustomed to it, no other route holds the
promises of the "strait and narrow path that leads
to life" (Matthew 7:14).

Do not turn to the right or to the left. Observe
and do the commands of God, and you shall prosper.

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COLUMN: Basic Greek

Greek Conditional Sentences (Part 1)
by Kevin Cauley

We've all used conditional sentences in language.
Perhaps the greatest use (abuse) of the
conditional is in regard to rearing children, "If
you touch that, then you'll regret it!" (Ah, the
joys of parenthood.) But we also use conditional
sentences in every-day conversation and business.
"If the third quarter profits are up, then we will
remove the hiring freeze."

Conditional sentences come in many varieties.
Sometimes we use conditionals when we want to
assume something to be true for the sake of
argument. "If, as you say, the rent is due on the
15th, then I will pay it." Sometimes we use
conditionals to indicate probability. "If it rains
on Friday, then I will not be able to play golf."
Sometimes we use conditionals to indicate
counterfactual situations. "If you were a
gentleman, then you would have opened the door for
your date."

We find conditional sentences in the New Testament
as well. Linguists have categorized these
conditional sentences into five classes.

A class one conditional sentence is a sentence
that assumes the truth of the condition for the
sake of argument./1 This conditional is composed
of the word "EI" (if) with the indicative mood in
the first half of the conditional, and with any
mood or tense being used in the conclusive half of
the condition. (Linguists call the conditional
part of the sentence [the part with 'if'] the
protasis, and the main clause the apodosis.)

Some have stated in the past that "EI" in the
first class conditional may be translated "since."
But this isn't the case. More properly, we should
consider the conditional clause that which is
assumed true for the sake of discussion or that
which is assumed true because someone believes it
to be true (either the speaker or the one with
whom one is having the conversation). While it is
the case that the indicative mood is the mood of
fact, it is the mood of fact only insomuch as some
individual believes his statement to be fact. It
isn't always necessarily the case that the speaker
is stating facts, though he believes them to so
be. Hence, when seeing the first class conditional
used, we may readily accept that someone believes
the condition to be true, though it may not
actually be.

One such example is found in Matthew 12:26-28.
Jesus says in verse 27, "And if I by Beelzebub
cast out devils, by whom do your children cast
them out?" This statement is, in fact, a first
class conditional sentence. Does that mean that it
is true that Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebub?
No. But it does mean that Jesus assumed that to be
true for the sake of argument in this context,
namely, because the Pharisees believed that to be
true. Verses 26 and 28 also contain examples of
first class conditional sentences because someone
believed those things to be true as well.

Matthew 17:4 is another fine example. Peter says,
"It is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let
us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and
one for Moses, and one for Elias." Peter uses the
first class conditional, assuming that it would be
the Lord's will that these tabernacles be made. It
was, in fact, Peter's belief that this would be
the Lord's will. But it really wasn't the Lord's
will.

Lord willing, we shall take up the discussion of
the remaining four classes of conditional
statements in the weeks to come. For the present,
however, I shall be taking a short break from
writing my column as we are expecting our third
child next week. I look forward to sharing more
from my studies of Greek, after a short hiatus.
Thanks for reading.

1/ See Wallace's discussion in Greek Grammar
Beyond the Basics (Zondervan 1996) pp. 690-694.
The first class conditional is fraught with some
controversy on how it is to be handled, but I
believe that Wallace does a good job in pointing
out the fallacies of the "traditional" view that
"if" may be translated "since" in some passages.
In fact, Wallace states, "We will argue that the
first class condition should never be translated
'since.'"

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