Greek Conditional Sentences
Conditional sentences are "If ..., then ..."
statements. They make a statement that if something happens, then something else
The 'if' clause is referred to as the 'protasis'
by grammarians. It comes from the Greek words 'pro' (meaning before) and
'stasis' (meaning 'stand'). So the 'protasis' means 'what stands before' or
'comes first' as far as these two clauses are concerned. The 'then' clause is
termed the 'apodosis'; it is what 'comes after' the protasis.
Logical Relationship between Protasis and Apodasis
There are a number of different relationships that can exist
between the protasis and apodosis. It
is important that you try to distinguish between these relationships for sake of
more clearly understanding the text. Please also note that there can be some
overlap between these three relationships.
They could represent a Cause-Effect relationship,
action in the protasis will cause the effect in the apodosis. For example Romans
8:13b, "...but if by the spirit you put to death the practices of the body,
you will live."
They could show a Evidence-Inference type
relationship, where the apodosis is inferred to be true based upon the evidence
presented in the protasis. This will often be semantically the converse of the
Cause-Effect relationship. For example 1 Cor. 15:44, "If there is a
soulish body, there is also a spiritual one."
Or, the relationship could be one showing Equivalence
between the protasis and apodosis, which is actually a subset of the
Evidence-Inference relationship. For example Gal. 2:18, "...if I build up
again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor."
Classification of Greek Conditional Sentences
Greek has more ability than English in describing the
kind of relationship between the protasis, and the apodosis. It is possible for
the writer/speaker to indicate whether the protasis is true or not. Actually
they can indicate if they are presenting the protasis as 'assumed true
(or false) for the sake of argument'. In order to indicate this kind of
relationship between the protasis and apodosis, Classical Greek traditional had
four kinds of conditional sentences, based upon what tense and mood the verb
occurs in and upon some helping words. These are much the same in Koine
(Biblical) Greek, with slight variations.
(Please see link to the PDF chart below for a
description of formation and examples of conditional sentence.)
First Class Condition - Is considered the 'Simple
Condition' and assumes that the premise (protasis) is true for the sake of
argument. The protasis is formed with the helping word ei
('if') with the main verb in the indicative mood,
in any tense; with any mood and tense in the
Second Class Condition - Is known as the 'Contrary-to-Fact
Condition' and assumes the premise as false for the sake of argument. The
protasis is again formed with the helping word ei
('if') and the main verb in the indicative mood. The tense of the verb (in the
protasis) must also be in a past-time tense (aorist
or imperfect). The apodosis will usually have
the particle an
as a marking word, showing some contingency.
Third Class Condition -
Traditionally known as the 'More Probable Future Condition', the third class
condition should actually be split into two different categories, the 'Future
More Probable Condition' (indicating either a probable future action or a
hypothetical situation) and the 'Present General Condition' (indicating a
generic situation or universal truth at the present time). It is formed in the
the word ean (ei plus an
= 'if') and a verb in the subjunctive mood.
The main verb of the protasis can be in any tense, but if the condition is a
'Present General', the verb must be in the present
Fourth Class Condition - Is usually called the 'Less
Probable Future Condition' and does not have a complete example in the New
Testament. The fulfillment of this condition was considered even more remote
than the Third Class Condition. It was formed with the helping word ei
and the optative mood in the protasis. The
apodosis had the helping word an and its verb was
also in the optative mood.
Sentences - Please see this PDF document for a detailed description (and
handy summary) of the formation of conditional sentences and examples of
each. (Please note that you need to have Adobe
Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to read this PDF format.
it free if you don't already have it).