Brian Abasciano Interviewed on the Claims of James White Concerning the Greek of 1 John 5:1 and the Order of Faith and Regeneration

, posted by SEA

Leighton Flowers interviewed me on his Soteriology 101 podcast about the claims of James White concerning the Greek of 1 John 5:1 and the order of faith and regeneration. The podcast episode can be found here or on Soteriology 101’s iTunes page.

Let me make some clarifications in response to an observation made by a SEA member that I did not address White’s appeal to the Granville Sharp rule of Greek grammar. I actually do not know what White is talking about specifically with respect to the Granville Sharp rule and Jehovah’s Witnesses. He did not give any details in the 1 John 5:1 segment. I am certain he is not suggesting that the Granville Sharp rule is involved in 1 John 5:1. Rather, it seems like he is claiming that the Jehovah’s Witnesses use a tactic of appealing to passages that have similar constructions that are not exactly the same as the one in 2 Peter 1:1 to try and escape the force of the Granville Sharp rule in 2 Pet 1:1. But I don’t know the specifics of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses argue there. It does not matter though, because It is not a matter of the grammatical constructions not being similar enough in 1 John 5:1. I pointed out in my comments that the grammatical claim, even from White himself, has concerned the relationship between the present tense of the participle vs. the the perfect tense of the indicative in the verse. So on the podcast I made clear that if White wants to claim something more specific, then he needs to do that, but that such a claim would be highly implausible. It is something he would have to do research on and clearly document, but that is again highly implausible to be corroborated by research.

More specifically, at the risk of oversimplification (see my article that I reference in the podcast for a full and nuanced treatment of this whole question–“Does Regeneration Precede Faith? The Use of 1 John 5:1 as a Proof Text,” Evangelical Quarterly 84.4 (2012), 307-322), Greek grammar says that if a participle and indicative verb relate with respect to time, then normally the present tense participle will be roughly simultaneous with the time of the indicative or precede it. Concerning the example of this cited from 1 John 5:10, White points out that there are other aspects of 1 John 5:10 that are not exactly the same as 1 John 5:1, like the use of the active voice instead of the passive, the absence of the Greek word pas (“all, every”) that occurs in 1 John 5:1, and the fact that 1 John 5:10 (unlike 1 John 5:1) uses a negative particle that negates the action of the participle. However, to make use of those observations, White would have to modify his claim about the grammar to say that it indicates the action of the perfect as being prior to that of the participle when pas and the passive voice are used and there is no negative particle, a highly implausible claim that White would need to show is the pattern of Greek grammar (it is worth noting that pas [though there is some difference in its use] and the passive voice with no negative particle are used in 1 Macc 5:13 where the action of the articular participle again precedes that of the perfect indicative). But these are not the types of elements that affect the temporal relationship between articular participles and indicative verbs. The use of an adjective (pas) and the passive voice do not suddenly cause verb tenses to act differently. Moreover, it would not be enough to show an instance or two in which the action of a perfect passive verb precedes that of a present articular participle. As I mentioned in the podcast, the grammar allows for that. But White’s claim is much stronger, that the grammar demands that. And such a strong claim requires strong evidence, not merely a few examples. This is all the more so when the suggested rule goes against the normal practice of Greek grammar. Such claims from White would amount to special pleading.

— Brian Abasciano