The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: A

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AN, Conditional deferment

"In harmony with this [ie, the conditional deferment of the return of Christ] is the significant occurrence of the Greek particle 'AN' (Greek 'alpha nu') in practically every NT passage which speaks of the time of the Lord's return. This small and practically untranslatable particle always imports an element of contingency or doubt into any statement where it is included, 'giving to a proposition or sentence a stamp of uncertainty, and mere possibility, and indicating a dependence on circumstances' (Edward Robinson -- Lexicon).

"For instance, all the Synoptists include it in connection with the statement, 'There be some of them which stand here which shall not taste of death till ('AN', it may be) they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.' [Mat 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; John 8:52] So also every NT quotation of Psa 110:1 'until ('AN', ever) I make thy foes thy footstool'. [Mat 22:44; Mark 12:36; Acts 2:35; 1Co 15:25; Heb 1:13; 10:13] Specially forceful is the following: 'Ye shall not see my henceforth, till ('AN', the time whenever that may be) ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord' (Mat 23:39).

"Other passages which by the use of the same word suggest that the time of the Lord's return would be dependent upon some unspecified contingency are: Mat 10:23; 12:20; Luke 19:23; 1Co 4:5; 11:26; Jam 5:7; Rev 2:25" (WRev 269).

Along these same lines, BDAG has: "AN [alpha nu] is a particle peculiar to Greek... denoting an ASPECT OF CONTINGENCY, incapable of translation by a single English word; it denotes that the action of the verb is dependent on some circumstance or condition; the effect of AN upon the meaning of its clause depends on the mood and tense/aspect of the verb with which it is used."

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