[B-Greek] 1 Cor. 7:11 "EAN DE KAI CWRISQH"

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at sil.org
Sat Feb 8 14:38:00 EST 2003

> Conzelmann in his Hermeneia commentary says of the expression
> EAN DE KAI CWRISQH in 1 Cor. 7:11 that it "does not mean the
> conceding of exceptions ('if she separates herself after
> all'), but refers to an already existing situation: 'if she
> has separated herself"-despite the linguistic difficulty of
> EAN with the aorist subjunctive referring to the past.15"
> He refers to: "15 Blass-Debrunner §373." Not having
> Blass-Debrunner, I don't know whether Conzelmann's reference
> to the grammar is for support of his opinion, or for
> discussion on "the linguistic difficulty of EAN with the
> aorist subjunctive referring to the past"...

BDF says in §373 (3): "The aorist subjunctive [with EAN] appears in the
great majority of cases, both in general conditions and in those referring
to something impending, and occasionally also in those referring to
something which was impending in past time."
I assume Conzelmann refers to BD to indicate the difficulty of EAN with
aorist subjunctive referring to the past. BD certainly does not support
Conzelmann's interpretation, although I don't completely agree with BD's
treatment either.
I would not say that the aorist appears in the "great majority of cases".
There are more than 100 instances of EAN followed by a present subjunctive
in the NT. Nor would I agree with BD when they say that "the present
subjunctive refers to the future". BD is a fairly old book which has not
been updated in light of more recent aspectual theories, as far as I know.
(My version is from 1961, so there may possibly be an updated version.)
> Trying to amalgamate your and Conzelmann's remarks, I see the
> subjunctive aorist with EAN to generally refer to present or
> repeated action, but that it can and sometimes does instead
> refer to past action -- i.e., in 1 Cor. 7:11 that Paul *more
> likely* refers to the possibility of separation without regard
> to time, and that it is grammatically *less likely* Paul
> refers to separation which had already occurred upon receipt
> of his letter.

I am afraid I don't agree with Conzelmann, so it won't work to amalgate what
I said which his remarks. I think the present of the DE KAI suggests that
"If nevertheless it should happen". I said that I don't think the matter of
past or present time is relevant, except the relative time of the condition
and the event that follows the condition. What I said was that the present
form seems to be used mainly in general and repeated/repeatable conditions,
whereas the aorist is more likely used with particular, specific conditions.
> Iver, you characterized the aorist subjunctive: "Assuming this
> particular event happens or has happened, what then?" Is it
> possible Paul intended "assuming this particular has already
> happened, then..." -- the subjunctive force referring to the
> indefinite possibility that some had already separated in
> Corinth, with no intention of referring to future happenings?
> Or would we then have to say Paul expressed himself poorly?

I don't think it is a matter of Paul expressing himself poorly, but the
problem IMO is that some commentators want to read something into the
grammar that the grammar is not specific about. I think the construction
simply says "If X should happen, then Y". Whether X has happened already or
may happen is not specified, since the subjunctive does not specify tense.
In most situations, it has probably not happened yet.

Iver Larsen

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