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I have a question regarding the significance of the Subjunctive tense comparing to the Future tense in examination of the promises found in the letters to the seven Churches in the Book of Revelation. In the seven letters there are several promises given on the end of each letter to those that "overcome". In conclusion, all the promises are in the future tense apart from two:

  • Rev 2:11: ὁ νικῶν οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ δευτέρου. (He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death).
  • Rev 3:12: ὁ νικῶν ποιήσω αὐτὸν στῦλον ἐν τῷ ναῷ τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ ἔξω οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃ ἔτι. (Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.)

Both of the phrases "οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ" (shall not be hurt) and ἔξω οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃ ἔτι (shall go no more out) are in the Subjunctive tense and not in the Future tense. Is there a specific grammatical reason for this? Does it affect the meaning of the phrase, or is it nothing but a grammatical issue?

  • Welcome to BHSX. Many thanks for this excellent question - an astute observation that I had not noticed. Well done! – user25930 Jan 23 at 11:19
  • Hi, welcome to Hermeneutics! This borders on "questions about Greek". Please take out "why is that" or rephrase, and edit your words so that they are more about "English meaning" so that non-Greek students don't feel so lost. "Greek questions" should be off topic here, but some Greek is allowed. Move farther from the line because I want this question to get good votes. – Jesse Steele Jan 23 at 12:45
  • Hi and thanks for the comment. Why do you think that the Greek tag is irrelevant? – Elyoeinay Jan 23 at 13:40
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No, they are not conditional especially since there are no conditional conjunctions/particles (e.g., ἐάν, εἴ) and thus no evidence of an apodosis/protasis, the hallmarks of a conditional sentence.1

By the way, there's another instance you neglected to mention:

Revelation 3:5

...and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life...
...καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς...

Granted, ἐξαλείψω could also be conjugated in the future tense,2 but it’s more likely that it is following the example of the other instances you cited. That example is this: when referring to a future event in negation, and preceding the verb by οὐ μὴ—the strongest form of negation3

The subjunctive (generally the aorist) and sometimes the future indicative are used with the double negative οὐ μή in the sense of an emphatic future indicative with οὐ.

Make no mistake about it: there is nothing conditional in these clauses. The negated aorist subjunctive verbs are functioning like emphatic [negated] future indicative verbs. Do not fall prey to the mindset that the subjunctive mood always indicates a conditional statement (e.g., may, might, etc.).


Footnotes

1 See Kuhner, p. 278, §185. b. “Conditional Adverbial Sentences”
2 The verb conjugated in the 1st person, aorist tense, subjunctive mood and 1st person, future tense, indicative mood share the same spelling.
3 Wallace, p. 468

References

Kühner, Raphael. An Elementary Grammar of the Greek Language. Trans. Taylor, Samuel H. 13th ed. New York: Ivison, 1857.

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar, Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

  • Your links to Daniel B Wallace's Beyond the Basics are especially appreciated. Thank you. +1. – Nigel J Jan 24 at 12:06
  • Would you please adjust your answer's emphasis. You start with a "No" answering the topic of "conditionals". But, the question is neither about conditionals nor is it a yes/no question. The OP was about use of the subjunctive and what it means here. Also, I would personally appreciate more of your informed opinion about that. – Jesse Steele Feb 19 at 3:24
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It clarifies the future for a specific group of people, not a guarantee for everyone

I took the Future Subjunctive as a "sequence of logic, condition-dependent promise" variety of "will", not the "predictive, foretelling, schedule-an-appointment" variety of "will".

It is, indeed, a "conditional", in logic terms: If anyone... then I will...

That was how I took it.

(Please comment if I need to give more clarity about the meaning in English.)


Note to BH community: This question borders on "questions about Greek", but it is more about translation (what it means in English, not 'what are the Greek grammar terms') than a homework request and can benefit non-Greek students, so I am answering amd upvoting.

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