“If” or “Since” We Stand Firm (1 Thessalonians 3:8) – Mondays with Mounce 264
In a first class conditional sentence, the protasis is assumed true for the sake of the argument. In other words, if the protasis is true, then the apodosis must follow. So Paul says, “If you live according to the flesh, you will certainly die” (Rom 8:13).
Where first class conditional sentences get a little tricky is when the “if” injects an element of uncertainty where none is intended. The tendency of some is to translate εἰ as “since” in these situations. “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt 12:28). Jesus most certainly was casting out demons by the Spirit of God, and so some prefer “Since I cast out ….” Wallace warns strongly against this as it says too much (690) and it turns “an invitation to dialogue into a lecture” (692).
But in our passage, Paul writes with a third class conditional statement. “For now we really live, since (ἐάν) you are standing firm in the Lord” (NIV). The problem of course is that Paul did not know if every one of them was standing firm, and a third class condition “presents the condition as uncertain of fulfillment, but still likely” (Wallace, 696).
Much better to translate what the Greek says, and to leave the invitation open to the individual Thessalonians to affirm whether or not they truly are standing firm.
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics on the ZA Blog. He is the author of numerous works including the recent Basics of Biblical Greek Video Lectures and the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek. He is the general editor of Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. The Mounce Reverse-Interlinear™ New Testament is available to freely read on Bible Gateway.
Learn more about Bill’s Greek resources at BillMounce.com.