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Εἰ μή Clauses in the NT: Interpretation and Translation

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Charles E. Powell, Ph.D. and John Baima

Clauses in the NT: Interpretation and Translation


It is often observed in the grammars that the use of eij mhv with the verb omitted means “except” or “but” and is considered a substitute for ajllav.1 This was also common in classical Greek and probably arose as an unconscious abbreviation of the conditional clause because its verb was the same as the main verb in the apodosis.2 The idiom shows three characteristic features. First, there is an ellipsis of the verb in the protasis that is supplied from the principal clause, often the same verb. Second, there is a negative comparison between the two clauses. And third, the protasis always follows the apodosis.3

However, while sometimes “except” or “but” is the proper understanding of the Greek idiom, such a gloss in other instances changes the logic of the passage. Thus, the use of logical transformations or equivalents of eij mhv conditionals may increase the clarity of the translation and preserve a nuance of meaning which is eliminated by glossing the “if not” with “except” or “but.” The transformation is achieved by negating both the protasis and the apodosis and reversing them. The rationale for such transformation is seen in two basic inference rules. If you have a sentence of the form, “if A then B” there are two ways to make a valid deduction from the sentence: (1) If “A” is true then you know “B” is true (modus ponens “method of affirming” inference rule); (2) If “B” is false then you know “A” is false (modus tollens “method of denial” inference rule). The logical equivalent of a sentence “if A, then B” (modus ponens) is, therefore, “if not B, then not A” (modus tollens). This is especially helpful when both the protasis and the apodosis have negatives since such sentences are not easily understood in English. There are several advantages of using a logical equivalent for translation. First, it retains the conditional nature of the sentence. Second, it retains the logic of the original sentence. Third, it removes the difficulties of the negatives in English and clarifies the meaning of the sentence.

Since eij mhv conditionals are so ambiguous, two contextual assesments need to be made which will determine whether or not a translation of “except” or “but” for eij mhv is adequate. First, does the context suggest that the author/speaker believes that the unnegated protasis (and supplying any necessary ellipsis) is true? Second, does the context suggest that the author/speaker considers the unnegated protasis to be exclusively true in some way or just preeminently true. If the answer to these questions is in the negative, then the meaning of the author will be changed if such sentences are translated with “except” or “but.”

The usefulness of the logical transformation and the contextual assessments can best be seen in the following two examples.

John 19:15

ejkrauvgasan ou ejkei'noi: a on a on, stauvrwson aujtovn. levgei aujtoi'" oJ Pila'to": toVn basileva uJmw'n staurwvswV ajpekrivqhsan oiJ ajrcierei'": oujk e[comen basileva eij mhV Kaivsara.

Therefore, they cried out, “Away, away, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have do not have a king if not Caesar.”

Logical Transformation: If we have any king, then we have Caesar as king.

In the Johannine Passion narrative, Pilate has taken Jesus before the chief priests and Jews. When he asks whether or not he should crucify their King, they reply, “We have no king, if not Caesar!” While most English translations indicate that the Jews accepted Caesar, the Greek does not necessarily indicate this. A Jew who did not accept Roman rule could also make this statement and be formally truthful, although somewhat deceptive. This statement in and of itself does not imply that the speaker acknowledges any king.

The second issue is whether or not the unnegated protasis is exclusively true. Pilate has asked, “Shall I crucify your King?” This statement implies that there may be more than one king. Theoretically, there could be more than one basileuv" whom the Jews recognized as king. The logic of the conditional statement only requires that if the Jews have a king or kings, then Caesar is one of them.

In reply to the first issue, while it is possible that the chief priests make this statement merely to motivate Pilate into crucifying Jesus, it is more than likely that they do acknowledge that Rome does rules over them, however much they may wish it otherwise. Therefore, they do believe that Caesar is their king. Secondly, it does seem that they intend basileuv" in the monadic sense. While there may be many kings in the world, they can only have one. They have rejected Jesus as king and have acknowledged Caesar as their king. Thus, the statement is best understood as the Jews admitting that Caesar is exclusively their king.

Matt 13:57 (Mark 6:4)

kaiV ejskandalivzonto ejn aujtw/'. oJ deV *Ihsou'" eipen aujtoi'": oujk e[stin profhvth" a[timo" eij mhV ejn th/' patrivdi kaiV ejn th/' oijkiva/ aujtou'.

And they were offended by him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, if not in his home town, and in his household.”

Logical Transformation: If a prophet is without honor anywhere then he is without honor in his home town and in his household.

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark portray Jesus as returning to Nazareth and teaching in the synagogue. While he is there, he is met with opposition. Jesus replies to their opposition with this statement. This statement raises a couple of questions. First, does Jesus believe that the unnegated protasis is true (a prophet is without honor in his own hometown)? While he believes that it is true in his case and in the case of many prophets, it does not necessarily mean that it is true in every case. More than likely this is a proverbial statement, something that is usually true, but not necessarily true.4 So, Jesus is saying that it is usually true that a prophet is without honor in his hometown, not that a prophet cannot have honor in his hometown.

Second, is the unnegated protasis exclusively true? In other words, the prophet must have honor everywhere else, except in his hometown. This is certainly false. Many prophets were not honored in most of the places they went. Jesus himself was rejected in many places outside his hometown. Therefore, this statement is saying that the prophet’s hometown is the preeminent place in which he is without honor. It is the first place a prophet can be expected to be rejected. The suggested translation is: “A prophet is without honor most often in his hometown, and in his household.”

There are 70 examples of eij mhv conditionals. These will be discussed according to the criteria discussed above. Eij mhv conditionals, then, fall into three categories: (1) exclusively true conditionals, (2) alternative conditionals, and (3) preeminently true conditionals.5 With respect to the semantic relationship between the protasis and the apodosis, almost all of the eij mhv conditionals bear grounds/inference relationships, in terms of their logical equivalents.6 Most of these logical equivalents are obviously realized conditionals, although some are predicational conditionals (expected, unexpected, or equivalence). However, the issue with exception clauses is whether there is an exclusive relationship to the main clause or simply a preeminent relationship. As will be seen the below, the distinction is often exegetically significant.

Exclusively True Conditionals

Exclusively true conditionals are those conditionals that meet both criteria mentioned above: the unnegated protasis is considered true by the author/speaker, and the unnegated protasis is considered in some way to be exclusively true. There are 40 examples of this kind of conditional. All but one is a first class condition. The exception is a mixed condition. The clearest examples are those with movno" or ei|". Several examples are discussed below.7

Mark 2:7 (Luke 5:21)

tiv ou|to" ou{tw" lalei'V blasfhmei': tiv" duvnatai ajfievnai aJmartiva" eij mhV ei|" oJ qeov"V

Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming; who is able to forgive sins if not God alone?

Logical Transformation: If anyone can forgive sins, God alone can forgive sins.

In this story, Jesus observes the men lowering the paralytic in order that Jesus may heal him. He commends them for their faith and is portrayed as proclaiming forgiveness to the paralytic. The Pharisees see such a statement as blasphemy.8 They believe that God alone can forgive sins and that forgiveness belongs exclusively to him. This is emphasized by the addition of ei|" to the protasis.9 Jesus is not denying the fact that God alone has the exclusive right to forgive, but the Pharisees’ belief that he is blaspheming. Jesus is then portrayed as having the authority to forgive sins by healing the paralytic.10

Mark 10:18 (Luke 18:19)

oJ deV *Ihsou'" eipen aujtw/': tiv me levgei" ajgaqovnV oujdeiV" ajgaqoV" eij mhV ei|" oJ qeov".

And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good if not one, God.”

Logical Transformation: If anyone is good, one is good, God.

When the rich young man comes to ask Jesus about how he might obtain eternal life, he calls Jesus “Good Teacher.” Jesus response is depicted with this statement. The story portrays Jesus as believing that this statement is exclusively true. This is made explicit with ei|". This statement refers to God’s unique holiness and righteousness.11 Jesus’ response is intended to shock the young man into focusing on God and his will so that he will be genuinely responsive to God.12

Matt 12:24

oiJ deV Farisai'oi ajkouvsante" eipon: ou|to" oujk ejkbavllei taV daimovnia eij mhV ejn tw/' BeelzebouVl a[rconti tw'n daimonivwn.

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man does not cast out demons if not by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

Logical transformation: If this man casts out demons, he casts them out by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.

When Jesus casts out a demon from a blind and mute man, the crowd wonders if he is the Son of David. The Pharisees counter by asserting that Jesus casts out demons by Satan’s power. This statement begins the Beelzebul controversy. The Pharisees seem to believe the unnegated protasis to be true. Apparently, they also believe it to be exclusively true since they are trying to deny the fact that Jesus comes from God and that he is the Son of David. If they thought it was only preeminently true, it would still open up the possibility that he is empowered from God. But as Jesus’ statement later in the pericope makes clear, demons are only cast out by God’s power or by Satan’s, and it is unlikely it is by Satan.

Mark 9:29

kaiV eipen aujtoi'": tou'to toV gevno" ejn oujdeniV duvnatai ejxelqei'n eij mhV ejn proseuch/'.13

And he said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything if not by prayer.”

Logical Transformation: If this kind can come out by anything, it comes out by prayer.

After the transfiguration pericope, Mark portrays Jesus as being met by a crowd with a man who has a demonized son. The disciples tried to cast the demon out but were unable. Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and casts the demon out. When they ask why they were unable, Jesus makes the above reply. It is difficult to assess whether Jesus believes this is exclusively true, or whether it is simply preeminently true. Jesus himself is not portrayed as praying, so it could be that he sees prayer as the preeminent means of casting out demons, but not the only means. However, this statement may have uttered with a view to the disciples’ ability alone and not with a reference to Jesus.14 Thus, it may be that prayer is the exclusive means for exorcising this kind of demon for the disciples, but not necessarily for Jesus. Perhaps the element of dependence on God, and not the awareness of giftedness in the ability to cast out demons, is critical in this particular case.15

John 14:6

levgei aujtw/' [oJ] *Ihsou'": ejgwv eijmi hJ oJdoV" kaiV hJ ajlhvqeia kaiV hJ zwhv: oujdeiV" e[rcetai proV" toVn patevra eij mhV di* ejmou'.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, if not through me.

Logical Transformation: If any one comes to the Father, he comes to the Father through me.

In the Farewell Discourse, Jesus reveals to the disciples that he will be leaving them and will be going to the Father. He asserts that they too also know the way to the Father. Thomas, however, does not understand Jesus’ statement and asks about the way to the Father. Jesus replies with this statement. His previous statement suggests that he believes the conditional statement is exclusively true.16 This claim is significant because if Jesus was simply the preeminent way to God, it would open up the possibility of other ways to the Father. Here Jesus’ explicitly claims to be the only way of obtaining a relationship with the Father and eternal life. This would rule out all other ways to God claimed by other religions.

Rom 13:1

Pa'sa yuchV ejxousivai" uJperecouvsai" uJpotassevsqw. ouj gaVr e[stin ejxousiva eij mhV uJpoV qeou', aiJ deV ousai uJpoV qeou' tetagmevnai eijsivn.

Let every person submit themselves to the governing authorities. For there is no authority if [it is] not by God, and those which exist are established by God.

Logical Transformation: If there is any authority it is by God.

Paul is applying his message of justification by faith in terms of offering one’s whole self to God. Within this offering one should respond to individuals in love, and respond to government in submission to their laws. Paul’s basis for this submission is that God has established the governing authorities. Paul asserts that God is exclusively the source of all authority, both with the exceptive conditional and the following statement.

1 Cor 7:5

mhV ajposterei'te ajllhvlou", eij mhvti a]n17 ejk sumfwvnou proV" kairovn, i{na scolavshte th/' proseuch/' kaiV pavlin ejpiV toV aujtoV h e, i{na mhV peiravzh/ uJma'" oJ satana'" diaV thVn ajkrasivan uJmw'n.

Stop depriving one another, except perhaps by agreement for a time in order that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again in order that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Logical Transformation: If you deprive one another, then do so by agreement for a time.

This is the only example of a mixed condition. Paul is giving his advice concerning the issue of sex and marriage. He advises the Corinthians who are married to maintain conjugal relations. He makes one concession to this: for the purpose of prayer, they may abstain for a short time, but afterwards they should renew their conjugal relations. Because Paul sees this condition as hypothetical, it is probably, in his opinion, the only exception, and a questionable one at that.

1 Cor 8:4

PeriV th'" brwvsew" ou tw'n eijdwloquvtwn, oi[damen o{ti oujdeVn ei[dwlon ejn kovsmw/ kaiV o{ti oujdeiV" qeoV" eij mhV ei|".

Therefore, concerning the food of idols, we know that nothing in the world is an idol, and that no one is God except one.

Logical Transformation: If anyone is God, one is God.

Paul has begun to discuss the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. His overriding principle is that love limits liberty. Love is more important than knowledge. So, he addresses the issue of knowledge first. His first point is that idols have no inherent or ontological existence. There is only one who is truly God. The exclusivity of this claim is emphasized by ei|". Paul is not simply advocating monotheism. He is claiming that there is only one true God that exists ontologically.

1 Cor 10:13

peirasmoV" uJma'" oujk ei[lhfen eij mhV ajnqrwvpino": pistoV" deV oJ qeov", o}" oujk ejavsei uJma'" peirasqh'nai uJpeVr o} duvnasqe ajllaV poihvsei suVn tw/' peirasmw/' kaiV thVn e[kbasin tou' duvnasqai uJpenegkei'n.

No temptation has overtaken you if not what is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will make the way of escape also, so that you may be able to endure it.

Logical Transformation: If any temptation has overtaken you, then it is the temptation that is common to man.

Paul has appealed to the exodus generation as an example of a people who experienced God’s blessing, yet fell into temptation and sin. After warning the Corinthians about temptation and arrogance, he teaches them that the temptations that they face are not extraordinary. Paul asserts that the temptations they face are those that are experienced by man in general. This is actually the denial of an exception because their experience is not exceptional, but common. Paul denies that they are having an exceptional experience of temptation by claiming that the common experience of temptation is exclusively true. Therefore, this sentence can translate eij mhv with “except” or “but.”

Gal 1:18

e{teron deV tw'n ajpostovlwn oujk eidon eij mhV *Iavkwbon toVn ajdelfoVn tou' kurivou.

But I did not see any other of the apostles if not James, the Lord’s brother.

Logical Transformation: But if I saw any other of the apostles, then I saw James, the Lord’s brother.

Paul is defending his apostolic authority and his gospel by recounting his trips to Jerusalem and his association with the apostles. In his first trip to Jerusalem after his conversion, he explains that he went for the purpose of becoming acquainted with Peter. During his time there, he only saw one of the other apostles and that was James, the brother of the Lord. The presence of e{teron in the apodosis argues that Paul is speaking exclusively about James and not preeminently about him.18

Alternative Conditionals

There are a few instances in which eij mhv is not strictly exceptive. In these examples, the eij mhv protasis does not name the only exception to the negation of the apodosis, but rather it names an alternative to the apodosis.19 In other words, the apodosis often names a group or class that is prohibited from performing an action or receiving an action, while the protasis names another group or class that is permitted to perform or receive an action. Another characteristic of this kind of conditional is that in the logical equivalent, the new protasis is always false. A third characteristic of these examples is that a group or class is represented in both the protasis and the apodosis, and not an individual. There are six20 examples of this type of conditional in the NT; five are first class conditions, while one is a third class condition. The first two examples are the clearest of the six.

Rev 9:4

kaiV ejrrevqh aujtai'" i{na mhV ajdikhvsousin toVn covrton th'" gh'" oujdeV pa'n clwroVn oujdeV pa'n devndron, eij mhV touV" ajnqrwvpou" oi{tine" oujk e[cousi thVn sfragi'da tou' qeou' ejpiV tw'n metwvpwn.

And they were told that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

Logical Transformation: If they should hurt the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, then they should hurt the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.

At the sounding of the fifth trumpet, an army of demonic locusts is released from the abyss. These locusts are permitted to inflict torment on people, but not to kill anyone. In the apodosis of the eij mhv statement, they are instructed not to hurt the vegetation. The protasis mentions a different group which they are permitted to hurt: those who do not have the seal of God on their forehead. Eij mhv touv" ajnqrwvpou" does not name the exceptions among tovn covrton who were not hurt, but rather states another class who, in contrast, were to be hurt.

Rev 21:27

kaiV ouj mhV eijsevlqh/ eij" aujthVn pa'n koinoVn kaiV [oJ] poiw'n bdevlugma kaiV yeu'do" eij mhV oiJ gegrammevnoi ejn tw/' biblivw/ th'" zwh'" tou' ajrnivou.

and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Logical transformation: and if anything unclean and any one who practices abomination and lying, should ever come into it, then those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life shall enter it.

John has been describing the New Jerusalem, its beauty, and its benefits. He now describes who will dwell in the heavenly city. The apodosis states who will not enter the New Jerusalem, while the protasis mentions a different group who will enter. It does not name exceptions to the wicked. The unclean and wicked will by no means enter the New Jerusalem. On the other hand, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will enter into it.

Matt 12:4 (Mark 2:26; Luke 6:4)

pw'" eijsh'lqen eij" toVn oikon tou' qeou' kaiV touV" a[rtou" th'" proqevsew" e[fagon, o} oujk ejxoVn h aujtw/' fagei'n oujdeV toi'" met* aujtou' eij mhV toi'" iJereu'sin movnoi"V

how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, if not only for the priests?

Logical Transformation: if it is lawful for David and his friends to eat, then it is lawful for the priests alone to eat.

In the Sabbath controversy, the Pharisees accuse the disciples (and by implication, Jesus) of breaking the Sabbath because they were plucking grain from the field and eating it. Jesus responds to this accusation by referring to the incident with David in 1 Sam 21:1-6. Jesus notes that it was not lawful for David and his friends to eat of the consecrated bread. In the logical equivalent, Jesus appears to accept that the unnegated protasis of the original statement to be true. Apparently, he also views it as exclusively true because he emphasizes it with movnoi". Yet, the story itself seems to assert that there is an exception to this “exception.” Generally speaking, it is lawful for only the priests to eat the consecrated bread (Lev 24:9). However, Jesus is teaching that compassion often takes precedence to the particulars of the law, as his following statements demonstrate. The apodosis depicts a group who may not eat of the bread, while the protasis depicts a group who may.21 So, the priests could be considered as both an alternative in class, as well as an exception.22

Gal 2:16

eijdovte" [de] o{ti ouj dikaiou'tai a[nqrwpo" ejx e[rgwn novmou ejaVn mhV23 diaV pivstew" *Ihsou' Cristou', kaiV hJmei'" eij" CristoVn *Ihsou'n ejpisteuvsamen, i{na dikaiwqw'men ejk pivstew" Cristou' kaiV oujk ejx e[rgwn novmou, o{ti ejx e[rgwn novmou ouj dikaiwqhvsetai pa'sa savrx.

but because we know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but through the faithfulness of Christ Jesus, even we who have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ, and not by the works of the law; since by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Logical transformation: If someone is justified by the works of the law then he is justified by the faithfulness of Christ Jesus.

Paul has been defending his gospel by reciting certain biographical and historical features in his experience that are relevant to his argument, especially his contact with Peter and the apostles. After recounting his confrontation of Peter at Antioch, he asserts that justification is not by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ24 and faith in Jesus Christ. The apodosis expresses how one is not justified, while the protasis expresses how one can be justified.25 The alternative to being justified by the works of the law is by being justified by the faithfulness of Christ and faith in Christ.26 This understanding overlaps with the exceptive sense of eij mhv since it is semantically equivalent to “no one is justified, if he is not justified by the faithfulnesss of Christ.”27

Preeminently True Conditionals

In preeminently true conditionals, the protasis does not name something that is an exception or exclusively true. Instead, it names something that is preeminently true. There are 27 examples of this type of conditional in the NT, but only thirteen (including the parallels in the Gospels) will be discussed.28 With these kinds of conditionals, a dynamic equivalent or paraphrastic translation is often necessary to bring out the preeminently true sense of the conditionals.

Matt 11:27 (Luke 10:22)

Pavnta moi paredovqh uJpoV tou' patrov" mou, kaiV oujdeiV" ejpiginwvskei toVn uiJoVn eij mhV oJ pathvr, oujdeV toVn patevra ti" ejpiginwvskei eij mhV oJ uiJoV" kaiV w/| ejaVn bouvlhtai oJ uiJoV" ajpokaluvyai.

All things have been handed over to me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him.

Logical Transformation: “If anyone knows the Son then it is the Father and if anyone knows the Father then it is the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him.”29

After reproaching the cities that did not repent because of his signs and ministry, Jesus turns and thanks his Father for his wisdom concerning those he did draw to Jesus. He then invites the disciples and those around him to come to him for rest. The basis for his invitation is the mutual relationship between the Father and the Son, and the privilege of the Son to reveal the Father to others. Most English translations give the appearance that the Son is exclusively known by the Father. But certainly many people knew Jesus apart from the Father. While it is possible that ejpiginwvskei could refer to some “special” knowledge of the Son,30 that meaning would be difficult to prove here, especially since the parallel in Luke 10:22 uses ginwvskei. Romans 1:21 asserts that all men have some knowledge of God, and even here, some people can know the Father. It seems strange to claim that some people can have knowledge of the Father while only the Father can know the Son. This would make knowledge of the Son more obscure than knowledge of the Father.31

Since the conditional statements do not demand that the unnegated protasis is exclusively true, it seems better to see them as preeminently true. The Father knows the Son preeminently, or better than anyone else, and the Son knows the Father preeminently, or better than anyone.32 Therefore, the Father is preeminently knowledgeable about the Son, and the preeminent source for knowledge of the Father is the Son. A suggested dynamic translation would be: and no one knows the Son, as well as the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, as well as the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him.

Matt 12:39 (16:4; Luke 11:29)

oJ deV ajpokriqeiV" eipen aujtoi'": geneaV ponhraV kaiV moicaliV" shmei'on ejpizhtei', kaiV shmei'on ouj doqhvsetai aujth/' eij mhV toV shmei'on *Iwna' tou' profhvtou.

But he answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it, if not the sign of Jonah the prophet;

Logical transformation: and if any sign shall be given to it the sign of Jonah will be given to it.

After the Beelzebul controversy, some Pharisees approach Jesus and ask him to perform a sign. Jesus begins his rebuke with this statement. Most translations give the impression that the sign of Jonah, Jesus’ resurrection, is the only sign he will perform. 33 However, Jesus did many miracles following this point, including the resurrection. It seems more likely that the sign of Jonah is the preeminent sign. His resurrection will be the ultimate sign of his power and his message. In translation one can just leave eij mhv translated “if not,” thus leaving the statement vague. A more interpreted translation/paraphrase would be: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; and yet of all the signs that shall be given to it, the sign of Jonah the prophet is the most important.

Matt 15:24

oJ deV ajpokriqeiV" eipen: oujk ajpestavlhn eij mhV eij" taV provbata taV ajpolwlovta oi[kou *Israhvl.

But he answered and said, “I was not sent, if not to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Logical transformation: If I was sent, then I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

When Jesus enters the region of Tyre and Sidon, he is approached by a Caananite woman who begs him to heal her demonized daughter. Jesus ignores her for a while but she persists in her request. The disciples ask Jesus to send her away. Jesus tells them that it was to the lost sheep of Israel that he is sent. The woman continues her request and Jesus heals her child in response to her faith. If this statement were exclusively true, then Jesus went beyond what he was sent to do.34 But if he was sent primarily and preeminently to Israel, then he did not. This point is confirmed in John 10:16 where Jesus mentions other sheep outside of Israel whom he must gather. The advantage of seeing this statement as preeminently true is that it does not deny that Jesus was sent to help those outside of Israel, but leaves it ambiguous and gives the woman the possibility of hope which she pursues. The suggested translation is: “I was sent first of all to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

John 3:13

kaiV oujdeiV" ajnabevbhken eij" toVn oujranoVn eij mhV oJ ejk tou' oujranou' katabav", oJ uiJoV" tou' ajnqrwvpou.

And no one has ascended into heaven, if not he who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.

Logical transformation: And if any one has ascended into heaven, then he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, has ascended.

In his discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus35 asserts that he speaks of heavenly things and that he comes from heaven. Most translations assert that he is the only one who ascended to heaven.36 This is not true since both Enoch and Elijah were translated to heaven. This sentence is better understood as seeing Jesus being the preeminent one who both descends from and ascends to heaven. Jesus is the preeminent authority on heaven because that is where he originated. Therefore, he is justified in speaking about heavenly things. Thus, Nicodemus should believe what Jesus says. Jesus may also be alluding to another point that would be difficult for Nicodemus to grasp: that he must die to provide eternal life. The suggested translation is: And no one has ascended into heaven who is more important than he who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man.

Rom 13:8

MhdeniV mhdeVn ojfeivlete eij mhV toV ajllhvlou" ajgapa'n: oJ gaVr ajgapw'n toVn e{teron novmon peplhvrwken.

Owe nothing to anyone if not to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

Logical transformation: If you owe anything to anyone, then owe love to one another.

Paul has exhorted the Romans to submit to the government’s leadership and to pay their taxes. He then transitions back to the exhortation to love one another. This statement can be misleading as it is translated by most English versions. Literally, it says, “If you do not owe love to one another, then do not owe anything to anyone.” But most translations suggest that debt is prohibited and thus should be considered sin.37 However, some debts are obligatory, such as the taxes mentioned in the previous two verses. Therefore, Paul is not saying that all debt is prohibited except love, but that love is the preeminent debt that is always owed and is never paid off. 38 The suggested translation is: Owe nothing more important to anyone than owing love for one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.

1 Cor 2:2

ouj gaVr e[krinav ti eijdevnai ejn uJmi'n eij mhV *Ihsou'n CristoVn kaiV tou'ton ejstaurwmevnon.

For I determined to know nothing among you if not Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Logical transformation: For if I determined to know anything among you I determined to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Paul is continuing his discussion concerning the superiority of the wisdom of God, which focuses upon the cross of Christ. English translations often give the sense that the only thing that Paul knows among the Corinthians is the crucified Christ. However, it is more likely that this is what he knew among them first and foremost. It was the topic he preeminently knew and would press his opinions about. While he may disagree with the Corinthians in areas that did not pertain to Christ, he did not make an issue about it. He pressed his opinions for what God had called him to do. The suggested translation is: For I determined to know nothing more important among you than Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

1 John 2:22

Tiv" ejstin oJ yeuvsth" eij mhV oJ ajrnouvmeno" o{ti *Ihsou'" oujk e[stin oJ Cristov"V ou|tov" ejstin oJ ajntivcristo", oJ ajrnouvmeno" toVn patevra kaiV toVn uiJovn.

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

Logical transformation: If anyone is the liar, it is the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ.

John is teaching his readers about the false teachers that have left their community. These people he calls “antichrist.” The English translation gives the impression that the only liar is the one that denies Jesus is the Christ. But surely believers who have not made this denial can be liars as well as unbelievers. It makes more sense to see the one who denies Jesus is the Christ as the preeminent liar, the liar par excellence. The suggested translation, then, is: Who is the supreme liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?

Rev 2:17

*O e[cwn ou" ajkousavtw tiv toV pneu'ma levgei tai'" ejkklhsivai". Tw/' nikw'nti dwvsw aujtw/' tou' mavnna tou' kekrummevnou kaiV dwvsw aujtw/' yh'fon leukhvn, kaiV ejpiV thVn yh'fon o[noma kainoVn gegrammevnon o} oujdeiV" oiden eij mhV oJ lambavnwn.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows if not he who receives it.

Logical transformation: if any one knows the new name, then he who receives it knows it.

The risen Christ warns the church of Pergamum to repent of their false teaching. He promises the overcomer several rewards including a white stone with a new name39 on it. However, given the significance of a name in the culture, it seems odd that the one who receives the new name is the only one who knows it. More likely the meaning is the one who receives the white stone will know this name the best and also it is the name by which he is best known.40 A suggested translation is: To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows as well as he who receives it.


Eij mhv conditionals can have three different senses. They can be exclusively true, alternatively true, or preeminently true. All but two of the eij mhv conditionals are formed with eij mhv. The two exceptions are 1 Cor 7:5 (with eij mhvti a]n) and Gal 2:16 (with ejavn mhv). Often with exceptive conditionals, there is a negative in both the protasis and the apodosis. Since these negatives often produce ambiguities in translation, it is helpful to look at the logical equivalent of the conditional, which would remove the negatives.

Two contextual assessments need to be made to determine whether an exception conditional should be translated with “except” or “but” without altering the meaning. The first assessment is whether or not the author/speaker believes that the unnegated protasis of the original statement is true. The second assessment is whether or not the author/speaker believes that the unnegated protasis is exclusively true and not simply preeminently true. For those statements that are seen as exclusively true there are two tests to determine if it is an alternatively true conditional. First, the protasis names a group or class that is distinct or separate from the group or class named in the apodosis. Second, the protasis of the logical transformation will be false. Those conditionals that are simply preeminently true should not be translated with “except” or “but” because it changes the meaning. For these conditionals, a dynamic equivalent translation is often necessary to bring out this preeminent force.

1 BDF 448.8; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 1024-25; M. Zerwick, Biblical Greek Illustrated by Examples, 4th ed. (trans. Joseph Smith: Rome: Pontificii Istituti Biblici, 1963), 468-71.

2 Ernest De Witt Burton, Syntax of the Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1900; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1976), 274. However, Burton also adds, “Both in classical and New Testament Greek the ellipsis is unconscious, and the limitation is not strictly conditional, but exceptive. Like the English except it states not a condition on fulfillment of which the apodosis is true or its action takes place, but a limitation of the principal statement.” This is not always the case as will be seen. Most eij mhv clauses are conditional. They may also be exceptive, but often are not.

3 James L. Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements in New Testament Greek,” GTJ 4 (1983), 178.

4 Morris, Matthew, 366-67.

5 Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 180-81, notes a few instances where there seems to be no ellipsis of the verb and eij mhv introduces a clause with its own verb, where the sense seems to call for an adversative conjunction, “but.” Romans 14:14: oida kaiV pevpeismai ejn kurivw/ *Ihsou' o{ti oujdeVn koinoVn di* eJautou', eij mhV tw/' logizomevnw/ ti koinoVn ei ai, ejkeivnw/ koinovn. “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean by itself; but to the one who considers anything to be unclean, to that one it is unclean.” By punctuating the verse in this way, eij mhv makes good sense as an adversative conjunction introducing another clause. However, it ignores the similarity to the exceptive formulas (oujdevneij mhv), which is common elsewhere. If we follow the lead of the idiom and adjust the punctuation, the sense becomes, “I know that nothing is unclean except to the one who thinks it is. To him it is unclean.” The sense is good, and any tautology involved in the last clause is not uncommon.

1 Cor 7:17: Eij mhv eJkavstw/ wJ" ejmevrisen oJ kuvrio", e{kaston wJ" kevklhken oJ qeov", ou{tw" peripateivtw. “But let each one walk in such manner as the Lord has apportioned to each, as God has called each.” Eij mhv appears to begin both the sentence and the paragraph. The adversative conjunction makes good sense, and there is no apodosis with a negative comparison. It is possible to take it as a case of extreme ellipsis of a negative first class condition: “If (you do not save your spouse), then let each walk….” However, it is unlikely that this is the sense since the subject changes from marriage and separation to one’s station in society.

Gal 1:6–7: eij" e{teron eujaggevlion, o{ oujk e[stin a[llo: eij mhv tinev" eijsin oiJ taravssonte" uJma'"… “another gospel, which is not another; but there are some who are troubling you….” The adversative “but” makes good sense in this case also. However, it is again possible to see here another case of an extreme ellipsis of a negative first class condition: “…not another gospel [and I would not speak of it as such] if (it were not for the fact that), some are troubling you….”

6 Since exception clauses do not bear cause/effect relationships to their apodoses, they must be grounds/inference relations. The one exception in the NT is 1 Cor 7:5, which may be concessive.

7 Other examples would include Matt 14:17; 17:8; 21:19; 24:36; Mark 2:26; 4:22; 5:37; 6:5, 8; 8:14; 9:9; 10:30; 11:13; 13:32; Luke 4:26, 27; 6:4; 17:18; John 6:22, 46; 13:10; 17:12; Acts 11:14; 1 Cor 2:11; Gal 6:14; Phil 4:15; Heb 3:18; 1 John 5:5; Rev 13:17.

8 While ajfiventai could be understood as a divine passsive, the scribes apparently understood it as Jesus claiming the authority to forgive sins.

9 Luke 5:21 has movno" instead of ei|".

10 There are a number of exegetical problems in this pericope that do not affect the interpretation of the conditional statement itself, but may affect the statement’s role in the interaction between Jesus, the Pharisees, and the paralytic and his frineds. These issues include: (1), Mark’s redaction of the pericope and its integrity; (2), the use of the passive voice in ajfiventai; (3), the Jewish concept of the Messiah’s authority to forgive sins; (3), what Jesus’ insight into the Pharisees thoughts reveals about himself; (4), the relationship between the difficulty and the verifiability of healing and forgiveness; and (5), Jesus’ use of the title “Son of Man” here and its role in Mark’s Gospel. See Robert A. Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker, vol. 34A (Dallas: Word, 1989), 81-94; Robert H. Gundry, Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 112-22; William L. Lane, The Gospel according to Mark, NICNT, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 94-98; C. S. Mann, Mark: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, AB, ed. William Foxwell Albright & David Noel Freedman, vol. 27 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986), 221-28. For similar discussions in the Lucan parallel see Darrell L. Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, BECNT, ed. Moiss Silva, vol. 3A (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 468-69, 478-86, 924—30; J. A. Fitzmyer, The Gospel according to Luke I-IX, AB, ed. William Foxwell Albright & David Noel Freedman, vol. 28A (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981), 577-85; I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC, ed. I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 210-16; John Nolland, Luke 1–9:20, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker, vol. 35A (Dallas: Word, 1989), 230-38; Luke 9:21–18:34, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker, vol. 35B (Dallas: Word, 1993), 469-74.

11 Basil, Epistula, 236, on the other hand, argues that the Son is excluded in reference to these words and that it should be understood that this is a reference to the Father being the “first good” (toV prw'ton ajgaqovn), with the word “first” being understood (toV oujdeiV" sunupakouomevnou tou' prw'to"). Thus, he understands this conditonal in the preeminent, and not the exclusive sense.

12 Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53, BECNT, ed. Moises Silva, vol. 3B (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 1477-78.

13 45vid a2 A C D L W D Q Y f1, 13 28 33 157 180 205 565 579 597 700 892 1006 1010 1071 1241 1243 1292 1342 1424 1505 Byz [E F G H N S] Lect ita, aur, b, c, d, f, ff2, i, l, q, r1 vg syrh copsa, bo geo2 slav add kaiV nhsteiva/ (nhsteiva/ kaiV proseuch'/ is read by syrs, p, pal copbo ms arm eth). The text is read by a* B 0274 2427 itk geo1 (UBS4). While the addition is read by manuscripts in all three texttypes and has early support in 45, nonetheless, the text is the shorter, harder reading and best explains the rise of the variants. It also has good support in a and B. Since the early church had an increasing emphasis on fasting, it is understandable that such a gloss was added to most of the witnesses (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2d ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft/German Bible Society, 1994), 85.

Many witnesses add tou'to deV toV gevno" oujk ejkporeuvetai eij mhV ejn proseuch'/ kaiV nhsteiva/ to Matt 17:20. Among these are a2 (ejkbavlletai for ejkporeuvetai), C D L W D f1, 13 28 157 180 (205 1505 l 1074 ejxevrcetai), 565 597 700 892c 1006 1010 1071 1241 1243 1292 1342 1424 Byz [E F G H O S] Lect (l 184), (l 514), Lect ita, aur, b, c, d, f, ff2, g1, l, n, q, r1 vg (syrp, h), cop(meg), bo(pt), arm ethpp, TH geoB slav; Origen Asterius Basil Chrysostom; Hilary Ambrose Jerome Augustine. The text is read by a* B Q 0281 33 579 892* l 253 itc, ff1 syrc, s, pal copsa, bo(pt), ethms geo1, A (UBS4). There appears to be no good reason why this verse would be dropped from the manuscripts, if original. It was most likely assimilated from Mark 9:29.

14 Gundry, Mark, 492-93.

15 Lane, Mark, 335-36. In Matt 17:20 Jesus rebukes the disciples for their littleness of faith, but then compares faith to a mustard seed. Apparently the littleness of their faith was not referring to the amount of faith they had but to whom/what their faith was in. Since the disciples enjoyed great success in their preaching activity, they may have taken their God-given ability for granted. The following context demonstrates that some element of pride had taken hold of the disciples since they were discussing who would be the greatest in the kingdom.

16 The articles for the three nouns in 14:6a may have a monadic use. For a discussion of the relationship of the three nouns to one another and the relationship they have on the following conditional statement see Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John XIII–XXI, AB, ed. William Foxwell Albright & David Noel Freedman, vol. 29A (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1970), 620-21; D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, Pillar Commentary (Leicester: InterVarsity; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 491-92; Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St. John, vol. 3, trans. David Smith & G. A. Kon, HTCNT, ed. Serafin de Ausejo, Lucien Cerfaux, Bda Rigaux, Rudolf Schnackenburg, & Anton Vgtle (New York: Crossroad, 1990), 64-66.

17 46B itr, Clement omit a[n (NA27). Eij mhvti a]n ejk sumfwvnou…”except by agreement” is a hypothetical modification of eij mhv ti which was felt to be a unit after the analogy of o{sti" a[n (BDF 376). This should probably be considered a mixed condition because of the presence of a[n in the protasis, and since the mood of the verb in the protasis uncertain; it could be either indicative or subjunctive.

18 This verse is probably the strongest argument for James’ apostleship. The ellipsis of the verb in the eij mhv clause suggests that both the verb and the object of the apodosis are to be supplied. Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 180, suggests that this could be an alternative conditional rather than an exclusively true conditional. In other words, Paul is saying, “I did not see any of the other apostles, but I did see James, the the Lord’s brother.” There are two major differences between this example and the other examples. First, a group or class of people is involved in the clear examples. Here an individual is involved in the protasis while a group is involved in the apodosis. Second, the protasis of the logical transformation is not necessarily false, and may well be true. The protases of the logical equivalents of the clear examples are all false. Thus, it is more likely that this is an exclusively true conditional. For more detailed discussions on the issue of James’ apostleship see F. F. Bruce, Commentary on Galatians, NIGTC, ed. W. Ward Gasque & I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 100-01; Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, ICC, ed. S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, & C. A. Briggs (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921), 60, 368-72; James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, BNTC, ed. Henry Chadwick (Peabody, MA: Hendricson, 1993), 76-77; Ronald Y. K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians, NICNT, ed. Gordon D. Fee (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 77-78; Richard N. Longnecker, Galatians, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard & Glenn W. Barker, vol. 41 (Dallas: Word, 1990), 38-39.

19 Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 180.

20 Two are Synoptic parallels.

21 Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 179-80.

22 Strictly speaking, however, the law does not specifically forbid others from eating the bread, only that it was to be for Aaron and his sons. This could be interpreted as giving them the liberty to give it to others under special circumstances. This is apparently how Ahimelech understood it, although Jesus seems to imply that the Pharisees saw it as an absolute prohibition in the way he phrases his response. This example shows a significant amount of overlap between the alternative conditionals and the exclusively true conditionals. The main reason this is considered an alternative conditional is because the apodosis names one group of people who should not have been permitted to eat, while the protasis names a group that were permitted to eat.

23 There are two other passages in which ejavn mhv is usually translated with “except” or “but.” Neither, however, should be taken in the exceptive sense. Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 182, makes the following comments: “Mark 4:22 expresses either the intended purpose or the necessary outcome of hiding something. The form is in part like the eij mhv construction, but the sense is not. Perhaps it is a case where ejaVn mhv, like eij mhv, can be considered an adversative conjunction (note the parallel ajll* in the next clause), but that gives a different sense. It seems easier to consider it a simple negative second class condition: ‘There is no such thing as a hidden thing if it is not destined to be revealed.’” Why he sees this as a second class condition is mystifying. The logical transformation would be: For if anything is hidden, it is hidden to be revealed. This removes the ambiguities of the two negatives and the impression of the sense of a second class condition.

Mark 10:29-30 is the other example of eja"n mhv. In this case it is the opposite of “except,” and states that it is always true without exception. Note the logical transformation: If there is anyone who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake, then he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

24 Whether pivstew" *Ihsou' Cristou' and pivstew" Cristou' are subjective or objective genitives is a matter of some debate. For a defense of the subjective view see Longenecker, Galatians, 87-88; Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 114-16. For a defense of the objective genitive both here and in Rom 3:22 see Dunn, Galatians, 138-39; Bruce, Galatians, 139; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, BECNT, ed. Moiss Silva, vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 181-86.

25 The singular a[nqrwpo" is used in the apodosis and implied in the protasis and may suggest that an individual is in view, rather than a group or class. However, the emphasis in both parts of the statement is on the means of justification, not the grammatical subject. Therefore, a class of people are involved in both the protasis and the apodosis: those who are justified by works and those who are justified by faith.

26 Boyer, “Other Conditional Elements,” 182, also takes it in the alternative sense. It is possible that the protasis can be understood as a qualification to the apodosis: a person is not justified by the works of the law, if he is not also justified by faith. This is usually understood as meaning that one can be justified by the works of the law (i.e., badges of Jewish covenantal nomism such as circumcism and dietary laws), if theses works are accompanied by faith in Christ. Dunn apparently holds to this understanding of the conditional statement, although he seems to equivocate about it later in his discussion (Dunn, Galatians, 134-141). However, There are three main problems with this view. First, this view is the converse of this understanding of the conditional statement, and the converse cannot necessarily be logically inferred, nor does it appear to be invited. Second, it is contrary to what Paul says elsewhere about the relationship between faith and the law (Fung, Galatians, 114-18; Longenecker, Galatians, 84). Third, if pivstew" *Ihsou' Cristou is properly understood as a subjective genitive, then it refers not only to the means of justification, but also the basis. Paul presents the work of Christ exclusively as the basis of justification not only in Galatians, but also in Romans and Phil 3:1-10.

27 This understanding also sees ejaVn mhv as modifying the whole of what precedes, and avoids resorting to some paraphrastic translation as in Burton, Galatians, 120-21.

28 Other examples include John 10:10; Rom 7:7; 1 Cor 1:14; 12:3, 5, 13; Gal 1:7; Eph 4:8; Rev 14:3; 19:12.

29 Both are obviously realized conditionals.

30 Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 33A (Dallas: Word, 1993), 320.

31 Several scholars recognize the tension and argue that it is a deep, intimate knowledge between the Father and the Son that is exclusive. While this is close to the point, it still suffers from the assumption that eij mhv must mean “except.” See Leon Morris, The Gospel according to Matthew, Pillar Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 293-94; John Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 273-75.

32 Basil, Epistula, 236, also asserts that the Spirit is not charged with ignorance, but that Christ acknowledges that the knowledge of his own nature exists with the Father first. The Father has the first knowledge of the things present and future, and the statement in Matt 11:27 was indicating to all the First Cause.

33 There is much discussion over what the sign of Jonah is. If Iwna' is taken as an appositional genitive, then Jonah himself is the sign. But in what sense would he be a sign to Jesus’ generation. In Matthew, Jesus refers to Jonah’s experience in the fish; thus, an allusion to Jesus’ resurrection seems clear. However, Luke omits this reference; therefore Luke may be portraying the sign as something different. Nolland, Luke 9:21–18:34, 652-53 suggests that the sign refers to (1), God’s compassion for the Gentiles, (2), Jonah’s experience, (3), the preaching of judgment, or (4), the preaching of repentance. Bock, Luke 9:51–24:53, 1095-96 argues for the last of these, while Nolland argues for (3). If either of these options is correct for Luke’s version, then the eij mhv clause may be understood as alternatively true. Jesus is not going to give them a miracle as a sign, but his preaching of repentance and judgment. This understanding fits well with Mark 8:12, where Jesus essentially says, “No sign shall be given to this generation.” Jesus would be saying that no sign in terms of their conception of a sign would be given to them. However, the allusion to the resurrection in Matt 12:40 does put the sign in the category of the miraculous; therefore, it is better understood in Matthew as a preeminent sign. From the point of view of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus’ point in Mark 8:12 could be that no additional sign shall be given or that no sign that the Pharisees will believe will be given (Guelich, Mark 1–8:26, 415).

34 Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 33B (Dallas: Word, 1995), 442, recognizes the tension when he says, “The apparent absolutenesss of Jesus’ statement here is conditioned immediately in this very periocope by his healing of the Canaanite’s daughter and will be further altered as the Gospel proceeds (cf. 21:43; 24:14; 28:19).”

35 There is some dispute as to where Jesus’ reply ends and the Evangelist’s comments begin. Schnackenburg argues that 3:13 begins the Evangelist’s comments (Rudolf Schnackenburg, The Gospel according to St. John, vol. 1, trans. Kevin Smyth, HTCNT, ed. Serafin de Ausejo, Lucien Cerfaux, Bda Rigaux, Rudolf Schnackenburg, & Anton Vgtle [New York: Crossroad, 1990] 360-63, 392-94). Carson, John, 203, argues that the Evangelist’s comments do not begin until 3:16 because the title “Son of Man” is characteristically reserved for the lips of Jesus. Brown, John I–XII, 149, argues that Jesus’ discourse continues to 3:21. If one adopts the view of either Carson or Brown, then Jesus is the speaker in 3:13.

36 Carson, John, 200, argues that eij mhv is introducing an exception to the general idea that has been introduced, without providing an exception to what is explicitly stated in the verse. In other words, no one has ascended to heaven and remained there so as to be able to speak authoritatively about heavenly things, except the one who has decended from heaven. He argues for this position on the basis of supposed parallels in Matt 12:4; Luke 4:27; Gal 1:19; Rev 21:27. However, Matt 12:4 and Rev 21:27 are alternatively true conditionals, while Luke 4:27 and Gal 1:19 seem to be no different from other exceptionally true conditions. Carson’s understanding, though, is very similar to seeing it as a preeminently true conditional.

37 John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959-65), 2.159, understands eij mhv in the alternative sense, “Owe no man anything; only do love one another.” Most commentators, however, take it in the exclusive sense (C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, vol 2, IX-XVI, ICC , ed. J. A. Emerton and C. E. B. Cranfield (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1979 ), 674; J. D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, WBC, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, vol. 38 B (Dallas: Word Books, 1988 ), 775-76; Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 812-13; Schreiner, Romans, 691).

38 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, AB, vol. 33 (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1993 ), 677, notes that an oxymoron is at work, since love cannot be owed. Schreiner, Romans, 691, also sees the tension of taking ojfeivlete literally as an absolute prohibition. The preiminently true understanding of eij mhv resolves this tension.

39 Daniel K. K. Wong, “The Hidden Manna and the White Stone in Revelation 2:17,” BSac 155.619 (1998), 253-54, mentions three possibilities concerning the new name. First, it may be the new name Christ gives to every believer and each person’s name will be different. Second, it may be the same name given to all believers. Third, the name may be that of God the Father or of Christ himself. Wong holds to the last of these three. G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, NIGTC, ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald Hagner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 253-58, sees the new name as a mark of genuine membership in the redeemed community, and vitally necessary for entrance into the “city of God.” Knowing a name involves experiential access to the character and power represented by the name. Whether the new name is literal, symbolic, or both would not change the point of exclusivity or preeminence.

40 This may also be the explanation for Jesus’ name in Rev 19:12. It is not a name which he alone knows, but the name which he preeminently knows and by which he is preeminently known. Beale, The Book of Revelation, 955-57, understands the name which “no one knows” as being unknown until the time of the revelation of that aspect of Christ’s character. This is a possible explanation and is compatible with the preeminent idea because it becomes the “name” by which he is known. The new song which the 144,000 sing in Rev 14:3 is also best understood in a preeminent sense under a dispensational premillennial interpretation. The 144,00 are not the only believers who can sing the new song, but they are the ones who preeminently sing it.


Related Topics: Grammar