Is Man Basically Good?

Is Man Basically Good?

An article by Dr. Robert Lescelius

All philosophies and religions stand or fall by their view of sin. 

If the disease is not properly diagnosed, there will never be a cure.  Our view of sin and the extent of its devastating effects upon man will subsequently affect our view of man’s salvation.

The Word of God reveals that man is a fallen creature (Genesis 3).  By virtue of being created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) man knows that there is something morally wrong with him:

Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions. Ecclesiastes 7:29

For there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good and sinneth not (Eccestiastes 7:20).

Men know that there is a Creator, and that they have sinned and are accountable to Him (Romans 1:18-20).  This has been witnessed to in history as well as scripture:

Plato: “The world must have a cause, and that cause is the Eternal Maker.”

Aristotle: “God, having become unseen to every moral nature, through His work is seen.”

Cicero: “What can be so clear when we look at the sky and the heavenly bodies as that there is some deity of surpassing mind by whom these are governed.”

Seneca: “We are all wicked; what we blame in another, each will find in his own bosom.”

Horace: “I see and approve the better choice.  I follow the worse.”

Celsus: “From of old it was the universal belief that the wicked shall suffer endless pains.”

Chinese proverb: “Good has a good recompense; evil has an evil recompense.  If you say there is no recompense, it is because the time has not arrived.”

In our postmodern world with its abandonment of any transcendent standard for moral behavior we find relativism dominating ethics.  There are no absolutes we are told (except the absolute that there are no absolutes).  The old humanistic mantra, “Man is the measure,” seems to rule the day. 

Just as Paul faced the Epicureans, who were hedonistic materialists, and the Stoics, who were pantheistic moralists (Acts 17:18), we are confronted with the extremes of Darwinian naturalism with its world produced by purposeless chance evolution and New Age monism with its efforts to discover the “god” within us.  The abandonment of the creator God has resulted in moral confusion and the destruction of the foundations of western society.  We see Romans 1:21-32 repeated before our eyes.

Yet, in spite of all this upheaval of our traditional institutions, such as the home, and the everyday bombardment of news of crime, murder, atrocities, perversion, child abuse, terrorism, genocide, and the list goes on, when polls are taken asking men the question: “Is man basically good?” the vast majority answer, “Yes.”  Aware of man’s inhumanity to man and the imperfections we all must admit, we still talk of the “good angels” within all of us.  This really should not surprise us though, for scripture affirms this is the self-evaluation of natural man:

All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Proverbs 16:2

Every way of man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts (Proverbs 21:2).

Our evaluation of our motives and actions is skewed by our pride and ignorance.  This view of our own goodness is in itself a manifestation of the effect of sin on our minds:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

The holy omniscient God alone has a true evaluation of us.  We had better discover what God has to say about us, if we hope to have a right relationship with Him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:3; 16:7; Proverbs 24:12).  Belshazzar found out too late when the “handwriting on the wall” appeared to him:

Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Daniel 5:27

Evidently there is something wrong with man.  Acknowledging the problem is an essential element for its solution.  The questions are “What is wrong?” and “What is the extent of the problem?”  Jesus came to save sinners (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).  God deals with sinners in His grace, “unmerited favor towards those who merit judgment” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But as we stated above we must properly diagnose the disease before the cure of grace can be applied.

In the study of salvation by grace we must clearly understand the doctrine of Total Depravity.  Man has fallen, but how far?  Has he fallen off the edge of a cliff and is hanging by his finger tips?  Then, perhaps the need is education.  A word of instruction as to how he can pull himself up, accompanied by some religious inspiriation, will enable him to save himself.  Is he fallen to a ledge part way down, bloodied but still breathing?  Then he may be able to help himself, or help God save him, if he reaches as far up as he can, and God will reach down as far as He can.  But what if man is laying at the bottom, dead?  What can he do?  Obviously, nothing!  If anything is going to be done, God must come all the way down, pick him up, give him life, and lift him all the way up.

The first situation illustrates the theology of the average man on the street.  Historically it has been called Pelagianism.[1]  It is salvation taught by humanistic religion.  The second scenario is that of Semi-Pelagianism[2] and Armininianism,[3] which is where most of Christendom stands, including evangelical/fundamentalism. 

God has done his part in giving Christ to die for our sins; now it is up to man to exercise his free will and accept or reject salvation, or anything else that is conceived as being essential for final salvation.  Grace is needed, but man must cooperate with grace for it to succeed.  The third situation is really where man finds himself.  He is dead (Ephesians 2:1), totally depraved, and thus totally unable to do anything to save himself, including repenting or believing. 

Salvation must be entirely of the Lord (Jonah 2:9), entirely by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  God must take the initiative and do the work from start to finish.  This view has been called Augustinianism, or Calvinism.[4]  Thus, one’s view of man’s fallen condition will determine his view of the doctrine of saving grace.


When we speak of Original Sin, we are not thinking of the first sin, that of Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Original Sin refers to the effects of Adam’s sin, the condition that has resulted from it.  It describes the judgment of that first sin in Eden.  Original Sin has to do with the relation to and effects of Adam’s sin on the human race and to the nature that all men now possess as fallen creatures.  It refers to SIN rather than sins.

   The imputation of Adam’s sin.  Romans 5:12 speaks of the relation of Adam’s sin to mankind:

Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.

Verses 13-19 unfold the meaning of this verse, showing the result of Adam’s sin on “the many,” all the human race.  God’s sentence upon sin, death, passed upon all, which included judgment, condemnation, being constituted sinners (vv. 15-19).  This judgment came upon men from Adam to Moses when there was no law given with a death penalty (vv. 13-14).  Why did men die then?  Because they did break a commandment with a death penalty―in the Garden―when their representative Head, Adam, failed the probation test and fell (Genesis 2:17; ch, 3).  We “all sinned”[5] (v. 12), when Adam sinned.  Adam is a type of Christ (v. 14).  Both Adam and Christ are Federal Heads.  Each is one, whose action affected the many he represented (vv. 15-19).

We must realize that God created the whole human race in Adam and Eve.  God made Adam to be, not just the organic head of humanity, but its representative as well.  Though this arrangement meant the fall of the race when Adam fell, it also meant fallen men could be saved through another Federal Head, the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thank God, though the disobedience of one resulted in our condemnation, the obedience of One means our justification.

For as by one man’s disobedience many are made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Romans 5:19

We are all sinners because our representative fell in the Garden.  His sin was imputed immediately to us, and we have come under the sentence of death.  Death includes all the penal effects of God’s judgment upon sin: spiritual death, separation from God and the corruption of our nature (Ephesians 2:1; 4:18); physical death and all the sufferings that leads up to it (Genesis 3:16-19; Job 14:1; James 2:26; Hebrews 9:27), and, if we die unconverted, the second (eternal) death, the lake of fire (John 8:24; Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8).

The impartation of Adam’s sin.  Not only was Adam’s guilt imputed to all men immediately, but a fallen Adamic nature was imparted to all mediately, that is, by natural generation.  We all inherited a fallen sin nature by way of being born of fallen sinful parents.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6a).  “Flesh” refers to human nature (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16, sinless humanity), but in many places in the Bible it refers to fallen human nature (Romans 7:17-19). Every man born in Adam’s race is born a sinner (Ephesians 2:3):

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3).

Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one (Job 14:4).

Adam became a sinner by sinning; all men since sin because they are sinners.

The effects of the fall of man are universal.  No one, except the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35; Hebrews 4:15), has escaped.  All are sinners (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:9-19, 23).


The effect of the Fall was universal.  Yet what were the effects upon each man?  The answer is that he has become totally depraved.  R. C. Sproul prefers to call it Radical Corruption.[6]

Total Depravity Defined.  By Total Depravity we do not mean that all men are as depraved as they can possibly be.  To be totally depraved does not necessarily mean utterly depraved.  Men can and do become more and more sinful (Genesis 15:16; 2 Timothy 3:13).  The depravity of men is constrained by external restraints, so that they can be looked at as good by human standards (Romans 5:7).  God’s common grace restrains human depravity, so that men are never as sinful as they could be.

If we placed a drop of poison in a glass of pure water, every molecule of water in that glass would contain poison.  It would be totally poisoned.  We could continue to add more poison until it was utterly saturated with poison, but it was totally poisoned from the first drop.  So it is with the poison of sin.  Total Depravity means that man’s nature is totally corrupt in every part, including every function of his soul.

Total Depravity Documented

The mind is darkened by sin.  Paul writes: “There is none that understandeth” (Romans 3:11; cf. Psalm 14:2; 53:2).

This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Ephesians 4:17-18; cf. Romans 1:21-22, 28; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Genesis 6:5; 8:21).

The emotions are corrupted by sin.

Among whom also we all had our conversation [behavior] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:3).

Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness [unbridled lusts], to work all uncleanness with greediness (Ephesians 4:19).

Fallen man is so distorted in his emotions that, rather than love God and hate sin, he loves sin and hates God (Romans 1:32; 8:7; 2 Timothy 3:2, 4).

The will is enslaved by sin.

Ye were the servants[7] of sin . . . For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness (Romans 6:17a, 20).

Whosoever commiteth sin, is the servant of sin (John 8:34).

And ye will not come to me that ye might have life (John 5:40).  The verse literally reads: “You are not willing to come to me . . .”

The heart is polluted by wickedness.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Matthew 15:19; 12:34-35).

Total Depravity thus means that there is no goodness in man that will commend him to God, but instead, there is a disposition and bias within him toward sinful acts (Psalm 58:3; Romans 7:23, 25; 8:5).

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one (Romans 3:12).  

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing” (Romans 7:18).


     When it comes to the matter of salvation the effects of Total Depravity are manifested in Total Inability.

Depraved man is unable to obtain God’s pleasure.   Total Inability does not mean that sinful man cannot perform outward acts of religious devotion, civil good, and moral behavior.  These may be recognized as good my human standards, but they are not acceptable by God’s standard.  They are all corrupted by a heart at enmity against God, one that does not love God or desires to please him (John 5:42).

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy [literally, menstrual] rags[8](Isaiah 64:6).

This is all that our “better angels” can do. 

For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); “there is none that doeth good, no not one” (Romans 3:12). 

All a sinner can do is sin!

God must do a work of regenerating grace or men “cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3), “cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), “cannot receive” the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), cannot do anything to stop sinning and please God.

Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?  Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (Jeremiah 13:23).

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So that they that are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8).

Depraved man is unable to receive God’s provision.  The depraved sinner cannot change his own nature.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6).  It is impossible for him to change his fundamental love for sin and enmity against God.  This means, left to himself, the sinner will not turn from his sin, for he loves it, and will not turn to the One he hates. “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6).  Being “in the flesh” man “cannot please God”(Romans 8:8). Thus the sinner is not able to exercise faith while in his unregenerate flesh.  Jesus made this very plain:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:44).

And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:65).

Note that Jesus did not say that “no man may come.”  Jesus invites men to “Come” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Sinners are commanded to come, permitted to come, and promised acceptance if they come (John 6:37).  Sinners are responsible to come, which means to believe on Christ (John 6:40; 3:16; 5:24; cf. Acts 16:31).  What our Lord said was that “no man can come.” 

“May” is a word of permission; “can” is a word of ability.[9]  “No man is able to come to me, except the Father draw him.”  There must be a divine enabling before men can come to Christ in saving faith.  Why? Because men are totally unable to turn to Christ in repentance and faith by their own natural ability.

But one might ask, “What about man’s free will?”  Is man’s will free?  Yes, and No. Yes, if we mean that he is not coerced, but chooses what he wants. The answer is “No,” if we think the will functions independently by itself.  There are reasons why we make the choices we do.  The will is not independent of the mind, motives, desires, and character of the person.  Man is free to be himself.  But, what is man?  A sinner!  What kind of choices will a sinner make, who loves sin and hates God?  Sinful choices.  Though he has natural freedom to be himself, he does not have moral freedom to choose Godward.  As the Lord Jesus put it:

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? (John 5:44).

One may step off of a sky-scraper, but once the step has been taken all his actions are exercised in one direction―down.  He may try to reverse his course, be proud of his rapid progress, enjoy the trip, or scream in terror and protest, but he cannot change the direction or destination.  His only possible hope is intervention from outside of himself. 

So it is with man.  Adam “stepped off the building” and we all fell.  He had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin.  After the Fall he had the ability to sin and the inability not to sin, as well as the inability not to die (to use Augustine’s terminology).  This is true of all sons of Adam.  We are “free” to sin, but not “free” to do right or in any way to reverse our downward course.  This is where saving grace comes in.

Total Inability means man cannot repent and believe without effectual grace, because his will is free in only one direction, toward sin.  Unsaved man’s will is bound by sin.  He can only produce the kind of fruit dictated by the evil tree, can only bring out of the treasure of his evil heart that is in it (Matthew 12:33-35).


Total Depravity and the Doctrines of Grace.  If one can see the truth of man’s Total Depravity, he will have no trouble seeing the doctrines of sovereign saving grace.

If, due to Total Depravity, “there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11), then men left to themselves would never be saved.  God must take the initiative, if men will not seek and cannot come.  This is how it can be said, “I was found of them that sought me not” (Romans 10:20).  God can either initiate the salvation of all men, of none, or of some.  The latter is the teaching of Scripture.  Since there would be no “foreseen” faith for God to see, if men were left to themselves, election must therefore be unconditional.  God “foreknows” our faith, because he decreed it (1 Peter 1:3).

[A]nd as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48c).[10]

If man is totally depraved, a universal atonement to make men savable still would save no one.  Jesus came “to save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  He had a people in mind when He died, to whom His accomplished redemption would be applied:

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10).

If man is unable to come to Christ by faith, due to his moral inability, than the God of grace must give him the gift of faith by the miracle of the effectual call:

Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come to me, except it were given unto him of  my Father (John 6:65).

Since depraved man cannot contribute anything to his salvation and has no power to endure, the elect sinner must be preserved by Christ:

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (John 6:37).

Note that “all” given to Him in eternity past, come to Him by faith in time, and He promises to “never, never”[11] cast them out in the future..

    Total Depravity and the Declaration of Grace.  How will this doctrine relate to our evangelism?  It will influence our message and our methodology.

Should we tell men they are totally depraved?  Jesus did (John 6:44-45, 65).  Men must see, not only their sinfulness and danger of judgment, but also realize their helplessness.  This doctrine leaves sinners utterly dependent upon God for His mercy.  This is the essence of saving faith.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  The word translated “poor” is rendered “beggar” in Luke 16:20-22.[12]  Men must become “beggars” before God, destitute in their moral poverty and rebellion.  “God be merciful to me a sinner” is a cry heard in heaven (Luke 18:13).

If we understand the condition of men in their depravity, we will realize how dependent we are on the power of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.  We will not seek to coerce men with psychological tricks to make “decisions.”  We will not use high pressure sales tactics to wring out professions (Psalm 58:3-5).  We will intercede for men as well as evangelize them.  We will feel as Paul and share his message, methodology, and goal in our preaching of the gospel to men “dead in trespasses and sins”:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Dear reader, is your faith in the wisdom of man or the power of God?  Were you talked into a profession that has left you with a life that has not been changed?  Do you have a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5)?  When you look in a mirror do you see the product of religion or what can only be attributed to the power of Jesus Christ?  The gospel of Christ saves from sin.  It does not leave us in our depraved state, still enslaved to sin’s guilt and power (Romans 6:14, 17-18).  Have you even seen yourself as a totally depraved sinner and have turned from that ugliness to the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ, being drawn with the cords of His love?  Be sure, my dear friend, be sure!

May we praise our God, that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

End Notes                                                                            

1. Pelagianism is a system named after Pelagius (b. AD 354), a British monk who resided in Rome and whose teachings instigated a controversy also named after him.  He and his followers taught that all men are born as Adam was before his fall.  There is no fallen sinful nature passed on to the race.  Men universally sin because of bad example.  The will is free (in a libertarian sense) to decide to do good or sin at any given point.  Men can (and some have) live without sin.  Sin is peripheral and has not corrupted man totally.  Grace is external knowledge, the Old and New Testament teachings, that can aid in living sinless lives, though not absolutely necessary.

Pelagius’ chief opponent in the Pelagian Controversy was Augustine (AD 354-430), bishop of Hippo in N. Africa.  Augustine taught that because of Adam’s fall, all men now are not only “able to sin” (posse pecare) but also “not able not to sin” (non posse non pecare), i.e., in bondage to sin.  Sin corrupted man totally.  Free will to Augustine was freedom to make choices without external coercion.  He taught that because of the Fall man lost his freedom of the will, by which he meant that the sinner chooses sin but does not have the ability to choose righteousness, which is true liberty.  Augustine taught that God alone works (monergism) in the regeneration of the elect.  Grace involves an inner work in man to produce faith and obedience.

Pelagianism was finally condemned in the Council of Carthage, AD 418.

2. Semi-Pelagianism was a compromise movement in the 5th century that taught that man is in need of grace to be saved, but man is able to cooperate (synergism) with God’s grace in salvation.  Man is not so corrupted by sin that he cannot initiate the process of grace. Semi-Pelagianism was condemned at the Synod of Orange in AD 592.

Though the Roman Catholic Church rejected semi-Pelagianism, it did not completely embrace Augustinianism.  It took a semi-Augustinian position, between Augustine and semi-Pelagianism.  The Reformers embraced Augustinianism, and at the Council of Trent (1545-63) the Roman Catholic Church basically rejected Augustinianism.  Their system of salvation through the sacraments by which grace is poured into (gracia infusa) the person to enable him to become righteous enough to save himself is basically semi-Pelagian.

3. Arminianism is named after Jacob Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch preacher and teacher, who initiated a controversy in the Reformed Church, carried on by his followers after his death.  The controversy was a reaction against Calvinism, expressed in a statement of faith the Arminians drew up called The Remonstrance.  Their position held to five basic points: (1) election based on foreseen faith, (2) universal atonement with salvation only for believers, (3) man so depraved that grace in needed for salvation, (4) grace can be resisted, and (5) the perseverance of the saints to be investigated further.  Arminianism was condemned by the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618), calling it semi-Pelagianism.

The Arminianism prevalent today is closer to Wesleyan Arminianism which believes in Depravity but not Total Inability, Conditional Election based on foreknowledge, Universal Atonement, Resistible Grace, and the possibility a saint can fall from grace and finally be lost.   Most Fundamental Baptists hold to four of the Arminian points, but believe in Eternal Security (Preservation but not Perseverance).  Some call this Moderate Calvinism, but a half a point would hardly qualify as Calvinism (point five [.5] Calvinism?).

Though Martin Luther (1483-1546) was an Augustinian in his soteriology, Lutheranism later shifted to a synergistic position, where man can cooperate with grace by not resisting it.

4. Calvinism is a system of soteriology named after John Calvin (1509-64), a French second generation reformer, who labored in Geneva, Switzerland.   Calvin, like Luther, was an Augustinian with respect to man’s fallen condition and saving grace.  They both believed the will was enslaved by sin.  They were monergists in their view of regeneration.  Calvinism as a system was developed further by subsequent Reformed theologians, especially formulated at the Synod of Dort, from which we get the Five Points of Calvinism: (1) Total Depravity, (2) Unconditional Election, (3) Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption), (4) Irresistible Grace (Effectual Calling), and (5) the Preservation/Perseverance of the Saints (the famous TULIP).

The (so called) Five Points are also called the Doctrines of Grace.  They begin with man in his fallen state (Total Depravity) and end with man in salvation (Preservation/Perseverance of the Saints).  In between is the work of the divine Trinity: Unconditional Election by the Father, Definite Atonement by the Son, and Effectual Calling by the Holy Spirit.  At the very heart of the Doctrines of Grace is the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

5. The verb is h{marton (hēmarton), the aorist1, active, indicative, 3rd person, plural of aJmartavnw (hamartanō),  “to sin.”  The aorist indicates the historical fact that when Adam sinned, “all sinned.”

6. R. C. Sproul, Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997), 118.  Sproul writes: “The word radical derives from the Latin radix, which means ‘root.’  To say that mankind is radically corrupt is to say that sin penetrates to the root core of our being.”

7. The word translated “servant” in these passages is dou`loς (doulos), “bond slave.”  Lost men are slaves of sin.

8. “Unclean” (am@f*/XAmE), is a legal term for ritual impurity; “filthy rag” is “a garment of times” (<yD!u!! dg#B#/BegeviDDîm), referring to a woman’s menstrual periods, hence, “a menstrual cloth.”  Cf. Leviticus 15:25.  Edward  J. Young comments that “the comparison is an apt description of the true nature of all our works of righteousness.  When one loathes his own works, as did these Jews, there is hope that he will turn to the pure righteousness that God imputes to those who believe in Jesus” (The Book of Isaiah, 3 Vols. [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.  1972], 3:496-7).

9. The verb is duvnamai (dynamai), “to be able.”

10. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life” is a dependent relative clause introduced by a relative pronoun (o{soi/hosoi), functioning substantively as the subject of the main verb ejpivsteusan (episteusan), “believed.”  “Were ordained” translates a construction called a periphrastic pluperfect, which combines the imperfect verb h\san (ēsan, “were”) with tetagmevnoi (tetagmenoi), the perfect, passive participle of tavssw (tassō), “to appoint, to decree” (Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament.  Reprint of 1896 edit. [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996], 615), hence, literally, “all who (o{soi/hosoi) were, having been appointed . . .”  The construction intensifies the completed action in the past of the perfect tense (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 232), so the action in the participle was completed before the time of action in the main verb episteusan, “believed.”  “All who had been decreed to eternal life believed.”

11. Jesus uses a double negative, ouj mhv (ou mē), called an emphatic negation, “not by any means cast out.”

12. The word is ptw`coς (ptōchos) “poor, destitute, reduced to begging.”  Galatians 4:6 speaks of “beggarly elements,” helpless to accomplish anything.


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