“If” Statements in the Epistle to the Hebrews: Part I

The author of Hebrews frequently employs conditional sentences which at times may confuse the reader. To understand the conditions in Hebrews, it is necessary to grasp conditions in general, illogical traps that surround them, and how conditions work in Greek.

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The author of Hebrews frequently employs conditional sentences which at times may confuse the reader. To understand the conditions in Hebrews, it is necessary to grasp conditions in general, illogical traps that surround them, and how conditions work in Greek. Thus, these notes on conditional statements are split into four parts.

A conditional sentence consists of two parts. The if part (usually referred to as the antecedent or the protasis), and the then part (usually called the consequent or apodosis). These two parts are generally related to each other in one of two ways. 1) The protasis is the cause and the apodosis is the effect. For example, “if you throw a rock in a glass house, you will break a window.” The throwing of the rock causes the breaking of the window. 2) The protasis is the ground and the apodosis is the inference. For example, “if this fabric is made of silk, then it will be smooth.” Smoothness is a characteristic of silk, and it is inferred that something made from silk will also be smooth.

The logical syllogism of a conditional sentence is quite simple and has two forms. The first form is:

If this fabric is made of silk, then it will be smooth.
This fabric is made of silk.
Therefore, it is smooth.

The second is:

If this fabric is made of silk, then it will be smooth.
This fabric is not smooth.
Therefore, it is not made of silk.

Although this note does not focus on the biblical text, it is foundational to studying the conditions in Hebrews. If this is how conditions are supposed to work, then the next note exposes fallacies to avoid—how they do not work.