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

Unlike English, Greek has various ways of constructing conditional sentences. Scholars usually list four or five kinds of conditional statements in Greek.

Advertisements

Unlike English, Greek has various ways of constructing conditional sentences. Scholars usually list four or five kinds of conditional statements in Greek. The first three constructions are used most often, and the third is the commonest of all. To distinguish between each one, Greek scholars simply refer to each kind as a class. Thus, first class, second class, and third class are the titles they use.

The classification is based on the grammar of each part of the statement. While English has one word “if,” the Greek language has two different words. The other grammatical difference is whether or not the helping words like “would,” “will,” or “might” are used. For example, “If you should run with sticks, then you might poke out your eye,” verses “If you run with sticks, then you will poke out your eye.” The latter seems to give a more forceful sense to the meaning.

Each classification nuances the meaning of the sentence. The first class assumes the protasis (the first part) to be true for the sake of the argument. Conversely, the second class assumes the protatis false for the sake of the argument. Only in context is the reality of the statement determined. The third class is the closest to English. It can be construed in a variety of senses, from forceful to hypothetical.

In review, Part I demonstrated valid syllogisms and the relationship between the parts of the conditional sentence. Part II revealed two common errors in interpreting conditional statements. In Part III, we have noticed that not all conditional statements in Greek are constructed the same way nor do they give the same sense. Part IV will contain an application of these three principles.