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Conditional Clauses in Greek

  • There are four classes of conditions in Greek (BBG 35.5-8, GGBB 687-701, Smyth §2280-2368)
  • Conditions can be classified according to Form i.e. how the sentence is structured, or Function i.e. with reference to their meaning (Time, Fulfillment or not, Particular or General)

Conditions Classified by Form

Type Description Protasis (“if”) Apodosis (“then”)
First Class Condition of Fact
i.e. assumed true
εἰ + indicative any mood,
any tense
Second Class Contrary to Fact εἰ + indicative ἄν + indicative
same tense as protasis
Third Class More Probable ἐάν + subjunctive any mood,
any tense
Fourth Class Less Probable εἰ + optative ἄν + optative

1st Class – Condition of Fact

  • Protasis: εἰ + indicative, any tense, negated by οὐ;
  • Apodosis: any mood, any tense
  • Assumed true for the sake of argument, not that it is actually true. A supposition of reality

    • This is important exegetically.
    • Example: εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· (1 Corinthians 15.13)

2nd Class – Past Contrary to Fact

  • Protasis: εἰ + indicative, any tense, negated by μή;
  • Apodosis: ἄν + indicative, same tense as protasis
  • assumed untrue for the sake of argument, presumed to be contrary to fact
  • Example: εἰ γὰρ ἐπιστεύετε Μωϋσεῖ, ἐπιστεύετε ἂν ἐμοί· (John 5.46)

3rd Class – Future More Probable

  • Protasis: ἐάν + subjunctive, any tense, negated by μή;
  • Apodosis: any mood, any tense
  • Future More Probable

    • Example: ταῦτά σοι πάντα δώσω, ἐὰν πεσὼν προσκυνήσῃς μοι. (Matthew 4.9)

  • Present General (aka Fifth Class Condition)

    • Generic truth in present time

    • Example: ἐάν τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, οὐ προσκόπτει (John 11.9)

4th Class – Future Less Probable

  • Protasis: εἰ + optative, Present or Aorist
  • Apodosis: ἄν + optative, Present or Aorist
  • Example: ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καὶ πάσχοιτε διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι. (1 Peter 3.14)