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Monday, September 27, 2004

RB15705 - Rob #10: Looking forward to more 

(15705) Robert Bowman [Mon Sep 27, 2004 12:10 am] (Rob #10 - Looking forward to more)

Jason,

Thank you for your last post. I confess to finding it rather amusing that you went through some of my posts on this list outside of our discussion and found remarks that sounded similarly "rude" to the ones from your post to which I had objected. Because this life is short, I will resist the temptation to dwell on these matters further and move ahead with our discussion. I am glad that you are agreeable to doing just that.

Due to my other responsibilities, I have not had as much time recently to devote to this discussion as I would have liked. I have chipped away at a new post that I hope will take the discussion in a fruitful direction. My plan is to post it to the list sometime this week.

In Christ's service,

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

JB15636-Jas #10: Shall we continue? 

(15636) Jason BeDuhn [Tue Sep 14, 2004 9:52 am] (Subject: Re: John 8:58 - Jason #10: Shall we continue?) :
Dear Rob,

I sincerely apologize for causing you personal offense. I assure you that such was not my intention. I wrote in what I regarded as the spirit of frank criticism. If there was also a "tone" of impatience with you (always an iffy thing to indentify in the written medium), it was only my intention to sum up where the many words of our respective posts led by way of conclusions that could be very briefly stated, and to wonder aloud how any further repetition could change those quite clear conclusions. While I greatly valued the detail into which your posts 6 and 7 went, I felt that your post 8 mixed clarification with obfuscation (a word which you use in your posts on this site), and I thought that needed to be pointed out. If my choice of expression fell short of what you consider respectful in an exchange of this sort, I deeply regret it, not only for the hurt to your feelings, but also for creating an obstacle to hearing your response to my substantive criticisms. I admit that when my words are extracted from their context, they do appear brusque. Obviously, they stood out from their context in that way in your reading, and again I apologize for any anxiety that caused you. I do think, however, that when read in context they are part of specific critiques, not just throw away rhetoric, and that their expression is shaped in part by the character of material to which I was responding. I was under the (apparently mistaken) impression that my word were within the parameters of typical exchanges on this site.

You take offense at the following:
1. Do you wish to make an argument or only pretend to make an argument?

May I compare this to your remark in post 15513,
"Come on, gentlemen, think."

2. This is pure smoke, Rob.... If you won't even admit such a simple
>misstatement, but must defend it and never retract anything, then we
>are truly at a dead end in this discussion.... You may not have meant
>to say what you said, but you said what you said, and it was trivially
>inaccurate.... And while you can clarify what you meant to say,
>removing the objection to what you did say, you do not answer my
>substantive criticism.... >>

May I take the liberty of comparing this to your use of the term "smoke" to refer to a specious form of argumentation in post 15572, and to the following statement of yours in post 15384, under the subject line "Martin, get it right!":

"If you can't or won't get something this simple right, I don't know how to help you."

>>
3. You always seem to bend the rules and categories to your own advantage, Rob.
4. Oh, but now this example has embarrassed you, so you must reverse yourself
and reject it.
>>

May I compare these statements to remarks from your post 15583 that referred to someone else's argument as "shameless in its misrepresentation," and your flat out comment, "The above statement is a lie."

I certainly agree that if statements such as mine and yours are taken with anything less than a generous spirit of the give-and-take of lively debate, they appear rude. My language reflected a settling-in and degree of comfort in our exchange that decreased its level of formality. But you are perfectly correct that we should endeavor to maintain the formal level of civility with which we started, and I will do this studiously from now on.

So accepting the spirit you maintain of allowing each other to clarify past statements, allow me to restate each of the offending remarks.


1. Do you wish to make an argument or only pretend to make an argument?

In your post 8 you insisted quite forcefully that you did not claim that a PPA could not be formed by an adverbial clause, and did not claim that it could be formed even without an adverbial of some sort, and therefore I had no grounds for criticizing you as if you had done so. To this I responded that, (1) on the one hand, this clarification of yours pretty much drew the question to a close, since it put us in agreement on the array of forms of the PPA and, (2) on the other hand, that what you appeared to give in this statement was undermined in your position by other statements that claimed that there were NO examples of the forms you hypothetically accepted as possible, that this absence of examples placed a burden of proof on anyone who offered these hypothetical forms (to which you referred as "alleged exceptions" to your preferred forms) as explanation of John 8:58. This apparent contradiction in your position confused me, and it was in this context that I asked, "Do you mean to claim an absolute exclusion of adverbial clauses from the PPA, or not? Are there actual exceptions, or only 'alleged' exceptions' that you wish to dispute?" The offending remark was meant only as a highlighting, an underlining, if you will, of the apparent contradiction in your position. If you truly do not mean to insist on excluding adverbial clauses from the PPA construct, I am not clear what we are still debating about the PPA. Can you please clarify?


2. This is pure smoke, Rob.... If you won't even admit such a simplemisstatement,
> but must defend it and never retract anything, then we
>are truly at a dead end in this discussion.... You may not have meant
>to say what you said, but you said what you said, and it was trivially
>inaccurate.... And while you can clarify what you meant to say,
>removing the objection to what you did say, you do not answer my
>substantive criticism.... >>

I objected to your miscounting of witnesses among the grammarians to an acceptance of clausal forms of the adverb in PPAs. You yourself made use of two sorts of evidence to the "apparent" meaning of the grammarians in their definition of the PPA and its recognized range of forms: (1) their explicit characterization, and (2) their citation of examples. You put great stock in this combined evidence for supporting your summation of positions on this question. In cases where (1) was not sufficiently explicit (as I showed, in most cases the grammarians spoke quite broadly), you accepted (2) as decisive. In reply, I pointed out that by your own measures, Winer and Turner need to be included with BDF and McKay as supporting the clausal form since, although their remarks were not sufficiently explicit about what sort of grammatical context made a verb a PPA, they cited clausal examples. Your reply to this criticism was that they did not offer a sufficiently detailed (1) to be counted among the other grammarians. This is hardly a consistent and even-handed handling of the grammarians (and remember, this is YOUR set of grammarians), and I found your reply to be little nore than argument by sleight-of-hand, since it seizes upon a completely arbitrary reason to exclude these two grammars at this point of your argument, precisely where they work against you. I do not consider this a forthright manner of handling the evidence.


3. You always seem to bend the rules and categories to your own advantage, Rob. >>


In your quantification of the evidence of the grammars, you found reasons to accept and count as evidence in support of you examples that by your own admission were thought by grammarians to belong to other categories of verbal sense. I cited as an example the Dana & Mantey category of "static presents" employed by Dana & Mantey 2 Peter 3:4, 1 John 3:8, and John 15:27 (the latter of which they ALSO categorize as a PPA). Even though in other cases where DIFFERENT grammarians cited a particular passage under different categories you considered the passage "contested," you accepted John 15:27 as "uncontested" as to its proper categorization, when it is cited under two different categories by the same grammarians. You then proceeded to ignore the "contested" status of the other two "static presents" for the reason, which you explicitly gave, that they "also have such an adverbial phrase," in other words, were of a type to support the conclusion you wished to draw, which is circular argumentation, and with no more remark about their supposed "contested" status than that it is "difficult to see why" Dana & Mantey classified them not as PPAs but as "static presents." So you added them to your count of examples supporting your interpretation of the PPA, while continuing to reject other examples that were no more or less "contested" than these, for the simple reason that they did not "also have such an adverbial phrase," and therefore including them would weaken your argument. When I objected to this completely unacceptable procedure, you responded by saying the "static present" is what other grammarians call the "gnomic present." But since you excluded 2 Cor. 12:9 as contested because Fanning identifies it as a "gnomic present," your response does nothing to answer my criticism that how you use your grammars and examples falls well short of a forthright manner. If this is inadvertent, then one would expect my criticism to point out to you that of which you were unaware, and for you to respond by admitting the inconsistency and correcting your analysis. Will you now do so?


4. Oh, but now this example has embarrassed you, so you must reverse
yourself and reject it. >>
You had included Acts 27:33 without comment in your count of examples that supported your interpretation of the forms taken by PPAs. I replied by showing how Acts 27:33 actually involved an adverbial clause, and so could not be fairly counted the way you had. To this, you replied "it is my opinion that identifying (it) as a PPA is a mistake . . . it is a misclassification." You did not say you had changed your mind or were clarifying your previous post. You simply turned about and wanted to drop it from consideration in response to my observation of its clausal construction. What else prompted your change of heart? And wasn't it originally included, as all of the other examples were, because your selection of grammarians "uncontestedly" included it as a PPA? You have not argued for dropping any other "uncontested" example of a PPA. Why contradict your whole procedure here?

I hope that this more careful stating of my objections will help to erase the bad memory of the flippant manner of expression I employed previously.

In your most recent post 9, you go on to say:
> My second reason for asking if you wish to continue this discussion

>is that in your most recent posts you appear to be pushing me to drop
>my line of argument.
I do not understand why you find this objectionable. I have demonstrated that your line of argument is flawed, that is mishandles its sources, that is employs unjustified leaps between the steps of argumentation, and that the evidence it employs refutes what you set out to argue (that is, that the "burden of proof" is on recognition of the clausal form of PPA). So if what we have here is a discussion and exchange, rather than two interlaced monologues, there is nowhere for this particular line of your argument to go. You would need to either retrace your steps and build a more sound foundation on which to continue, or accept that this line has not worked out and move on to other aspects of your analysis of the verse in question. I am puzzled why you think you should proceed as if I have never raised fundamental problems in your line of argument to this point.

You go on to say:
> As I said, I am willing to continue our discussion. I would like to

>explore the grammatical issues further. I would like to discuss with
>you the matter of how best to define the PPA, the proper exegesis of
>such texts as Acts 27:33 and 2 Peter 3:4, and so forth.

I think the grammarians have defined the PPA quite well for our immediate purpose here. We both have expressed frustration with the other concocting novel gramamtical categories, and we should stick to what is generally accepted. I also think "exegesis" of the comparable verses is not as germane as grammatical and syntactical analysis. It is not so crucial what they mean as it how they are to be diagrammed and the relationship of their grammatical parts elucidated. Perhaps that's what you mean by exegesis.

You go on:
>In this discussion, I have tried to rethink these questions with an

>open mind. I am quite prepared to acknowledge where my thinking has
>changed and where my earlier statements were incorrect, imprecise, or
>unclear.

My critical comments have only been intended to point out where you were not doing so. Again, I am sorry if they were unnecessarily harsh.

You go on to complain about my dismissal of your "eternal present," which I pointed out is unheard of in Greek grammars. I suggested that we avoid the appearance of special pleading by not introducing new gramamtical categories custom fitted to support our positions. You accuse me of not following the same standards I want to hold you to:


> Apparently, though, you exempt yourself from this rule. Thus, later
>in your post, you argue that we may identify a verb as a PPA even in
>cases where it does not refer to an ongoing action or state in
>progress. You describe this usage as one of "existential identity."
>Such a claim represents a departure from what ALL of the grammars say
>about the PPA. You even make the following comment:

>This is an unexplored aspect of the PPA that maybe I should write
up someday. >>

>Well, perhaps you should write an academic argument for it and submit
>it to a peer-reviewed journal dealing with such matters. In the
>meantime, perhaps we should stick to generally recognized functions of
>the PPA as the level playing field on which we discuss the meaning of
>John 8:58.

We agree that we should do so. That said, I think it only fair to say that there is no comparison at all between my side comment about an observable aspect of what is formally a PPA in Greek, regarding a minor comparative example not essential to our discussion, and your invention of a whole new category of verbal sense for the express purpose of creating a grammatical home for John 8:58 outside of PPAs. I will refrain from further comment on the "existential identity" factor to which I referred henceforth; and I expect you likewise to drop references to an "eternal present."

So let us please continue, as you expressed a wish to do so. I hope you will accept my apology for any offense, and turn to addressing the substance of my criticisms while overlooking any infelicity of expression. I do think we are in a position to consider the PPA duly clarified as a distinct form in Greek grammar, and to have established its range of possible constructions. So perhaps you would care to move on to what a sentence means in employing this form?

as always, best wishes
Jason B.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

RB15586-Rob #9: Shall we continue? 

(15586) Robert Bowman [Wed Sep 8, 2004 11:35 pm] (John 8:58 - Rob #9: Shall we continue?)



Jason,

Although I am prepared to continue our discussion, it seems prudent to pause and ask you if you wish to do so. I ask for two reasons.

First, you have lost the respectful tone that characterized your earlier posts, suggesting that you are losing patience with me. I am thinking of comments like these from your most recent post:


Do you wish to make an argument or only pretend to make an argument?
This is pure smoke, Rob.... If you won't even admit such a simple misstatement, but must defend it and never retract anything, then we are truly at a dead end in this discussion.... You may not have meant to say what you said, but you said what you said, and it was trivially inaccurate.... And while you can clarify what you meant to say, removing the objection to what you did say, you do not answer my substantive
criticism....
You always seem to bend the rules and categories to your own advantage,
Oh, but now this example has embarrassed you, so you must reverse yourself and
reject it.



I must say that rude comments like these discourage me from continuing. I have tried to be as fair to you as possible and to accept your clarifications and explanations in good faith. For example, consider our discussion of the argument in your book with regard to the placing of the
main clause in the English translation of John 8:58. I critiqued that argument, showing that as stated the argument was unsound (and would even mean that several of your own sentences were "not English at all"!). In response, you thanked me for helping you to "clarify" what you knew you meant, and then proceeded to set forth what looked to me like a rather different argument. However, I did not accuse you of being unwilling to admit "a simple misstatement." I accepted your "newly clarified argument" (as I put it) as you presented it and proceeded from there.

My second reason for asking if you wish to continue this discussion is that in your most recent posts you appear to be pushing me to drop my line of argument. At the end of post #8 you wrote:

Since we seem to have exhausted the biblical data on the grammar and syntax of John 8:58, since the closest parallels among that data all support the reading of the verse I have been defending, and since broader interpretation and Christology is not what this discussion is about, I am inclined to see this exchange as nearing its finish. Of course, if you have anything new tointroduce, I would be happy to consider it.


The last sentence expresses openness to "anything new," but this apparently means material on something other than the PPA.

In post #9, you seem downright impatient for this part of the discussion to end:

Great, then it's settled. Why are we still arguing about this?

But let's cut to the chase, shall we?


I have run through the data with you, and made my own argument of how your conclusion is based on misconstrual and misinterpretation of the grammarians and of the examples. I suppose we can go around and around on this. But without any expectation of progress, I think we have both had our say.


As I said, I am willing to continue our discussion. I would like to explore the grammatical issues further. I would like to discuss with you the matter of how best to define the PPA, the proper exegesis of such texts as Acts 27:33 and 2 Peter 3:4, and so forth. In this discussion, I have tried to rethink these questions with an open mind. I am quite prepared to acknowledge where my thinking has changed and where my earlier statements were incorrect, imprecise, or unclear. However, I would rather stop than subject myself further to increased belittling.

It seems to me that you wish to allow yourself the freedom to "clarify" your position, express criticisms of what the grammarians say, and espouse your own opinions on these matters, but you are not prepared to extend the same courtesies to me. Here's a particularly telling example. In your post #8, you wrote:

But, you argue, they should be reinterpreted as examples of a previously unheard of grammatical classification, the "eternal present." Now, Rob, if you would like to propose a brand new category of verbal tense in the Greek language, please write an academic argument and submit it to a peer reviewed journal dealing with such matters. In the meantime, I think it best that we stick to generally recognized grammatical categories as the level playing field on which we discuss the meaning of John 8:58.


Apparently, though, you exempt yourself from this rule. Thus, later in your post, you argue that we may identify a verb as a PPA even in cases where it does not refer to an ongoing action or state in progress. You describe this usage as one of "existential identity." Such a claim represents a departure from what ALL of the grammars say about the PPA. You even make the following comment:
This is an unexplored aspect of the PPA that maybe I should write up someday.


Well, perhaps you should write an academic argument for it and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal dealing with such matters. In the meantime, perhaps we should stick to generally recognized functions of the PPA as the level playing field on which we discuss the meaning of John 8:58.

Or, we could just agree to consider each other's arguments without resorting to arguments _ad verecundiam_. In order to do so, though, we will need to agree to allow each other the same freedoms of exploration, clarification, and revision that we wish to exercise.

Frankly, we would need to agree to such a "level playing field" before continuing any sort of discussion, whether or not we move beyond the question of the classification of John 8:58 as a PPA. We would also need to agree to avoid rude, condescending remarks toward each other. Otherwise, this discussion indeed will be over. That would be a shame, in my opinion.

Regardless of what you decide in this regard, I plan to continue thinking through and writing about the issues. If you wish to continue our discussion, please let me know.

In Christ's service,

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net


JB15585-Rob #8: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases (cont.)) 

(15585) Jason BeDuhn [Wed Sep 8, 2004 5:44 pm] (Re: John 8:58 - Rob #8: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases (cont.)) [Jason #9]

Rob,

Your post #8 can be summed up as a clarification of your post#6 in light of my criticisms, to the end of defending your argument that the "burden of proof" rests with the position that includes adverbial clauses as one of the possible modifiers of the verb to make it a PPA. Since in the course of your clarification here you state repeatedly that you are not claiming that there is no example of such a construction, since I have identified examples of such a construction from the material provided in your posts #6 and #7, and since, as I have said, the existence of any example of such a construction in this very limited set of material demonstrates its existence in the Greek of the time, and reduces any comment on its relative rarity to nothing more than a statistical datum, and not anything approaching a definitive rule of grammar, the point is settled: adverbial clauses are one of the possible modifiers of the PPA verb.

On the one hand, you want me and our readers to "read [your] four points together" in order to "understand their logical sequence and relationship," and on the other hand you seek to dodge my criticism of any one point by saying that the issue properly belongs to a different one of your points. You can't have it both ways. Indeed, one cannot ignore the overall tendency of your argument, which is to build up a claim that burdens against, if not excludes, a PPA reading of John 8:58. This is done by step-by-step artificial reduction of what the grammars say to where you want to end up. At each step, I pointed out how you were distorting your sources. If at step two I note that you have illegitimately reduced a whole range of broad characterizations of the modifying element to the simple phrase "adverbial expression," and then at step four have illegitimately reduced this further to "adverb or adverbial phrase," I have in fact invalidated the steps that lead you to the conclusions you wish to draw, namely, that John 8:58 has no PPA parallels among the biblical material. I further invalidated the argument by showing that your elimination of some of the examples given by the grammars as "contested" was also a misrepresentation of the case, since you call it "contested" when even on grammar out of fifteen uses the passage as an example of another kind of verbal sense than the PPA. In most instances the supposedly "contesting" grammars do not actually dispute the verse's status as a PPA in the section where PPAs are discussed, but cite it in another section where a different verbal sense is being discussed, without comment on its relation to the PPA construction. John 15:27; 2 Peter 3:4; and 1 John 3:8 are all cited by Dana & Mantey 186, in their discussion of "static presents"; the first of these they also cite under PPAs, and in no case do they actually reject or dispute construing the others as PPAs. They simply do not cite them as such, which is hardly "contesting." It is interesting that Dana & Mantey is the culprit in all these cases, since it is one of the weaker grammars.

You "miscounted" in POINT 2 given that you stated in an unqualified way that 12 of 15 grammars "state that an adverbial expression modifies the present-tense verb." This is stated as if it is a rule, otherwise you should have written "an adverbial expression CAN modify" or "OFTEN modifies," or "is ONE KIND OF POSSIBLE modifier." Unless you stated it this way, you cannot legitimately include Brooks & Winbery. On your choice of "adverbial expression" to sum up the many different descriptions of the modifier in the grammars, I expressly said that this in and of itself can be allowed, in that any word, phrase, or clause that modifies a verb is in some sense "adverbial"; but that when viewed in terms of all four points and the tendency of
your argument, it was clearly the beginning of a slippery slope towards a further arbitrary narrowing of what these grammarians meant.

I missed nothing in your POINT 3, and in fact expressly addressed the sentence you say I missed, where you said: "We can investigate whether the PPA ever occurs without such an adverbial." To which I replied "I am not sure of the value of investigating PPAs without adverbial expressions since the case we are trying to settle, John 8:58, has such an adverbial expression." You also concluded in this point that "clear-cut examples of the PPA will have such an adverbial," which I left without comment, but which is not a valid conclusion based on a survey that finds that roughly half of the grammars would agree with you, while many of the others say only that the PPA "often" or "usually" or "generally" has such an adverbial. How do you make the jump of identifying the those who say so as the "clear-cut" case while the rest impicitly provide something not "clear-cut"? If you mean only that your chosen grammarians are more decisive compared to the more cautious ones, I would say you have picked the weaker batch (since as you yourself admit, it is dangerous to talk of "always" and "never" in grammar). In your post # 8 you clarify:

Please notice that I did NOT claim here that the PPA must be accompanied by an adverbial but that the "clear-cut examples of the PPA will have such an adverbial."

Honestly, there is no practical semantic difference between "the PPA must be accompanied by an adverbial" and "the PPA will have such an adverbial," is there? And if you do mean something different than I understood you to mean, where does that leave your argument? Your nice touch-ups and qualifications of your earlier statements break up the progression of argument you attempted to use them for. And if you really mean only "most," or "usually," or only wish to establish "burden of proof" rather than any absolute rule of inclusion and exclusion, why do you refer to


“the importance you and other advocates of the PPA interpretation of John 8:58
have attached to the alleged exceptions.”

Again, you can't have it both ways. Do you mean to claim an absolute exclusion of adverbial clauses from the PPA, or not? Are there actual exceptions, or only "alleged exceptions" that you wish to dispute? Do you wish to make an argument or only pretend to make an argument?

In your POINT 4, you claim


“By an 'adverbial expression' of past time most of these grammars evidently mean
an adverb or adverbial phrase."

To which I replied, "This is a wholly unwarranted conclusion."

To which you now object

Your claim that my conclusion is "wholly unwarranted" is *at best* an overstatement, at worst simply wrong . . . The fourth point here has to do with what the grammars mean by "adverbial expression" or whatever term they use, not with how regularly the grammars say that such an expression occurs with a PPA."

I know that's what the point is about, and it is a false one. "These grammars" amount to fifteen. Of these fifteeen, "adverbial expression" is used by only two (Jannaris, Burton). If we add "adverb" (Robertson, Dana & Mantey, Brooks & Winbery) and "adverbial phrase" (Fanning, Wallace) to this set, that makes seven. Seven of fifteen is not "most." Now, whom do you mean to include in "these grammars" for which you presume to say what they mean? If you mean just these seven, then you are not informing us of anything definitive that will help us decide to treat John 8:58 as a normal part of this construction, or as an "alleged exception." And even if you limit yourself to what these seven say, you are still misstating the case. Do Fanning and Wallace "evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase"? No, because they include Acts 27:33 as an example, which involves an adverbial clause. You presume that the clause as a whole does not make this sentence a PPA, but do Fanning and Wallace agree with you? Do they specify what makes it a PPA? If not, then two of your seven cannot be counted. Does Robertson "evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase"? No, because he cites 2 Peter 3:4 (Fanning does, too), which involves an adverbial clause. Does Robertson specify that it is not the clause but the phrase that makes it a PPA? If not, then a third of your seven cannot be counted. So now we are down to four of fifteen grammarians who "evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase." I agree that that is what these four of fifteen had in mind when they wrote the section on PPAs in their grammars, because they use terms that suggest that and cite examples only of that sort. Does that mean that even these four of fifteen excluded adverbial clauses from functioning in the same way in making PPAs? You have not statement from them expressly stating so. So your point 4, in and of itself, is invalid. So it is also invalid to read it as informing your point 2, that is, as "Most of these grammars state that an adverbial expression [read: adverb or adverbial phrase] modifies the present-tense verb" to make a PPA. The terms "usually," "generally," "often," "such as" noted in your point 3 are relevant to both points 2 and 4, not because of information they provide on how regularly such an expression occurs with a PPA, but because they are indicative of what the grammarians mean when they talk about the modifying element
of PPAs: not necessarily adverbs or adverbial phrases, but including other kinds of grammatical (and even contextual) modifiers.

In your post #8 you show why your interpretation of these grammarians was so off-base. You say:


the term "adverbial expression" is nicely suited to refer to both adverbs and adverbial phrases, and this is precisely what Jannaris and Burton appear to mean by the term. On the other hand, CLAUSES, which you want to include, are not plausibly included under the rubric of "expressions." One cannot plausibly argue that the clause "Before Abraham came into being" constitutes an "expression."


I beg your pardon, but you presume what you must prove. For a grammarian, "expression" is about as broad as you get, when you have ready to hand such more narrowly defined terms as "adverbs," "phrases," "clauses," not to mention "nouns," "adjectives," and so on. Grammarians do not choose their words lightly or carelessly, and there is nothing in the word "expression" to limit it in the way you propose to do. You are reduced to two grammarians out of fifteen who
say "expression" and cite only adverbs and adverbial phrases, while not expressly excluding clauses. And note how many use the term "expression" while avoiding even the limitation of "adverbial." I don't feel that burden of proof shifting over to my shoulders, Rob.

In your post #8, then, you clarify that


my interpretation rests on three "legs": (1) the more specific terms "adverb" and "adverbial phrase" that several of the grammars use

So now it's "several," before it was "most." This is no leg at all.

(2) the fact that the term "expression" easily fits single adverbs and adverbial
phrases but not whole clauses


An arbitrary presumption on your part, so not a leg to stand on.


(3) the fact that most of the grammars that use these vaguer terms do not apply
them to whole clauses



Winer, BDF, Turner, McKay, Fanning, Wallace do so explicitly. The others, as I pointed out before, cite only a handful of examples and in such a sample the preponderance of simple adverbs and adverbial phrases over clauses is wholly predictable and insignificant.


You next quote me as saying:

Second, you say only BDF and McKay cite the clausal example of John 8:58, when in fact Winer and Turner also do.

To which you reply:

Your objection here subtly yet significantly misunderstands my argument. Winer and Turner say nothing at all about expressions of past time accompanying the PPA verb. (This is one of the weaknesses of their treatment.)

This is pure smoke, Rob. Your statement in context was "By an 'adverbial expression' of past time most of these grammars evidently mean . . . Most of the examples that the grammars cite, as we shall see, have such adjuncts or adverbial phrases. The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." If you won't even admit such a simple misstatement, but must defend it and never retract anything, then we are truly at a dead end in this discussion. There is no qualification in your point 4 that you mean to speak only of those who specifically discuss expressions of past time in their definitions. And as I have shown, you cannot even legitimately talk about "most of these grammars" as talking about "adverbial expressions," since only two use that phrase, and the enumeration of who cites what denies you your "most" even if we give you the benefit of the doubt and throw in a number of other characterizations of the modifying element as, for all intents and purposes, "adverbial expressions." You then refer to "THE grammars" -- which? All of them? your "most" of them? Then you say, "The only grammars" -- of all of them? of some of them? You may not have meant to say what you said, but you said what you said, and it was trivially inaccurate. The problem is that all of your trivial inaccuracies of counting and of interpretation tend the same way. They all tend to support your arbitrary narrowing of the PPA category. Now why is that? And while you can clarify what you meant to say, removing the objection to what you did say, you do not answer my substantive criticism: that these grammarians cannot be presumed to exclude or consider exceptional the use of a clause to form a PPA, that several of them expressly include such clausal PPAs, and that none of them says anything explicitly against construing clausally modified verbs as PPAs.

You add:

My statement that BDF and McKay include whole clauses "only because they count
John 8:58" was a comment about those two grammars only. It simply meant that the only clausal examples either one of them gave was John 8:58.

But in context you said: "The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses . . . (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." Now I scarcely want to get diverted from debating the meaning of John 8:58 to the meaning of your sentences, Rob, but to me this sentence seemed to suggest that "The only grammars that include adverbial clauses in the PPA are those that cite the case in question, and so must be set aside." To which I responded by citing FROM YOUR OWN NOTES six cases of grammars citing other clausal PPAs. And in all fairness I should have also cited against you Winer and Turner as well who, regardless of not explicitly characterizing the modifying element, include John 8:58 as one of their examples of what a PPA looks like. You keep skimming off the sample of grammars for one reason or another all those that go against your position. Whereas I don't dismiss any of them, but take all of them as part of the overall picture of the discussion of the PPA in the literature. Several of these expressly cite PPAs involving adverbial clauses, and none of these expressly exclude adverbial clauses from constituting PPAs. That pretty clearly puts the "burden of proof" on you.

You again clarify:

Remember, all I claimed was that the clear-cut examples of the PPA in the grammars are those with adverbs and adverbial phrases, putting the burden of proof on those who would argue that verbs not having such modifiers are also examples of the PPA.

Adverbial clauses are "such modifiers," and that is what is involved in John 8:58. So, as I said before, we don't even have to bother with cases where there is no "adverbial expression," since several of these grammars expressly cite John 8:58 as a PPA, others cite other clausal PPAs, and so it is only a statistical datum, not a burden of proof, that confronts us in this construction.

You duly note:


I would remind you that in my 1989 book I did allow that by a broader definition of the PPA one might plausibly categorize EIMI in John 8:58 as a PPA (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 111-12). In the fifteen years since I published that book, not one critic of my position on the PPA has given any attention to that observation. They have uniformly criticized my position as though I were maintaining that by no plausible definition of the PPA could John 8:58 be classified as an example.

Great, then it's settled. Why are we still arguing about this? I suppose because in that same book (12) you say that the JW interpretation of John 8:58 is "in error," and you go on in the book to argue against the PPA translation of the verse as part of the proof that the JW interpretation is in error, because you rightly see that the verse, construed as a PPA, not exclude their interpretation, and so does not prove it to be in error. You are perfectly free to go on to arguments of interpretation with the JWs, but this "leg" of your argument, the one rooted in the translation of the verse, will not work. I want to remind you of what you say on page 104 of your book:

"[I]t is entirely possible to identify eimi in John 8:58 as a PPA without implying that Jesus' words are not an assertion of eternal preexistence."


And you go on in this passage to raise some doubts, but at the same time defend the identification of the verse as a PPA. I agree with what you say here. Your interpretive options are left open by a PPA reading of John 8:58. So why do you need to now reject the PPA reading of the verse? Only because it leaves open not only your interpretive option, but also that of the JWs. On other words, the PPA reading would be perfectly fine with you if it not only permitted your interpretation but also excluded any other. Since it doesn't, you must reject the PPA reading. But let's cut to the chase, shall we? If you set aide the PPA reading, how are you going to translate John 8:58 in a way that holds together the whole sentence as a set of mutually informing and modifying grammatical units, one that coherently relates the sgnificance of the main verb to what you yourself recognize as its dependent clause?

We can probably leave aside the boundary issues between historical presents, descriptive presents, gnomic presents, customary presents, various forms of indirect discourse, and the PPA as not directly relevant to the issues of John 8:58 (and anyway a muddled mess in grammars). The only points of relevance is when we have, as in John 8:58, a present tense verb modified by an adverbial clause expressing past time. We are not trying to write a grammar here, Rob, but settle a single verse of translation. I have already explained my issue with your use of "contested" to narrow the examples cited in the grammars. These typically do not involve any direct contest, but only the introduction of subcategories of the present tense verb that a particular grammarian construes that others do not. You yourself say:

If Dana & Mantey classify John 15:27 under two headings . . . they are not contesting either one.

The same can be said of any grammarian who uses a verse for an example of one sort of reading while choosing other examples for another sort of reading. We do not know for a fact that that grammarian would exclude either reading as possible. You add:

By "contested" I meant classifying the text under a different category INSTEAD of as a PPA.

This may be no more than happenstance, what springs to mind, or dependence on other grammars. Unless the grammarian says, "this is an x, NOT a PPA," you are just guessing at what they were thinking. It is a more objective approach to include every single example of the PPA included by any grammarian, and use this information to define the range of possible forms it is seen to take. We can argue into the next decade on how wide or how narrow to make the PPA category, and to me it would be a waste of time. Call it what you want, define it how you want: all that is relevant is the small set of closely parallel constructions, all of which entail a modification of the sense of the verb from simple present to a complex tense reference involving both past and present elements. Actually, we agree that this is going on in John 8:58, and it is only your extrapolation from this function of the verb to a broader theological interpretation that is holding us up.

I pointed out how you find reason to set aside the supposed "contesting" in some cases but not in others, and that your willingness to do so coincides precisely with whether the case supports your argument or goes against it. To this criticism, you reply:

I did not dismiss the "static present" as a separate category, and certainly not because it "serves my purposes." What Dana and Mantey call the "static present" is what grammarians today usually call the *gnomic* present (e.g., Moule, Wallace). My disagreement with Dana and Mantey was regarding their choices of examples for this usage,not their distinguishing it from the PPA.

If they are "gnomic," why did you include them among your count of PPAs? You always seem to bend the rules and categories to your own advantage, Rob. On the contrary, the three examples that Dana & Mantey cite as "static presents" are in every case passages that other grammarians take as PPAs. They are not in any obvious sense "gnomic," and I, in fact, supported your decision to set aside Dana & Mantey's silly classification of them as "static."

I agreed also to set aside 2 Cor. 12:9, to which you responded:

This means that you have now acknowledged that the one example that Brooks/Winbery give is invalid. It also means that your complaint above about the grammarians "splitting hairs" only goes so far, since it doesn't help retain 2 Corinthians 12:9 as a valid example of the PPA.

Well, it doesn't extend to taking a gnomic statement as a PPA, as you apparenly wanted to do with Dana & Mantey's static presents. The latter are not gnomic because they are not statements of abstracted truths that apply at any time, whereas 2 Cor. 12:9 is. As for the fact that I have "acknowledged that the one example that Brooks/Winbery give is invalid," I suppose you mean the one example out of five (the others are Luke 13:7; 15:29; John 5:6; 15:27) that
involves a clause rather than a simple adverb or adverbial phrase. Of course I acknowledge it, because it's not a PPA; I don't need to score points my misrepresenting the facts.

In my post, I argued that Acts 27:33 actually involved an adverbial clause, whereas you count it as employing an adverbial phrase. Your response is muddled in several ways:

The sentence literally reads, "A fourteenth today day watching without food you are going nothing having eaten."

This is not a literal translation, it is a lexical ("interlinear") rendering of each of the Greek words in the sentence. You should know the difference.

The first participle is present tense (as you noted). Translators usually treat the adverbial expression "a fourteenth day today" as if it were denoting a period beginning in the past and continuing up to the moment of speaking.

Ahem, an "adverbial expression"? Formally "a fourteenth day" is a direct object phrase. They were observing what? A fourteenth day. So much for your limited definition of "adverbial expression." "Today" is an adverb, independent of the object phrase, and certainly not influencing anything into a past tense. So the formal grammar offers nothing to make the participle a PPA here although, as you note, several translations take it as one anyway, which means, they see a PPA as possible even without an adverb or adverbial phrase of past time.

The adjective "without food" is the adjectival complement of the main verb "going." Translators translate the main verb as a past tense to agree with the temporal aspect they have assigned to the participle.

Yes, "without food" is an adjectival adjunct or supplement to the main verb. But the more immediate complement is the whole clause "observing a fourteenth day today." It is not the adverb "today," nor the formal tense of the participle that makes this clause past tense, but rather the content of the clause, the meaning of the direct object phrase in the context of the whole sentence, that makes the main verb a PPA. Do you now see why so many of your grammarians cautiously used very broad terms such as "expressions of past time," "time indication," "temporal indicator," and so forth? Acts 27:33 is a classic example of a PPA, "uncontested" I might add, that does not involve an adverb or adverbial phrase of past time.

Oh, but now this example has embarrassed you, so you must reverse yourself and reject it:

However, it is my opinion that identifying the present participle or the main verb as a PPA is a mistake. . . it is a misclassification of the way the present-tense verbs function in the sentence.

Funny, you didn't see any reason to say that before, and even included it in your count of valid PPAs, "all" of which were supposedly cases involving adverbs or adverbial phrases of past tense.

You go on to say:


There are only two ways to turn the verbs into PPAs, and both require ignoring the actual grammar of the sentence.


Right, this is what we mean by "idiomatic," and this why the PPA is defined so boradly and loosely in the grammars.


One way is . . . The other way to turn the verbs into PPAs would be to turn "a fourteenth day today" into "for fourteen days" (the NIV and NLT take this approach).


In other words, to take what is a direct object phrase in Greek into an adverbial phrase in English. We shouldn't allow that, should we?



My other example of a clausal PPA from your set was 2 Peter 3:4, of which I said:

2 Peter 3:4, actually involves an adverbial clause. "From the beginning of creation" is not the direct temporal modifier of the main verb, but a complement of hOUTWS, "the same since the beginning of creation." The verbal modifier is the clause "since the ancestors fell asleep," using an aorist indicative.



To which you said:

I disagree. The main clause literally reads, "all things thusly continue since the beginning of creation" (PANTA hOUTWS DIAMENEI AP' ARCHS KTISEWS).


This is grammatically incorrect. The main clause is "All things continue thusly." There are then two subordinate elements, a clause and a phrase, that in each case must be linked to what they complement.

Given the choice between a prepositional phrase that immediately follows the main verb or a subordinate clause that precedes the verb and is separated from it by the subject and another adverb, I think we should take the prepositional phrase as the direct temporal
modifier.

You might think so, but you have no basis to so think in the Greek rammar. You are applying English, not Greek principles to the elation of the sentence's elements. Your choice is arbitrary, and istranslates the sentence.


the sentence structure appears to require us to translate something like this: "For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have een continuing in this way from the beginning of creation."



Now what on earth does this mean? This is exactly the sort of weird non-sequiter you make of John 8:58. If "all things have been continuing this way from the beginning of creation," then what is the clause "ever since the fathers fell asleep" doing in the sentence? What does it modify? How does it complement or supplement what you take for the main clause? You leave it dangling off over the abyss. Go back and read the sentence in context. The complaint of the speakers is not that "all things have been continuing in this way from the beginning of creation" but that "all things have been continuing the same since the fathers fell asleep," that the promise of change made to the fathers has not come to pass. To this statement is added a complement of "the same," namely, "since the beginning of creation."


This is how most translations construe the text, by the way.


So now you want to cite the support of other translators, whereas in the previous example you proudly defied them. Any way, you are wrong to say this, too. You presume they construe the sentence as you do, but they don't.


KJV, NRSV "as they were from the beginning of creation"
NASB, NAB "(just) as it was from the beginning of creation"
NIV "as it has since the beginning of creation"
AB "as they did", and so forth.


The addition in English of an additional verb (were, was, has, did) signals that the phrase modifies "as," not the main verb.



Now you can dispute the translations. But in order to make your case, you have to explain the function of the clause if it is not the direct modifier of the verb. I diagram the sentence as follows:

S: All things V: continue ADV: thus

Adv. Cl. Adv. Phr.
since the
fathers beginning
fell asleep of creation

I said,

Of course because you see these two contested examples as employing adverbial
phrases, you think we "probably should" include them with the uncontested examples, while you do not extend the same tolerance to Luke 2:48 and Acts 26:31, evidently because they do not involve the adverbial phrases you want


To which you replied:

I gave additional reasons beyond the absence of a temporal adverbial word or phrase for disputing the classification of these texts as PPAs.


You go on to allude to four distinct reasons for setting aside Luke 2:48, but going back to your post #6, I can only see one: you note a textual variant for the form of the verb. In the case of Acts 26:31 you provided no additional reasons.

You conclude post #8 with:

My post #7 proves that adverbial clauses in conjunction with present-tense verbs of the kind closely paralleling John 8:58 in grammatical form usually if not always function differently than the adverbs and adverbial phrases in undisputed examples of the PPA. Such sentences rarely if ever use the present-tense main verb as a PPA.


Yes, because in post #7 you have padded your sample with examples that do not employ adverbial clauses of PAST TIME. It is once again circular to constitute a set of mostly non-past-time clauses and then declare as a conclusion that many of the members of the set do not modify the verb in the direction of a past-time reference.

The two posts need to be studied together to appreciate the force of y argument. When you do so, you will find that none of the clear examples of the PPA in biblical Greek uses temporal subordinate clauses to mark the present-tense main verb as a PPA,

False, I have identified two from your post #6 and three from your post #7, a statistically significant number given the small size of the samples

While few or none of the nearly dozen texts that do parallel John 8:58 in this
grammatical construction can possibly be a PPA.


Actually, it's five of thirteen (counting the two clausal examples from post #6 with the eleven from post #7), which I don't thing amounts to "few or none" in this size of a sample, but is actually nearly 40%.

Put these two halves of the argument together, and the conclusion is irresistible:


sorry, no

at the very least, it is quite possible that John 8:58 is not a PPA, and indeed the evidence strongly tilts in favor of concluding that it s not.

I have run through the data with you, and made my own argument of how your conclusion is based on misconstrual and misinterpretation of the grammarians and of the examples. I suppose we can go around and around on this. But without any expectation of progress, I think we have both had our say.

Best wishes,
Jason B.

JB15584-Rob #7: PPA and Temporal Clauses with PRIN or PRO 

(15584) Jason BeDuhn [Wed Sep 8, 2004 11:55 am] (Re: John 8:58 - Rob #7: The PPA and Temporal Clauses with PRIN or PRO) [Jason #8

Rob,

In reply to your message #7:

You set out eleven passages that you believe "more closely parallel John 8:58 grammatically than the PPA texts." This belief is grounded in an arbitrary narrowing of the PPA category in a way that excludes adverbial clauses, as I pointed out in my last post, where I also demonstrated that such a narrowing of the PPA is invalid.

You state at the beginning of your post #7 that "not one of these eleven biblical texts is a PPA," while several pages later conceding that two of them (Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5) are usually "classified as a PPA." But, you argue, they should be reinterpreted as examples of a previously unheard of grammatical classification, the "eternal present." Now, Rob, if you would like to propose a brand new category of verbal tense in the Greek language, please write an academic argument and submit it to a peer reviewed journal dealing with such matters. In the meantime, I think it best that we stick to generlly recognized grammatical categories as the level playing field on which we discuss the meaning of John 8:58. I simply see no convincing argument that there ever was such a thing as an "eternal present" in the Greek language, and I think this is another example where theological interpretation has invaded linguistic analysis. I often recommend to people, as an exercise to avoid this mistake, that they pretend that a sentence is said not of God or of Jesus but of John or Jane Doe. Would there be any PRESUMPTION that an ordinary present tense verb signified something eternal of John or Jane Doe? No. But if a biblical writer wanted to inform us that something said of John or Jane Doe is meant eternally, the writer will state so explicitly and clearly, and not by hoping that we will presume it and read it into perfectly ordinary verbs.

Of your eleven examples, we can quickly dismiss the following (using your preferred labels for the type of present involved): Exodus 1:19 (iterative present) Job 8:12 (customary present) Proverbs 18:13 (gnomic present) Isaiah 46:10 (iterative present)

These are all sentences in which the Greek present tense is used to refer to customary or repeated action.

We can also set aside:

John 13:19 (tendential present)
Malachi 3:22 (futuristic present)


These are sentences where the Greek present tense verb refers to action initiated in the present "before" something that will happen in the future. The same construction is found in Deuteronomy 31:21, which you offer as an example of a so-called "eternal present": "I know their wickedness which they do HERE THIS DAY, before I have brought them into the land I promised them." The bringing into the promised land is a future event, and before that, "here this day" when God is speaking, God knows their wickedness. The sentence itself says no more than that. Even without the adverbial phrase "here this day," the present tense verb indicates God knows now, at the time of speaking, the wickedness of the people he intends to lead into the promised land. Grammatically, God knows in the present things that, from the context, one must read as still to happen in the future. One can integrate this information with other verses of the Bible into a theological position on the omniscience of God, and thus derive a theory of God's eternal knowing. But that is something that occurs beyond the sentence itself, beyond the passage itself, and outside of its first order narrative meaning. In other words, it's interpretation, not translation; it is not what the sentence means in itself, but what it might imply when made a part of a larger biblical theology. Notice that there are two verbs in parallel here functioning as present indicatives: "I know" and "they do." If one of them were an "eternal present," the other one would have to be as well. So if the sentence is read as saying that God knows eternally, then it must also be read as saying that the people do wickedness eternally. You would have to do this if you wanted to argue that the eternal character of God's knowing occurs at the level of the Greek grammar. You would not have to do this, and could the eternal knowing of God from the simple present or future doing of the people at an interpretative level, once you have started to meld the immediate meaning of this sentence with other sentences about God elsewhere in the Bible.

The same is true of Matthew 6:8: "You Father knows what you need before you ask him." This is simply a customary or iterative present, a general truth that holds good in every case. You see it as "eternal" because of a theological concept you have of God's eternal omniscience. I have no problem with that theological concept; it's implicit throughout the Bible. But there is nothing in the verb itself, or in the syntax of the verb's use with a modifying "before" clause, that makes the verb signify "eternal." In its grammar and syntax, the sentence matches customary/iterative/gnomic uses of the present. It is formally no different than "A fool and his money ARE soon parted," or "A stitch in time SAVES nine." Are a fool and his money ETERNALLY parted? Does a stitch in time ETERNALLY save nine? Or is it just generally the case in individual events that these statements hold true? So eternal is part of an interpretation of the overall character of God that is read into an individual statement such as Matthew 6:8, and not something inherent in the grammar of the verse itself.

These eight of your eleven examples only superficially resemble John 8:58, because in each the aorist infinitive is employed not of past time, but of general or future time, unlike John 8:58 where it is used of past time. That leaves three examples where the aorist infinitive is used in a similar manner to its use in John 8:58.

1. We have discussed Psalm 89/90:2 in detail already. I need only add here the following point: The translation you use is not particularly close to the Greek; "even from everlasting to everlasting" is particularly tendentious. There is nothing at all in the Greek behind "even," which is added in this translation to heighten the supposed "progression" of the imagery. "Everlasting" is based on "the age," and I have discussed the ambiguity of this expression in my post on this passage. The addition of this phrase, "even from everlasting to everlasting" (or, "from age to age") is what suggests to you an "eternal" character to the present tense verb. Note that it is the CONTENT of this phrase, not the grammar employed in the sentence, that leads to your interpretation. As I pointed out in my post on this passage, their is no such additional phrase in John 8:58, and this verse is a closer parallel to John 8:58 if we remove this additional phrase, leaving only a PRO TOU/PRIN clause with a present tense main verb. When we do that, the action of the verb is a classic PPA, with existence predicated "before" certain other past events and continuing to the present time of the statement. I also pointed out that the presence of the PRO TOU/PRIN clause dominates the sentence and demands a PPA translation of it; otherwise, the clause is left awkwardly dangling. You can say either "You exist from age to age" or "You have existed from age to age." But while you can say "You existed before the mountains came to be" or "You have existed since before the mountains came to be," you cannot say "You exist before the mountain came to be." To use a present tense in English as in the latter example, you have to change the sentence into something more closely resembling the gnomic/iterative/customary form: "You exist before the mountains COME to be." There you have something you might call an "eternal present." Otherwise, it's a PPA, like John 8:58.

2. Jeremiah 1:5 is also quite clearly a PPA, and is usually translated that way in English Bibles. It should be, "I have known you since before I formed you in the womb, etc." You say: "In view of the perfect tense verbs `consecrated' and `appointed' that parallel the first line, it would be a mistake to translate the first line `I have been knowing you . . .'" I'm sorry, but this makes no sense to me at all. Yes, there is parallelism of structure; both parts of the sentence involve adverbial "before" clauses modifying the main verb, and even the content of the two adverbial clauses is in parallel. So why does the writer employ a present tense in the first part of the sentence and perfect tense in the second part? There has to be a nuance of difference, and there is. In the second part of the sentence, the perfect verbs "consecrated" and "appointed" refer to acts at one point of time. The perfect tense signifies completed action of the past. But the present tense is used in the first part of the sentence because the action of the verb (God's knowing) was not a punctiliar past event, but a familiarity that was in place "before" and continues to the present of God's speaking. Hence, a classic PPA. May I also point out that in your previous post you stated that of the 15 grammars you surveyed, "The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses [among examples of PPAs] are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." In my last post, I showed how this summation was not accurate, but I failed to note that it also deliberately ignored Winer's citation of Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:15 as PPAs comparable to John 8:58 (which you noted but failed to include in your summation).

3. Finally, we have Proverbs 8:25, which you also wish to see as an "eternal present." But here again the present tense main verb "he begets" is modified by a PRO TOU clause referring to past time in such a way that the main verb must have a past tense value. Our disinclination to read this as a PPA is based solely on the CONTENT of the verb, not the grammar or syntax of the sentence. We think of the action of begetting as punctiliar, happening at one particular moment, and so we are inclined, as you note, to read this as a historical present. I agree with you that this is possible, but weak (although I don't understand your reasoning that "the odds of an historical present in a translation of a bit of Hebrew poetry would seem to be extremely minute"; this is a narrative section of the poem, surrounded by past tense verbs). You leap to the "eternal present" as better. But the PPA is more ready to hand: "He has begotten me." Note the full context:

22-23a The Lord created me ... before ...; he appointed me ... before ...
23b-25 In the beginning, before ..., before ..., before ..., before ..., he has begotten me.



The reason why the present is used as a PPA here is that the existence of the speaker is ongoing. I alluded to this special existential/identity function of the PPA before. This is why in the Testament of Job a present tense verb as a PPA is used to say Job "was" Jobab before he was renamed Job. He continues to be the person he was, he is still in existence. Jobab was not another person or a previous incarnation, it is the same, still alive person. It is not easy to convey this in English, but the Greek form was apparently well understood. In Proverbs 8:25, as you acknowledge, the use of the verb EKTISE (clearly a punctiliar past) in the context conflicts with an "eternal" reading of the verb GENNAi. The two verbs are in parallel, and here again the use of different verbal tenses suggests a nuance of difference, for while the act of creating Wisdom is handled as occurring at one point of past time, the act of begetting or generating Wisdom is construed as having an ongoing element. This may either be, as I have suggested, the implicit continued existence of Wisdom or else some nuance of meaning having to do with the manner in which God (continually) generates Wisdom.

So at least two and possibly three of your eleven examples are PPAs, and these are also the two or three that most closely resemble John 8:58, in that the aorist infinitive of the dependent adverbial clause is used of past time (as noted by Winer), rather than general or future time. Therefore your survey supports the identification of John 8:58 as a PPA, and the translation "I have been" or "I have existed." This is further supported by the examples of PPAs from your previous post, among which were a couple similar to John 8:58, in that they involved adverbial clauses of past time.

(Let me reply very briefly to your analysis of the two non-biblical examples I offered as examples of PPAs that used the be-verb with a "before" clause. Of the Menander quote, you say, "I agree that EIMI is a PPA here. However what qualifies it is a PPA is not the subordinate clause PRIN IDEIN but the adverb of time PALAI." This is a deduction from your (disproved) claim that adverbial clauses are not part of the PPA construction. If you remove the adverb PALAI from the sentence, you still have a sentence that would still be translated as a PPA: "I have been a friend of yours since before I saw you." It could not be a simple present, "I am a friend of yours since before I saw you," for that would be a non-sequiter. And if the statement was meant as a simple past, "I was a friend of your before I saw you," a past tense verb would be used. Hence your fixation on PALAI is beside the point. On the Testament of Job quote, you note the shift of tense in the next line to an imperfect: "I used to be called Jobab." But in the line I quoted a present tense verb is used with a "before" clause: "I have been (EIMI) Jobab since before the Lord named me Job." Admittedly, we would tend to render this in English as a simple past "I was Jobab." But it seems the PPA is employed because it is a matter of existential identity. The next line uses an imperfect because he is no longer CALLED Jobab, and yet the PPA present is used just before because in some sense he still IS Jobab. This is an unexplored aspect of the PPA that maybe I should write up someday. Of these two examples, you make the final point that "in neither of these texts is the verb EIMI absolute. That in in both texts a complement follows EIMI," and go on to say that in John 8:58 EIMI is absolute. No, it is not. It has an adverbial expression as part of the predicate. So the difference between the two examples I gave and John 8:58 is in the type of complement (nominal versus adverbial) rather than the presence or absence of a complement.) although you have yet to directly answer my question regarding what it is that you wish to defend in the traditional translation of John 8:58, and what you regard as threatened by (a) rendering the sentence in typical English word order and (b) rendering the verb in a tense complementary to its adverbial modifier, I can see by your line of argument that you wish the verb EIMI to convey eternal existence. To read it the way you wish, you do not need to hold on to (a) above. If the verb is going to convey eternal existence, it does not need to be awkwardly at the end of the sentence to do so. Nor does it need to be "am" rather than "exist to do so. Perhaps you have already recognized that, and that is why we have moved beyond that issue and focused on the proper tense rendering of the verb. So, moving on to (b) above, I have demonstrated in my last two posts why John 8:58 should be construed as a PPA, how it most closely resembles other sentences that we would translate as PPAs, and that the novel suggestion of an "eternal" present is a confusion of theological interpretation with literal translation. Your goal in this latter part of your argument would appear to be to exclude non-eternal interpretations of John 8:58. As I stated in the beginning of this discussion, you will not be able to exclude such non-eternal interpretations, just as your eternal interpretation cannot be excluded. Both are possible on the basis of the Greek of this verse. In your post #7, you pull back to the position that, "at the very least, one can no longer argue that texts following this grammatical pattern *must* be assigned the category PPA." Since I acknowledge that there is considerable range in how the PPA category is defined, we are in substantial agreement on this point. It all depends on what you mean by "this grammatical pattern." I have shown that three of your examples in this post are closer to John 8:58 than the others, and that all three are translated as PPAs in several Bibles, while two happen to be cited as PPAs closely parallel to John 8:58 in Greek grammars. In my previous post, I identified two other examples of "this grammatical pattern" that were also PPAs as you yourself acknowledged, although you did not recognize their clausal form. In all these cases, how the Greek functions is clear: it indicates past action continuing up to the present. So in that sense these examples MUST be assigned to the PPA category. In this post you have included
several other examples that are not PPAs, and I have never and would never argue that they are PPAs. Of these, you are quite right that there is nothing about them that says we MUST assign them to the PPA category. It is only a PPA if the modifying element refers to past time, not when it refers to customary or future time. So as in your previous post you argue here in a circular manner. You expand your examples to include non-PPAs and then dramatically announce that not all of your examples MUST be construed as PPAs(!). Nonetheless, the two or three examples that are PPAs are those that most closely resemble John 8:58.

All of this brings us, I think, full circle. As I pointed out in the very beginning of our discussion, I am concerned with translation, and you with interpretation. Your desire to have only one possible interpretation of this verse has driven you into the realm of translation, because only by arguing for a particular translation can you close off interpretations you do not care for. You have been unsuccessful in this effort, despite very careful research. Translation will not provide you with the narrowing of possible meaning you desire. The translation should be "I have been" or "I have been in existence" or "I have existed." In the realm of interpretation, you can take that as "always, eternally in existence" or "for a time in existence." All that the sentence says is existence at least since "before Abraham was born." To argue out which interpretation is better, one needs to pull in other passages and construct a Christology from them. The grammar and syntax of John 8:58 alone will not settle the question. I have yet to see any evidence or argument that supports narrowing the meaning of the grammar of the verse, or anything to persuade me that there was such a thing as an "eternal present" in the Greek language. Since we seem to have exhausted the biblical data on the grammar and syntax of John 8:58, since the closest parallels among that data all support the reading of the verse I have been defending, and since broader interpretation and Christology is not what this discussion is about, I am inclined to see this exchange as nearing its finish. Of course, if you have anything new to introduce, I would be happy to consider it.

Best wishes,
Jason B.


Sunday, September 05, 2004

RB15568-Rob #8: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases (cont.) 

(15568) Robert Bowman [Sun Sep 5, 2004 12:02 am] (John 8:58 - Rob #8: The PPA and Adverbial Phrases (cont.))


Jason,

Thank you for your reply.

You had written:

Our readers may be puzzled why you left Moule out of your survey, even though you cite his examples among the biblical passages. So let me inform them that Moule provides no definition, but simply lists examples under the heading "Present of Past Action still in progress," with a reference to Burton, whose comments you do quote.


You are correct. Moule's lack of any comment, definition, or description of the PPA, beyond the heading, is precisely why I did not quote him when surveying "what Greek grammars say about the PPA."

In my analysis of what the Greek grammars say about the PPA, I had offered four observations. You agreed with the first (but with a proviso concerning translation, about which you will have more to say later). So let us go to the second. I had written:

***Second, most of these grammars state that an adverbial expression modifies the present-tense verb. These are described as "expressions denoting past time" (Goodwin), "adverbial expressions denoting past time" (Jannaris), "an adverbial expression denoting duration and referring to past time" (Burton), "an adverb of time (or adjunct)" (Robertson), "an adverb of time" (Dana and Mantey; Brooks and Winbery), "a definite or indefinite expression of past time" (Smyth), "a temporal expression [that] indicates the intended period of the past" (BDF), "a specific phrase expressing the past aspect" (Greenlee), "an adverbial phrase or other time-indication" (Fanning), "an expression of either past time or extent of time with past implications" (McKay), and "some sort of temporal indicator, such as an adverbial phrase" (Wallace). Of those who offer any description of the PPA beyond a title, only Winer, Turner, and Young fail to mention this temporal adverbial expression.***


I have reproduced the entirety of the above paragraph for ease of reference, because I will be referring back to it repeatedly in what follows. You commented:

2. "Most of these grammars state that an adverbial expression modifies the present-tense verb" -- you count all but three grammars in support of this conclusion. But this is a miscount, since Brooks & Winbery expressly say "a verb alone is sometimes sufficient" and Fanning adds "or other time-indication." You apparently interpret the latter as equivalent to "adverbial expression," as you do in the cases of Goodwin ("expressions of past time"), Smyth ("expression of past time"), BDF ("temporal expression"), Greenlee ("a specific phrase"), McKay ("expression of past time"), and Wallace ("some sort of temporal indicator"). I would contend that you have artificially narrowed the meaning of what these grammarians say, which would include in most cases a number of possible direct or indirect modifiers of the sense of the main verb. One could argue that any word, phrase, or
clause that is construed as modifying the force of a verb is for that reason "adverbial" in the broad sense, but as we shall see, you wish to lead us into a much narrower sense.

This criticism seems damaging unless you read my four points together and understand their logical sequence and relationship. In this second point, I was not addressing the issue of whether the grammars were saying that such adverbial expressions always accompanied a PPA verb. I addressed that question in my third point. Therefore, your claim that I "miscounted" because the Brooks/Winbery grammar allows exceptions jumps the gun because it actually relates to the third point, where of course I duly noted the Brooks/Winbery position. Nor was I addressing the issue of the grammatical form of this "adverbial" expression (word, phrase, or clause) in my second point; rather, I addressed that issue in my fourth point. Thus, the fact that five of the
twelve sources do not use the term "adverb(ial)" and that two of the seven that do use that term also add some vaguer description (Fanning and Wallace) is only relevant to the fourth point, not to this second point.


On my third point, you wrote:

3. There are varying assessments among these grammars of the necessity of an adverbial to identify the PPA. You say 8 of 15 "regard the use of such an adverbial as part of the definition of a PPA." So roughly half of the grammars have this view, while others are aware of exceptions, which you examine later. I certainly agree that some sort of adverbial expression is frequently what indicates to the reader that a PPA is being employed. I am not sure of the value of investigating PPAs without adverbial expressions since the case we are trying to settle, John 8:58, has such an adverbial expression.


Unfortunately, you missed from your review here my final two sentences under this third point:

***It would seem from this review that clear-cut examples of the PPA will have such an adverbial. We can investigate whether the PPA ever occurs without such an adverbial on a case-by-case basis.***



Please notice that I did NOT claim here that the PPA must be accompanied by an adverbial but that the "clear-cut examples of the PPA will have such an adverbial." The mode of argument here is one of assigning burden of proof (as you once indicated toward the very end of your post), not a claim that exceptions are impossible (as you more often seem to represent me as arguing).

That this point is relevant to John 8:58 is evident when one considers the importance you and other advocates of the PPA interpretation of John 8:58 have attached to the alleged exceptions.

Regarding my fourth point, you wrote:

4. "By an 'adverbial expression' of past time most of these grammars evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase." This is a wholly unwarranted conclusion.


Your claim that my conclusion is "wholly unwarranted" is *at best* an overstatement, at worst simply wrong, as I shall explain. You continued:

You find only 3 of 15 that mention an "adverb" (Robertson, Dana & Mantey, Brooks & Winbery), and forget to include in these references the accompanying "usually," "generally," and "often," they respectively say, as mentioned in your previous point.


You are once again misreading my four points. The fourth point here has to do with what the grammars mean by "adverbial expression" or whatever term they use, not with how regularly the grammars say that such an expression occurs with a PPA (the issue covered with sufficient nuance under point #3).

You continued:

You also say that 2 of 15 say "adverbial phrase" (Fanning, Wallace), without noting that Fanning adds "or other time indication," and Wallace's statement is actually "some sort of temporal indicator, such as an adverbial phrase." This way of reporting the support for your conclusion is misleading, and even in this way you produce 5 of 15 grammars that happen to mention adverbs or adverbial phrases as the example that comes first to mind of the range of possible modifiers of the verb (scarcely "most"). The other grammars, as I pointed out above, use broader expressions for the modifying element, which include "adverbial expression" (Jannaris, Burton), "expression of past time" (Goodwin, Smyth, McKay), "temporal expression" (BDF), "time indication" (Fanning), "time element" (Young), "temporalindicator" (Wallace), and "a specific phrase" (Greenlee). Your conclusion, therefore, has no basis in the
statements of these grammarians.


The crux of your argument here is that the grammars that don't say either "adverb" or "adverbial phrase" cannot count in support of my conclusion. You even exclude Jannaris and Burton, who both use the term "adverbial expression," since "expression" is vaguer than "phrase." You think that the use of this vaguer term is "broader" than referring to both adverbs and adverbial phrases and specifically that it allows for the subordinate clause "Before Abraham came into being" to be included in the definitions that these grammars give. However, the term "adverbial expression" is nicely suited to refer to both adverbs and adverbial phrases, and this is precisely what Jannaris and Burton appear to mean by the term. On the other hand, CLAUSES, which you want to include, are not plausibly included under the rubric of "expressions." One cannot plausibly argue that the clause "Before Abraham came into being" constitutes an "expression."

That my interpretation of these grammars is not, after all, "wholly unwarranted" or completely without basis is evident when one looks at the specific examples that these grammars give. You indirectly acknowledged this consideration when you wrote:

One might give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that your interpretation of these broader expressions was narrowed by the examples the grammarians go on to cite. You in fact say, "Most of the examples that the grammars cite . . . have such adjuncts [which you define as 'a phrase or group of words that are not strictly necessary for the sentence or clause to be complete'] or adverbial phrases. The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)."


Of course, you go on to pull on some threads in my comments here in order to unravel the argument, and I will respond to that line of argument below. First, though, I must point out that my iterpretation rests on three "legs":

(1) the more specific terms "adverb" and "adverbial phrase" that several of the grammars use
(2) the fact that the term "expression" easily fits single adverbs and adverbial phrases but not whole clauses
(3) the fact that most of the grammars that use these vaguer terms do not apply them to whole clauses

The first leg is not in dispute, and I have just defended the second leg. Now let us consider the third. You wrote:

First of all, "most of the examples" is not "all of the examples," and even one example of a different sort invalidates your arbitrary interpretation of the deliberately chosen broad expressions of these grammarians.



Your objection would be quite fair IF the argument I had presented was of the form "most proves all." However, it was not. Rather, my argument was that most of the grammars appear to refer to adverbs or adverbial phrases, because most of the examples they gave were in fact adverbs or adverbial phrases. Thus, I wrote (emphasis added):



***Finally, by an "adverbial expression" of past time MOST of these grammars evidently mean an adverb or adverbial phrase.. MOST of the examples that thegrammars cite, as we will see, have such adjuncts or adverbial phrases.***



For an easy overview of the evidence supporting this claim, see my paper "Greek Grammars and the PPA" in the Files section of this discussion group. I have revised that paper to include a table listing the descriptions given in the grammars of the temporal expression and their examples that use temporal subordinate clauses. The only text these grammars cite in which a clause supposedly fulfills this function is John 8:58!

You continued:

Second, you say only BDF and McKay cite the clausal example of John 8:58, when in fact Winer and Turner also do.


Your objection here subtly yet significantly misunderstands my argument. Winer and Turner say nothing at all about expressions of past time accompanying the PPA verb. (This is one of the weaknesses of their treatment.) Of those that say anything about such expressions in connection
with the PPA, BDF and McKay are the only ones that cite a clausal example, and in both cases, it happens to be John 8:58.

You wrote:

Third, you say that BDF and McKay include whole clauses "only because they count John 8:58," suggesting there are no other examples of this form, when in fact your other grammars cite Acts 27:33 (Fanning, Wallace) and 2 Peter 3:4 (Winer, Robertson, Turner, Fanning), both of which involve adverbial clauses. So these five other grammarians also cite sentences involving adverbial clauses, like BDF and McKay, and examples other than John 8:58.


Your objection here suffers from at least two distinct flaws.

(1) My statement that BDF and McKay include whole clauses "only because they count John 8:58" was a comment about those two grammars only. It simply meant that the only clausal examples either one of them gave was John 8:58.

(2) As I have already noted, counting Winer and Turner is a mistake because neither one says anything at all about temporal expressions of any kind.

I will comment on Acts 27:33 and 2 Peter 3:4 later in this post.

You wrote:

Fourth, it is true of Greek, as it is of English, that simple adverbs and adverbial phrases are used much more commonly that more complex adverbial clauses. So in any sample, the number of examples of the latter will be statistically small. So the fact that any examples happen to be mentioned in a sample of a half-dozen is statistically significant.


This is in my judgment the best of your four points here. I am not sure how to quantify the relative frequency of simple adverbs and adverbial phrases in relation to adverbial clauses, but I'm guessing you are probably right that the latter are significantly less frequent. So if there are real examples of subordinate clauses qualifying a present-tense verb to make it function as a PPA, well then, there are such examples. Remember, all I claimed was that the clear-cut examples of the PPA in the grammars are those with adverbs and adverbial phrases, putting the burden of proof on those who would argue that verbs not having such modifiers are also examples of the PPA. I am willing to entertain suggested examples on a case-by-case basis, as I also stated.

On the other hand, if most of the grammars don't refer to a subordinate clause as functioning in this way in examples of the PPA (true), and if most of the grammars use terms that one would not normally apply to clauses (also true), then the conclusion still stands that most of the grammars don't implicitly include clauses. This is the point that I made, and as best I can see, it does indeed still stand.

You wrote:

For these four reasons, I cannot accept that your review of the examples provided by the grammars gave sufficient cause for you to arbitrarily narrow the meaning of their description of the modifying element in PPAs, a narrowing that strives to eliminate adverbial clauses from inclusion. Since the express purpose of your line of argument is to remove John 8:58 from the PPA category, this is a very suspicious and, may I say, unfortunate turn in your presentation, which has all the appearance of reasonable summation when in fact it significantly misrepresents the material
before you. Your fourth conclusion, therefore, will not stand, and should be
withdrawn.



I hope I have made clear why I do not find your critique sound. I did not claim that all of the grammars allowed only adverbs and adverbial phrases to mark a present-tense verb as a PPA. Had I made such a claim, your critique would have merit. What I claimed was that most of the grammars appear to refer to adverbs and adverbial phrases as performing this function, a conclusion borne out by both the language they use and the examples they give.

You wrote:

This will be further demonstrated by looking at your examples. As Wallace states, "Depending on how tightly one defines this category, it is either relatively rare or fairly common." The range of defining the PPA to which he refers is what is involved in the "contested" examples in your list.


To anticipate a point to which we may need to return later, I would remind you that in my 1989 book I did allow that by a broader definition of the PPA one might plausibly categorize EIMI in John 8:58 as a PPA (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 111-12). In the fifteen years since I published that book, not one critic of my position on the PPA has given any attention to that observation. They have uniformly criticized my position as though I were maintaining that by no plausible definition of the PPA could John 8:58 be classified as an example.

You wrote:

You say you omit John 2:9, to which I referred in a previous post as a PPA, because Winer expressly excludes it as a case of "using the present tense in place of a past tense where this is the result of mixing direct and indirect discourse," and that Robertson elsewhere refers to the clause in question as an "indirect question retaining present indicative." The fact that Winer takes the trouble to expressly exclude it indicates that someone had proposed to include it (although I stumbled upon it by chance). I do not agree with Winer and Robertson that indirect discourse is involved here at all. Nothing is said here of the subject saying anything, but rather knowing something.


Your inference that Winer excluded texts like John 2:9 because "someone had proposed to include it" is unwarranted. Winer does not cite any secondary source with which he is disagreeing on this point. He may have included John 2:9 and similar texts because he anticipated someone misclassifying them. We do not know what was in his mind, but what is in his book categorically rejects such a classification.

I don't always agree with Winer, but on this point he is definitely correct. Greek uses what we would call indirect discourse with verbs of knowing, thinking, hearing, and seeing, as well as verbs of saying. Instead of writing, "Jason thought Winer was wrong," a Greek could write the equivalent of "Jason thought Winer is wrong." Instead of writing that the steward "did not know from where it WAS," John wrote that the steward "did not know from where it IS." Look at Winer's other examples. Here are just two of them:

John 4:1 -- "the Pharisees heard that Jesus IS MAKING AND BAPTIZING more
disciples than John."

Mark 5:14 - "they came to see what it IS that happened."



Classifying such texts as PPAs would be a mistake (see also Wallace, 537-39).

You continued:

May I also point out that several of the examples you include involve either direct or indirect discourse, and so might be as arguably excluded as John 2:9. So you are inconsistent in applying this as a basis to exclude my earlier example.


Only two of the texts I include as genuine PPA texts in the NT appear to fit this category. John 5:6 is a clear-cut example of this indirect speech form (literally, "knowing that he IS that way (ECEI) a long time already"). If we did not have the adverbial phrase "a long time already," we would translate it "knowing that he WAS that way" (in recognition of the indirect speech construction). However, the adverbial marks the present-tense verb as a PPA. If we did not have the participle "knowing," we would translate the rest, "he HAS BEEN that way a long time already" (in recognition of the PPA). The text uses both the indirect speech construction AND the PPA, which is why we translate it, "knowing that he HAD BEEN that way a long time already."

The only other example is the second present-tense verb in 2 Corinthians 12:19. The question literally reads, "Are you thinking all this time that we are defending ourselves to you?" We properly translate the first present-tense verb "Have you been thinking" because of the adverb PALAI, which marks it as a PPA. The second present-tense verb, strictly speaking, is not a PPA, but takes the temporal aspect of the first present-tense verb according to the indirect speech construction that Winer identifies.

My position here is not at all "inconsistent." I did not claim that texts using indirect speech could not include examples of the PPA. I simply claimed that these were two different grammatical phenomena. The above two examples nicely illustrate that fact.

You wrote:

My research leads me to believe that the idiomatic use we are calling the PPA
includes static, depictive expressions of identity that involve references to
origin such as this. Nevertheless, since none of the grammars eferenced includes
John 2:9 as an example (although obviously none of them intends to provide an
exhaustive set of examples), I have no problem leaving it aside here.


I hope that my analysis confirms to you the wisdom of doing so.

You wrote:

You divide all the examples into "contested" and "uncontested," which is a dubious move since what is involved in "contesting" classification of pecific examples as PPAs is how many different subdivisions a grammarian trots out to categorize present tense verbs. In other words, it is not so uch a matter of contesting as it is of how finely the grammarian is splitting hairs. Many of these subdivisions are questionable as distinct gammatical functions, and are multiplied somewhat arbitrarily. So the fact that some grammarians prefer to put forward categories such as "descriptive present" or "static present" only raises the question whether they have subdivided the PPA in a way that other grammarians don't see as valuable (and you yourself dismiss the "static present" as a separate category when it serves your purposes).



I begin with your last comment. I did not dismiss the "static present" as a separate category, and certainly not because it "serves my purposes." What Dana and Mantey call the "static present" is what grammarians today usually call the *gnomic* present (e.g., Moule, Wallace). My disagreement with Dana and Mantey was regarding their choices of examples for this usage, not their distinguishing it from the PPA.

There is a clear difference between "the descriptive present" (as Robertson calls it) and the PPA. Examples of the descriptive present are "we are perishing" (Mark 4:38), "our lamps are going out" (Matt. 25:8), "how can you turn back" (Gal. 4:9), and "the light is already shining" (1 John 2:8). To dismiss any functional distinction between this usage and the PPA requires you to argue that all of these verbs should be translated using a form of the past tense ("we have been perishing," "how can you have been turning back," etc.).

When a grammarian identifies the PPA and distinguishes it from another category, especially one recognized by other grammarians, and chooses to classify a particular text in that other category rather than as a PPA, it seems reasonable to me to say that he has "contested" the categorization of the text as a PPA. When the grammarian actually acknowledges that others categorize the text as a PPA and then rejects that classification, the term "contested" is, well, applicable beyond reasonable contesting.

You wrote:

I do agree that customary, procedural, or iterative statements are not PPAs, since they lack any contextual modification that would indicate past time. So I agree that 2 Cor. 12:9 should be set aside.


This means that you have now acknowledged that the one example that Brooks/Winbery give is invalid. It also means that your complaint above about the grammarians "splitting hairs" only goes so far, since it doesn't help retain 2 Corinthians 12:9 as a valid example of the PPA.

You wrote:

In any case, going along with you for the sake of argument, you identify 11 of 17 examples cited in the grammars as "uncontested," and point out that "in each of these 11 uncontested examples of the PPA, the present-tense main verb is modified by a temporal adverb or adverbial phrase." Actually, it's 10 of 17, since Dana & Mantey contest themselves on the proper categorization of John 15:27.


Really, who is now splitting hairs? If Dana & Mantey classify John 15:27 under two headings-which we may all agree is confusing-they are not contesting either one. By "contested" I meant classifying the text under a different category INSTEAD of as a PPA. All other texts are by definition "uncontested."

You wrote:

But your conclusion is also in error since one of the "uncontested" examples, Acts 27:33, actually involves an adverbial clause. You cite only the phrase "a fourteenth day today," leaving out its full clause: "observing a fourteenth day today without food" which includes a present participle. This whole clause is the depictive complement to the main verb "You have kept/continued/completed." They have not "kept/continued/completed a fourteenth day," but they have kept/continued/completed OBSERVING a fourteenth day."

The sentence literally reads, "A fourteenth today day watching without food you are going nothing having eaten." The first participle is present tense (as you noted). Translators usually treat the adverbial expression "a fourteenth day today" as if it were denoting a period beginning in the past and continuing up to the moment of speaking. Taking it this way makes it modify the present-tense participle, marking it as a PPA. That's why most English Bibles translate it "have been watching" or the like. The adjective "without food" is the adjectival complement of the main verb "going." Translators translate the main verb as a past tense to agree with the temporal aspect they have assigned to the participle. If we didn't have that adverbial expression, we would translate the two verbs as present tenses: "While you watch, you are going without food" (or something along those lines). The only past-tense verb is the second participle, which ends the sentence. We should probably construe it as the ground of the main clause: "because you have eaten nothing."

However, it is my opinion that identifying the present participle or the main verb as a PPA is a mistake. A more accurate translation would be something like the following: "You are going a fourteenth day today without food while you watch, since you have eaten nothing." There are only two ways to turn the verbs into PPAs, and both require ignoring the actual grammar of the sentence. One way is the way English Bibles usually translate it: "Today is the fourteenth day you have been watching and going without food, having eaten nothing" (the NKJV, NASB, and NRSV have something like this). This translation turns "Today" into the subject of the sentence, which clearly is wrong. (The general sense of the sentence is of course the same, but we are focusing on the function of the verbs in Greek.) The other way to turn the verbs into PPAs would be to turn "a fourteenth day today" into "for fourteen days" (the NIV and NLT take this approach).

So, being the independent-minded person that I am, I disagree with the two grammarians (Fanning and, following him, Wallace) who classify Acts 27:33 as a PPA. Their classification is not misleading as far as the meaning of the sentence as a whole, but it is a misclassification of the way the present-tense verbs function in the sentence. If you are inclined to side with Fanning and Wallace, I would say that the only coherent way to do so would be to take "a fourteenth day today" as modifying both the present participle and the present indicative verbs, as most translations do.

You wrote:

You go on to say that "two of the contested examples also have such an adverbial phrase." Again, you have failed to note that one of these examples, 2 Peter 3:4, actually involves an adverbial clause. "From the beginning of creation" is not the direct temporal modifier of the main verb, but a complement of hOUTWS, "the same since the beginning of creation." The verbal modifier is the clause "since the ancestors fell asleep," using an aorist indicative (this is supported by the immediate context of the sentence, as well as by the necessary relations of syntax, I think).



I disagree. The main clause literally reads, "all things thusly continue since the beginning of creation" (PANTA hOUTWS DIAMENEI AP' ARCHS KTISEWS). Given the choice between a prepositional phrase that immediately follows the main verb or a subordinate clause that precedes the verb and is separated from it by the subject and another adverb, I think we should take the prepositional phrase as the direct temporal modifier. If you are right, we should translate the sentence something like this: "For all things have been continuing since the fathers fell asleep just as from the beginning of creation." But evidently this is wrong; the sentence structure appears to require us to translate something like this: "For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have been continuing in this way from the beginning of creation." This is how most translations construe the text, by the way.

You wrote:

Of course because you see these two contested examples as employing adverbial phrases, you think we "probably should" include them with the uncontested examples, while you do not extend the same tolerance to Luke 2:48 and Acts 26:31, evidently because they do not involve the adverbial phrases you want (we can leave aside 2 Cor. 12:9, which we agree is a "gnomic" present).


I gave additional reasons beyond the absence of a temporal adverbial word or phrase for disputing the classification of these texts as PPAs. Somehow my reasoning is suspect for Luke 2:48 and Acts 26:31 but not for 2 Corinthians 12:9. I don't think this is a fair assessment.

You wrote:

On Luke 2:48, you indicate that Robertson calls this a "descriptive present," which he defines as entailing "durative action" in "present time." Since several grammars define the PPA the same way, and two even call the PPA the "durative present," it should be obvious that Robertson has subdivided the broader PPA category recognized by other grammarians.


What is obvious to one is not always obvious to another. You are confounding the term "durative present" as a designation for the PPA with Robertson's description of the descriptive present as "durative." As I have noted, the descriptive present is not a subdivision of the PPA. One does not translate the present-tense verbs with past-tense English forms in such instances as "we are perishing" (Mark 4:38), "our lamps are going out" (Matt. 25:8), "how can you be turning back" (Gal. 4:9), and "the light is already shining" (1 John 2:8). Robertson describes these as "durative" to contrast them to "aoristic" presents such as "I say to you" (John 3:3, etc.) or "Jesus Christ heals you" (Acts 9:34) or "your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5). If you wish to maintain that the "durative present" category is a subdivision of the PPA, then you will have to give up your claim that we should not translate the PPA using the English present tense.

You wrote:

You add interpretive remarks about the broader narrative context, in which you see the action as concluded, and therefore not a PPA. You might see it that way, but the Greek writer evidently did not. This is often what we mean by "idiomatic": we do not expect a concluded action to be described as ongoing. But as you suggest, the writer has augmented the vividness of the speaker's emotion by speaking as if the action is ongoing (one should note however that some of your grammars speak of action continuing "to" the time the statement is made, and not necessarily through it).


Your last comment is technically correct. If this were the only issue, it would not be enough to reach any sort of definite conclusion as to the correct classification. However, this is one of four reasons to be dubious about Luke 2:48 as a PPA.

The textual variant you also bring up in connection with this verse can be best explained as a scribal correction of the idiomatic expression with which some copyist evidently had the same interpretive issue you have with this statement. The more recent editions have in this instance abandoned the generally applied rule of "more difficult reading," and opted for a tidier verbal form, in my opinion illegitimately.


Evidently other factors weighed more heavily with the editors of those editions; I would have to do more research before offering any definitive comment on the matter. One consideration that comes to mind is that one or more scribes may have accidentally dropped the initial epsilon in EZHTOUMEN because they did not hear it (hODUNWMENOI EZHTOUMEN sounds a lot like hODUNWMENOI ZHTOUMEN if you say it quickly). Textual critics tend to prefer
explanations appealing to such accidental kinds of changes than to deliberate tampering with the text, all other things being equal. Unless you think the case for the present-tense reading is a slam-dunk, my point stands that the present-tense verb is textually uncertain.

You wrote:

On Acts 26:31, you quote several grammarians as remarking on the ongoing nature of the verbal action in this verse as part of their discussion of the PPA, without expressly contesting its inclusion as a PPA. Since these grammarians include present ongoing action in their definition of the PPA, without a more explicit quote expressing an argument against inclusion, I must wonder whether they actually mean to contest it.


Winer's grammar was the only one that I said disputed the classification of Acts 26:31 as a PPA. I don't think your response here really engages my argument on this point, or recognizes the force of my conclusion, which was that Acts 26:31 is not a *reliable* instance of the PPA.

You began your concluding remarks as follows:

Based on my remarks above, it is not only erroneous (because of the misidentification of the adverbial element in some cases), but also irrelevant to point out that 11 (or 13) examples out of 17 involve adverbs or adverbial phrases, for the reason that the simple adverb or adverbial phrase is so much more common in usage than adverbial clauses.


As I said, I think this statistical observation is one of your strongest points. To repeat, my argument was that clear-cut examples of the PPA have such adverbs or adverbial phrases, putting the burden of proof on examples that don't conform to this pattern. I did not exclude a priori the possibility that a text might deviate from that pattern and still have a PPA verb.

You continued:

And it is circular to treat as significant the fact that the 3 examples YOU have left over after extracting all cases where an adverb or adverbial phrase is involved do not involve an adverb or adverbial phrase (!).


Jason, you agreed with me about one of those three (2 Cor. 12:9), and I gave additional reasons beyond the absence of an adverb or adverbial phrase for questioning the classification of the other two texts as PPA. Therefore, your charge of begging the question is unfounded (to put it mildly).

You wrote:

Therefore there is nothing here to establish a burden of proof on the adverbial clause; it is only a matter of statistically smaller pccurrence.



I am glad that you stated the matter here as one of burden of proof, though much of your criticism seems to me to misread my arguments as a priori defining such texts out of bounds. (You do so again just two sentences later; see below.) As for the point you make, I have, on grounds other than merely the absence of a simple adverb or adverbial phrase, shown that the few counterexamples to my generalization fail to be reliable or definite examples of the PPA. This means that your reliable counterexamples rate the statistical value of zero.

You wrote:

And since the grammars that you yourself have chosen to cite do not limit the characteristics of the PPA, by description or example, in the arbitrary manner you employ, your argument comes only to the rather obvious point, with which I agree, that the simple adverb or adverbial phrase is used more commonly in Greek (as in English) than the adverbial clause. It remains true that any occurrence of an adverbial clause as the temporal element modifying a present tense verb, however statistically small in a sample as narrow as the Greek Bible is within the whole body of Greek literature, invalidates your claim (contrary to the majority of grammarians you have yourself cited) that a PPA is involved only when a simple adverb or adverbial phrase is involved.



There it is again. You are misreading my argument as making a claim that a single counterexample would be sufficient to falsify. Linguistic study rarely can make such claims, if ever.

You wrote:

The claim has the appearance of being arbitrary, since adverbial clauses are as much adverbial expressions as simple adverbs and adverbial phrases are, and the burden of proof would fall to those who contend that something about adverbial clauses exclude them from serving as adverbial complements as well as adverbial adjuncts (in fact, in several of your accepted, uncontested examples, the adverb or adverbial phrase is formally a secondary modifier, and hence an adjunct rather than a complement of the verb, and nonetheless exercises sufficient influence on the verb to make it a PPA; so if adjuncts can do this, complements such as is the case in John 8:58 can do so all the more). As we have seen and will see, when there is both an adverbial clause and a simple adverb or adverbial phrase within the same sentence, one needs to determine which is the complement and which is the adjunct (and I fully expect some debate from you on specific examples). An adverbial clause can be bumped to secondary, adjunct status by the presence of another adverbial expression, be it a clause, phrase, or word. But when an adverbial clause appears alone in the sentence with the main verb, as is the case with John 8:58, there is no reason to assume that the clause is an adjunct rather than a complement to the verb, and as a complement it finishes or completes the sense in which the main verb is to be taken.


Sentences using adverbial clauses *and* a simple adverb or adverbial phrase are the trickiest sentences to use in trying to define a particular usage of the present-tense main verb that is dependent on an adverbial. This is so precisely because the way we diagram these sentences will be more complex and more open to revision or challenge.

My post #7 proves that adverbial clauses in conjunction with present-tense verbs of the kind closely paralleling John 8:58 in grammatical form usually if not always function differently than the adverbs and adverbial phrases in undisputed examples of the PPA. Such sentences rarely if ever use the present-tense main verb as a PPA. The two posts need to be studied together to appreciate the force of my argument. When you do so, you will find that none of the clear examples of the PPA in biblical Greek uses temporal subordinate clauses to mark the present-tense main verb as a PPA, while few or none of the nearly dozen texts that do parallel John 8:58 in this grammatical construction can possibly be a PPA. Put these two halves of the
argument together, and the conclusion is irresistible: at the very least, it is quite possible that John 8:58 is not a PPA, and indeed the evidence strongly tilts in favor of concluding that it is not.

In Christ's service,

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.
Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net



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