Grace Theological Journal 12.1 (1992) 99-118.
[Copyright © 1992 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
digitally prepared for use at
WHAT DOES THE GREEK FIRST
CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY?
GRICEAN METHODOLOGY AND
THE TESTIMONY OF THE
ANCIENT GREEK GRAMMARIANS
L. W. LEDGERWOOD III
Debate has been engaged for more than a century over what im-
plications, if any, a Greek First Class Conditional (FCC) has concern-
ing the proposition in its protasis. Some pedagogical grammars claim
that the Greek FCC is well translated with the English causative con-
struction introduced with "since." In this paper a twofold approach is
used to show that this claim is in error.
First, a methodology for formulating and testing hypotheses con-
cerning historical languages is established. The methodology is based
on a Popperian view of hypothesis testing. In this case a testable hy-
pothesis is formed utilizing the descriptive apparatus of H. P. Grice.
The hypothesis is that the FCC is well translated with English "since"
and it is proven false.
Second, the testimony of four ancient Greek grammarians is eval-
uated. The grammarians examined are: Dionysius Thrax (1st century
BCE), Apollonius Dyscolus (2nd century CE), Stephanos and Hel-
liodorus (Byzantine period). It is shown that these grammarians agree
with the conclusion that it is not appropriate to translate the FCC with
an English causal introduced by" since."
* * *
DOES a Koine Greek conditional sentence introduced by ei] ("if")
with the indicative imply the truth of the proposition in its prota-
sis? Debate on this issue has been engaged for over 100 years. In the
19th century two of the major participants in the debate were William
100 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Goodwin1 and Basil Gildersleeve.2 Early in this century, A. T. Robert-
son,3 claiming to be in the Gildersleevian tradition, asserted that the
truth of the proposition in the protasis is implied to be true or at least
assumed true for the sake of argument. Some modern pedagogical
grammars follow Robertson's assertions and carry them to an extreme
that Robertson himself did not.
These pedagogical grammars claim that a Greek conditional intro-
duced by ei] with the indicative should be translated with an English
causal construction. That is, a sentence like:
ou#n sunhge<rqhte t&? Xrist&? ta> a@nw
should be translated with the causal (lb) below and not with the condi-
(1b) Since then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the
(lc) If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the
They claim that sentence (la) implies that the proposition in its prota-
sis, namely, "You have been raised up with Christ," is true and for this
reason an English causal sentence should be used. Recently, James
Boyer4 argued that such a claim is in error.
This debate has been clouded by at least two factors: ambiguity of
terms and hypotheses formulated in an untestable manner. For this rea-
son, no one has achieved a level of proof on which all can agree. How-
ever, H. P. Grice5 has developed linguistic theory which provides a
descriptive apparatus in which testable hypotheses concerning implica-
tions can be formulated. Using Grice's descriptive apparatus it is pos-
l Wi11iam Goodwin, "The classification of Conditional Sentences in Greek Syntax,"
in Journal of Philology 15 (1874) 188-205; "'Shall' and 'Should' in Protasis, and Their
Greek Equivalents," in Journal of Philology 18 (1877) 18-38; Syntax of the Moods and
Tenses of the Greek Verb (London: MacMillan, 1889); Greek
Millan, 1879, reprinted by
2 Basil L. Gildersleeve, "Studies in Pindaric Syntax," in American Journal of Phi-
lology, 3 (1882) 434-55; "A Reply to E. B. Clapp," in American Journal of Philology 9
(1888) 491-92; "Stahl's Syntax of the Greek Verb," in American Journal of Philology
30 (1909) 1-21.
3 A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of New Testament Greek in Light of Historical Re-
search (Nashville: Broadman, 1934).
4 James L. Boyer, "First Class Conditionals, What Do They Mean?" in Grace
Theological Journal 2.1 (1981) 75-114.
5 R. P. Grice, "Logic and Conversation," in Syntax and Semantics 3, Speech Acts,
ed. P. Cole and J. P. Morgan (New York: Academic, 1975) 41-58; R. P. Grice, "Further
Notes on Logic and Conversation," in Syntax and Semantics 9, Pragmatics, ed. J. M. Sa-
dock (New York: Academic, 1978) 113-27.
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 101
sible to define a clear and unambiguous hypothesis to test whether or not
the claim of these pedagogical grammars is indeed sound. In the fol-
lowing paper, the assertions of some grammarians over the past century
are reviewed. The claim of the pedagogical grammars which assert that
a first class conditional should be translated with English "since"is for-
mulated into a testable hypothesis. The methodology employed proves
unambiguously that conditional sentences introduced with ei] plus the
indicative do not imply the truth of the proposition in the protasis.
In the debate over the implications of Greek conditionals, no one
has gone back to examine what ancient Greek grammarians said about
the issue. A second purpose of this paper is to do just that. The relevant
claims of Greek grammarians from 200 B.C. to A.D. 600 are reviewed.
These confirm that conditional sentences introduced with ei with the
indicative do not imply that the proposition in the protasis is true.
II. NOTATIONAL CONVENTION
There are two conditional particles in Greek: ei] and e]a<n. Readers
of this paper not familiar with Greek may, for the time being, consider
both ei] and e]a<n to mean "if" neglecting any differences in meaning
between them. Greek also has a causal particle e]
translated by the English "since."
Many grammarians categorize the Greek conditionals in different
ways and use different names for their categories. Only two of the
forms of the conditionals will be discussed in this paper: the forms
many grammarians call the first and third class conditionals. The
causal construction will also be discussed. The following notational
shorthand will be used to refer to these constructions.
Shorthand Syntactic form Common name
ei] p,q ei] + indicative, indicative first class conditional
e]a<n p,q e]a<n + subjunctive, indicative third class conditional
In this notation, "p" and "q" are variables representing clauses in the
protasis and apodosis respectively.
III. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ARGUMENT
A. William Goodwin
William Goodwin sets forth his claims in no uncertain terms:
(2) Probably no grammarian would now maintain the absurdity that the
indicative in the protasis expresses either "certainty in fact" or
"what is believed by the speaker to be true." . . . Most grammarians
102 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
are eager to disclaim any connection between the "certainty" here
intended and the matter of fact or even opinion; and thus they
reduce the "certainty" to a harmless abstraction, which is utterly
valueless as a definition. . .
I have now nothing to change the statement which I made in
1864, . . . Every example that I have met has only confirmed the
opinion, which I now express with the greatest confidence that
there is no inherent distinction between the present indicative [ei]
p,q] and present subjunctive [e]a<n p,q] in the protasis, except that
of time6 (Goodwin's emphasis).
Goodwin spends the bulk of his article on aspectual and temporal
differences between conditionals of the form e]a<n p,q and ei] p,q when
the proposition q is expressed with a future indicative.
B. Basil Gildersleeve
Concerning the first class condition Gildersleeve says:
(3) It is used of that which can be brought to the standard of fact; but
the standard may be for or against the truth of the postulate. All
the logical condition [ei] p,q] asserts in the inexorable connection
of the two members of the sentence. It is the favorite condition in
argument. . . when one wishes to be or seem fair. . . when one is
sure of the premise. . . . But so long as the negative continues to
be mh<, the conditional and the causal do not coincide. . . . In
prose, it is semi-causal.7
An observation to make concerning this passage is that Gildersleeve
does not say that ei p,q implies that the proposition p is true like a
Robertson claims to be in the Gildersleevian tradition. However, the
terminology he uses is not as concise as Gildersleeve's and he has been
interpreted by some to suggest more than Gildersleeve did, namely that
ei] p,q implies the truth of p.
C. A. T. Robertson
Robertson says concerning these conditionals:
(4) This theory in brief is that there are four classes of conditions
which fall into two groups or types. The two types are the deter-
6 Goodwin, "Conditional Sentences in Greek Syntax," in Journal of Philology 15
7 Gildersleeve, "Studies in Pindaric Syntax," in American Journal of Philology 3
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 103
mined [ei] p,q is in this group] and the undetermined [e]a<n p,q is in
this group]. The point in "determined" [ei] p,q] is that the premise
or condition is assumed to be true. . . . The indicative is used for
this type. . . The other type is the undetermined condition. Natu-
rally the indicative is not allowed here. The element of uncer-
tainty calls for the subj. or the optative. . . .8 In broad outline
these four classes of conditions may be termed Reality [ei] p,q],
Unreality, Probability [e]a<n p,q] and Possibility. . . . This brings
us to the other theory. . . expounded by Goodwin. . . . Goodwin
confuses the "fact" with the "statement" of the fact. He describes
his first condition thus: "When the protasis simply states a present
or past particular supposition, implying nothing as to the fulfill-
ment of the condition, it takes a present or past tense of the indic-
ative with ei]." The words to which I object. . . are "implying
nothing as to the fulfillment of the condition." This condition [ei]
p,q] pointedly implies the fulfillment of the condition. . . . This is
the crux of the whole matter9 (Robertson's emphasis).
Robertson moderates his stance slightly to account for the many
examples in which ei] p,q clearly does not imply truth of the proposi-
tion in the protasis. Such an instance is Matt , where Jesus says,
"If [ei]] I cast out demons by Beelzebul . . ." Concerning this Robert-
(5) This class of condition [ei] p,q] assumes the condition to be a
reality and the conclusion follows logically and naturally from
that assumption. . . This condition therefore, taken at face value,
assumes the condition to be true. The context or other light must
determine the actual situation. This is a good example (cf. also
Gal 5:11) to begin with, since the assumption is untrue in fact,
though assumed to be true by Jesus for sake of argument.10
What Robertson is saying here is that Matt 12:21 should be translated,
"Assuming for the moment that I do cast out demons by Beelze-
bul. . ." instead of with the causative, "Since I cast out demons by
Beelzebul . . ." In this statement Robertson makes it clear that he is
not asserting that the propositions in the protasis are in fact true.
However, Robertson's claims are vague and untestable. He calls
the condition of the type ei] p,q "determined," in contrast to "undeter-
mined." He calls it a condition of "reality," in contrast to "possibility."
He says that this condition assumes the premise to be true, in another
that it pointedly implies the fulfillment of the condition and finally that
8 Robertson, Greek Grammar (Nashville: Broadman, 1934) 1004.
9 Robertson, Greek Grammar, 1005-6.
10 Robertson, Greek Grammar, 1007-8.
104 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
it assumes the condition to be a reality. Apparently misunderstanding
Robertson, some pedagogical grammars, which claim Robertson as
their authority, have gone so far as to identify conditionals of the form
ei] p,q with causal constructions.
D. The Claim of Summer's Pedagogical Grammar
Only one of the pedagogical grammars is quoted here as an
example of what some of Robertson's followers claim. Others may be
examined by the interested reader.11 Ray Summers, in his pedagogical
(6) The first class condition [ei] p,q] affirms the reality of the condi-
tion. . . "ei] maqetai> tou? kuri<ou e@smen swqh<setai" . . . This con-
struction is best translated, "Since we are disciples of the Lord,
we shall be saved.”12
E. Boyer's Rebuttal
Boyer attributes much of the confusion in this argument to Rob-
ertson's unclear terminology. Furthermore, he notes that Robertson is
inconsistent in the application of his theory to conditionals in his com-
mentary Word Pictures. In Word Pictures sometimes Robertson notes
that a protasis is assumed true, but in many cases where it is obviously
false, he fails to mention that a first class conditional is used in the
Boyer sought to bring some focus to this debate by examining all
of the conditionals in the New Testament. He used gramcord to search
the New Testament for all the examples of each kind of condition.14
He then sorted first class conditionals into three groups: (1) instances
where the condition was obviously true, (2) instances where the condi-
tion was obviously false, (3) instances where the condition was unde-
termined. According to his classification, 115 of the condition in the
NT are obviously true and 36 are obviously false.15 He considers these
11 Some other grammars which assert claims like Summers' are: F. Blass, A. De-
brunner and R. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and other Early Christian
Literature (Chicago: University Press, 1961); H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey, A Manual
Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: Macmillan, 1957); Huber L. Drum-
wright, An Introduction to New Testament Greek (Nashville: Broadman, 1980).
12 Ray Summers, Essentials of New Testament Greek (Nashville: Broadman, 1950)
13 Boyer,"First Class Conditionals," GTJ 2.1 (1981) 79-80.
14 Boyer's work is reported in four articles in Grace Theological Journal. In addi-
tion to the one cited above there are: "Second Class Conditions in New Testament
Greek," 3.1 (1982) 81-88; "Third (and Fourth) Class Conditionals," 3.2 (1982) 163-75;
"Other Conditional Elements in New Testament Greek," 4.2 (1983) 173-88.
15 Boyer, "First Class Conditionals," GTJ 2.1 (1981) 76.
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 105
36 conditions in the obviously false category to be counterexamples to
those who would translate the ei] p,q with "since."
Boyer's work is exhaustive and convincing. However, there is still
an element of uncertainty in Boyer's analysis because the methodology
by which he separated the conditions into categories of "obviously
true" and "obviously false" is apparently his own intuition. There are
many examples in his obviously false category concerning which it is
not so obvious that they are false. For example:
(7a) If [ei]] you are the Christ, tell us. Luke 22:67
(7b) If [ei]] to others I am not an apostle, yet I am to you. 1 Cor 9:2
In sentence (7a), Jesus was in fact the Christ, though the speakers of
this sentence may not have believed He was. In (7b) there were in fact
others who believed Paul was not an apostle, which makes the protasis
in fact true, even though Paul was in fact an apostle and believed him-
self to be one.
IV. GRICEAN DESCRIPTIVE APPARATUS
Significant progress has been made in linguistic description in the
past two decades in the area of implications. The work of H. P. Grice16
is foundational in this area. Many unambiguous tests for identifying
and proving the existence of implicatures 17 have been developed. One
of these tests will aid us in this endeavor.18
Grice made a useful distinction between two kinds of implicature:
conventional implicature and conversational implicature. A conven-
tional implicature is one which is associated with the meaning of the
words and the grammar of a sentence, which cannot be canceled by the
context. For example, factive verbs19 have the conventional implicature
16 See n. 5 above.
17 Grice defined the term "implicature" saying, "I wish to introduce as terms of art,
the verb implicate and the related nouns implicature (cf. implying) and implicatum (cf.
what is implied). The point of this maneuver is to avoid having, on each occasion, to
choose between this or that member of the family of verbs for which implicature is to do
general duty" (Grice  43, 44). Generally speaking, one may think of an implica-
ture as an implication. But Grice introduced this unique term, because terms like "impli-
cation," "presupposition," and "assumption" have been used for a variety of different
and poorly defined uses.
18 Some helpful introductory texts on Gricean implicature are: Stephen C.
Levinson, Pragmatics (Cambridge: University Press, 1983) 97-166; John Lyons, Seman-
tics (Cambridge: University Press, 1977) 592-606; John McCawley, Everything that
Linguists Have Always Wanted to Know About Logic (Chicago: University Press, 1981)
19 Factive verbs are verbs which presuppose the truth of their complements. This
class of verbs was first identified by Paul and Carol Kiparsky in their article "Fact" in
Progress in Linguistics, ed. M. Bierwisch and K. Heidolf (The Hague: Mouton, 1970)
106 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
that the proposition in their complement is true. Evaluative verbs20
have a conversational implicature that the proposition in their comple-
ment is true. Consider the following sentences with the factive verb
"regret" and the evaluative verb "criticize."
(8a) I regretted that John told a lie.
(8b) I criticized John for telling a lie.
The complement's proposition in both cases is the same: "John told a
lie." But what about the implicatures? Does a person who utters (8a) or
(8b) implicate that John told a lie? It may seem that both sentences do,
but on closer inspection we find that they are different with respect to
A common test for implicature is to place the utterance in a con-
text which attempts to cancel the implicature. If a sentence with a con-
ventional implicature is placed in a context which attempts to cancel
the implicature, a pragmatically ill-formed sentence results. If a sen-
tence with a conversational implicature is placed in a context which
attempts to cancel the implicature, the implicature is canceled and the
sentence remains well formed. For example the sentences in (8) are put
in such contexts in (9) below.
(9a) #I regretted that John told a lie, but I shouldn't have regretted it
because it was Joe who lied.
(9b) I criticized John for telling a lie, but I shouldn't have criticized
him because it was Joe who lied.
I use a pound symbol (#) to the left of a sentence to indicate that the sen-
tence is pragmatically ill-formed. Since (9a) is ill-formed, this proves
that the sentence (8a) has a conventional implicature that John told a lie.
In sentence (9b) the implicature that John told a lie is canceled by the
143-73. Some examples of factive verbs in English which take object clause comple-
ments introduced by that are: regret, resent, deplore, be odd, be glad. Some examples of
factive verbs in Greek which take object clause complements introduced by o!ti are: qau-
ma<zw, lanqa<nw, xai<rw, lupe<omai, metame<lomai. See L. W. Ledgerwood, "Syntactic Insu-
lation of Factive Clauses," in The Journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest
5.2 (1982) 105, 112.
20 Evaluative verbs are verbs like criticize, accuse, praise, congratulate. Filmore first
identified this class of verbs in C. Filmore, “An Exercise in Semantic Description," in
Studies in Linguistic
ed. C. J. Filmore and D. T. Langendoen
1972) 273-89. Karttunen and Peters showed that the implicature associated with them was
not conventional but conversational. Lauri Karttunen and Stanley Peters, "Conventional
Implicature," in Syntax and Semantics 9, Presupposition (New York: Academic, 1979).
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 107
context without resulting in a pragmatically ill-formed sentence. There-
fore the implicature in (8b) was a conversational implicature.21
English causal sentences have a conventional implicature that the
proposition in their protasis is true but English conditionals do not.
Sentences (10) below illustrate this. Sentence (10a) implicates conven-
tionally that the moon is full, but sentence (10b) does not.
(10a) Since the moon is full, it is opposite the sun.
(10b) If the moon is full, it is opposite the sun.
To speakers of English this seems intuitively obvious. However, this
claim may be moved beyond the realm of intuition by placing both
sentences in a context that attempts to cancel the implicature as shown
in sentences (11) below.
(11 a) #Since the moon is full, it is opposite the sun; but the moon is
not full today.
(11b) If the moon is full, it is opposite the sun; but the moon is not
This suggests a way to formulate a test of Summers' claim that ei] p,q is
best translated with English "since p,q." Summers' claim entails ei] p,q
21 By using Gricean terminology in this paper I do not mean to imply that Grice has
said the last word on implicature. There have been challenges to Grice's methodology.
Most recently several books and papers have appeared proposing relevance theory
as superior to the Gricean framework. Relevance theory and discussions of the problems
with Grice's theory are contained in: Dianne Blakemore, "The Organization of Dis-
course," in Linguistics,
bridge: University Press, 1988); Dianne Blakemore, Semantic Constraints on Relevance
(Oxford: Blackwells, 1987); Ruth Kempson, "Grammar and Conversational Principles,"
Press, 1988); D. Sperber and D.
Cognition (Oxford, Blackwells, 1986).
Two comments are offered in defense of applying Gricean terminology in this pa-
per. First, most of the challenges to Grice's work have come in the area of what he called
conversational implicatures (for example, Jerrold M. Sadock, "On Testing for Conversa-
in Syntax and Semantics 9, Pragmatics,
ed. P. Cole [
ademic, 1977]). The notion of conversational implicature is not used in this paper;
conventional implicatures are. (For more on conventional implicature see the following
papers by Lauri Karttunen and Stanley Peters: "Requiem for Presupposition," in Papers
from the Third Annual Meeting of the
in Syntax and Semantics 11,
1979); "Presuppositions of Compound Sentences," in Linguistic Inquiry, vol. 4 (1973)
169-93. Secondly, the goal of this paper is to show that by making use of a methodology
like that of Grice, one can formulate clear and testable hypotheses which facilitate com-
munication and advance research in applied areas such as this. These arguments could be
reformulated in terms of relevance theory without changing the result.
108 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
having a conventional implicature that the proposition p is true. Sum-
mers' claim can be formulated in a hypothesis based on this entail-
(12) Summers' hypothesis: Sentences of the form ei] p,q have the
conventional implicature that p is true.
Formulating his hypothesis in this manner yields one that is very test-
able. If indeed ei] p,q does have a conventional implicature that the
proposition p is true, then it will not occur in contexts which cancel
In an investigation of Koine Greek, it is not possible to record
speech of native speakers nor to quiz them concerning their intuitions
about their language. So, a disciplined methodology is needed for test-
ing hypotheses from texts. David Lightfoot says in his Principles of
Diachronic Syntax,22 "One can never demonstrate the truth of a the-
ory, only its falsity. Thus progress in scientific endeavors can be
viewed as the successive elimination of theories shown by empirical
investigation to be false." I take this somewhat Popperian view of sci-
entific progress to be axiomatic. Thus the historical grammarian's goal
is to formulate hypotheses that are well enough defined that they can
be proven false. No hypotheses will ever be proven true in an inductive
endeavor such as this; they will only be supported by arguments from
silence. The confidence that may be placed in a hypothesis will be a
function of how "silent" the text is; that is, of how many possibilities
were examined in which the hypothesis could have been proven false
and was not.
Large volumes of Greek texts must be searched to find whether ei]
p,q occurs in contexts which cancel the implicature. If ei] p,q is not
found in such contexts, then this will be an argument from silence that
it contains a conventional implicature. This is a weak argument. But if
ei] p,q is ever found in a context in which the implicature is canceled,
then it will be proven that the ei] p,q does not have a conventional
implicature that p is true.
A systematic way of searching large amounts of text to look for
examples like this is to imagine discourse forms which always cancel
the proposition in the protasis. Sometimes this process can be made
regular enough that a computer may be used to do some of the search-
ing for such occurrences. For example, two conditionals linked by an
adversative or disjunctive with the second protasis negated is such a
22 David Lightfoot, Principles of Diachronic Syntax (
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 109
(13) if P then q but if not p then r
Another construction which cancels the proposition in the protasis is a
modus tolens argument which has the form:
(14) if p then q, but not q, therefore not p
V. TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS
The first two books of Arrian's Discourses of Epictetus,23 the
Cynic Epistles24 and the New Testament, all dating from around the
first century A.D., have been searched for examples in which a condi-
tional of the form ei] p,q occurs in a context in which the proposition p
is negated. Such examples are abundant. Following are some of them.25
A. Examples of the Form ei] p,q but ei] not p, r
(15a) ei] ga>r mh> ei]si>n qeoi<, pw?j e]sti te<loj e!pesqai qeoi?j; ei] d ] ei]si>n
me<n, mhdeno>j d ] e]pimelou<menoi, kai> ou@twj pw?j u[gie>j e@stai;
For if [ei]] there are not gods, how is it an end to serve gods?
But if [ei]] there are and they don't care, how will this be sound?
(15b) Ei] me>n ou#n a]dikw? kai> a@cion qana<tou pe<praxa< ti, ou] paraitou?-
mai to> a]poqanei?n, ei] de> ou]de<n e]stin . . .
If [ei]] I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy
of death, I do not refuse to die; but if [ei]] none of those things
are true . . .
(Acts 25: 11)
Note that in both of these cases, translation with "since" is not possible
because the conventional implicature that "since" generates is canceled.
(16a) #Since there are not gods. . . , but since there are . . .
(16b) #Since I am a wrongdoer. . . , but since none of these things are
true. . .
23 Epictetus in Epictetus, the Discourses as Reported by Arian, T. E. Page et a1.,
eds. (Cambridge: Harvard, 1967). Also the machine readable text of Epictetus' Dis-
courses encoded in the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca database at the
24 Abraham J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles (Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1977).
25 0ther examples not listed here are: Epictetus 1.12.4, 1.29.7, II.1.17, II.2.24,
II.4.4, II.5.25, II.10.13, II.15.6; Ma1herbe, The Cynic Epistles, Crates 30, p. 80, 1. 6; 35,
p. 88, 1. 19; Diogenes 5, p. 96, .1. 1; 24, p. 116, 1. 10. In the NT see Matt 12:27-28,
26:39-40; Luke 11:19-20; John ; ; 1 Cor ; James 2:2-9.
110 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
B. An Example of a Modus Tolens Argument
(17) Ei] de> a]na<stasij vekrw?n ou]k e@stin, ou]de> Xristo>j e]ge<ger-
tai. . . Nuni> de> Xristo>j e]gh<gertai e]k nekrw?n. . .
But [ei]] if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has
been raised. . . . But now Christ has been raised from the dead. . . .
1 Cor , 20
Note that the argument makes no sense if ei] is translated with "since"
because Paul intends for the Corinthians to deduce that there is a resur-
rection of the dead.
(18) #Since there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has
been raised. . . But now Christ has been raised from the dead.
Examples such as these disprove the Summers hypothesis as formu-
lated above. That is, they prove that conditionals of the form ei] p,q do
not have the conventional implicature that the proposition p is true.
Therefore the English causal "since p,q" is not a good translation for ei]
p,q across the board.
C. Examples of ei] p,q in which p Is True
Nevertheless; sometimes there are cases in which conditionals of
the form ei] p,q can be translated with English "since." Following are
two such examples.26
(19a) ei] e]me> e]di<wcan, kai> u[ma?j diw<cousin.
If [ei]] they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
(19b) Ei] de> kalo>j h#n Pla<twn kai> i]sxuro<j, e@dei ka]me> kaqh<menon e]k-
ponei?n, i!na kalo>j ge<nwmai h} i!na i]sxro<j, w[j tou?to a]nagkai?on
pro>j filosofi<an, e]
Now if [Ei] Plato was handsome and strong, is it necessary for me
to sit down and strive to become handsome or strong on the
that this is necessary for philosophy, since [e]
philosopher was at the same time both handsome and strong?
26 For other examples in which the proposition in the protasis is true and translation
with "since" is possible, see Malherbe, Cynic Epistles, Crates 30, p. 80 1. 8 and Sopho-
cles Fr. 877N (sentence 28 in this paper); Rom , 30; .
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 111
Translations with "since p, q" are appropriate for these examples as
shown in sentences (20) below.
(20a) Since they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
(20b) Since Plato was handsome and strong. . .
To the people who originally heard these utterances, and to those who
are acquainted with Jesus' life and Plato's physique, it is generally
known that Jesus was in fact persecuted and that Plato was in fact hand-
some and strong. That is, it is known from other sources that the prop-
osition in the protasis is true. For this reason, translation with "since
p, q" is acceptable, because the implicature generated by "since" does
not conflict with the known facts of the case. In all the cases in the cor-
pus under investigation where "since p,q" may be used to translate ei]
p, q, it is clear from the context that p is true. The truth of p comes from
the context, not from a supposed implicature associated with ei] p, q.
But the fact that ei] p, q sometimes can and sometimes cannot be
translated with "since p,q" indicates that there is something else going
on in these conditionals other than conventional implicature and for
this reason it is not appropriate to recommend a translation of ei] p, q as
"since p, q."
Why does ei] p, q have this on again-off again implicature? Why
don't such implicatures occur with e]a<n p, q? These are not the subject of
this paper. Answers to these questions have been proposed elsewhere.27
What this paper claims to offer is unambiguous proof that the first class
conditional does not conventionally implicate the truth of its protasis.
The following quotes from ancient Greek grammarians show that
they agree with this conclusion.
VI. TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENT GREEK GRAMMARIANS
Passages from four ancient Greek grammarians are presented
below. The grammarians are:28
Dionysius Thrax (1st century B.C.)
Apollonius Dyscolus (2nd century A.D.)
Stephanos (Byzantine period)
Heliodorus (Byzantine period)
27 Unpublished proposal presented by L. W. Ledgerwood at the 1989 meeting of
the Linguistic Association of the Southwest in
28 The text used is found in G. Uhlig, Grammatici Graeci I I/II, Dionysii Thracis
and Grammatici Graeci,
Apollonii Dyscoli (
1910, reprinted 1965). The English translations are original.
112 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Dionysius is the father of western grammatical tradition; however, his
work is quite short. Stephanos and Heliodorus wrote commentaries on
Dionysius' grammar which flesh out his arguments with example sen-
tences. Apollonius wrote the most voluminous and original grammar
of the four. We will examine Dionysius and his commentators first,
A. Dionysius Thrax
Dionysius classed conditional and causal
particles (ei] "if," e]
"since," e]a<n "if") along with conjunctions (kai< "and," h@ "or," de<
"but," etc.). He has only one short passage on conjunctions. The por-
tion of this dealing with conditionals and causals is listed below.
If Dionysius' account seems unclear, his commentators adequately
explain his meaning.
(21) Conditional particles are those which do not assert existence,
but they signify consequence. They are: ei], ei@per, ei]dh<, ei]dh<per.
Causal connective particles are those which assert order
along with existence. They
Expletive conjunctions are those which are used on
account of meter or adornment. They are: dh<, r[a<, nu<, pou?, toi<,
qh<n, a@r, dh?ta, pe<r, pw?, mh<n, a@n, nu?n, ou#n, ke<n, ge< (20.3.4,8).
Note that Dionysius does not discuss the conditional particle e]a<n. e]a<n
is constructed from ei] plus the modal particle a@n. He mentions the
modal particle a@n under Expletive Conjunctions.29
B. Dionysius' Commentators, Stephanos and Heliodorus
(22) The conditional particles differ from the causal connective par-
ticles as follows: the conditional particles only connect proposi-
tions, they do not affirm the reality. For example, if I say, "If
[ei]] the sun is over the land," it is not clear whether the sun is
over the land. But the causal connective particle, in addition
signifying consequence and connecting to another proposition
29 Dionysius has lumped a lot of different types of particles into his "Expletive
Conjunctions." His statement about them indicates that he considers that they add little
or no meaning to a text. Rather, they are added simply to make meter (i.e., in poetry)
come out right and to add adornment. It seems that he really did not know what to do
with these. Apollonius discusses a theory which said that expletive conjunctions merely
"fill up the empty holes in a text" and takes strong objection to this theory. He says that
each of the expletive conjunctions adds some special meaning such as "transition in
logic" for dh<, "moderation" for ge<, etc. (III.127-29). Unfortunately, he does not tell us
what the special meaning of a@n or e]a<n is.
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 113
also affirms the reality,
for example, "since [e]
over the land, it is day" (Stephanos, in Uhlig 1965 I/III,
(23) Of the conjunctions, some assert existence, others assert order
and others both. Coordinating conjunctions [i.e., kai< "and"]
assert existence. For example, if I say, "God and day and justice
exist," everything is affirmed.30 The conditional particles dis-
close order. For example, if I say, "If I am walking I am mov-
ing," the sentence holds consequence, but it is not also affirmed;
for I can say this while I am sitting. But if I turn it around, the
truth is destroyed. For example, "Whenever [o[tan] I am mov-
ing, I am walking" is not true, for it is possible for me, while
sitting, to move something. The causal connective particles
have both the reality of the coordinating conjunctions and the
order of the conditional
particles; for "Since [e]
ing, I am moving" is both affirmed and has order. In the same
way, it being turned around is no longer true (Stephanos, in
Uhlig 1965 !/III, p. 286.5).
(24) The difference between the coordinating conjunction and the
conditional particle is this: the coordinating conjunctions have
the force of reality but they are unordered with respect to the
flow of speech. For example, "I am walking and I am thinking,"
and the reverse, "I am thinking and I am walking.”31 But the
conditional particles do not affirm the force of reality; rather
they affirm the consequence of the expression and they preserve
the order. For example, "If [ei]] I shall walk, I shall be moving."
But I may not say, "If [ei]] I shall be moving, I shall be walk-
ing," for it is false (Heliodorus in Uhlig 1965 I/III 105.10).
(25) The conditional conjunction stands in place of e]a<n, in "If [ei]]
there is light, it is day." . . . It also, stands in place of the causal
connective particle e]
things, you must suffer terrible things."
One must see that the causal connective particles have this
much more than the conditional particles, they not only have
30 By "Everything is affirmed," Stephanos means that a person who utters the
phrase, "God and day and justice exist," is asserting that God exists, it is presently day
and justice is presently occurring. On the contrary, a person saying, "If I am walking, I
am moving," does not assert that he is presently walking or moving.
31 Heliodorus is saying that with the conjunction kai< ("and") it does not matter
what order the propositions come in. Thus, "I am walking and I am thinking" means the
same as "I am thinking and I am walking." However, in the case of the conjunction ei],
changing the order changes the meaning.
114 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
consequence and order, but also they indicate the existence of
reality. For I may say,
. . . and there is not uncertainty as with the conditional particle
(Heliodorus in Uhlig 1965 lIIII, pp. 439.4-11).
Dionysius and his commentators address specifically the questions of
implicata of Greek conditionals. They here are interested in two prop-
erties of the so-called conjunctions. These are: (1) existence and (2)
what they refer to as consequence and order. The following definitions
of these terms are proposed for these passages.
Existence: Uttering the phrase implies that the propositions joined
by the conjunction are true in reality.
Consequence: There is a logical or causal relationship between the
phrases joined by the conjunction.
Order: The linear order of the propositions in speech flow is
significant. The order cannot be reversed.
The Greek grammarians quoted above tell us that their so-called con-
junctions have the following properties:
Coordinating Conj. (kai<, and) existence
Conditional Conj. (ei], if) consequence and order
The examples they give leave no doubt as to their conclusion. Stepha-
nos gives the sentences:
(26a) If [ei]] the sun is over the land, it is day.
He says that (26a) does not imply that the sun is over the land while
Of particular interest is Heliodorus statement in quote (25) above.
He says that ei] may be used in place of e]a<n and gives an example
as (27) below and that ei] may be used in place of
gives an example repeated in (28) below.
(27) If [ei]] there is light, there is day.
(28) Since [ei]] you have done terrible things, you must suffer terrible
things (Soph Fr 877 N).
Sentence (27) is a statement of general truth. It does not assert that it is
necessarily day or not, it just asserts the entailment that whenever it is
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 115
light, it is day. It seems that Heliodorus considers it more natural to
make such a generalized statement in Greek with e]a<n p,q (what Good-
win called the present general condition: e]a<n and the present subjunc-
tive in the protasis and a present indicative in the apodosis). But he
gives sentence (27) as an example of a case in which ei] p,q means the
same as the present general condition e]a<n p,q. Sentence (28) is an
example of ei] p,q being used in a context in which it is clear that p is
true. In this example, he says that ei] p, q means about the same as e]
Yet, he cannot mean that ei] and e]
for he says clearly in other passages that e]
osition p is true in reality while ei] p,q does not. He just observes, as
has been observed above (pp. 110-11), that ei] can sometimes be used
where the causal could also be used.
C. Apollonius Dyscolus (from Syntax, Book III)32
In the following passage Apollonius is discussing the origin of the
names of the moods. Previous to this passage, he has dealt with the
indicative and optative and shown that these names ("Indicative" and
"Optative") come from the meaning of the mood. But in the case of the
subjunctive, the term subjunctive does not refer to a quality of its
meaning, but to its syntax. That is, it occurs primarily in clauses that
are subjected (i.e., subordinated) to another clause and it got its name
from this property. Specifically here he is refuting the theory that the
subjunctive should be called the dubative.
This naming theory is relevant to the discussion at hand in that
Apollonius asserts that conditionals with ei] and e]a<n have about the
same degree of doubt. Furthermore, he is the only grammarian to say
anything substantive about the conditional e]a<n p,q.
(29) Next it is necessary to speak about the subjunctive mood which
some call dubative because of its meaning, just as also the pre-
viously mentioned moods have received their names. For it is
clear that "If [e]a<n] I ever write" and the like express a doubt
concerning a future matter.
But perhaps someone will object that these [i.e., the
moods] are not the source of the sense of doubt, but the accom-
panying conjunction is the source of doubt. Now, if it is reason-
32 Two very helpful works on Apollonius have recently appeared. They are: David
Blank, Ancient Philosophy and Grammar, The Syntax of Apollonius Dyscolus
CA: Scholars, 1982); and a translation of Apollonius' extant books on syntax in F. W.
Householder, The Syntax of Apollonius Dyscolus (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1981).
Another helpful work discussing Apollonius' model of AN is R. Camerer, "Die Behand-
lung der Parikel AN in den Schristen des Apollonius Dyskolos," in Hermes 93 (1965)
116 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
able to name verb forms after the meaning of their conjunctions,
then nothing prevents us from changing the names of the other
moods also when they receive this meaning from their conjunc-
tions. . . . Roughly speakIng, "If [ei]] you are talking you are
moving" falls under the same doubt as "If [e]a<n] you walk you
will move," but "If [ei]] you are walking" is not called dubative
Apollonius' point is that an indicative introduced by ei] is just as duba-
tive as a subjunctive introduced by e]a<n. Therefore the source of the
dubative meaning is not the mood (subjunctive or indicative) but the
conjunction (e]a<n or ei]) is the source. This is important for evaluating
Robertson's model of Greek conditionals, because Robertson bases his
classification of conditionals primarily on the distinctions between the
moods accompanying the conjunction.
In the following passages, Apollonius gives us an interesting
statement concerning the tenses which are grammatical with e]a<n p,q.
(30) The above-mentioned mood [the subjunctive] with the conjunc-
tion e]a<n and its equivalents33 is accompanied by the future or
present tense. For example, "If [e]a<n] I study Dion will come,"
and "If [e]a<n] I ever read, Tryphon comes." For a past tense is
(31) It is necessary also to examine the syntax of the conjunctions, to
determine why they refuse the endings of the past tense. For the
syntax of "If [e]a<n] I was saying" is not acceptable, or "If [e]a<n]
I have trusted”34 and the like. . . It is evident that the cause of
such ungrammaticality is the conflict of the past tense with the
meaning of the conjunction. For they present a doubt about com-
ing matters and also about those matters to be completed. . . .
33 One would like very much to know what Apollonius meant by "Its equivalents"
(i]sodunamou<ntwn). He probably means the terms e]a<n, e]a<nper ("if indeed") and the like,
since Dionysius classes ei] with ei]per, etc. However, would Apollonius include o!tan
("whenever") in this class? Both e]a<n and o!tan are constructed by adding a@n to another
particle. e]a<n comes from ei] + a@n; o!tan comes from o!te + a@n. Both e]a<n and o!tan take the
subjunctive. o!tan is frequently interchangeable with e]a<n. (For example, note that Steph-
anos uses o!tan for e]a<n [quote (23) above].) In spite of these similarities, there are ex-
amples of o!tan with the indicative, used to express an iterative sense, which cannot be
written off as grammatical quirks. See for example: Polybius IV .32.5, Ignatius Eph 8:1,
Exod (LXX), Num 11:9 (LXX), 1 Sam (LXX), Ps 119:7 (LXX), Mark ,
11:19. Apollonius does not tell us what he thinks about such uses of o!tan.
34 "If I was saying" (e]a<n e@legon) is e]a<n plus an imperfect indicative verb. "If I
have trusted" (e]a>n pe<poiqa) is e]a<n plus a perfect indicative verb. One would have to use
the conjunction ei] instead of e]a<n to make these sentences grammatical in Greek. For e]a<n
to be used grammatically, it must be used with a subjunctive, which is atemporal.
WHAT DOES THE FIRST CLASS CONDITIONAL IMPLY? 117
Because how can that which has happened be brought together
with that which is coming? (3.137-138).
In the quote (30), Apollonius is saying that in e]a<n p,q, the proposition
q cannot be in the past tense of the indicative. In the quote (31), he is
saying that the proposition p may not be in the past tense of the indic-
ative. This second statement seems a bit odd, because e]a<n is not sup-
posed to have any form of the indicative in the protasis proposition p,
no matter what tense.35
The import of this passage for this investigation is as follows.
Apollonius said earlier that ei] p,q and e]a<n p,q have about the same
degree of doubt, but in this passage he seems to consider e]a<n p,q more
dubative in some way than ei] p,q, though he does not explicitly say so.
For he says that there is a conflict between the meaning of the past
tense and the meaning of the conjunction e]a<n. But he and we both
know that the conditional ei] can be constructed with past tense indica-
tives in either the protasis or apodosis. So, either e]a<n seems more
dubative to him in some way than ei], or he had not thought out thor-
oughly the consequences of his statement.
It has been proven, and the ancient Greek grammarians agree, that
a conditional of the form ei] p,q does not have a conventional implica-
ture that the proposition p is true.
Conditionals of the form ei] p,q should not be translated across the
board with the English causal "since p,q." Such a translation is appro-
priate in some cases, but is not in the majority. In the few cases that ei]
p,q can be translated with "since p,q," the English "if p,q" will also be
appropriate because, in these cases the context carries the implication
that the proposition p is true. The use of English "since p,q" in these
cases only adds redundancy.
Robertson's assertions are unclear. The way that he is interpreted
by some today yields an erroneous analysis of conditionals. Robertson
claims to be in the tradition of Gildersleeve; however, he went farther
than Gildersleeve went. Gildersleeve never said that ei] p,q implies the
35 It is noted here that in Apollonius' day, significant diachronic changes in the syn-
tax of conditionals were occurring. The conditional ei] was dying out and the conditional
e]a<n was taking over. Not long after Apollonius' day, e]a<n came to be used with the indic-
ative (see A. N. Jannaris, An
Historical Greek Grammar [
1968] §§ 1772 and 1987). There are some examples of e]a<n used with the indicative in
the NT (1 Thess 3:8, 1 John , Luke , Acts ). These may be a reflection of
this change. However, these grammarians were writing about the classical forms of their
language, the language as they felt it should be. At any rate, diachronic factors are ne-
glected in this paper for simplicity.
118 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
proposition p is true; some read Robertson as saying that it does. The
ancient Greek grammarians disagree with Robertson and those in his
tradition, but they do not disagree with either Goodwin's or Gilder-
sleeve's claims. Goodwin and Gildersleeve were writing more about
aspectual and temporal interpretations than about implications con-
Bible students should not be taught that ei] p,q means "since p,q."
Exegetes should be honest in their hermeneutics and should refrain
from stating or implying in an exegesis of a passage that the Greek
conditional ei] p,q itself implies that p is true. Nor should an exegete
state that ei] p,q does not imply doubt like English "if p,q" can and that
it would be better translated with "since p,q." In those cases where one
wishes to make a point that the proposition p is not being called into
question, it should be demonstrated that the context implies that the
proposition p is true or that the participants in the communication
knew that p was true in fact.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Grace Theological Seminary
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: firstname.lastname@example.org