IF - THEN PHRASES IN THE GREEK BIBLE
I) INTRODUCTION - CONDITIONAL CLAUSES
[Syntax of New Testament Greek, James A. Brooks, & Carlton L. Winbery, University Press of America, 1979, pp. 181-184]:
"Conditional clauses function as part of the predicate in that they give a condition under which the action of the verb can take place or a reason or cause for the action of the verb taking place or not taking place."
1) FIRST CLASS CONDITION = SINCE OR ASSUMED TO BE TRUE
"ei" + indicative mood - any tense
If (and it is true or supposed to be true)
Then + any mood & any tense
"In the first class condition the speaker assumes* that the condition stated in the protasis (the if clause) is a reality. Because of this assumption, the speaker uses ei plus the indicative mood in the protasis. The apodosis (the main clause) may use the indicative, subjunctive, or the imperative mood. It may be a direct statement, a question, an exhortation, a command, or a request. The verb in the apodosis may be in any tense."
[The Language of the New Testament, Eugene Van Ness Goetchius, Charles Scribner's Sons, NY, p. 274]:
"Conditional clauses of [this type]... express conditions which are believed (by the speaker) to be actual or possible"
*Note that the first class 'If-Then' conditional statement is often used to assume that the condition stated in the 'if clause' is true for the purposes of discussion. The context of the particular passage will determine whether the condition is stipulated as true or to be considered true for the purposes of discussion.
Ei kEkoimetai sOtheesEtai (John 11:12)
If he has fallen asleep, he will be cured.
Ei ten isen dOpEan EdOkeEn autois o ThEos...EgO tis emen dunatos kOlusai ton ThEon (Acts 11:17)
If God gave the same gift to them..., who was I to be able to forbid God?
Ei ZOmen pneumati, pneumati kai stoichmen (Gal 5:25)
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Ei uios Ei tou Theou, EipE tO lithO toutO ina gEnetai artos (Luke 4:3)
If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.
Ei tis EchEi Ota akouEin akouEtO. (Mark 4:23)
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.
2) SECOND CLASS CONDITION = FALSE
"ei" + imperfect
If (and it is not true)
"än" = then = + same tense as 'if' clause: imperfect
"In the second class condition the speaker assumes that the condition in the protasis (the if clause) is untrue. The apodosis states what would have been true in the event that the protasis had been true. This is a graphic way of depicting the failure or untruth of the other person's position or argument.
In the protasis of the second class condition Ei is used with a past tense in the indicative mood. The apodosis usually has the Greek word än (av) and a past tense of the indicative mood."
[The Language of the New Testament, cont.]:
"Conditional clauses of [this type]... express hypothetical conditions, i.e., conditions which the speaker himself believes to be contrary to fact:"
Ei emEtha En tais emErais tOn patErOn emOn, ouk an emEtha autOn koinOvoi En tO aimati tOn propsetOn (Matt 23:30)
If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in the blood of the prophets.
Ei EpistEuEtE MOusEi, EpistEuEtE an Emoi (John 5:46)
If you had believed Moses, you would believe Me.
Ei egapatE mE EcharetE an (John 14:28)
If you loved me, you would have rejoiced.
3) THIRD CLASS CONDITION = MAYBE
"ean" + subjunctive mood (uncertainty, objective possibility)
If (maybe it is and maybe it is not)
Then + any mood but always future tense
"The speaker in the third class condition considers that the condition stated in the protasis has the possibility (or even probability) of becoming a reality. Therefore, he uses Ean or an and the subjunctive mood in the protasis (if clause). The present, future, and aorist indicatives are all used in the apodosis. The present imperative also occurs frequently in the apodosis, but the aorist subjunctive occurs only rarely.
The statement in the apodosis becomes a reality only when the conditions stated in the protasis are met. The great variety of uses in the apodosis is because of the differences of what the speaker expects to happen. Examples.... have in the apodosis the future indicative (indicating that the speaker considered that the result would follow the fulfillment of the condition) and the perfect (indicating that the result would be a reality at the time of fulfillment)....
[The Language of the New Testament, cont.]
"Conditional clauses of [this type] express conditions which are believed by the speaker to be generally true in the present or probably realizable in the future."
Ean tis ton Emon logon terese, Theanaton ou me ThEOrese Eis ton aiOna (John 8:51)
If anyone keeps My word, he will never see death forever.
Ean En tps psOti pEripatOmen..., koinOvian Echomen met allelOn. (1 Jn 1:7)
If we walk in the light.., we have fellowship with one another.
Note: The speaker conceives that there probably are people actually walking in the light; thus, they are having fellowship.
Ean Elthe pros umas dexasthe auton. (Col 4:10)
If he comes to you, receive him.
Note: This apodosis states what the speaker surely wanted should the protasis ever become a reality.
4) FOURTH CLASS CONDITION = IMPROBABLE
"ei " + optative mood
If (but it is not likely)
"an" + optative mood
Great uncertainty about the future - a possibility but not likely:
'I wish it were true but it is not'
The fourth class does not occur in the New Testament in a complete form.
[Syntax, op. cit., p. 126]:
"Unless one wants to treat indirect statements... as clauses, which is not necessary in the case of either the subjunctive or the optative, the optative appears only in conditional clauses in the New Testament, namely in the fourth class condition (possible future condition). This construction involves the use of Ei with the optative in the protasis, an with the optative in the apodosis. There is, however, no example in the New Testament of a fourth class condition with both the protasis and apodosis actually expressed. The following are examples of fragmentary constructions.
Ei kai paschoitE dia dikaiosunen, makarioi (1 Pet 3:14)
Even if you should suffer because of righteousness, (you will be) blessed.
krEitton agathopoiountas, Ei ThEloi to ThElema tou ThEou, paschEin e kakopoiountas (1 Pet 3:17)
It is better to suffer as a result of doing good, if the will of God should will (it), than as a result of doing evil.
tosauta Ei tuchoi gEna psOnOn Eisin En kosmO (1 Cor 14:10)
If it should happen to be (this way), there are so many kinds of sounds in the world.
ou to sOma to genesomEnon spEirEis alla gumnon kokkon Ei tuchoi sitou. (1 Cor 15:37)
You are not sowing the body which is going to come about but a bare grain of wheat, if it should happen to be (that).