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Friday, October 29, 2004

JB15857-Jas #22: LXX Exodus 4:10; 21:36 

(15857) Jason BeDuhn[Fri Oct 29, 2004 11:55 pm](Examples of PPA with EIMI in the LXX -- Jason #22)


Rob,

In formulating your replies, please take into consideration the following two additional OT PPAs involving the verb EIMI that we have failed to include before now.

Exodus 4:10
"Lord, I have not been fit (OUCH hIKANOS EIMI) before (PRO) yesterday or before the third day [i.e., in the past]."

Exodus 21:36
"But if it is known of the bull that it has been a gorer (hOTI KERATISTHS ESTI) before (PRO) yesterday and before the third day [i.e., in the past] . . ."

best wishes,
Jason B.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

JB15835-Jas #21: John 8:58 

(15835) Jason BeDuhn[Wed Oct 27, 2004 12:30 am](John 8:58 -- Jason #21)


Rob, in your post 18 you review the broader literary context of John 8:58, making an argument for your interpretation of the significance of Jesus' statement in that verse. From the start of this exchange, I have said that I take a position on the accurate translation of the verse, and that accurate translation is open to more than one possible application to interpretive, theological conclusions. So all I can do is ferret out any possible translational significance to your remarks here.

You say:
"John 8:58 is the climactic statement of Jesus in a long passage in which the overarching question is "Who does Jesus think he is?" The passage begins with one of Jesus' many EGW EIMI sayings in the Gospel of John, using a noun phrase complement:

"I am the light of the world" (8:12)."


My reply is this:
Jesus reveals himself throughout the Gospel. This necessarily involves him declaring and explaining that he is various literal and metaphorical things to people and to the cosmos. It is a convenience to cluster these under the rubric "I am" sayings, because that it their common element. It is not however their significant element; the latter is what it is Jesus says he is in each case, and combining all of these things (light, shepherd, gate, etc.) into a picture of his overall self-revelation. But the use of "I am" is perfectly ordinary, because it is a very common expression, in any language.

You say:

"Between this statement (audacious enough, though not understood by Jesus' opponents) and the climactic statement in 8:58 there are a series of EGW EIMI sayings of varying forms:

"I am the one testifying for myself, and the Father who sent me testifies for me" (8:18). "Unless you believe that I am [he], you will die in your sins" (8:24). "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [he]" (8:28)."

My reply is this:
The idea of a series here is weak. The first statement is an explicit copulative use of EIMI, in which Jesus says he is the one who testifies for his own veracity. The second and third statements are implicit copulative uses of EIMI, with the context providing, first, no help in identifying the implied predicate complement, thus prompting a question for Jesus to be clearer, and then a contextual identification of the implied predicate complement as the "Son of Man." In none of these sentences does EIMI stand semantically absolute. EIMI cannot be absolute when functioning as a copula.

You continue:

"As many scholars have noted, the response of Jesus' opponents to the first saying in which EIMI is absolute (v. 24) implies that they were looking for a predicate: "Who are you?" (v. 25). In other words, to Jesus' "I am" they were responding, "You are-who?" This conclusion is correct whether we translate EGW EIMI here "I am" or "I am he." "

Reply:
No, this is not correct. The audience understands there to be an implicit "he" predicate complement in this sentence, which is formally absolute, but not semantically absolute. If it was the latter, they would not ask "Who are you," but might say, "Yes, we can see that you exist; so what?" Which might lead into Jesus saying something about his `transtemporal' existence. But that's not the direction the exchange takes.

You continue:

"Jesus' next EGW EIMI saying (v. 28) is also ambiguous. It can be taken to mean simply that Jesus' hearers will find out that he is the Son of Man."

Reply:
Yes, that is its most evident meaning in the syntax of the sentence.

You add:
"However, Jesus' language here and in verse 24 unmistakably alludes to the words of God in Isaiah 43:10, indicating that in some way Jesus is making a veiled claim to deity. His hearers do not get it yet, but they do after his final EGW EIMI saying in the passage:

"Before Abraham came into being, I am" (8:58).
The allusions here to other Isaianic sayings of God (especially Is. 41:4; 46:4) as well as to the Psalmist's confession to the Lord of his eternal deity (which in the LXX climaxes in another predicate absolute, "You are") evidently did not escape his hearers, who sought to stone him, presumably (given this context) for blasphemy (v. 59)."



Reply:
This is all interpretation, not translation. Let me just point out, however, that blasphemy is not explicitly mentioned in v.59. You see, you are interpreting. Besides that, your series is broken because here EIMI functions existentially (though still not absolutely), not as a copula. Because EIMI is such a workhorse in the Greek language (just as the verb to be is in English) it has many uses, and it is simply naive to think that every use of EIMI connects it to every other.

You say:

"The best translation of John 8:58 will not only be as faithful to the grammar of the sentence but will also be faithful to the interconnections the statement makes with earlier statements in the passage and to its allusions to the Isaianic EGW EIMI texts.
Reply:
This presumes a significance to "I am" rather than to what Jesus actually says he is. It lumps together "I am"s used in quite different ways, different contexts, different meanings. Moreover, as I already pointed out in my book, it ignores the VERY NEXT "I am" in this series you are constructing, that of the blind man in John 9 (only 10 verses from John 8:58, compared to 30 verses away for the last of your series). So I guess the blind man is also "making a veiled claim to deity." That's a fascinating theology you are proposing. My point should be obvious: it is not the EGW EIMI that gives any of these statements significance. EGW EIMI is just about the most common thing people say. The significance in every single one of the "I am" sayings in John is what it is that Jesus says he is. The principle of making lexical connections transparent in translation is a good one for key technical terms of the text, but is impossible to apply to commonplace words, like EIMI, that have too many distinct usages to be always translated the same way, particularly if it means ignoring proper tense significance.

You go on:

"In this regard, one crucial question, posed but not definitively answered in my previous post, is whether we should construe EIMI in John 8:58 as existential or copulative. I think we should consider the possibility that John intends his readers to see both. There have been numerous studies lately showing that John's Gospel is full of double entendres and deliberate ambiguities. A few examples are John 1:5b (which may be construed "the darkness did not comprehend" the light or "the darkness did not overpower" the light), John 3:3 (You must be "born again" or "born from above"), and John 12:32 (where "lifted up from the earth" can refer to Jesus' execution on the cross or to his exaltation to heaven). In all of these texts, the best interpretation is that the ambiguity is intentional."

Reply:
First of all, this is not a defense of the traditional translation. Second, it is about interpretation, not translations. Third, it would in no way get you out of a PPA reading of the main verb, and a corresponding rendering in English. You cannot say "I AM king of America before the revolution." You have to say "I WAS king of America before the revolution." If it is a claim to still be king ,even after the revolution, then it can only be expressed either in the latter way or as "I have been king since before the revolution." You continue to imagine that there are special exceptions to English grammar and syntax when applied theologically. There is not. Sometimes people write ungrammatical English sentences to make a point, to pose as "paradox" as you put it, that they then go on to explain in normal English grammar. But that's not what is happening in the Greek of John, and it shouldn't happen in its English translation either.


You continue:
"As it turns out, the Isaianic EGW EIMI texts to which John 8:58 alludes also have a similar ambiguity. "To all futurity, I am" (Is. 41:4), can be taken to mean, "I exist forever" or "For all time, I am he," that is, I am always the one who determines what will be. Likewise, "until you have grown old, I am" can mean "I exist even after you have grown old" or "even when you have grown old, I am he," that is, I am still the one who cares for you. The best way to translate these texts is in such a way that the reader can see either or both connotation; and the best way to do that is probably with the simple (if inelegant by modern English standards) rendering, "I am."


Similarly, I think the traditional English rendering of John 8:58 is about the best we can do: "Before Abraham came into being, I am." This rendering is not idiomatically smooth English, but it is intelligible enough. It expresses quite accurately the contrast between GENESQAI ("came into being") and EIMI ("am"). The word "am" can be understood existentially or as a mysteriously unpredicated copula-which will make sense when one becomes familiar with the statement's Old Testament background."


Reply:
This is just a matter of refusing to translate, of refusing to come down on either side of what the statement might mean. It ends up not conveying either meaning clearly, and certainly not the copulative meaning in any way. This was my original point about the traditional translation in my book, and it seems we have come full circle. You have now lined up a series of unrelated and even contradictory positions on why the traditional translation should stand. You have failed to construct a coherent position, but simply marshaled any and all possible arguments that might give reason for keeping the traditional translation. This is exactly what I said apologists do, and though you considered that description of apologetic method "insulting and maligning," your latest series of four posts goes much further than any previous ones in showing precisely what I meant. You have argued: the verb is absolute and completely independent of the temporal clause; the temporal clause is the most important factor in determining the meaning of the verb; the verb is existential; the verb is copulative; the verb is both. These are just the broadest of your many claims and arguments. At every step I have shown how your conclusions are unjustified, how you have misconstrued texts both ancient and modern, how you have slipped from one meaning of a term to another , how your arguments inadvertently work against your own position. Nothing remains of your original set of arguments that has not been fundamentally refuted. Now I am speaking here only of translational issues, of course. Therefore, concession should come rather painlessly to you. I have maintained all along that your interpretation is defensible as a possible integration of Jesus' statement in John 8:58 into a broader Christology or theology. The interpretive debate is one you can go on with on clearer ground once the accurate translation I have argued for is accepted, which it is time for you to do.


In your post 1, you attacked the NW translation of John 8:58 as a paraphrase, and not literal as that version purports to be. I rejected this in my post 2 as simply untrue, detailing point-by-point its literal character. I had already in my book, which you had read, demonstrated how all of the major translations render the verbal tense of an expression such as is found in John 8:58 in the way the NW does, in multiple cases (I cited John 14:9 and 15:27 as sufficient to prove this point), except when it comes to John 8:58. This shows that they, and not the NW, are departing from their normal practice in this case. Literal translation does not mean ignoring the significance of Greek syntax for a proper rendering of the verbal tense, and it does not mean following Greek word order in a rote fashion in a way that violates English norms. Although you charged the NW translators with anti-Trinitarian bias in their translation of John 8:58, I pointed out that it is impossible to conclude bias from an accurate translation; it is only when a translation is an inaccurate representation of the original Greek that one has grounds to delve into motives. Moreover, as I stated in my very first post, their translation is not anti-Trinitarian, since it does not artificially introduce language of the beginnings of Jesus' existence, a subject which simply goes unreferenced in this verse. You would have more grounds for charging any one of your preferred translations with anti-Trinitarian bias for their literal translations of Matthew 2:1; John 18:37; or Acts 13:33, in each of which there is an explicit remark about Jesus having been (past tense) begotten (the verb GENNAW). So your charge against the NW is unfair and unjustified.

Even though the NW translation of this verse can be improved upon by adhering to normal English word order, it is still more accurate than most translations in its proper rendering of the tense value of the verb within the syntactical relationships of the sentence. I have demonstrated this repeatedly in reference to the testimony of the grammars, in connection with closely parallel sentences from the Greek Bible, and by refutation of contrary arguments. I don't think it is necessary to review these arguments again here. The bottom line is that the syntactical connection between the dependent and main clauses must be maintained for the main verb to have any past or `transtemporal' meaning. Once that connection is recognized, the construction of the dependent clause provides an indication of a specific past event to which the verbal action has a relation of antecedence. The use of a present form of the main verb (rather than an aorist or imperfect) then supplies the sense of duration of the verbal action from that past antecedent time up to the time of speaking. This is a past progressive form of expression, perfectly ordinary and acceptable in Koine Greek, and is most accurately rendered by English "I have been," or "I have existed," or "I have been in existence."

I consider my argument on this issue basically complete. You have provided excellent material for consideration in this debate that has helped me clarify and refine my position at a level I did not attempt in my book, which was deliberately kept to more basic terms. Much of what was implicit there has become explicit in our exchange over the last three months. Please take your time reviewing my points and determining the appropriate response. I have rushed my responses so that you will have ample time to consider them while I am off doing other things. I will check back in in December to see where things stand.

Best wishes,
Jason B.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

JB15832-Jas #20: John 8:58 

(15832) Jason BeDuhn [Tue Oct 26, 2004 12:09 am](John 8:58 -- Jason #20)


Rob, in this post I am responding to your post 17. You begin by discussing "I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO CLAUSES AND VERBS"


You say:"In your first post, you agreed with me "that there is a contrast implied between the eimi used of Jesus and the genesthai used of Abraham." This is an important point. My position is that this contrast sets John 8:58 apart from the class of PPA texts (as usually defined) and confirms that it belongs in the same category as the three controversial LXX texts discussed earlier."

The contrast is a semantic one in the choice of verbs, which I granted you as a point of interpretation of the verse. How you are using `contrast' here to make a different point is unclear to me. You then review the three passages from the OT that I have agreed are the most closely parallel in structure and sense to John 8:58. So thank you for finally setting aside all of those gnomic, customary, tendential, didactic, and other forms as not germane:



"Before [PRO TOU] I formed [PLASAI, aorist infinitive] you in the womb, I know EPISTAMAI, present indicative] you" (Jer. 1:5).



"Before the [PRO TOU] age he established [EQEMELIWSEN] me in the beginning, before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the earth, and [KAI] before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the depths, before [PRO TOU] the fountains of water went forth PROELQEIN], before [PRO TOU] the mountains were settled [EDRASQHNAI],and [DE] before [PRO] all hills, he begets [GENNAi] me" (Prov. 8:23-25).

"Before [PRO TOU; in some mss., PRIN] the mountains were brought into being GENHQHNAI, aorist infinitive] and the earth and the world were formed PLASQHNAI, aorist infinitive], even from everlasting to everlasting [APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS], you are [SU EI, the second-person equivalent of EGW EIMI]" (Ps. 89:2 [90:2 Eng.]).

"Before [PRIN] Abraham came into being [GENESQAI], I am [EGW EIMI]" (John 8:58).



And conclude:

"In all four of these texts, there is a striking contrast expressed between the subordinate aorist infinitive clauses and the present-tense verb main clause."



By contrast you seem to mean simply that one thing happens `before' another, and so there is a contrast between that which exists prior and that which exists later. I fail to see any significance of kind in this observation.


You say:

"God `knows' Jeremiah before he formed him; God `begets' wisdom before making the earth; God `is' before the mountains were broughtinto existence and the earth was formed; Jesus `is' before Abraham came into existence."



Your present-tense translations of these verbs beg the question. You are literally saying that what is significant here is the very form of translation you adopt in line with your own preformed conclusions.


You say:

"These contrasts are either paradoxical (How can God know Jeremiah before he was conceived? How can the first-century Jesus exist beforethe patriarch Abraham? . . ."



I find your resort to `paradox' puzzling. A paradox is something that on its face is an impossibility: "I am my father's father." NowI suppose you mean that Jesus claims to be older than one of his own ancestors, and in that sense I can see what you mean by paradox. Butwhat are we talking about here, a paradox of interpretation or a paradox of translation? Is there anything `paradoxical' about the Greek of John 8:58? No, it's a perfectly ordinary Greek sentence.


Let me demonstrate this by a permutation of it:

"John Wayne said, `I have been in existence since before Kevin Costner was born.'"


Okay, now, as a sentence in its own right, there is nothing paradoxical here. The speaker claims to be older than someone else. Add context, and we could quickly calculate how old John would have to be to be older than Kevin. We might have at our disposal, then,some means to assess the validity of the claim. Then suppose we had this permutation:


"John Wayne said,
`I have been in existence since before George Washington was born.'"



Leaving aside the possibility that he is speaking in character, we have seen a definite heightening of the claim. But this is not paradox. If we have reason not to discount the claim, we would be forced to conclude that John Wayne is supernaturally old. We may even find reason to interpret his remark as a claim to be eternal. We don't have to change his wording at all to make that interpretation, since he did not specify just how much older than George he is.


You continue:

"How can God "beget" wisdom before the beginning?"



I think you have made a mistake here. The passage says:
"He established me in the beginning, before the age," not "before the beginning" and so not paradox. God can certainly establish, and beget, Wisdom "before the age."



Anyway, what is so significant in your argument of something being antecedent to something else?

You say:

"There is also a verbal contrast between the aorist infinitives (made, etc.) and the present-tense GENNAi (begets) in Proverbs 8, underscoring the paradoxical statement that God `begets' wisdom before the beginning of creation."



First, as I have said, the passage does not say that God begets Wisdom before the beginning, so there is no paradox. Wisdom says she was begotten first, before at least some of the most basic world construction and "the age." This is part of portraying her as the instrument and means of God's subsequent creative acts. In short, God creates with Wisdom, he creates wisely. Second, the "contrast"is simply the distinct verbal forms in their different functions within the sentence, the aorist infinitive in a dependent clause, andthe present indicative as the main verb. This is the same formal "contrast" found in all of the Infinitive of antecedent timeconstructions, and similar in kind to a dozen other constructions of complex sentence in Greek. Third, as I have already explained, the aorist infinitives are a standard part of clausally modified PPAs, and they all occur within "before" dependent clauses. The main clause is thus "he has begotten me." For it to be read as "begets," the "before" clauses would have to be customary actions, allowing themain verb to also be gnomic/customary. If they are read as punctiliar past actions, this determines the main verb as a PPA.

You say:

"The verbal contrasts are most pronounced in Psalm 89:2 and John 8:58; in both cases, the actual verbs themselves create a sharp contrast between brought or coming into being (GENHQHNAI or GENESQAI) and simply being (EI or EIMI). In short, the verbs in context express a contrast between *becoming* and *being*."

But you maintain that `to be begotten' in Proverbs 8 is also to be seen as a verb of this kind, to be translated `transtemporally' as a present. So which is it? Do the four examples hang together or hang separately?

You say:

"Not every collocation of forms of GINOMAI and EINAI expresses such a contrast, of course. It is the way the two words are set off against each other in the sentence that produces the contrast. As I documented briefly in my book, biblical scholars across the theological spectrum have recognized this contrast in John 8:58; the list includes a virtual "who's who" of New Testament Greek scholars who have written extensively on John, including Alford, Bultmann, Lenski, Robertson, and Westcott, to name but a few (_Jehovah'sWitnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 112-13)."



Rob, you are talking interpretation here, not translation. You are not advancing a point on the translational issues. One thing is spoken of in terms of its coming into existence, the other is spoken of in terms of its ongoing existence. No one is disputing that and it doesn't get you anywhere. That Jesus wanted to stress his immediate continuing presence before his audience fits the literary context of the gospel in which Jesus contrasts the living favorably with the dead. You can, as I have said all along, extrapolate some interpretive significance from how he speaks here, but that doesn't preclude other interpretations and it certainly doesn't force an ungrammatical translation.


You say:
"In what grammarians usually list as PPA texts, on the other hand, the temporal indicator does not contrast with the present-tense verbat all, but rather gives it a context in which its meaning is clearer. "


You have once again contrived a wholly meaningless and meritless subjective distinction of your own between `contrast' and `giving a context in which the meaning is clearer.' The temporal clause in John 8:58 clearly does the latter. Jesus is not saying to his audience `Behold, I exist!' This is really where your argument is tending. He is saying he exists in a specific temporal relation toAbraham. Do you deny that? I will show later how your mistaken notion of EGW EIMI as a `predicate absolute' really messes you up.


You say:

"The following examples are typical (not necessarily exhaustive):"for three years I have been coming searching" (Luke 13:7)."all these years I have been serving you" (Luke 15:29)."knowing that he had been that way a long time already" (John 5:6)."I have been with you so long a time" (John 14:9)."you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27)."For Moses has had from ancient generations" (Acts 15:21)."Have you been thinking all this time" (2 Cor. 12:19)."from childhood you have known the sacred writings" (2 Tim. 3:15)."the devil has been sinning from the beginning" (1 John 3:8)."



Precisely. Note how in each case the full meaning of the statement is not "I am serving you" or "I am with you" or "You are thinking"or "You know the sacred writings" or "The devil is sinning." In each case, the temporal modification provides the complete significance of the verb, which is in the duration of the action or state, not the mere facticity of action or state. This is precisely the case withJohn 8:58, where it is not the existence of Jesus on the day of his remark that is significant, but the duration of that existence over supernaturally long time. Don't you agree?

You add:
"To be fair, let's expand this list to include some other texts that you have argued are PPAs in which another verb might, depending on how one analyzes the grammar, be considered part or all of the temporal marker:

"You are going a fourteenth day today waiting without food" (Acts 27:33)"For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain the same" (2 Pet. 3:4)."For I was Jobab before the Lord named me Job" (TJob 2:1)."

For I have been...a friend of yours a long time, before I saw you" (_Dyscolos_ 615-16).



The closest thing we get in any of these texts to a contrast at all similar to those considered above is the statement in_Dyscolos_, "For I have been a friend before I saw you."

In this case, though, there is no semantic contrast between the two verbs, but rather the surprising affirmation of friendship prior to sight."


Again, are you talking translation or interpretation? There is absolutely no difference in degree of grammatical contrast between the latter two "before" constructions and the ones from your pet four examples. To name and to see are both punctiliar acts, and to be is an existential state -- same degree of contrast as that between coming to be at one point of time and being as an existential state.

You say:
"As I explained earlier, the relevance of this text to our discussion is complicated by the presence of a common PPA marker in the sentence prior to the subordinate clause."



As I have already pointed out, even without the PALAI, the sentence would still be a PPA. Please demonstrate otherwise or concede the point.


You say:
"The contrasts in the three LXX texts and in John 8:58 all tend to confirm the understanding that the present-tense verb expresses astate or action that is constant, perpetual, or simply always so:

Before Jeremiah has been born, God *knows* him.Before God has made the earth and before the mountains have been settled, God *begets* wisdom. Before the mountains have been brought into existence and before the earth and world have been formed, God *is.*Before Abraham came into being, Christ *is.*"


To repeat yet again, these translations are all tendentious, and really non-sequiters. The main verbs could only be rendered in agnomic/static/customary present if the modifying temporal clauses also referred to gnomic/static/ customary conditions. But they do not. The conditions are all specific events of past time; this rules out the gnomic, static, or customary categories of use altogether. Moreover, you are committing the fallacy of postulating the existence of theological grammar, distinct rules of grammar that apply only in theological discourse. That is special pleading and meritless.

Your second topic in your post 17 is:
"II. EIMI IN JOHN 8:58 AS `ABSOLUTE'"

In my post 1 I already criticized your claim that EIMI in John 8:58 is a "predicate absolute" a claim you do not support by argument in your book, other than to cite A. T. Robertson's rather cryptic remark on the matter, which as an appeal to authority is not sufficient.You say that John 8:58 "does not have the usual adverbial expression denoting the duration of the verb" (111), but as I pointed out in my post 1, and again here, this notion of yours that PPAs only involve expressions that limit the duration by referencing a specific beginning is baseless: the grammars do not support it and even your own examples do not support it. I went on in my post 1 to question the superficial invocation in your book of supposed "absolute" uses of EGW EIMI by Jesus in the Gospel of John; there is not a single clear-cut case of a true absolute use of the verb involved in these other verses. Some sort of predicate complements is typically implicit. In John 8:58 there is an explicit adverbial complement, and none of your "absolute" parallels involve an adverb, adverbial phrase, or adverbial clause, so they are not close parallels at all since none involve a temporal modification of the verb, and so are true present tense uses, whereas John 8:58 is so modified and so is properly rendered as a PPA.

Now in your post 17 you cite some selected figures who call the main clause of John 8:58 "absolute." Rob, citing authority is not makingan argument. You can cite authorities from now to doomsday, but you can't make a non-absolute construction absolute. Never mind thatmany of the people you cite are as "unknown" as you say I am (Thatcher? Lincoln?), and all of a particular theological persuasionand interpretive bent when it comes to the "I am" expressions in John. Brown, Harner, and Ball all buy into the great "I AM" nonsense(that Jesus is invoking Exodus 3:14 even when he says things like "Hi, it's me," and "I'm the one you're looking for"), and this dictates their supposedly grammatical analysis. Never mind that the universities you invoke as their home are all religiousinstitutions. Never mind that each seems to mean something slightly different by `absolute' (for those who even use this expression) and, as we shall see, use it in a way probably irrelevant to our question. The broader point is that `bias' is a community in which accumulated ideas carry forward without question, and control even what one sees on the page in front of them.

You next go on to seek an appropriate definition for "absolute" used in English-language discussions of grammar, since you feel I need tobe educated on what an "absolute" is:

"The _American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_ (4th ed., 2000), gives the following definitions:

"a. Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as _the refereehaving finally arrived_ in _The referee having finally arrived, the game began_. b. Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object isimplied but not stated. For example, _inspires_ in _We have a teacher who inspires_ is an absolute verb."


On which you comment:
"Clearly, the applicable definition here is (b), according to which a verb is "absolute" if it is a transitive verb with no object expressed."


Pardon me!? The be-verb is transitive? You repeat this embarrassing error:

"_The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ by Sylvia Chalker and Edmund Weiner (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994) gives the following definition for "absolute": "*4* (In older usage.) Designating an adjective or verb when standing outside certain usual constructions or syntactic relationships, as.... _(b)_ designating a normally transitive verb used intransitively (e.g., _Have you eaten?_)" (p. 4)."


On which you comment:
"This definition is similar to the _American Heritage Dictionary_ definition, but not exactly the same: any verb that is normally transitive but is used intransitively is "absolute," whether an object is implied or not."


Thanks for the lesson, but obviously I am not the one in need of basic grammatical education here. Let me return the favor by quoting Mario Pei & Frank Gaynor, A Dictionary of Linguistics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954), page 219: "transitive verb: A verb expressing an action which does not end with or is not confined to the agent; transitive verbs are capable of governing a direct object." A be-verb is the quintessential intransitive verb. So much for that line of argument.

But do note definition (a) in the American Heritage dictionary: "Syntactically isolated": the main clause of John 8:58 isnot syntactically isolated from the rest of the sentence. In the example from the dictionary you can clearly see that the dependentclause is an adjunct, a "by the way" remark that is not necessary to complete the verbal meaning of "the game began." This is certainly not the case with John 8:58, as I will show once again below.


You go on to say:
"It is possible, of course, to describe PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as "predicative" and even (arguably) as a "complement." _The OxfordDictionary of English Grammar_ observes: "In some older grammar, _predicate_ rather than _predicative_ is used to describe anadjective, noun, or pronoun when such a word is `predicated of the subject,' i.e. is used in predicative position"(307). In keeping with this definition, biblical scholars often describe EIMI as "absolute" or more specifically as a "predicateabsolute" because it lacks a "predicate" according to this older usage. The _Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ adds, "In modern terminology such a word functioning after a linking verb is said to be a _subject complement_ or possibly a _predicative complement_"(ibid.).


Precisely. You have done some good detective work here. You have ferreted out the way in which Thatcher, Lincoln, Brown, Harner, Ball,et al. mean that EIMI in John 8:58 lacks a "predicate." They mean it is to be distinguished from those cases where EIMI is accompanied bya predicate noun or adjective. This has nothing to do with the verbal complement cosntruction of the PRIN clause, as yourself have just said. So this whole line of argument has been pointless, hasn't it? So now, thanks to your good detective work, I must admit to a mistake since, as you point out, I had said that EGW EIMI was not "in any sense" a predicate absolute. You are correct that that was hyperbole. I should have said "in any sense relevant to the issues we are debating," since obviously we agree that it does not involve apredicate noun or adjective. So feel free to make any ground you can in your argument by celebrating my free admission that the main clause of John 8:58 does not contain a predicate noun or adjective. It contributes nothing to our discussion.


You now come to the core issue of your post:

"C. Is PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI a "Complement" to EIMI?"


You say:
"Recall that _The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ defines a complement in the wider sense as an "element needed to `complete'"the verb. If the adverbial clause is a complement in this sense, it is not, as I understand you to have said, because the adverbial clause needs the main clause, but because the main clause needs the adverbial clause. If the adverbial clause is not needed to complete the main clause, then the adverbial clause may be an "adjunct," not acomplement.


The _Cambridge Grammar of the English Language_ (which we have had occasion to quote in earlier posts) offers an even more nuanced analysis of complements and adjuncts. It distinguishes obligatory complements (e.g., "She perused _the report_") from optional complements (e.g., "She read _the report_") and adjuncts (e.g., "She left _because she was ill_") (221).

In other words, if the predicative is obligatory (one cannot say "She perused"), it *must* be a complement; if the predicative is optional, it may be either a complement or an adjunct. The _Grammar_ goes on to suggest that with optional predicatives, "there are grounds for saying that while resultatives are complements, the depictives are adjuncts" (262). A "resultative" is a predicative that specifies the result of the action of the verb, as in "The pond froze _solid_." A "depictive" is a predicative that specifies a description of the conditions of the action of the verb, as in "He died _young_" (261)."


You had earlier quoted from my post #4 the following:

The English be-verb does not, of course, take a direct object, but requires a predicate noun or adjective when it is used as a copula, or a DEPICTIVE COMPLEMENT such as an adverb when used existentially. This fact of English is stated, for example, in R. Huddleston & G. K.Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Cambridge University Press, 2002), on page 222: "Most obviously, the verb be almost always requires an internal complement." For example, one can say "Jill is in her study" but not "Jill is." One can say "The meeting was on Monday" but not "The meeting was." For the apparently intended meaning of the two unacceptable statements just given, an English speaker resorts to some other existential verb: "Jill exists." "The meeting occurred." The verb "to be" is not employed in modern English in this uncomplemented existential function. The authors of the Cambridge Grammar state that "only asmall number of verbs (or verbal idioms) take complements of temporal location; clear examples include: i. be . . ." (page 694). This is precisely the case with John 8:58, where the prin clause is, I think, an obligatory temporal complement to eimi.



And you had asked me to clarify whether what I was saying here was meant to be about the English sentence or the Greek, to which Iresponded that since I was obviously commenting on the acceptable English form of the sentence. You go on this post 17 to acknowledge that:

"It may be that in good idiomatic English "am" in an English Bible at John 8:58 would require an "obligatory complement." On these grounds,you argue that in good idiomatic English "before Abraham came into being" needs to be treated as "an obligatory temporal complement" to "am" and should therefore follow "am" in the sentence. I am not addressing that argument at present."



Well, when will you? Because our debate is on both what the Greek means and how that meaning is best conveyed in grammaticallyacceptable English. In your very first post, you expressed dissatisfaction with my characterization of the traditional translation of John 8:58 as "fractured syntax." I responded in my post 4 to justify this characterization, part of which you quote here. So I'm still waiting for you to address that argument or concede the point, as you ALMOST do here. But you say you want tomake an argument now about the Greek, not the English.

You say:"Now, there are two ways of construing John 8:58 in relation to these grammatical issues. First, we may construe EIMI "existentially" as expressing existence.

In support of this exegesis, we may refer to the sharp contrast between GENESQAI and EIMI, already discussed. The meaning of EGW EIMI (however we translate it) would then be something like "I exist." You favored this understanding (and assumed that I agreed) in your post #4:

We agree that in John 8:58 the be-verb is not a copula, but has an existential function. Assuming this is correct, if EIMI in John 8:58 has an existential function, then the adverbial is not an obligatory complement. If EGW EIMI means something like "I exist," then no complement is obligatory; the statement is meaningful without one."

This combination of your and my remarks, taken so far out of context, threatens to confuse three different uses of the expression "existential." First, the be-verb is an existential verb in all but its auxiliary functions (in both Greek and English). To say that it is an existential verb is obviously NOT to say that it always means "I exist" absolutely. Second, the be-verb can be used either in a copulative function or an existential function: copulative when its complement is nominal, pronominal, or adjectival, existential either in absolute uses or when its complement is adverbial. This is obviously what I meant in the quote from my post4. The existential function does not in any way preclude the depictive complement. Third, you seem to use "existential" here solely in the sense of an absolute use, but that's not what I mean by "existential," so we need to keep these two meanings distinct inour dicussion.


You continue:
"Again, it seems you had things turned around as to what makes a complement obligatory. Thus, immediately after the above sentence, you wrote:

One of the points we are seeking to resolve is whether it is a predicate absolute or occurs with a dependent depictive complement. I have argued that it cannot be a predicate absolute, since "before Abraham was born" must form part of the sentence.

I am not clear on whether you meant that "before Abraham was born" cannot stand on its own (as you said elsewhere in the same post,already quoted above) or that it is needed to complement "I am." As I have explained, while it is true that "before Abraham was born" cannot stand on its own, that is not a test of a complement."


You are right, I was not careful to distinguish two distinct points. On the one hand I want to point out how the the full meaning of the verb is left incomplete by fracturing the syntax in the traiditonal translation. On the other hand I want to point out how the dependent clause is orphaned, cut loose from the rest of the sentence, by the interpretation that lies behind the traditional translation.


You continue:
"What you call a "dependent depictive complement," according to the _Cambridge Grammar_, is technically an adjunct, not a complement(262). I am bracketing for now the question of the best translation of EIMI in John 8:58. It is clear enough that if EIMI is existentialin John 8:58, then PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is, according to the definitions of the _Cambridge Grammar_ (221, 261-62), an adjunct. It is optional rather than obligatory and depictive rather than resultative."

Pardon me, but you are using an English grammar to argue something about the Greek. So are you trying to make a point about the English or the Greek? I cited the Cambridge Grammar in my post 4 because I was defending my characterization of the English of many translations as "fractured." From the passages you now cite, the only good comparative example to the English of John 8:58 is "He died young"(261), because it alone involves an intransitive verb, like the be-verb. Whether "young" here is a complement or an adjunct, it necessarily follows the verb: "He dies young," not "Young he died." This was the point I was making in post 4, and it stands.
Now it seems to me you are ignoring a crucial point I made in the passage you quoted from my post 4 about the English of John 8:58 based on the Cambridge Grammar, which says: "Most obviously, the verb be almost always requires an internal complement" (page 222).

Notice "requires" and about the be-verb, too. You instead are citing material and examples from the Cambridge Grammar not specificallyabout the be-verb. As you well know, many of the things we can say about transitive verbs we cannot say about intransitives, and viceversa. Many of the rules and characterizations that apply for other verbs are different for the be-verb. So you are not even citingparticularly relevant English grammar here, not to mention anything at all about Greek. I cited from the Cambridge Grammar be-verb sentences closely parallel to John 8:58 that clearly illustrate the place of complements in them: "Jill is in her study" -- "in herstudy" is a complement, not an adjunct, because the statement is not that Jill exists, but that she presently exists in a particularplace. "The meeting was on Monday" -- same comments. What the verb indicates is fundamentally different with or without its complement.


Now let's switch over to talking about Greek. You say that EGW EIMI in John 8:58 is a predicate absolute, and clearly you mean notsimply "it does not have a nominal, pronominal, or adjectival complement" but something more than that. Because no one has ever said it had a copulative function here. So you mean that it is syntactically separable from the PRIN clause, right? For this to betrue, it would be necessary that the full sense of the verb remain the same with or without the PRIN clause, because the meaningof "absolute" is that its full meaning is in itself, not needing any completion from the rest of the sentence. So that would mean thatJesus is declaring his existence. I find this implausible. I don't see anything in the literary context to suggest that declaring hisexistence was what Jesus is doing with this statement. It seems pretty obvious to me that he is making a statement not about hisexistence per se, but about the duration of his existence, the fact that it is continuing from a time before Abraham was born.

Moreover, the relation between the temporal clause and the main verb actually CHANGES what the verb signifies in terms of tense. If, for the sake of argument, we go along with your proposition that EIMI is absolute, and that its full meaning is established in itself without an obligatory complement from the temporal clause, THEN THERE WOULD BE NO TEMPORAL MODIFICATION OF THE SIMPLE PRESENT IN EGW EIMI, AND IT WOULD HAVE NONE OF THE `TRANSTEMPORAL,' NOT TO MENTION `ETERNAL' SIGNIFICANCE YOU TAKE IT TO HAVE. Please note this because it is very important. Either the temporal clause is a complement that alters the significance of the verbal tense, or EIMI is absolute and a simple present. It has to be one or the other. YOU CANNOT SAY EIMI IS ABSOLUTE AND AT THE SAME TIME GIVE IT ANY ELEMENT OF TENSE BEYOND THE SIMPLE PRESENT FOUND IN EIMI ALONE. If we are to propose that EIMI in John 8:58 has any tense significance beyond the simple present, then it necessarily must draw on the temporal clause for that significance, and this drawing upon the temporal clause for significance establishes a relation of obligatory complementarity between the main verb and the temporal clause. If we agree that EIMI means more than that Jesus exists in the moment he is speaking, then we agree that the verb is modified in regard to tense; and if it is modified in regard to tense, then that modification must come from the temporal clause; and if the modification comes from the temporal clause, then the latter is an obligatory complement to the full meaning of the verb. So whether we are arguing for a PPA oran `eternal' reading of the main verb, we necessarily agree on all these things. That means that your entire argument in your post 17, if it were supportable, would undermine your reading of the verse as much as mine. Fortunately, as I have shown, it is not nearly so well supported as you initially thought.

That is really that, but let me wrap up with the rest of your remarks, so that it will not appear I am glossing over anything.


You say:

"Let me put it this way. In biblical Greek, EIMI normally functions as a copula and either takes or implies (from the context) some sortof complement. If EIMI in John 8:58 is not a copula but instead denotes existence, then it does not need a complement and is, according to the technical grammatical definition, "absolute." In this respect, its being "absolute" corresponds with the dictionary definitions of an absolute verb as a normally transitive verb that is used intransitively."



Not only is it wholly inaccurate to equate "existential"with "absolute" as you do here, and then suggest that if the be-verb is not a copula it is absolute, but you repeat the same embarrassing error of calling the be-verb a transitive verb. Enough said.


You continue:

"Second, it is possible to construe EIMI in John 8:58 as a copula with its predicate nominative or subject complement unexpressed. Thisis not an impossible position. . . it is possible to understand John 8:58 to mean, "Before Abraham came into being, I am [he]," . . ."



So now EIMI is a copula? Whenever you make up your mind about what you want to argue for, will you please let me know? This just appears to be tossing out all possible arguments hoping something, anything will stick. Can I please just remind you that you are supposed to be defending the traditional translation -- have you decided to abandon that defense?

You continue:

"If this reading of John 8:58 is correct, EIMI is once again absolute in the sense that no predicate is expressed with it. Thepredicate "he" would not be directly implied in the overt context of John but would be indirectly implicit through the allusions to the Isaianic sayings."



This is very confused. Either its a copula with an implicit predicate complement, or it is absolute. Please choose one.

You continue:
"Either way, it is a mistake to understand PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as an obligatory complement to EIMI. If EIMI functions existentially, thenno complement can be obligatory because "I exist" does not require a complement. If EIMI functions copulatively, it has an implied complement, "he," in keeping with the allusion to the Isaiah texts."



So, apparently, you are willing to trot out contradictory positions so long as they block the complement status of the PRIN clause. This is precisely the apologetic procedure that you say you want no part of. Here you keep repeating the same mistake: "existential" cannot be simply equated with absolute. "Absolute" and "copula" are not the only two ways the be-verb can be used. There are existential uses of it with complements. I hope that is clear now.


You continue:
"Thus, even in the "wider sense" of the term, it appears that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is not a complement. As I explained earlier, we can describe EIMI as"absolute" or "unpredicated" in the sense that it appears in the sentence with no predicate nominative, no subject complement, expressed or implied. But we can also describe EIMI as "absolute" in an even more stringent sense as taking no complements at all, because PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is evidently an adjunct, not a complement."

You simply have not demonstrated this in any compelling way, and certainly not by citing English grammars(!).

You end your post 17 with a list of "conclusions" that I have addressed in series as they have appeared in your posts 15-17, so it would be redundant to go over them again here.

In my next post, I will wrap up the argument to this point, responding to the last of your new posts.


best wishes,
Jason B.

Monday, October 25, 2004

JB15830-Jas #19: John 8:58 

(15830) Jason BeDuhn [Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:38 am](John 8:58 -- Jason #19)


Rob,
In this post I will reply to your post 15. Here you go to considerable effort to prove something that is not in dispute and does not advance your position, namely, the precise construct involved in the PRIN clause of John 8:58.


In your book, you claimed that John 8:58 "does not quite belong" to the PPA "category of usage" (105). You gave as your reason for this claim your observation (which has nothing to do with the definition of the PPA, but is rather just an accident of your sample) that supposedly all other recognized PPAs in the NT involve a distinct beginning of the verbal action -- "all of these expressions refer to a period of time beginning at some point (whether specified or not) in the past and continuing up to the time of the speaker" (109-110) -- while there was no such beginning implied in John 8:58. Of course, this is just begging the question, since you assume what you claim to conclude. You postulate a beginning to the verbal action "whether specified or not" (that is, without anything in the original Greek referencing a beginning to the action) for other PPAs while arbitrarily ruling it out for John 8:58, which you can only do because it is not specified there. Such a circular argument is without merit. I pointed out in my post 1 that many of your other examples, like John 8:58, do not "contain an expression that alludes to a beginning point in time. They are all durative expressions that leave the beginning of the action out of consideration" (I cited Luke 2:48; Luke 15:29; John 5:6; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 12:19; and 1 John 2:9 from the list of recognized PPAs you had offered in your book). I pointed out that the distinction between modifying the verb with a "from" or "until" clause or phrase, and modifying it with a "before" clause or phrase was not grammatically significant.

No grammar has ever defined or distinguished the PPA by such an arbitrary distinction, for the simple reason that "before" clauses and phrases as much require a PPA rendering of the verb as "from" and "until" clauses and phrases to make sensible sentences. Having been refuted in your claim as it was expressed in your book, you now attempt to mount the same claim of a distinction based on identifying what sort of clause is involved in John 8:58. You state it as if being this sort of clause automatically rules out it being used to make a PPA. But this is a fallacious argument.

We can agree to call this construct an "infinitive of antecedent time" (referring to how the aorist functions within a "before" clause), of which you say:

"I will argue that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is an instance of the construction "infinitive of antecedent time" and as such indicates that the main verb EIMI expresses a state antecedent to the event that the infinitive denotes (without denying that the state continues to the time of speaking)."


Of course, any "before" clause "indicates that the main verb expresses a state" or action "antecedent to the event that the infinitive denotes." No one is disputing that. What you said in your book is that the main verb is only a PPA when the modifying word, phrase, or clause indicates a time BEGINNING FROM WHICH the action of the main verb pertains. Since several of the examples you cited there, and have cited since, do not indicate a beginning of the action of the main verb, I pointed out that your claim was evidently false, and not a single grammar has ever delimited the PPA in that way. And no one has ever said an "infinitive of antecedent time" cannot be used to create a PPA. These are artificial and arbitrary distinctions of your own invention (you admitted in your book that they are "new") designed specifically to exclude John 8:58 from its proper reading as a PPA, and I have since shown how several other "before"-clause modified sentences are PPAs. I know you regarded this as a significant discovery and it's hard to let go of such things. But you must because it is indefensible.
You continue:

"Further, I will argue that the present tense main verb in such sentences often fits one of the categories of broad-band presents, especially the gnomic, customary, and descriptive presents."

You don't need to argue it, because we have already agreed that many of the examples of this construct, that you supplied in your post 7, are gnomic, customary, descriptive, etc. So how does this advance your argument regarding John 8:58? If you mean this as an argument for identifying EIMI in John 8:58 as "gnomic" rather than a PPA, it is a fallacious one, as can be seen by making it explicit:

1. John 8:58 involves an infinitive of antecedent time.
2. Some sentences involving an infinitive of antecedent time contain gnomic, customary, or descriptive presents.
3. Ergo John 8:58 contains a gnomic, customary, or descriptive present. !!!!

And that's without even taking note of the fact that these various kinds of present usage are themselves distinct from one another in their meaning. Anyway, you quote Young's definition of the "infinitive of antecedent time," the key part of which is: "Antecedent time means that the action of the main verb takes place before the action expressed by the infinitive. To convey this idea, 'before' is used at the beginning of the adverbial clause." You point out that Young mentions John 8:58 specifically as an example. You go on to provide statistics and a detailed list of occurrences. You then conclude:

"Statistically, we are justified in presuming unless proven otherwise that in any biblical text with a clause of the form PRO TOU or PRIN (H) followed by an aorist infinitive, the main or controlling verb expresses a state or action antecedent to that denoted by the aorist infinitive. (The state or action may continue after the event or action denoted by the aorist infinitive, but the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action.)"


Note your own words: "the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action" even when it is formally present. If the event or action of the aorist infinitive is itself a recurring action or state, then we are dealing with a gnomic, customary, or iterative main verb (procedurals come to mind as an example: "Bend your knees before you start your swing"). If the event or action of the aorist infinitive is an event of past time, then we have a PPA, because "the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action." There is simply no way around this, try as you might.

You have tried to contrast the PPA construct (as one where the modifying element marks the time FROM WHICH the action or state of the verb commences) to the Infinitive of antecedent time (where the modifying element marks the time BEFORE WHICH the action of the state of the verb occurs). I have shown that you claim that the PPA construct always indicates the beginning of the state or action is a false one. It is also invalid to attempt to contrast, as somehow mutually exclusive, a usage of the main verb (the PPA) and a form of dependent clause (the Inifinitive of antecedent time). There is no basis to say that the two cannot appear together. Moreover, your understanding of the antecedent function of the Infinitive of antecedent time is flawed, because it ignores the difference between such clauses when they refer to customary or procedural or anticipated events, and when they refer to specific past events. This failure to distinguish the difference has resulted in some very bizarre renderings of some of your examples. Review from your many examples of the Infinitive of antecedent time the many cases where the main verb is imperfect or aorist. These are not gnomic or static constructions. These literally place the action of the main verb BEFORE the past event of the "before" clause. Now think through the implications of this if you really believe the "before" clause does precisely the same thing in John 8:58.

It would confine Jesus' existence to before Abraham was born, which, since he is speaking long after that event, is a non-sequiter. Nor would your gnomic or customary examples work, unless their was a PROGRESSIVE character brought in by the use of the present tense which, as I have shown, works in different ways depending on whether the clause indicates a general, recurring circumstance of the main verb's action, or a specific, punctiliar event. In the latter case, when the specific event is future, you recognize the futurative modification of the main verb, don't you? So you must also recognize the preterative modificiation of the main verb when the event indicated in the clause is past.

You go on to give the same LXX passages you gave in your post 7, and on which I commented in my post 8 (Sept. 8) (helping us to get to that 400 pages I mentioned to Barry):

We agreed that Exodus 1:19 is an iterative (or customary) present.
We agreed that Job 8:12 is a customary present.
We agreed that Proverbs 18:13 is a gnomic present.
We agreed that Isaiah 46:10 is an iterative or customary present.
We agreed that Malachi 3:22 (4:5 Eng.) is a futuristic present.
We agreed that John 13:19 is a tendential present. All of these different subcategories of present just bear out Dana & Mantey' remark that "The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of progress. . . the idea of present time is secondary in the force of the tense. . . The other elements entering into the resultant import of the present tense are the meaning of the verb itself and the general significance of the context." (181).

You had characterized Matthew 6:8 ("For your Father knows [OIDEN, perfect indicative with present meaning] what you need before [PRO TOU] you ask [AITHSAI, aorist infinitive] him.") as a "general present" in your post 7, and now call it "a general or descriptive present" (although you have never defined or cited a definition of the latter, and it is quite distinct from what you seem to mean by the former). I had pointed out in my post 8 that it is the same usage as we have been calling the "customary" or "iterative present," or one could even call it "gnomic" in that it is always true, in the sense that it is true in each and every case. The "before" clause does not refer to an event in past time, but a recurring event of every time "you ask him."

But you once again trot out Deut. 31:21 LXX (the quote of which I now for a second time complete for you): "...for I know [OIDA, perfect indicative used as present] their wickedness which they do [POIOUSIN, present indicative] here this day, before [PRO TOU] I have brought [EISAGAGEIN, aorist infinitive] them into the land I promised them on oath" and say: "I would classify OIDA here as a descriptive or general present. The Lord was asserting that he already knew at that time what wicked things the Israelites were doing."

Your use of "already" shows that you are still stuck on the mistaken understanding of the verse given in your post # 7, where you had said:

"We seem to have here either an unusual subcategory of the gnomic present or a different category of use. It expresses a state of affairs that is timelessly true, that is, a state that has always been true, even before a particular event of the past to which that state of affairs is related."

As I already pointed out in my post 8, the "particular event of the past" is actually an event of the future. You have read the verse, but you haven't understood it at all. God is speaking BEFORE he has brought them into the land he promised, and he says explicitly that he "know(s) their wickedness . . . here this day." So the verb OIDA is a simple present, "descriptive" in Dana & Mantey's sense of simply describing the present state of affairs.

New in your post 15 is a series of procedural or didactic presents, using the imperative instead of the indicative of the present, which you subsume under the gnomic, but in any case, like all the rest of your examples here, have nothing to do with John 8:58: Sirach 11:8: "Do not answer before you listen" (PRIN H AKOUSAI [aorist infinitive] MH APOKRINOU [present imperative]). Sirach 14:13: "Do (POIEI, present imperative) good to friends before you die (PRIN SE TELEUTHSAI, aorist infinitive)." Sirach 18:19: "Before you speak (PRIN H LALHSAI, aorist infinitive), learn (MANQANE, present imperative)."

Now notice what your sample has shown: a host of different applications of the Infinitive of antecedent time to different and distinct uses of the present form of the verb. The verb does not have the same significance in all of these cases, as you seem to imply. In some of these cases the verb means that something IS HAPPENING (descriptive), in some it means that something DOES HAPPEN (customary), in some it means something IS GOING TO HAPPEN (futuristic), in some it means something SHOULD HAPPEN (didactic/procedural). And this wide diversity exists even without considering the cases where something HAS BEEN HAPPENING (past progressive) which you set aside as "disputed" for no apparent reason. So what is evident here is that the Infinitive of antecedent time construction does not in itself determine the significance of the verb. That is, the mere aorist infinitive and mere "before" preposition are significant in establishing that the verbal action is antecedent, but are not sufficient in themselves to identify whether what the action is antecedent to is past, future, recurring, or continuous. The latter is determined by other contextual information, and depending on which it is, the meaning of the verb, and its appropriate rendering into English, changes. Your examples include future tense meanings of the verb, yet you exclude the possibility that it includes past tense meanings. It includes imperative (command) forms of the verb, yet you want to exclude past tense meanings. As I will show, there are four likely examples from the larger set of your examples of past progressive (PPA) uses with the Infinitive of antecedent time, as many as for any other usage with the present tense form of the verb.

You conclude:

"Of these 11 occurrences of the infinitive of antecedent time construction, in 9 instances the main or controlling present-tense verb is a broad-band present. The only exceptions are the 2 futuristic uses (Mal. 3:22 LXX; John 13:19). Of the rest, 4 are gnomic, 3 are customary (or iterative/customary), and 2 are descriptive or general."

So you have demonstrated precisely what? Since the category "broad-band present" according to Wallace's terminology includes PPAs, where have you gotten? You have shown that the Infinitive of antecedent time is used with gnomic, customary, and descriptive presents, which are all "broad-band" or "regular uses," as well as with tendential or futuristic use, which is one of the "special uses" according to Dana & Mantey. So you have proven that the Infinitive of antecedent time construct can be used with multiple implications for the main verb. Fine. And John 8:58 is one of those multiple uses, with a PPA, which is also a "broad-band" or "regular use," so not even as much of a categorical reach as the futuristic uses you acknowledge. Nothing here to lead to the conclusion that John 8:58 must fit the gnomic category. You might just as well argue that it must fit the customary category. Either claim is erroneous because it ignores the specifics of the modifying clause, which in the case of the two futuristic uses, shifts the time reference of the main verb, just as it does in John 8:58. Plus, we can adjust your statistics, and make them less tendentious, if we bring in what you for some inexplicable reason call "disputed" examples of the Infinitive of Antecedent Time. You do not explain how they might be disputed, nor how that might be relevant to the issues we are trying to resolve. In any case, they are familiar examples from your post 7: Proverbs 8:23-25; Jeremiah 1:5; and Psalm 90.2.

A. Proverbs 8:23-25
You have been translating this as:

"Before the [PRO TOU] age he established [EQEMELIWSEN] me in the beginning, before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the earth, and [KAI] before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the depths, before [PRO TOU] the fountains of water went forth [PROELQEIN], before [PRO TOU] the mountains were settled [EDRASQHNAI], and [DE] before [PRO] all hills, he begets [GENNAi] me."

You had said in your post 7: "Since wisdom's 'begetting' by the Lord cannot be a repeated or temporally ongoing event, we may set aside the iterative, customary, and PPA uses of the present. Since the begetting does not take place at the time of the writing, we may eliminate the 'punctiliar' and descriptive presents," etc. You left as the only two possibilities the "historical present" and the "eternal present." I responded in my post 8 that you had ruled out the PPA illegitimately. In our definitions of the PPA we say that the progressive action of the verb continues up to the time of the statement. That's a definition we have formulated based on observing how the Greek works. The temporal clauses that modify the verb in this passage refer to events of the past, and by being "before" clauses, they place the action of the main verb antecedent to the events to which they refer. Yet the verb remains in the present tense. These are the classic, defining conditions of the PPA. So we need to be instructed by the Greek, rather than trying to instruct it. The choice of the present form in such a "paradoxical" relation to its temporal modifiers must tell us something. I proposed in my post 8 that "The reason why the present is used as a PPA here is that the existence of the speaker is ongoing." I went on to say that I had seen this "special existential/identity function of the PPA before." You later replied that since I had excluded your proposition of an "eternal present" on the grounds that this supposed usage of the present is completely unknown to all Greek grammars, I had no more right to invoke an "existential/identity function" that was equally unmentioned in the grammars. You now say:

"To make the PPA classification fit, you had to invoke the notion of a "special existential/identity function of the PPA," which in your post #10 you agreed to drop. Yet I see no way to make the PPA classification work here without it, *unless* one broadens the PPA so far that it would apply to virtually any broad-band present-tense verb."

Let's see if I am really as tied up as you seem to think. I will use one of your favorite grammars to make the case that you think I cannot make. Under the rubric of Regular Uses of the Present (which they term "a single class" of usage), Dana & Mantey list (1) The Progressive Present, (2) The Customary Present, (3) The Iterative Present (pages 182-184). They distinguish these from the "special uses" of the present which are "not of so frequent occurrence as the regular uses." These include the aoristic present, futuristic present, historical present, tendential present, and static present (pages 184-186). You have tried to associate the static present with the gnomic (subsumed by D & M under the customary) and customary present. Dana & Mantey would clearly disagree with that attempt, since they consider it a "special use" and the customary/gnomic a "regular use." The first category of the regular use class is the Progressive Present, of which they say: "It signifies action in progress, or state in persistence . . . In the indicative it is related to present time, and because of possible varieties in this relation to present time it may denote three points of view" (page 182). So, a single "progressive" category of use, distinct from the customary/gnomic and iterative, that may take on three aspects. The first of these is "a sense of description, to indicate that which is now going on" (page 182), and the third is the "present of duration" (page 183), which you and I have both recognized to by Dana & Mantey's term for the PPA. Oh, by the way, please note that they say it is "generally associated with an adverb of time," but the example they quote (John 15:27) does not contain an adverb, but an adverbial phrase. Therefore we can once again see the danger of taking the description of the grammars as limiting. Here they say adverb, but they evidently don't mean ONLY an adverb, because they quote a sentence that does not contain an adverb, but an adverbial phrase. They go on to cite Lk. 13:7, which also contains an adverbial phrase, not an adverb. But now, back to my main point. The second of the three subcategories of the progressive present is the use "to denote the continuation of existing results," which they explain as "it refers to a fact which has come to be in the past, but is emphasized as a present reality" and "It . . . stresses the continuance of results through present time in a way which the perfect would not do, for the perfect stresses existence of results but not their continuance" (page 182). Sound familiar? Let's look closer at this usage which is so close to the PPA as to be listed with it as the single category of the progressive present (similarly handled in BDF). Dana & Mantey cite three examples.

One is 1 Cor. 11:18 "I hear (AKOUW 1st sing. present act. ind.) that there are divisions among you." One interesting thing about this quote is that it is one of the rare examples of the English idiom similar to the Greek, in that 'I hear' (formally a present) is not technically correct for the temporal significance of the statement. We would more precisely say "I have heard that there are divisions among you." In any case, the meaning is the same. The speaker is not saying that he is hearing this news at the same time he is speaking. He is saying that he has heard in the past of these divisions, and the result of that hearing continues with him up to the time of speaking of it. Another example they cite is Galatians 1:6 "I marvel (QAUMAZW 1st sing. present act. ind.) that you are separated (METATIQESQE 2nd pl. present pass. ind.) so quickly from the one who called you." Now the first verb is a simple present or descriptive present, and it is evidently the second verb to which Dana & Mantey refer as a present of existing result. Here, too, the people spoken to are not in the process of separating as Paul writes, but rather have separated and continue to exist in the state brought about by that separation. The third example they cite is Luke 15:27 "Your brother has come (hHKEI 3rd sing. Present ind.) and your father has killed (ETHUSEN 3rd sing. aorist ind.) the fattened calf, because he has received him back (APELABEN 3rd sing. aorist ind.) in good health." Note that three things are described as having happened: the coming of the brother, the killing of the calf, and the reception of the brother. Two of these actions are signified using an aorist form of the verb, because they are punctiliar events: the calf was killed at a particular moment, and the father received his son back at a particular moment. Well, didn't this same son, the brother of the person being spoken to, 'come' at a particular moment? Of course he did. But the present tense is used of this coming because the act of coming continues in the state of being come.

Now let's turn back to Proverbs 8:23-25. God is said to perform two actions with respect to Wisdom; it is said that he 'established' (EQEMELIWSEN 3rd sing. aorist act. ind.) her and that he 'begat' (GENNAi 3rd sing. present act. ind.) her. As in the case of Luke 15:27, evidently one action is seen as punctiliar and complete in the past, and the other as having a continuation of existing result. This accounts for the use of the present form of the verb here. Recall how closely Dana & Mantey associate the present of continuation of existing results with the PPA. They are subcategories of the same progressive present usage. Just as you have listed the gnomic and customary and iterative presents (along with the static) as more-or-less nuances of the same usage, so I would maintain that the CER and the PPA were bascially the same usage to the Greeks. In all of the cited examples of the CER, translating them exactly as we render the PPA is perfectly satisfactory in conveying the sense, and in fact is the most communicative way to get that sense across to the English reader, containing the full meaning of what is being expressed. I think my explanation of this passage of Proverbs is much more natural and contextual, and does not require any special pleading for a special sense beyond the normal use of the language that only applies in theological discourse. As I said, we might puzzle over why the Greek writers saw one sort of past action as continuing up to the present and another as not in the same way, when WE think they either both continue, or not. But the fact remains that their choices indicate the distinctions that made sense to them, and we construct our grammars by observing what they did in practice, not by insisting on a consistent following of the rules we have formulated on the basis of partial observations we have been able to make. If I have the time, I will try to find some non-biblical uses of GENNAW that help us to see how consistent this understanding of the verb was. But what we can be sure of already is that this is NOT a gnomic or customary present, is much closer to the PPA, and so joins the company of John 8:58 as an example of the use of the Infinitive of antecedent time for other than general, gnomic, or customary verbal action.

B. Jeremiah 1:5 In your post 15 you fault me for saying the following in my post #8:

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."
The latter was based on the following quote from you:

"The only ones ever classified as a PPA, to my knowledge, are Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5."


And about this you say:

"I must say that I am at a loss to understand how you came to misconstrue me in this way," that is, by my saying "usually."

Guilty. I did say "usually." I did not say that you said "usually" (notice the use of quotation marks). So I am guilty of heightening the point by using "usually." You are guilty of claiming that "not one of these eleven texts is a PPA," which is falsely stated as an established fact when, in fact, you had the "knowledge" that two of the eleven were in fact classified as PPAs. So your assertion than "none of these eleven" is a PPA is simply false.

In my post #8, I had said:

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."

On which you commented:

"As for how English Bibles usually translate this line of Jeremiah 1:5, I am not aware of a single one that translates it as you say it "should be" translated."

I must say, Rob, that I am at a loss to understand how you came to misconstrue me in this way. There are two sentences in the above quote. In the first, I say that the verse is a PPA and is usually translated that way. In the second, I state how I think it should be translated. I never said that is was usually translated the way I think it "should" be translated. I said it is "usually" translated as a PPA, and it "should" be translated as indicated, which is my own translation that best brings out, in my opinion, the distinctive PPA force of the verb. From now on I will refer to you as Mr. Pot and to myself as Mr. Kettle.

But on this, we are going to have to give each other a pass, because we both make the same slip: we both talk of English Bibles translating the Greek of Jeremiah 1:5, when of course they translate the Hebrew. So my point was wrongly made. It should have been that the original Hebrew of Jeremiah 1:5 is universally understood to have a past aspect (as your list of English translations effectively shows), and the translators of the LXX, whom we must assume were knowledgeable of the underlying Hebrew and would render it accurately into Greek, used the PPA construct to convey this past aspect to their readers. We do know that among your selected grammars, Winer considers this verse a PPA, and that reading of it is more natural and closer to how English Bibles translate the Hebrew, as you well demonstrate by quoting a long list of them, NONE of which detects 'timelessness' as being indicated in this verse. You would have to postulate a deliberate change in the meaning introduced by the Greek translators, which I really takes us too far down the road of special pleading.

You continue to dispute my criticism of your omission of Winer from the fourth point of your post 6. There you claimed that, "The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." I pointed out that other grammars include clausally-modified PPAs, so you were in error here. Among the others was Winer, who cites Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:15 as PPAs comparable to John 8:58. Since your statement of your fourth conclusion in your post 6 referred to "these grammars," and all references up to that point of your post were to the complete set of 15 grammars, your claim as stated was false. You subsequently clarified that you meant to refer only to those grammars "that actually say anything at all about a past-time." But this shifts the statistics behind your conclusion, and the false impression you gave of BDF and McKay as deviant from the norm (BDF of all grammars!). But you are right that thinking you "deliberately" ignored Winer was an unjustified conclusion on my part. It appears that you made an extra step of exclusion in your head that you failed to inform your readers of. I think this extra step of exclusion is a tendentious one, and that your fourth conclusion needs to be reworked from scratch, because it cannot stand as stated.

You go on to comment and expand on my characterization of the content of Jeremiah 1:5. We really have no disagreement on interpreting the theological import of the verse. Our difference is that I see this interpretation as an extrapolation, a thinking-out of the implications of what the verse says, that is probable, if not provable. You suggest that the words of the verse itself literally state this theological import. I think a close analysis of what the verse does and does not explicitly say supports my view of the matter, and that you are committing eisegesis.


You conclude:

"This usage of the present tense also seems to fit nicely the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive usage. God's knowing Jeremiah is a perpetual, temporally unbounded knowing, as starkly expressed by saying that God knows him even before he is born."


"Before he is born" is not a "temporally unbounded" expression -- as you yourself are arguing in this post, it is a marker of antecedence, which by definition marks a temporal boundary. You have been repeating this and emphasizing this but do not seem to follow its consequences. An antecedent clause places the action or state of the verb before the event indicated in the clause. Hence all those examples you listed where the main verb is an aorist place the action literally and exclusively in the time prior to the event in the modifying clause. Now why, in some cases, is a present used with a marker of antecedence? It would seem to present a temporal conflict. Well, it turns out that this is an idiomatic use of the present to mark an action or state that is durative from before the event of the dependent clause up to the present. I think the problem you may be having is that the limited set of examples you are looking at abound in references to God and Christ, and this coincidence makes you conclude a theological significance to the usage. This is what I
meant when I kept on you about how the content, the theological meaning that has been traditionally extrapolated from these examples, makes you read the grammatical elements in ways they would not normally be taken. I wasn't very clear in making that point, and it seems I was taken to be talking about the lexical content of the words in the Greek sentence, so that's my fault, and you were right to clarify that such lexical content is necessarily taken into consideration in determining the rendering of verbal significance and so forth, with which I certainly do (and always did) agree. One way to help with this problem is to supply more non-Biblical examples so that we can see how the grammar and syntax works in ordinary, non-theological passages. Unfortunately, the kinds of tools at my disposal to find such example are not as effective as the very rich body of biblical reference resources. But I will keep at it as time permits.

This last point bring me to:
C. Psalm 89:2 LXX (90:2 Eng.):

Here again I was anxious to point out the tendentiousness of your reading of the verse, how I felt you were reading in assumptions (eisegesis) rather than reading the passage in its own terms (exegesis). I made some mistakes in trying to point this out. I think you referred to one as embarrassing," which I accept despite its presumptuousness. On your translation:

Before the mountains were brought into existence,
And the earth and the world were formed,
Even from everlasting to everlasting,
You are.

I had said that your translation of the third line above was "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 remark that there is "nothing at all" in the Greek behind your "even" was simply wrong, and I retract it. KAI can indeed be translated "even" sometimes. Although KAI much more is just "and," I far overstated my objection to "even." You see a progression in the verse, and construct it line by line to heighten this reading. But the three lines are not grammatically in series. The first two clauses are governed by the PRO TOU, and the KAI at the beginning of the second clause joins it to the first in its dependence on the PRO TOU. The third line is a phrase governed by APO TOU, and so distinguised from the first two lines. The KAI at the beginning of this third line is not in series with the KAI at the beginning of the second line. Now your "even" is apparently used here because you take the two KAIs to be in series, and "even" is a summative conjunction to end a series. But this is not a series.

For it to be a series, you would have to drop the APO TOU, and make the final phrase governed by the same PRO TOU as the first two clauses. Then you could have something like "from all eternity" I suppose. But that is not how the sentence works. I maintain that the first two joined clauses represent a "before" statement, that is, an Infinitive of antecedent time construction that marks the event(s) before which God existed, and that the third line, the APO TOU phrase, represents a marker of durative time "and from age to age" of God's continued existence since "before . . ." So this verse is more explicit in its modifying elements than we see in other PPAs with "before" clauses, in which the "since" element is implicit in the modifier; here it is made explicit. I had pointed out this difference in my previous remarks on this passage, among which you quote back to me here:

As I pointed out in my post on this passage, there 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.

To which you reply

"If we omit the third line, the verse predicates existence of God "before" certain past events, by saying not that God "existed" before creation but that he "exists" before creation."

Rob, this is just not an acceptable way to speak. You cannot in English use a present tense to indicate states or actions before other past events. You are defending a non-sequiter.

You continue:

"That God continued to exist after creation and up to the time of the statement is implied, of course, but that is not the precise denotation of the verb in this context. Rather, in its grammatical and semantic setting in this verse, EI denotes simple existence, an existence at all times, contrasted specifically with the origins of the ancient mountains, the earth and the world. The third line confirms this interpretation rather than being the sole basis for it."

The present form of the verb EI used only in conjunction with the two temporal clauses referencing specific events of past time means, and can only mean existence "since before" up to the present. It does not in itself mean "at all times." I agree that the verse is meant to contrast God's existence to the more limited temporal existence of the cosmos. Where we keep having a conflict is the difference between what the sentence SAYS and what it IMPLIES. By definition, what a sentence implies is not explicitly said. The third line, as I have said, makes more explicit the durative aspect of the verb than we see in other examples of PPA verbs with "before" clauses alone, and heightens the point the writer is making. But your resort to "existence at all times" is rooted in your misunderstanding of the gnomic or customary present, which I have already explained does not refer in itself to eternality, but only that something is the case whenever and wherever the specified circumstance occurs. Your interpretation cannot be read into the grammatical forms, but must be read out of them, which you can do. Why is this not satisfactory to you?


You conclude:

"Thus, while the PPA classification can apply in a broad sense to Psalm 89:2, the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive classification more fully brings out the precise sense of the verb in this context."

Lo and behold, suddenly the PPA is NOT a broad-band use of the verb! Wallace doesn't say that. Dana & Mantey don't say that. So how did that happen? This is another one of those over-eager leaps of yours that can be mistaken for trying to get away with something. So let me point out the leap of argument here of which you apparently are unaware: You have not argued that the PPA is not a broad-band use. So this contrastive conclusion is erroneous. Nor have you been able to construct a coherent English sentences by taking the verb as gnomic/static. Nor have you justified your conflation of the gnomic and static. So it is all a house of cards. On the other hand, I have shown in this example as in the two before it that they are all PPAs or indistinguishably close to PPAs in their construction and meaning. This leads us to revisit your statistics:

"Of these 11 occurrences of the infinitive of antecedent time construction,"

Correct now to 15, including the three "disputed" passages, for which you never explained why you considered them disputed, plus John 8:58.

"in 9 instances the main or controlling present-tense verb is a broad-band present."

Correct to 13, with the PPA of course being included among "broad-band presents" as you have defined them.

"The only exceptions are the 2 futuristic uses (Mal. 3:22 LXX; John 13:19). Of the rest, 4 are gnomic, 3 are customary (or iterative/customary), and 2 are descriptive or general."

And 4 are PPAs, thus MAKING THE PPA USE OF THE INFINITIVE OF ANTECEDENT TIME AS COMMON IN YOUR SAMPLE AS ANY OTHER USAGE.
You then review Testament of Job 2:1 and Menander, _Dyscolos_ 615-16. I don't see anything to add to our discussion of the former. On the latter ("For assuredly I have long [PALAI] been [EIMI] your friend since before [PRIN] I saw [IDEIN] you."), your argument is:

"We both *know* that PALAI is a common marker for the PPA (as defined narrowly or in a middle-of-the-road way), especially in classical Greek (Goodwin, 268; Smyth, 423; cf. the note in Burton, 10). That a clause like the PRIN clauses of John 8:58 and this line in Menander functions as a marker of the PPA is something we do *not* both know; it is, in fact, in dispute."

This is a misstatement on your part. We *know* that the PRIN clause is a marker of the PPA to the same degree we *know* that PALAI is. You cite Goodwin, Smyth, and Burton for PALAI. I can cite BDF, McKay, and Winer for the PRIN clause. So this argument is erroneous.

You continue:

"In order to establish that such a clause, when expressing past time, would signal that the present-tense main verb is a PPA, we would need examples where that clause unambiguously performs that function. A sentence in which such a clause sits alongside a word like PALAI simply does not qualify as such an example. You assert, "If you remove the adverb PALAI from the sentence, you still have a sentence that would still be translated as a PPA." But this assertion begs the question; we cannot tell, from this example, that such a sentence would be written, or that if it were written the present-tense verb would be a PPA (in the narrow sense)."

You have not answered my point. I said that if you remove PALAI from the sentence, it is still necessarily a PPA. Please tell me how you would translate the sentence without the PALAI, with only the PRIN clause. I cannot conceive of a translation that does not shift the significance of the main verb due to the complementary function of the clause. You are quite correct that PALAI can get the credit for the shift as much as the PRIN clause does. This is a redundancy in the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence can be analyzed either with PALAI as a complement to the main verb and the clause an adjunct, or vice versa. There is no definitive way to distinguish which has priority here, as you assert when you say:

"As it stands, the clause PRIN IDEIN does not flag the present-tense verb EIMI as a PPA because the adverb PALAI, which precedes the clause in question, has already done so. If we read the sentence linearly, PALAI qualifies EIMI as a PPA, and then PRIN IDEIN qualifies or expands on what PALAI means (A long time-before I saw you!)."

This would be valid IF priority in order within a sentence equaled dominance in control of the sentence, which is not true of Greek. Besides, it would still not answer my question: how is the sentence NOT a PPA without PALAI?

In your concluding remarks, you state:

"In biblical Greek, we find well over a hundred occurrences of the construction PRO TOU or PRIN followed by the aorist infinitive. Nearly all of these (96%) indisputably use the construction to indicate that the state or action of the main verb obtained at a time antecedent to the event that the aorist infinitive expresses."

This has never been in dispute. The challenge for you is not to lock in the action of main verb antecedent to the event of the aorist infinitive, but to break it out. If it is locked in, then when the event of the aorist infinitive is in the past, then the main verb is a past tense, too. But we are not concerned with those cases; we are concerned only with when the main verb is a present tense. When it is, we have either (1) the aorist infinitive indicating a general, continuing, customary, or iterative occurrence, in which case the main verb is gnomic or customary or iterative, or (2) the aorist infinitive indicates a specific event of time, in which case the main verb is past progressive or futurative. Since you have never paid attention to that distinction within the aorist infinitive clause, your argument in without merit.

On Ps. 89:2, Prov. 8:25, and Jer. 1:5a, you say:

"In context, we can comfortably construe the present-tense verbs in each of these three texts as a broad-band present of the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive kind (which also applies to several of the other present-tense verbs where the construction is indisputable)."

I have shown why this is not true. Nor, for that matter, did you ever justify the reading you give of these verses as fitting the description of these categories.

You continue:
"In each text, the present tense expresses a state that *is* antecedent to a past event."

Since you have argued that the aorist infinitive limits the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive, you have quite simply argued away the continuing action of the verb after that event. It's a good thing your argument is an invalid one. The use of the present is what unlocks the action of the verb from mere antecedence, and gives it continuation to the present. If you had your way, we would be forced to use a simple past tense: was antecedent to a past event.

You add:
"As for translating this construction, I am not aware of a single instance, in the 20 occurrences of the construction in New Testament Greek, in which any of the standard English Bibles translates PRIN or PRO TOU "since before."

That's because the implicit "since" only pertains when you have both a past event in your aorist infinitive clause and a present tense main verb. None of the NT examples other than John 8:58 have this combination of features. But Psalm 90.2 and Jeremiah 1:5 from the OT do, and the rendering "since before" is needed to convey both antecedence and continuation in both instances, unless the main verb is rendered as a simple past, which would be incorrect.

Already in my posts 8 and 9 I addressed this sample of passages you regard as sharing a feature with John 8:58 (the kind of PRIN clause used). In my post 9, I pointed out that your sample of "closer parallels" were closer on the type of modifying clause used, but failed to distinguish between those cases where the modification involved the past from those where it involved present, customary, repeated, continuous, or future events. John 8:58 is closest to those whose modifying clause involve a past event, and all of these are PPAs. Please review the definitions of the PPA, which refer generally to various kinds of TEMPORAL MODIFICATION as the key to the verbal meaning, a modification that is never said to exclude the Infinitive of antecedent time (and which, in fact, several grammars explicitly cite in citing John 8:58). Then review the discussions of the Infinitive of antecedent time and see if they EVER rule out its use to form a PPA. You have simply drawn your line of distinction in the wrong place. That this particular infinitive construction CAN be used in non-PPA sentences in no way LIMITS its use to non-PPA sentences.

You have never made a case why the type of modifying clause should be the most important defining feature of John 8:58. In fact, as part of this last series of posts, you have continued to argue that the clause has NOTHING TO DO with the main verb, that the latter is a "predicate absolute." You can't have it both ways. Either you want to argue that EIMI is a predicate absolute, or you want to argue that the PRIN clause is the most important feature that determines the meaning of the verb. Imagine if one of the presidential candidates, in the same debate, argued that "We definitely need to raise taxes" and "We definitely need to lower taxes." Similarly, in my post 10 I pointed out how you attempted to defend yourself from criticism of your conclusions by saying you never claimed that a PPA could not be formed by an adverbial clause, while at the same time arguing that there were no examples of them, that any examples were "alleged" and were to be rejected for one reason or another. I said it had to be one or the other: either there were clausally-formed PPAs or there weren't. In the first case, we could move on to other matters, in the second you must take your lumps for a position that is wrong. I asked you to please clarify which position you are taking. You have not directly answered that question in the month since it was posed.

You have simply not constructed a coherent position on John 8:58. Instead, you have lined up a series of contradictory arguments in order to defend the traditional translation by any possible means. I suspect you don't realize it. But in this series of replies, I am showing you that it is the case. When I have completed these replies, I think you will see that you have three choices: (1) Create a coherent position that takes a consistent position on the relation of the parts of the sentence to one another and stick with it, come what may, (2) Concede defeat on the translation (which, as I have repeatedly pointed out, does not mean conceding defeat on interpretation), (3) Deal with the fact that you are indeed one of "those" apologists, who defends a position regardless of the facts due to the strength of one's convictions. You have strenuously disavowed the latter option, and I have every to take your feelings on that matter seriously. Therefore, you will need at the very least to abandon the mutually exclusive arguments you have been attempting, although I am in no position to suggest which one you might choose to stick with, since each ultimately fails.

Best wishes,
Jason B.


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