The unforgiving servant; which box do Calvinists put him in?

Theo1689

Well-known member
I don't know Greek, so I find it helpful to consult those who do know Greek and are familiar with these arguments when responding to them. I have before me a copy of Zane Hodges' Absolutely Free! A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation in which he addresses this very argument about the tense of Greek verbs. Rather than trying to type out both pages of this I decided to just take pictures with my phone. For context, this endnote is in response to an argument that John MacArthur makes in The Gospel According to Jesus.

Okay, so you are appealing to a fallacious argument called "appeal to authority".

If you think "it helpful to consult those who do know Greek", then why do you only quote ONE biased author, and ignore so many others who know Greek?

1) The Greek scholars behind the ESV:

1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

2) The Greek scholars behind the NET:

1 John 3:9 Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.

3) The Greek scholars behind the NASB:

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

4) The Greek scholars behind the NIV:

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.

5) Hodges quotes Greek scholar A.T. Robertson. Here is Robertson's own expert commentary on 1 John 3:9:

"9. Doeth no sin (hamartian ou poiei). Linear present active indicative as in verse 4 like hamartanei in verse 8. The child of God does not have the habit of sin. His seed (sperma autou). God’s seed, “the divine principle of life” (Vincent). Cf. John 1. And he cannot sin (kai ou dunatai hamartanein). This is a wrong translation, for this English naturally means “and he cannot commit sin” as if it were kai ou dunatai hamartein or hamartēsai (second aorist or first aorist active infinitive). The present active infinitive hamartanein can only mean “and he cannot go on sinning,” as is true of hamartanei in verse 8 and hamartanōn in verse 6."

6) Here is Greek scholar Daniel Wallace's definition of the present tense being continuous aspect:

"Aspect
With reference to aspect, the present tense is internal (that is, it portrays the action from the inside of the event, without special regard for beginning or end), but it makes no comment as to fulfillment (or completion). The present tense’s portrayal of an event “focuses on its development or progress and sees the occurrence in regard to its internal make-up, without beginning or end in view.” It is sometimes called progressive: It “basically represents an activity as in process (or in progress).” "
-- Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 514.

7) Hodges demonstrates his own ignorance (or else dishonesty) in dealing with the Greek, since he cites John 6:33 as "present tense", when it is not a verb at all, but a PARTICIPLE. While the form of the participle is usually taught as the "present participle", this is a misnomer as there is NO ASPECT OF TIME in participles, only "aspect". Greek participles cannot be "past", "present", or "future" by definition. Dr. Bill Mounce teaches this form as the "continuous participle", since it denotes continuous aspect (since it's built on the present form of the verb, which indicates continuous).

"26.9 Aspect. The key to understanding the meaning of participles is to recognize that their significance is primarily one of aspect, i.e., type of action. This is the genius, the essence, of participles. They do not necessarily indicate when an action occurs (“time”: past, present). Because there are three aspects, there are three participles.
The present participle describes a continuous action and is formed from the present stem of a verb."
-- Bill Mounce, "Basics of Biblical Greek", pg. 240

8) Albert Barnes:

"9. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin. This passage must either mean that they who are born of God, that is, who are true Christians, do not sin habitually and characteristically, or that every one who is a true Christian is absolutely perfect, and never commits any sin. If it can be used as referring to the doctrine of absolute perfection at all, it proves, not that Christians may be perfect, or that a portion of them are, but that all are. But who can maintain this? Who can believe that John meant to affirm this? Nothing can be clearer than that the passage has not this meaning, and that John did not teach a doctrine so contrary to the current strain of the Scriptures, and to fact; and if he did not teach this, then in this whole passage he refers to those who are habitually and characteristically righteous."
-- Albert Barnes, Notes on the Whole Bible, 1 John 3:9
 

squirrelyguy

Well-known member
If you think "it helpful to consult those who do know Greek", then why do you only quote ONE biased author, and ignore so many others who know Greek?

1) The Greek scholars behind the ESV:

1 John 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.

2) The Greek scholars behind the NET:

1 John 3:9 Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.

3) The Greek scholars behind the NASB:

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

4) The Greek scholars behind the NIV:

1 John 3:9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.
Of course there are a plethora of English translations, all of which utilize knowledgeable Greek and Hebrew scholars. You've given a very selective list there, a much fuller list can be found here: https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/1 John 3:9

One thing I've noticed is that translations which utilize formal equivalence tend to lean more heavily against your assertion; the ones that utilize dynamic equivalence tend to favor it. But the problem with this verse for your position is that, even among those four translations you sampled, the second part of that verse usually gets translated "cannot sin" or some variation thereof. The first part indeed gets translated as a continuous action (in those you sampled), but the second part is not translated thus in any formal equivalent translation as far as I can tell.

KJV: "...and he cannot sin, because he is born of God."
NKJV: "...and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God."
NASB: "and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (This is the 1995 version; the current version has "continually" in italics, meaning it isn't considered to be in the original Greek but is put in for interpretive purposes).
NRSV: "...they cannot sin, because they have been born of God." (I'm not even sure the NRSV could be considered a formal equivalent translation; I guess it depends on who you ask).
YLT: "...and he is not able to sin, because of God he hath been begotten."

I could go on and on.
 
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