once said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
In many walks of life this is evident, no less when
using Greek to engage in exegesis of the text of Scripture.
Unfortunately, few enough in the church are
conversant enough with Greek to know when they are being
given accurate information, or whether they are being told a
half-truth, or an outright distortion.
a recent Bible Answer Man program (8/14/00), Dr. James White
debated Tim Staples, a Roman Catholic apologist.
This debate ran for three hours and was divided into
three one-hour-long programs for broadcast (the first two
aired 7/6 and 7/7/00). During the third program, approximately 47 minutes into the
recording, Mr. Staples began arguing the position that the
Christian cannot have assurance of his salvation, and that
justification is a state from which a person can fall.
This was in response to White’s citation of Romans
here to listen to the assertion]. As proof he quoted Galatians 2:16 which says that we have
believed in Christ “that we might be justified by faith in
points out that the word translated “we might be justified”
is a Greek subjunctive indicating doubt or uncertainty.
He therefore concludes that our faith in Christ may
give us justification, but we cannot be sure.
James White strongly contradicted the assertion, as
the sound clip indicates, but there was precious little time
to explain the actual use of the subjunctive during the
radio program itself.
Mr. Staples’ attendance at the Jimmy Swaggart Bible
College, and his Roman Catholic seminary education, he has
given a very simplified meaning of the subjunctive and hence
made a statement that is simply not correct.
I would like to think he has done this as a result of
misunderstanding, and not out of any malice, so the
following correction is offered.
Subjunctive and hina Clauses
subjunctive in Greek is a mood that is often used to
communicate possibility or probability.
It can be used alone or in conjunction with other
particles to add particular nuance of meaning.
One particle that is often used with the subjunctive
is the particle hina.
is used with the subjunctive, the mood changes from one of
possibility or probability, to one of purpose or result.
appears from the evidence of the New Testament that hina
clauses (as such constructions are called) are not intended
to imply uncertainty, even though they use the subjunctive
mood, which, when used alone or with other particles, can
indeed convey uncertainty.
best way to understand this is to look at some examples of
passages that use hina
clauses. The parts of the following passages in bold type are the
parts that are translating hina
a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned
Jesus, asking, "Is it lawful to heal on the
that they might accuse Him.” (Matt 12:10 NASB)
was no doubt that the Jewish leaders wanted to accuse Jesus,
so their question was asked with this intent.
“Might” here is not meant to represent
uncertainty with regard to their intentions.
Rather, “might” is an idiomatic way of conveying
such intent in English.
Son of God appeared for this purpose, to
destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 NASB)
passage itself declares that the subordinate clause is
The infinitive (“to destroy”) is used to
translate hina and
Again, this is a perfectly legitimate way to indicate
intent in English, and it translates the meaning of the verb
Jesus’ purpose was not to attempt to destroy the
devil’s works if He was able to do so.
There is no question about Jesus’ ability to
destroy the devil’s works. Rather, Jesus appeared for the
purpose of destroying the devil’s works.
the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him,
"Send the crowd away, that
they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find
lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” (Luke
“may” here is an idiomatic way of translating purpose in
purpose of belief is justification.
Indeed, one can also see here the hina
clause being used to indicate result.
by using the subjunctive, is not intending to communicate
any kind of uncertainty with regard to justification.
Rather, by using the subjunctive in a hina
clause, he is proclaiming that our faith in Christ has its
purpose in our justification, and also has its end result in
support for this interpretation is found in numerous
passages throughout the New Testament.
John 10:28 assures us that those to whom Christ has
given eternal life shall never perish.
6:39 assures us that Christ will raise up on the last day
everyone given to Him by the Father.
The testimony of Scripture is clear that those who
are drawn by the Father put their faith in Christ, and thus
their justification is assured.
The use of the hina
clause in Galatians 2:16 does not detract from this great
truth, but rather supports it beautifully by underscoring
that justification is the purpose and final result of faith.
hope this brief survey will encourage us to be diligent in
our study of God’s Word, and to be wise stewards of the
tools he has given us to understand His Word.
May we also rejoice in the finished work of Christ
that secures our justification.
Indeed, in his book Greek
Grammar Beyond the Basics, Dr. Daniel Wallace lists
seven distinct uses of the particle hina
with the subjunctive, including purpose, result, command,
and substantive (see pages 471-477).
Purpose and result are, however, the most frequent
uses of the hina
also Dana and Mantey's A
Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pages
248-249, with regard to the particle hina:
"Its most common occurrence is in purpose or final
clauses, and it occurs regularly with the subjunctive
mood, there being but few exceptions and those with the
On page 473, Wallace discusses “Purpose-Result” hina
clauses. “... the NT writers employ the language to reflect their
theology: what God purposes is what happens and,
consequently, hina is used to express both the divine purpose and the result.”
Interestingly, another construction using the subjunctive
is employed here. This
time it is the subjunctive with a double negative, which
indicates that the action of the verb (here “be
destroyed”) shall by no means ever happen.