Greek Conditional Sentences (Part 3)

When we get to the third class Greek conditional sentence, we are no longer dealing with things assumed to be true or counter factual situations. The third class conditional sentence is that which mirrors our logical function of “if…then”; it is a true hypothetical, the outcome of which is unknown. The outcome may be probable, merely possible, or purely hypothetical.
The structure of the third class conditional usually involves the word EAN in the condition, along with the subjunctive mood. The conclusive part of the sentence can involve any tense or mood. These kinds of conditionals occur nearly 300 times in the New Testament.
The fifth class conditional is extremely similar to the third class conditional, and for this reason they will be discussed together. It takes the same form as the third class conditional, but usually has the present indicative in the outcome part of the hypothetical. The difference between the third and fifth class conditional is slight. Where the third class conditional is likely fulfilled in the future, the fifth class is fulfilled in the present time.
Some illustrations of these kinds of conditional statements may be found in the following passages.
In Matthew 4:9, while tempting Jesus, Satan says he will give Jesus all of these kingdoms if Jesus will fall down and worship him. Here is the third class conditional. Satan is not presuming anything here. He is acknowledging the possibility that Jesus may not fall down and worship him. Satan is filled with his own doubt and it is his undoing, for Jesus seizes upon this and reprimands him sharply.
John writes in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is another third class conditional. It is a logical hypothetical that John sets forth. The condition is “if we confess our sins.” What logically follows from this condition is that God will forgive and cleanse. The only question is whether or not we will confess them. But when we do, we can be sure that God will forgive.
Along the same line of thought, we have Matthew 6:14 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you”. Once again we have a hypothetical and the logical conclusion of that hypothetical. If we forgive others their trespasses against us then what logically follows is that God will forgive us as well.
In Matthew 8:2 a leper approaches Jesus and says, “if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” This is another third class conditional. The doubt in the leper’s mind is not one of whether or not the Lord can make him clean, but whether or not it is the Lord’s will.
Matthew 18:12 is a fifth class conditional, though in the English it is hard to see what is the condition and what is the present result. This is due to the two aorist participles that, when translated into fluid English, appear to be part of the outcome. Translated more literally, I believe the passage would read as follows: “if any man have a hundred sheep, and one of them go astray (that’s the condition), having left (the first aorist participle) the ninety and nine, and having gone (the second aorist participle) into the mountains, does he not seek (here’s the present result) that which goeth astray?” The aorist participles translated “having left” and “having gone” indicate that these are the actions that he has undertaken to seek the lost sheep. This is a very interesting verse in Greek.
Matthew 18:13 follows closely on it’s heels with another fifth class conditional. This one is more straightforward in the Greek. “And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray.” If he finds that sheep, he immediately and presently rejoices over finding it.
I believe that you can see how a study of Greek conditional sentences can be rewarding.

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Kevin Cauley

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