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Saturday, January 22, 2005

JB16652 - Jason #28: Question of Clarification 

(JB16652) Jason BeDuhn [Sat Jan 22, 2005 3:57 pm] (Jason #28: Question of Clarification)


Rob,

Perhaps now would be an appropriate time to ask a clarifying question, since I for one am having difficulty following your line of argument. Do you mean to argue that the PPA so overlaps with the "universal" gnomic and the "static" that to say that EIMI in John 8:58 can be construed as a PPA is necessarily to leave open its consrual as one of these other two categories of use? Or do you mean to argue that EIMI in John 8:58 is one of these other two categories of use and NOT a PPA? These are two distinct, irreconciliable arguments, but I can't quite tell which of them you are making. In either case, I think you have insurmountable obstacles to making your case. In the first line of argument, you have not been able to demonstrate that any grammars support the idea that the PPA overlaps with these other categories of use (and for good reason, because the progressive temporal quality of the PPA is exactly what is lacking in "universal" or "static" states or natures). In the second line of argument you face the challenge that none of your grammars identifies John 8:58 as belonging to these other categories of use. Four of your grammars consider it a PPA, and to the best of my knowledge none of them cite it under any other category of use. But in any case, a clarification of your position on this would be helpful.

best wishes,
Jason B.

JB16651 - Jason #27: John 8:58 

(16651) Jason BeDuhn [Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:19 pm] (Bowman corrected on Gnomic: Jason #27)

Rob,

Your post #26 continues your comments on my post #18. Once again I refer our readers to that post of mine, and will try not to duplicate here the arguments made there, all of which remain secure and valid after your comments, as far as I'm concerned.

I had remarked on the definition of the gnomic present which you extracted from Wallace, that it was "one of the worst characterizations of the gnomic present I have ever read." Now that you supply the whole section from Wallace, I can see that you left out of your original extract everything that would make it clear that he is seeking to distinguish two different applications of the gnomic. Because what you quoted gave the appearance that he was characterizing all gnomics in a way that he meant to only characterize a very special and rare use, I thought his definition badly phrased. Since most other grammars define gnomic in the "generic" or "customary" sense of something true not eternally but regularly (any time rather than all the time), I objected to how Wallace was presenting the category, although in those bits you quoted where he was speaking of the broader gnomic category, I was able to show how you were seemingly missing the regular rather than eternal character of time in the gnomic use. It
is now clear that you wish to invoke only the proposed "universal" subcategory of the gnomic.

Whatever the merits of Wallace's presentation on the gnomic, he doesn't identify John 8:58 as one, does he? Instead, he apparently offers only two hypothetical sentences: "The wind blows" and "God loves." I do not agree with you that Wallace means the first sentence to suggest that,
"'the wind' is always blowing *somewhere* on the earth; wind is a constant, continual phenomenon." Rather, it means that it is characteristic of wind to blow; blowing is part of the nature or a defining feature of wind. I think everyone can see how close this is to the generic or customary application of the gnomic. But let me leave that example behind, because I think our readers have seen enough wind from us.

Of course the second example is also only a hypothetical rather than actual sentence. You deal with this by the kindness of supplying what you regard as actual examples of what Wallace means from the Bible. Now here's the problem: in Wallace's hypothetical, "God loves," the statement can only be taken as aimed at the nature or character of God "universally," precisely because no conditioning circumstance qualifies the idea. So you are right about it, "that 'God loves' is an excellent example of the 'universal' type of gnomic present. The statement means that it is always true that God loves."

But what about actual Greek sentences? You give several:

"God is [ESTIN] love" (1 John 4:8, 16)."


This does indeed make a statement about the nature or character of the subject, in the typical Greek fashion of subject + copula + predicate noun. The simple copula is atemporal in such constructs. In other words, if I substitute another subject, such as "A kiss is love," we would agree that what is being said is that it is of the nature of a kiss to have a loving quality. This is gnomic because the statement presents it as true generally, any time. "This is my body" would be another actual example of this construct from the Bible. Atemporality is not the same as eternality. The idea that atemporality should be converted into eternality comes from your theological concepts about the subject of the sentence, rather than from the grammar of the sentence, which does not provide so much specificity. The statement MAY be true eternally, but that is interpretation, not translation. Obviously, since "is" is used here as a copula, it does not provide a parallel to John 8:58.

You go on to cite:
"God loves [AGAPA] a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7)
"He loves charity and justice" (Ps. 33:5 [32:5 Gk.]).
"For the Lord loves justice" (Ps. 37:28 [36:28 Gk.]).
"For the Lord loves mercy and truth" (Ps. 84:11 [84:12 Heb.; 83:12 Gk.]).
"The Lord looses the fetters;
The Lord gives wisdom to the blind;
The Lord sets up the broken down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord preserves the strangers..." (Ps. 146:7-8 [145:7-8 Gk.]).


Of course, these all employ transitive verbs with objects, so are not grammatically parallel to John 8:58. As you yourself recognize, these are really classic gnomics. They state God's feelings whenever the condition occurs, whenever there is a cheerful give, or whenever there are acts of charity, justice, mercy, and truth, or they state what God habitually does. The same is true of:
"The Spirit searches [ERAUNA] all things" (1 Cor. 2:10). "God is [ESTIN] not tempted by evil, and he tempts [PEIRAZEI] no one" (James 1:13).

Grammatically, the first clause of the James example is a close parallel to that quoted from 1 John above: subject + copula + predicate adjective, so nothing like John 8:58.

You then cite:
"The Most High dwells [KATOIKEI] not in places made by human hands" (Acts 7:48; also 17:24).


But why don't you quote alongside of this Acts 4:16 "All those who dwell [KATOIKOUSIN] in Jerusalem," or 19:17 "All the Jews and Greeks who dwell [KATOUKOUSIN] in Ephesus"? Grammatically these are all simple presents. You CAN take your example as gnomic in the sense of atemporally expressing what is characteristic of God, but this is equally true of the "New heavens and new earth" in which righteousness "dwells [KATOIKEI]" (2 Peter 3:13) -- and they do not even exist yet at the time the statement is made. So atemporal because the usage is not concerned with WHEN, but with WHAT -- but you cannot leap from that to eternally true on the basis of the grammar and syntax. Similarly atemporal is the statement:

"God knows [GINWSKEI] all things" (1 John 3:20).


So let's cut to the chase. You would like "I am" to belong in this "universal" category of the gnomic, and then we can quibble about the difference between atemporal characterizations of the subject and eternal ones. But we can't even get there, for the simple reason that EGW EIMI does not appear absolutely or in isolation so that we would be brought to read it as gnomic. It exists in a syntactical relation to the dependent clause which is determinative of the significance of EIMI. Until you succeed in prying EGW EIMI apart from the rest of the sentence in John 8:58, you have no other argument to make. This is really the deal breaker for us in this discussion, because you keep wanting to read EGW EIMI apart from the PRIN complement, even though you admit that they are part of the same sentence. You just can't do that in Greek grammar and syntax.

Even if we were, strictly for the sake of argument, to isolate the EGW EIMI, your universal gnomic "I exist" sentence would mean simply that it is in the nature of the speaker to exist. I can think of few more superfluous claims in any language. What you keep forgetting is that the only thing that makes us give any temporal quality to this verb other than the simple present value is its modification by the "before Abraham" clause. So your efforts to keep reading the verb in isolation from that clause only defeat your interpretive goals. This relates to another point which those who read this verse in English fall prey to, and that is thinking that the stress in this sentence is on the "I am." Actually, in Greek, the last position in the sentence is precisely the unstressed position for a verb. The dependent clause is preposed here to emphasize it; that's what is supposed to be stressed in the statement, the "before Abraham"(!).

In my post #18, I had written:
"It is a gnomic present to say "God knows what you need before you ask for it." But it is not a gnomic present to say "God knew me before I was born." Both of these sentences have "before" clauses. In the first case, the "before" clause refers to an action that occurs repeatedly, at any time, past, present, or future, thus making the action of the main verb repeated "omnitemporally," at each occurrence of the circumstance referred to in the "before" clause, and hence gnomic. In the second case, the "before" clause indicates a specific PAST event, and so the main verb is not extended over multiple, customary occasions, and hence is not gnomic."


To this you reply:
"[Y]ou deny that "knew" is gnomic in the sentence, "God knew me before I was born." Well, given this English sentence, obviously "knew" cannot be a gnomic present because it is not a present-tense verb. . . What, though, of the sentence, "God knows me before I am born"? This sentence is grammatically parallel to your first example."


But Rob, we do not have this sentence in the Bible. So obviously you can make up anything, but let's stick to the evidence at hand.

You say:
"In "God knows me before I am born" . . . the 'before' clause indicates a specific PAST event, namely, the birth of the speaker."


Not in English, Rob. You simply don't say "before I AM born" with a past meaning in English. You are constructing a fictional grammar. And you seem to just skip over the point that when the event is unique, and not repeated, that is not what we have been calling "gnomic."

I had pointed out your repeated commitment of the fallacy of "postulating a distinct theological grammar." To this you object that it is legitimate to "not base my interpretation of John 8:58 solely on the grammatical features of the text in the abstract but in relation to the immediate context in John 8 and the associations that Jesus' statement evokes in its Jewish theological context."

Absolutely. But Rob, if you can't see that what you are talking about is interpretation, not translation, then I can't help you.

YOu had claimed that Dana & Mantey "use this term 'static present' to refer to a usage of the present that is formally similar or analogous to the PPA," to which I objected, "THEY do not consider this usage 'formally similar or analogous to the PPA,' YOU do. They put it in a completely different class, one in which the progressive character of the present tense is not prominent. You assume they assign what others consider a PPA to the `static' category, and that is why you conclude what you do." My criticism stands. You had misconstrued their references to examples of the PPA and on that basis argued that the PPA overlaps with their static category. Now you say the basis for your argument was their remark "This use is practically the present of duration applied to a verb of being" (Dana and Mantey, 186). But this is quite different than "formally similar or analogous," the wording you chose, and you will recall that I questioned the ambiguity of your phrasing. The "analogy" they make is between how a present tense carries a sense of "progress" in its "regular uses" (which include the PPA), and that these run parallel to non-progressive "special uses" where "the root idea is not so evidently patent" (184). My criticism was that their "static" category was classified among the latter, and their comment which you now stress is not meant to suggest overlap of the two uses. Rather, the reason why the "static" is "static," and therefore does NOT have a progressive quality, is that it lacks temporal specificity. Please review their examples. "You bear witness" (John 15:27); "The one who commits sin is from the devil" (1 John 3:8). The latter is fairly much just a classic gnomic use. The first is atemporal, in that the verb doesn't carry specific temporal
reference. I have no idea how Dana & Mantey can say these verbs have a "perpetual" value to them. I don't think that is a very good choice of expression. "Abiding" might have been better. They certainly don't mean "perpetual" in teh sense of "eternal," as their examples make clear. What they must mean, given where the "static" falls in their system, is that it is a "state" whose temporal aspect is not in view, rather than something that is temporally fixed, and so happening in reference to time.


Your difficulty in accepting my identification of the verbs to which Dana & Mantey are referring in their examples of the "static" (which, as you will recall was a solution to the troubling appearance of them contradictorily citing the same verb under distinct usages) comes from their poor word choice "perpetual," and your inclination to read this as "eternal." But once you consider what "static" means, and where this category is placed in Dana & Mantey's breakdown of the uses of the present, it becomes clear that they mean atemporal, where the verb is not meant to provide temporal information, but something that just is (to coin a phrase) without concern for when it is. If, when you look at the clauses where they apparently invoke the static, you don't think their definition and distinction of the static holds up, you are only agreeing with me, since from the very beginning I contended that they were getting a bit carried away in mutiplying supposedly distinct uses.

Dana & Mantey's third example (2 Peter 3:4) has been treated at length before by me, explaining why it cannot possibly have a "perpetual" significance. I had pointed out that, "If 2 Peter 3:4 involved a gnomic (or "static") present, then it would be saying that all things have AND WILL remain the same from the beginning of creation. Because as a "timeless fact" it is ALWAYS TRUE. "All things [always] remain the same"(!)."

To this you reply:
"Indeed! That is exactly what Peter is representing the scoffers as saying!"


There you go again, Rob, blithely ignoring the presence of a modifying dependent clause, "from when the ancestors fell asleep," which is crucial in the context to establishing the meaning that from then until now this is the "state" of things: as they were from the beginning of creation. They might be implying that things will go on that way, but the grammar of the sentence only states what has been the case from then until now. So once again, your interpretation invades your translation. But you want to use this verse as a particularly good example for arguing how it is and should be translated using a present tense English form, despite the temporal modification of the "since" clauses. I would contend it is a bad example, not because the underlying Greek is different than that of John 8:58, but due to the idiomatic interchangeability in English of "remains" and "has remained." That is, both "The song remains the same," and "The song has remained the same" have the same meaning in English, because this English verb has a progressive quality in its root meaning. The same is not true of the be-verb, and that is why you have to choose one form or the other, depending on indications in the underlying Greek of whether the be-ing is punctiliar (or atemporal) or progressive.

In any case, I accept that we agree to disagree on all this, and I am satisfied with the arguments I have made.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

JB16629 - Jason #26: Re: John 8:58 

(16629) Jason BeDuhn [Wed Jan 19, 2005 3:27 pm] (Jason #26)


Rob,

You have now completed your replies to my post #17, so I would just like to refer our readers back to that post to review what I said there, none of which has been set aside by your replies to a handful of isolated comments. The bulk of my criticisms were passed over with neither acknowledgment nor attempted rebuttal, and so we can consider that we both feel enough has been said on those topics.

As for your post #25, I also feel that I have little to add to what I said in my post #18 to which your comments are intended to reply. Thank you for explaining Wallace's usage of "broad-band" and "narrow-band." In my post #18 I questioned why you were using Wallace as your primary source for your discussion of these issues, when he seems to phrase things in problematic ways even for you. I have since been forwarded other passages from Wallace from one of our readers which show him mixing theological and linguistic analysis in a way which shows him not to be adhering to strictly grammatical principles in his grammar.

You say:
"I have simply argued that on the broader definitions of the PPA, one cannot claim that all PPA verbs *must* be translated using a form of the past tense. That's it!"


And I have shown that the way you arrive at that conclusion is fallacious. That's it.


You say:
"I didn't advocate lumping the PPA with those other usages in the sense of claiming that they can all be translated in the same way. You are missing the point still."


Rob, that is precisely what you were claiming, precisely what you were aiming to show, that John 8:58 can be translated in the same way as those other usages. We all have been watching you make that claim.

I had asked:
Do you dispute that EIMI is temporally modified in John 8:58? Think carefully before you answer, because it has serious consequences for your position.


To which you replied:
"In the sense that you mean by "temporally modified," yes, I do dispute it. You mean modified to denote existence in one specific temporal aspect (from the past into the present). (I am not here using "aspect" in the modern technical linguistic sense.) The wording of John 8:58 goes beyond that temporal aspect. Of course, I do not dispute the claim that the dependent clause is meaningfully related to the main clause."


Either it is modified or it is not. If it is modified, it is modified in the direction indicated by the temporal clause. If it is not modified, then it has no other significance than the simple present. Take your pick.

You say:
"On the broader definitions of the PPA, any present-tense verb that expresses a state that obtained in the past and continues to obtain in the present is a PPA. But not all such verbs are justifiably translated using an English past tense verb. The sentence hO QEOS AGAPH ESTIN fits this definition, because what it says that God "is" obtained in the past and continues in the present, but it would be unjustifiable to translate this sentence "God has been love."


Who has ever defined the PPA as you do here? Who has ever cited 1 John 4:8 as a PPA? You are creating a straw man here.

You say:
"I have argued that renderings like those found in the LB or NWT, particularly in the context of a simplified English paraphrase or idiomatic version, are *possible* options but lose something important in the translation and are not *the best* rendering in a "literal" or primarily word-for-word kind of translation, such as the NWT purports to be."


You have failed to demonstrate this claim.

You say:
"I am arguing for a translation of the text that preserves the connections between this and other sayings of Jesus utilizing the unpredicated EGW EIMI. I am arguing for a translation of the text that conveys the Old Testament allusions of this and other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those in Isaiah."


In other words, you are arguing for an interpretation, a hypothesized doctrinal connection between passages, while bisecting the sentence right in front of you into unrelated segments. This is scarcely a legitimate procedure in translation.

You say:
"Besides, most people who read Greek simply disagree with your claim that rendering EIMI in John 8:58 as "am" rather than "have been" is somehow interpretive to the point of being suspect as evidence of bias."


A lovely bit of completely hollow rhetoric there, Rob. Yes, please do compile statistics on what "most people who read Greek" think about this sentence.

You say:
"And while obviousness can be a matter of some subjectivity and disagreement (calling into question your own statement), I think it fair to say that it would be quite a stretch to argue that "I am" is not at least *an* obvious choice for translating EGW EIMI."


There you go again, dissing poor old Abraham. Rob, please pay attention: the rest of the sentence! So now, if as appears obvious by you continually falling back to it, you are saying that EGW EIMI is a self-standing, independent, absolute clause, then you MUST do two things: (1) accept that the verb here is a simple present, with no temporal modification, and so no reference to "eternality" -- Jesus is simply saying "I exist" at the moment. Great news!

(2) find an alternative way to complete the syntax of the "before" clause, which you will have to combine with the previous clause, I suppose: "Truly, truly, I have been saying (LEGW as a PPA) to you since before Abraham was born, 'I exist.'" Hey, Rob, that's not bad. You might like that. Think about it. It's still not what the traditional translation has done.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

JB16623 - Jason #25: Revisitation of the PPA 

(JB16623) Jason BeDuhn [Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:09 pm] (Jason #25: Revisitation of the PPA)


Rob,

In your message #24 you restate four basic summations of what the grammars say about the PPA, in a much less tendentious way than you did in your post 6. Well and good. The point I have been making since your post 6 is that you tend to read the grammars as restrictive. If their examples are simple adverbs or adverb phrases, you argued, they must intend to restrict the PPA to these forms alone. I have argued that this conclusion is fallacious, that the statistical preponderance of these more simple constructions using simple adverbs and adverbial phrases is prone to dominate any list of examples a grammarian may provide. Many of these grammars cite very few examples, so the handful of more complex clausal constructions are quite likely to be left out. That's my point, and it holds. I would maintain that those grammars whose characterization of the PPA refers only to adverbs and adverb phrases have been carelessly phrased here; again, the preponderance of such constructions has made their authors neglectful of other recognized forms.

You wish to conclude:

If you mean unanimity, you should not hold your breath waiting for it from grammarians. "Consensus" is a bit vaguer, and disputable. In fact, NONE OF THE GRAMMARS EXPRESSLY EXCLUDE CLAUSAL CONSTRUCTIONS. Some neglect to mention such constructions. But that is to be expected in a set of grammars of varying depth, breadth, and quality.

You continue:
"The only way I can see for you to salvage your stronger claim, while admitting the above three conclusions, is to insist that any Greek grammar that implicitly or explicitly excludes John 8:58 from the category of the PPA is definitely, clearly wrong, too: they also are gnoring clear facts. If you wish to take that stance, please let us all know."


Please note that ONLY TWO GRAMMARS APPARENTLY EXPRESSLY EXCLUDE JOHN 8:58 AS A PPA. I have already said that Robsertson is wrong when he says that EIMI in John 8:58 is "really absolute." It is simply a mistake on his part. And note that this comment occurs in his discussion of what we are calling the PPA; he does not cite John 8:58 under any other category of verbal use, including any of the alternative forms you wish to invoke to explain the verse. As for Wallace, I have not been able to obtain a copy of this grammar. But perhaps you could help me here. I notice that you cite his discussion of the PPA from page 519, but cite his remark on John 8:58 from page 531 n.46. What is the context of this note? And can you give us word for word what he says in it? On the other hand, you have taken the position that four grammars (Turner, BDF, Winer, & McKay) are wrong to include John 8:58 without caveat among the examples of the PPA.

You go on to say:
"Three of those four, by your own account in the first point, do not make any sort of temporal indicator a requirement for the PPA (Winer, Turner, BDF), so their inclusion of John 8:58 does not imply that in their view the dependent clause in John 8:58 fulfills that function. To be more precise, Winer and Turner say nothing about such a temporal indicator and so we can draw no inference at all about it from their citation of John 8:58."


I beg your pardon, but aren't you the same person who uses the cited examples of grammars as complementary evidence of what they mean by their definitions? As I have pointed out, this is legitimate to do as an indicator of what sort of forms are included, but not of what are excluded, from their definition. The fact that these two grammars give extremely basic and broad characterizations of the PPA does not relieve us from identifying what in the context of the verb indicates to the reader a PPA use. Winer, in fact, in expressly comparing John 8:58 to Jeremiah 1:5 and Psalm 89:2 LXX indicates the common construction involved, which is the clausal construction of modification. But you of course have said that Winer is wrong about all of these passages.

Now I have criticized in detail problems with your various numerations and scorings of where the grammars fall on the question of the PPA. It was you, not I, who introduced such statistical arguments into the discussion. Now, however, you claim:

"I was not in the least attempting to determine whether a majority of the grammars favored a broad or a narrow definition. I was not attempting to argue for a narrow definition as opposed to a broad one on the grounds that a majority of grammars employed a narrow definition."


Well, then I must apologize on behalf of all of us, or nearly all of us, who thought that counting which grammars you saw as favoring your view versus those you thought could be seen to be in line with mine, was a method of argument on your part. I can't imagine what we were thinking.

You say:
"I set out explicitly and quite plainly what I intended to prove in my post #14, which you completely bypassed on your last round of posts (pp. 169-70). . . I'll repeat what I wrote in post #14 (pp. 169-70) with some additional comments in light of the above considerations.



But I did address this in my critique, which you consider irrelevant. I pointed out that some of the things on which you compiled scores where arbitrary and not really indicative of where grammars fall on a single scale, that is, that you combined very mixed variables in a crude and versimplifying manner. So the above two claims are largely meaningless. What you term "broad" I could just as well term "most precise in inclusivity of possible forms."

You go on:

First, you have dismissed as a supposed "straw man" (and therefore avoided answering) my point that whether a grammar happens to remark on how to translate a form is a completely independent variable from what you term "broad" or "narrow" definition or any other thing you score. It has more to do with whether a grammar is written primarily with translators in mind or primarily for those who are studying materials in Greek without thought of producing a translation. So your attempt to correlate breadth of definition with remarks on how to translate is without merit, as I said in October. Such a correlation is essential to your claim, and not in any sense a "straw man," as you now say.

Second, you avoid any comment on the fact that those who do comment on translation assume a past rendering as the norm, which clearly puts your position against the tide.

Third, this issue relates to my point about verbal tense complementarity in John 8:58. You have never even attempted to contradict me (and rightly so) that English sentences require a certain verbal tense complementarity, and this is something most translations of John 8:59 violate. The only way you had open to you to avoid this issue was to try to split the sentence up, and claim that the two clauses had nothing to do with each other gramamtically (which is what would be the implication if EIMI were an "absolute"). But you have acknowledged that this cannot be done, because the dependent clause cannot stand alone. As I pointed out in October, your entire argument about EIMI as an absolute is muddled by lapses in your understanding of the term and of the status of the be-verb in both Greek and English.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Monday, January 17, 2005

RB16620 - Rob #26: Gnomic or static present 

(16620) Robert Bowman [Mon Jan 17, 2005 10:40 pm ](Rob #26: Gnomic or static present)

Jason,

In this post I will complete my response to your post #18 of October 23, 2004 (message #15826 in the online archives; pp. 231-35 of our document in the Files section of this Group), which was your response to the last two sections (out of three) of my post #16 (pp. 173-74).

I. WALLACE ON THE GNOMIC PRESENT

I had quoted Wallace's description of the gnomic present. In response, you wrote:

This is one of the worst characterizations of the gnomic present I have ever read, which raises the question why you are taking Wallace as your authority on this. (p. 231)


Well, well. I believe the answer your "question" means to elicit is something like "I'm using Wallace because he's the only guy I could find to back up my position." The fact is that I cited Wallace throughout my post #16 (to which you were responding) because his discussion of the various uses of the present tense is (a) recent, (b) extensive, (c) part of a highly regarded reference work, and (d) illustrative of a number of points that I have made about the categories of uses of the Greek present. As I shall note below, Wallace is not alone in this matter.

Since you later acknowledge that you don't have a copy of Wallace and are relying on my quotation, let me give a more complete quotation of the relevant portion:

*****BEGIN QUOTE FROM WALLACE*****
1. Definition

The present tense may be used to make a statement of a general, timeless fact. 'It does not state that something _is_ happening, but that something _does_ happen.' [Williams, _Grammar Notes_, 27] The action or state continues without time limits. The verb is used 'in proverbial statements or general maxims about what occurs at _all_ times.' [Fanning, _Verbal Aspect_, 208] This usage is common.

2. Semantics and Semantic Situations

The gnomic present is distinct from the customary present in that the _customary_ present refers to a regularly recurring action while the _gnomic_ present refers to a general, timeless fact. It is distinct from the stative present (a subcategory of the customary) in that the stative present involves a temporal restriction while the gnomic present is generally _atemporal_.

There are two predominant situations in which the gnomic present occurs. [See Fanning, Verbal Aspect_, 208-17, for seminal work in this regard.] The _first_ includes instances that depict _deity or nature as the subject of the action_. Statements such as 'the wind blows' or 'God loves' fit this category. Such gnomic presents are true _all_ the time. There is a _second_ kind of gnomic, slightly different in definition: the use of the present in _generic_ statements to describe something that is true _any_ time (rather than a universal statement that is true _all_ the time). [Fanning, 209] This kind of gnomic present is more common. Wallace, _Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics_, 523.
*****END QUOTE FROM WALLACE*****

Please note also that I had previously cited the above passage as found on pages 521, 523, and this was a mistake; the entire quote comes from page 523.

Wallace goes on to focus on what he calls (following Fanning) the second, more common kind of gnomic present, the "generic" kind that describes "something that is true _any_ time." The fact that generic gnomics are far more common explains why grammars that give very short comments about the gnomic present refer exclusively to the generic gnomic and do not bother to make the distinction (e.g., Moule's _Idiom Book_, the only grammar that you cited).

Now, your criticism of Wallace's description of the gnomic present as the worst you have ever read may reflect in part on my not having given you a complete enough quotation. I assumed that you had Wallace and could read the entire section. I'm not sure if you'll change your mind about Wallace's description after getting a more complete account. In places you assert that Wallace is wrong or "careless," and in other places you claim that I have misunderstood Wallace. My guess is that you won't like Wallace's view once you've understood it, but I expect you'll let us know either way.

The bottom line of most of your comments is that the gnomic use pertains only to statements of what is proverbially true or true at any time. Thus, gnomic presents are of the type exemplified by such statements as "A good tree *bears* good fruit" or "God *knows* what you need." These statements mean that whenever there is a good tree, it bears good fruit; whenever you have a need, God knows what it is. The first statement does not mean that a good tree eternally bears good fruit, and of course good trees do no such thing; the second statement does not mean that God eternally knows what you need, although that may be true. The brunt of your criticism at this point is that the gnomic does not express an action or state that obtains continuously at all times (pp. 231-33).

You may disagree with him, but Wallace clearly does distinguish two kinds of gnomic presents. The kind that you recognize is the kind that Wallace says is the most common, what he calls the "generic" type of gnomic present. But Wallace's first, less common kind of gnomic present is what he says occurs in "universal" statements. These statements "are true _all_ the time" as distinguished from statements that are "true _any_ time."

By the way, Wallace derives this distinction from Buist Fanning's study _Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek_, published by Oxford University Press in 1990 (see Fanning, 208-17). In turn, Fanning cites John Lyons's highly influential book _Semantics_ (Cambridge University Press, 1977) for the distinction (and overlap) between gnomic and generic statements (Fanning, 209 n. 15, citing Lyons, 680-82). Your dismissal of Wallace's treatment as the worst you have ever read might be worth rethinking.

The two examples that Wallace gives in his description (quoted above) of the universal type of gnomic present are "the wind blows" and "God loves." Regarding these examples, you wrote:

Because the examples he gives are limited to characterizations, that is, statements about the nature of the thing, they give a false impression about all gnomic statements. `The wind blows' is a bad example because wind and blowing are the same thing. If you said "The air blows," then you can see that this is a gnomic present and true, but not continuously true. (p. 233)


You may have a point here, though it is debatable. I see the problem in a somewhat different way, though, than you do. Wind and blowing are not the same thing; wind is a particular kind of blowing. All wind is blowing, but not all blowing is wind. (If I blow air out of my mouth, that isn't wind.) "The wind blows" could be construed as a "generic" statement, not a universal one. Whenever and wherever there is wind, that wind blows. On the other hand, one might support Wallace's categorization here on the grounds that "the wind" is always blowing *somewhere* on the earth; wind is a constant, continual phenomenon.

You wrote:

Going back to deity, it is a gnomic present to say "God knows what you need before you ask for it." But it is not a gnomic present to say "God knew me before I was born." Both of these sentences have "before" clauses. In the first case, the "before" clause refers to an action that occurs repeatedly, at any time, past, present, or future, thus making the action of the main verb repeated "omnitemporally," at each occurrence of the circumstance referred to in the "before" clause, and hence gnomic. In the second case, the "before" clause indicates a specific PAST event, and so the main verb is not extended over multiple, customary occasions, and hence is not gnomic. (p. 233)


For some reason, you didn't address Wallace's other example, "God loves," at all. Instead, you contrasted two statements about God knowing, one of which you say is gnomic and the other not. I will address those examples, but first I must point out that "God loves" is an excellent example of the "universal" type of gnomic present. The statement means that it is always true that God loves. Specific biblical examples of this statement are found in 1 John: "God is [ESTIN] love" (1 John 4:8, 16). Paul's statement, "God loves [AGAPA] a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7), is also clearly gnomic, though I think one could debate whether to classify it as universal or generic (I would classify it as generic). The Old Testament has some examples like these:

"He loves charity and justice" (Ps. 33:5 [32:5 Gk.]).
"For the Lord loves justice" (Ps. 37:28 [36:28 Gk.]).
"For the Lord loves mercy and truth" (Ps. 84:11 [84:12 Heb.; 83:12 Gk.]).


The above seem best construed as universal gnomic presents: they express what God always is like, not merely what God is like at the time of speaking. I grant, though, that one *could* construe them as generic gnomics. On this exegesis, the Psalmist is saying that the Lord loves it any time when human beings show charity, justice, mercy, or truth. Since either way of reading these statements implies the other, the line between universal and generic gnomics here is awfully thin. I do think a text like the following would more definitely be a generic gnomic:

"The Lord looses the fetters;
The Lord gives wisdom to the blind;
The Lord sets up the broken down;
The Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord preserves the strangers..." (Ps. 146:7-8 [145:7-8 Gk.]).


Here are some other examples:

"The Most High dwells [KATOIKEI] not in places made by human hands" (Acts 7:48; also 17:24). "The Spirit searches [ERAUNA] all things" (1 Cor. 2:10). "God is [ESTIN] not tempted by evil, and he tempts [PEIRAZEI] no one" (James 1:13). "God.knows [GINWSKEI] all things" (1 John 3:20).

I grant that some of these occurrences might be classified as customary presents (1 Cor. 2:10; James 1:13), but in any case the line between the customary and the universal gnomic would be very thin in such texts. Nor do I think one can eliminate the category of universal gnomic by reclassifying all of these texts as customary presents, unless the customary present is broadened to include verbs expressing states that are always, continuously true-which amounts to letting the universal gnomic in through a side door.

Now, let's look at your examples. "God knows what you need before you ask for it." This could be construed as a "generic" type of gnomic present: on those occasions (past, present, or future) that you happen to ask for something you need, at any such occasion God knows before you ask. However, the sense might be that God *always* knows your need-even before you ask for it. Taken in that way, the verb could be construed as a universal type of gnomic present. In any case, we agree that "knows" in this occurrence is a gnomic present (as in the similar sentence in Matthew 6:8).

On the other hand, you deny that "knew" is gnomic in the sentence, "God knew me before I was born." Well, given this English sentence, obviously "knew" cannot be a gnomic present because it is not a present-tense verb. (Might you be begging the question here as to how a Greek text using the present tense in this place should be translated?) What, though, of the sentence, "God knows me before I am born"? This sentence is grammatically parallel to your first example. There is a difference, one you pointed out in setting forth your two examples. In "God knows what you need before you ask," you write, "the 'before' clause refers to an action that occurs repeatedly, at any time, past, present, or future." In "God knows me before I am born" (to use my more grammatically parallel example), "the 'before' clause indicates a specific PAST event," namely, the birth of the speaker. This difference, I think, clearly proves that "knows" in "God knows me before I am born" cannot be a *generic* gnomic. However, it does not preclude that "knows" in such a sentence cannot be a *universal* gnomic. At the least, the sense of the sentence is consistent with such a classification: to say "God knows me before I am born" would seem to be another way of saying "God *always* knows (or, "has always known") me, even before I was born." If this is not gnomic, it is something very much like it. Of course, we are here indirectly revisiting Jeremiah 1:5; I will have more to say about this verse in my response to you on that subject in a later post.

I would rather not get bogged down in a discussion of the meaning of such terms as "timeless" and "omnitemporal" (see your comments, p. 231). My comment about the word "timeless" possibly being confusing to some had reference to the fact that some people interpret the word "timeless" as a description of God to mean that God is "outside of time," meaning that God does not participate in actual moments of time. This is not how most orthodox Christians use the word, but the confusion exists, and I was actually trying to avoid that confusion. If one understands "timeless" to mean not limited to any one specific point or period of time, the word is serviceable in this discussion, though it could still be ambiguous. A proverbial statement like "Dead men tell no tales" is "timeless" in that it applies at any time, though not literally at all times in a continuous or permanent sense. "God knows all things" is a statement of what is true continuously at all times; some would express this point by saying that it is "timelessly" true, but it does not matter to me one bit whether we use the term in this way or not. What is important is to recognize the distinction between the two kinds of statements.

I had written:

"Obviously, one must qualify this 'timeless' usage as relatively timeless in the case of nature, though not in the case of deity (particularly in the biblical context)."

You commented:

You are here committing the fallacy of postulating a distinct theological grammar, that the semantic significance of grammar and syntax is different in theological discourse than in non-theological discourse. This is the foundation of the circularity inherent in modern Christian reading of the Bible. It views the Bible as insufficient to convey its meaning in its chosen language of communication, which was not any sort of special theological grammar, but the regular and ordinary grammar of the Greek of the time. (pp. 231-32)


I disagree. Rather than "postulating a distinct theological grammar," I am recognizing distinct uses of the same grammar in different contexts. The act of assigning an unqualified "timelessness" to statements about God and not to statements about nature is not arbitrary or theologically question-begging but arises from a consideration of these statements in their differing contexts. Likewise, I do not base my interpretation of John 8:58 solely on the grammatical features of the text in the abstract but in relation to the immediate context in John 8 and the associations that Jesus' statement evokes in its Jewish theological context.


II. DANA & MANTEY ON THE STATIC PRESENT


Here again is what Dana and Mantey wrote about "the static present": "_The Static Present_. The present tense may be used to represent a condition which is assumed as perpetually existing, or to be ever taken for granted as a fact.... 2 Pt. 3:4...Jn. 15:27; 1 Jn. 3:8.... The idea of
progress in a verb of action finds its natural counterpart in an idea of perpetual state in a verb of being. This use is practically the present of duration applied to a verb of being" (Dana and Mantey, 186, capitalized emphasis added). (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, _A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament_, rev. ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1957], 186.)

In my earlier post dealing with this subject, I had commented:

"They use this term 'static present' to refer to a usage of the present that is formally similar or analogous to the PPA (which they call 'the present of duration') with a verb of being that expresses a 'perpetual state.'"

You replied:

THEY do not consider this usage "formally similar or analogous to the PPA," YOU do. They put it in a completely different class, one in which the progressive character of the present tense is not prominent. You assume they assign what others consider a PPA to the `static' category, and that is why you conclude what you do. But this turns out to be not true of two out of three examples, and the third is just a misunderstanding on their part (see below).


You have either missed or chosen to ignore the statement that Dana and Mantey made that was the basis for my comment. Regarding the static present, they wrote: "This use is practically THE PRESENT OF DURATION APPLIED TO A VERB OF BEING." There it is, explicitly comparing the static present to the present of duration and saying that the former is "practically" the latter applied to a verb of being.

To try to disprove my point-though you cannot do so if you ignore the evidence I present for my point-you claim that Dana and Mantey assign the PPA and the static present to completely different classes and that the static present is assigned to a category "in which the progressive character of the present tense is not prominent." Only by sleight of hand can such a claim seem persuasive. Dana and Mantey divide uses of the present tense into two categories, "Regular Uses" and "Special Uses." In the regular uses (progressive, which includes the present of duration; customary; and iterative) the "fundamental idea of progress is especially patent" (Dana and Mantey, 182). In the special uses "the root idea is not so evidently patent"; these "are not of so frequent occurrences as the regular uses" (184). But patent and prominent are not the same. Thus, whereas most of Dana and Mantey's "special uses" do not convey a progressive or linear force (the aoristic, futuristic, historical, and tendential uses, 184-86), they explicitly state that the static present DOES express such an idea: It represents "a condition which is assumed as perpetually existing.... The idea of progress in a verb of action finds its natural counterpart in an idea of perpetual state in a verb of being" (186, already quoted above). If there is a distinction between progressive and perpetual, it is that a perpetual state is even more extended through time than a progressive one; or it may be a distinction between a state of being and an action. In any case, Dana and Mantey explicitly state that the static present is essentially the same as a present of duration applied to a verb that expresses a state of being.

I had written:

"I still do not understand why Dana and Mantey listed John 15:27 as both a present of duration (PPA) and a static present. But I agree with them that the present tense can express a static, perpetual, or unchanging state of being."


You ignored my second sentence and offered to answer the first. You explained that "You have been with me from the beginning" in John 15:27 is the present of duration (PPA) while "you bear witness" is the static present. You then comment, "However, I think this usage here is basically the same as the descriptive present." I do not think this explanation will work. Here is the entire sentence:

"When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will witness about me, and you witness also, because you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27).


I see only two ways to construe "witness" (MARTUREITE) in verse 27. We may construe it as a futuristic present, conforming it in sense to the future indicative "he will witness" in verse 26. This is how the verb is translated in the NKJV, NASB, and other versions. The other choice is to construe it as an imperative, which is how it is translated in the NIV and other versions. The NRSV retains the ambiguity with its rendering "you also are to testify." Neither of these choices understands the verb as a descriptive present. Nor do I see any plausible way that Dana and Mantey might have construed the verb as a static present expressing a "perpetually existing" state. So, I doubt they had MARTUREITE in mind when listing John 15:27 as a static present, though it appears there is no way to prove they did or did not.

The situation is similar with their citation of 1 John 3:8. Since there are two present-tense indicative verbs in that verse and Dana and Mantey do not specify one of them, we cannot be certain which one they meant. And again, neither of them works as a static present. "The one committing sin is [ESTIN] of the devil" may be gnomic, as you said, but it is clearly not
expressing a static situation or perpetual state (so, if gnomic, it must be generic, not universal). "The devil sins [hAMARTANEI] from the beginning" is the better candidate for a verb expressing something of relatively perpetual duration, though not, as I pointed out, a perpetual state. Still, given their description of the static present, it seems more likely that Dana and
Mantey were referring to hAMARTANEI, though we cannot be certain either way.

Regarding 2 Peter 3:4, I wrote:

"The hypothetical objector in 2 Peter 3:4 is asserting that everything remains just as it has been from the beginning of creation. Whether we translate this as if it were a PPA (as some translations, such as the NLT, do) or as a static or gnomic present (as many translations do, such as the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, and NRSV), the meaning in this text is essentially the same."


You replied:

False. If 2 Peter 3:4 involved a gnomic (or "static") present, then it would be saying that all things have AND WILL remain the same from the beginning of creation. Because as a "timeless fact" it is ALWAYS TRUE. "All things [always] remain the same"(!). (p. 235)


Indeed! That is exactly what Peter is representing the scoffers as saying! They are scoffing at the idea that creation will be radically changed in the Second Coming of which Christians speak because it appears to them that everything just continues the same. Therefore DIAMENEI ("remains," "continues") in context expresses the idea of things always staying the same, "that all things have AND WILL remain the same," as you put it.

The fact that the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, and NRSV all translate DIAMENEI in 2 Peter 3:4 using an English present tense lends considerable support to my point here. Clearly, these translators understood DIAMENEI along the same lines as Dana and Mantey and NOT as a PPA.

Now, your argument for bias in the conventional translations of John 8:58 is that these versions, in adopting that rendering, deviate from the way they translate similar verses. Yet I have cited other verses where many of these same versions also translate in the present tense a verse that you claim should be construed as a PPA. 2 Peter 3:4 is one of these. You have plainly stated that you think Dana and Mantey are wrong about 2 Peter 3:4; well, you then must also say the same thing about the KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, and NRSV. Knock yourself out! But the fact that these versions translate 2 Peter 3:4 as they do undermines your argument that they handle John 8:58 in an unprecedented and skewered way. Brenton's translation of Psalm 89:2 LXX is another example. I just don't think the evidence supports your strong claim that the present-tense verbs in these texts MUST be interpreted as PPAs and MUST be translated using a form of the English past tense.

I stand by my conclusion to my post #16:

"So, the Greek present tense can denote a static, perpetual, or unchanging state. We might call this a type of the 'gnomic present,' or a 'static present,' or even a broad form of the 'descriptive present.' It doesn't matter. What matters is that we recognize that such a usage, attested in the grammars, does occur. This gnomic/static/broad-descriptive present can be formally similar to the PPA in some cases, and which category we apply will depend to some extent on how broadly or narrowly we define the PPA and on how the elements of the sentence work together with the verb in context" (174).


Furthermore, I conclude that 2 Peter 3:4 is an especially good example of the point.

In Christ's service,

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

JB16616 - Jason #24:John 8:58 

(16616) Jason BeDuhn [Date: Mon Jan 17, 2005 4:32 pm] (Re: John 8:58 - Jason #24)


Rob,

There is precious little new in your post #23, and it is my intention to expedite the conclusion of this discussion by avoiding as much as possible continuation of simply "Yes it is/No it isn't" or "Yes I did/No you didn't" exchanges. We have sunk deep into navel-gazing mode, arguing more about our argument than about the issues we aresupposed to be focused upon. So here is my answer to what I consider the most salient features in your post:

You say:
"In the rest of your post #23, you assert that I have not yet refuted your basic point," that is, that in normal, usual English syntax the be-verb does not stand alone at the end of a sentence with a preposed predicate complement, that for it to be so positioned constitutes "fractured" syntax. "I think I have done so, but I will revisit thematter in the rest of this post."

You offer very little that actually addresses this, besides two contemporary examples:

"While Eeyore Frets...
And Piglet Hesitates...
And Rabbit Calculates...
And Owl Pontificates...
Pooh Just _Is_."
--Benjamin Hoff, _The Tao of Pooh_ (emphasis in original)

"_Everything that ever was or ever will be_ already _exists_.... So
in God's world, all already _is_."-Guy Finley, _The Lost Secrets of Prayer_
(Llewellyn, 1998), 32, 33 (emphasis in original).


You then note:
"Perhaps you could argue that these examples are dissimilar to the conventional English translations of Psalm 89:2 LXX and John 8:58 in that the above examples italicize "is" for emphasis: "Pooh Just _Is_"; "all already _is_." I think such an "out" would be a stretch. The wording would carry essentially the same force without the italics; the use of italics simply makes more explicit or emphatic what is already evident as to the import of the word "is" in these two texts."


So you knew going in that there's something up with these two texts, something that makes them italicize the "is." That something is the recognition by the authors that they are employing "is" ungrammatically, precisely as you say for emphasis, to make a point; and when the second author wishes to state the same point with the emphasis elsewhere, he employs "exists." So thank you for making my point for me. Now perhaps you will argue that the same is true of John 8:58, that it was written ungrammatically for emphasis. But there is nothing ungrammatical about the Greek. The the emphatic ungrammaticality (if that's a word) is introduced by the contemporary translators -- my point all along.

You then say:

"I did not say that the word *order* of most English translations of John 8:58 was unusual or odd. I said that one might fairly describe "the wording" that way. Likewise, I said that "the wording" of the Greek was unusual, not the word *order*. Here is the whole paragraph from my post #5:

"I would be happy with an assessment of the wording of the traditional translation of John 8:58 that described it as unusual or even odd. The reason I could accept such an assessment is that I think the wording of the original text is also unusual. In the end, how we resolve the issue of the propriety of the English rendering depends on how we understand the original language text. You think that the Greek wording of John 8:58 follows a perfectly normal Greek idiom. I do not, and that is the root of our real difference over this text" (p. 50).



Now Rob, since the context of your remarks in post 5 was our discussion of word order, it is natural to take your reference to wording in that immediate context as referring to order. But whatever you meant, the simple acknowledgment that the "wording" of the English translations as "unusual or odd" irreversibly puts the burden of proof on you to defend it, as I have said all along. No counting up of translations shifts that burden anywhere else, as I said way back at the beginning of all this, because those translations are made within tradition of translation and interpretation that make enumeration an illegitimate source of "evidence" on the question. You quote here again your assertion that the "wording" of the Greek is "unusual" and that you do not accept that that wording is "a perfectly normal Greek idiom." I have asked you repeatedly to identify precisely what is unusual and abnormal about that wording, and you have never offered an answer, of any kind, plain and simple. You say you will now answer, and I look forward to it.


In my posts from late October, I have replied to your assertion that the be-verb in John 8:58 is a predicate absolute. Addressing your claim that that is how the English "I am" is to be read, I pointed out that we do not say "I am" in English as an absolute statement, but "I exist" or some equivalent. The "am" automatically leads the reader or hearer to expect a predicate complement of some kind. I further said that for it to be an absolute "you would have to read the sentence to mean that Jesus is declaring his present existence plain and simple, not his existence in any time reference to Abraham. Since this breaks the sentence up into meaningless and decontextualized fragments, it is unacceptable. In context, Jesus is clearly saying he was already in existence at a particular point of past time, and in English this requires the dependent clause to serve as a verb complement, not an adjunct, the verb to not be read absolutely but to be completed by the sense of the dependent clause, and a resultant shift in the verb from the simple present to the past or past progressive. (p.219)

To this, if I may so so, incredibly clear explanation, you have responded:

I believe the above argument misunderstands the concept of an adjunct dependent clause. The adjunct cannot stand alone, but the main clause to which that adjunct is related could stand alone-yet the adjunct contributes something to the meaning of the whole sentence.


Pardon me, but I did not say anything about the fate of the Abraham clause, but about the main verb and the fundamental misconstrual of its meaning without the information of the Abraham clause. You cite examples of temporal adjunct expressions and dependent clauses from _The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language_:


"I read your thesis _last week_" (p. 694).


Great example. Drop "last week." Is there a complete sentence there? Yes. "I read your thesis." Now is it past tense "read" (red) or present tense "read" (reed)? The Grammar assumes we know, and therefore "last week" is an adjunct because the force of the main clause is unchanged by the presence or absence of the dependent clause. But it so happens that this is a rare example in written (as opposed to spoken) English where the tense of the verb is ambiguous. Drop the "last week," and the verb might be misconstrued as a present tense. So if we drop the assumption of the Grammar that the sentence is heard, all of a sudden "last week" takes on a complement rather than adjunct function, in that it gives us necessary information about the verb's significance.

Your give two other examples:
"_When John attacked Bill_ the police arrested him" (p. 699).
"_On hearing this news_, he phoned his solicitor" (p. 699).


And comment:
Obviously, the adjunct expressions and dependent clauses in these examples-"last week," "when John attacked Bill," "on hearing the news"-cannot stand alone as sentences; they require the main clauses to gain their meaningful context. However, the main clauses are meaningful without the dependent clauses. One could write or say, "I read your thesis" or "The police arrested him" or "He phoned his solicitor" and these are coherent, complete sentences in their own right.


Absolutely right. Now, is "I am" a complete sentence? No it is not. All of your examples have objects of the verb, completing the action of these transitive verbs. "I exist" would be a complete sentence. But "am" leads us to expect a complement. Moreover, as in the case of "I read your thesis," the tense of the verb is COMPLETED for the reader by its relation to the dependent clause, something missed in the Grammar because they it assumes the sentence is heard rather than read. One thing you certainly cannot do is put the tense of the verb and the temporal quality of either its adjunct or complement at odds with one another, such as:

"When John goes home, the police arrested him."
"When the news arrives, he phoned his solicitor"


These sentences don't work because they have mixed verbal tenses, precisely as you propose to do in John 8:58. This is an issue even in the case of adjuncts, all the more when the two clauses have a complementary relationship as they do in John 8:58.

In none of this, however, have you demonstrated that "am" is an absolute. You have not defended that identification here, and none of the examples you cite involve verbal absolutes. Nor have you in any way refuted my basic point about word order and the be-verb, as you said you were in this post.

So that's disposed of; let's move on.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

RB16602 - Rob #25: Broad-band presents 

(16602 ) Robert Bowman [Thu Jan 13, 2005 11:42 pm] (John 8:58 - Rob #25: Broad-band presents)




Jason,
This post is a response to the first part of your post #18 (pp. 228-31).

Let me begin by responding to the following statement:
You fail to explain, however, what Wallace means by "broad-band," and "narrow-band." (p. 228)

I will take this as a request for clarification and am happy to provide it (at the time when I wrote my post #16, I did not realize that you did not have a copy of Wallace available to you). Wallace defines the terms as follows:

"'Narrow band' means that the action is portrayed as occurring over a relatively short interval; 'broad band' means that the action is portrayed as occurring over a longer interval" (Wallace, _Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics_, 516).
You wrote:
You have often criticized in this discussion the relative breadth of definition of the PPA in some grammarians compared to those whose view you prefer.
Once again, this is a misunderstanding of my entire line of argument. I have simply argued that on the broader definitions of the PPA, one cannot claim that all PPA verbs *must* be translated using a form of the past tense. That's it!

I wrote:
"Wallace defends one of his examples of the descriptive present, Acts 2:8 ('How is it that *we are hearing*'), against the suggestion that it is a PPA. He favors the descriptive over the PPA because of the lack of a past-time marker, while acknowledging that Brooks-Winbery dispute the necessity of such a marker (519 n. 15). Wallace notes that the PPA can be defined more or less 'tightly,' resulting in its being 'relatively rare or fairly common' (519)."


You replied:
But Acts 2:8 is cited by NONE of your grammars as a PPA, and has never been part of the pool of samples we have been considering. So I don't know who has suggested that it is a PPA, and Wallace's argument that it is not is well-grounded. So this is not a case of legitimate overlap of the PPA and the descriptive based in the sources we have agreed to use so far. (p. 229)

You seem to be missing the point again. I am not disputing Wallace's analysis. Nor am I saying that Acts 2:8 was classified by someone as a PPA or that it should be so classified. I am pointing out that Wallace finds it necessary or useful to point out that Acts 2:8, though formally it may seem to fit some definitions of the PPA, is in his judgment better classified as something else. This is one of several examples from his grammar that illustrate my point about the relative fluidity of these grammatical categories and the fact that how one classifies a particular text will depend at least somewhat on how one defines those categories.


I wrote:
"The bottom line is that a variety of usages of the Greek present tense can be formally similar to one another. These include the PPA, the descriptive or progressive present, the iterative, customary, and stative presents, and the gnomic present."


You replied:

You haven't effectively demonstrated that the PPA can be lumped together with these other uses of the Greek present. Just go back to your list of PPAs from your post 6 and try to start translating them as gnomics, etc. It can't be done without making nonsense of most of those sentences. It is only when the verse is speaking of God or Jesus that you think it should be read differently. Linguists would just look at this as bizarre, and I criticize it in my book.


I didn't advocate lumping the PPA with those other usages in the sense of claiming that they can all be translated in the same way. You are missing the point still.

You continued:

We also need to be clear on what you mean by "formally similar?" If you mean the verb has the same grammatical form, then of course the same grammatically present form can be used in distinct ways. If you just place the verbs side by side, you could never tell a gnomic from an iterative, from a progressive, from a PPA. You need to see the rest of the sentence and how it modifies the meaning and rendering of the verb. It seems you mean something more than the form taken by the verb, perhaps the "form" of
the construction, of the syntax by which these usages are identified. If
so, you will need to demonstrate that they have this same "form." (pp. 229-30 Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net Center for Biblical Apologetics Robert M. Bowman, Jr.)


My sentence was explicit: the "usages.can be formally similar to one another." Your second guess, then, was closer to the mark. I already gave you an example and you didn't get it: Acts 2:8. On a broad description of the grammatical/syntactical features of a PPA (a present tense verb denoting an action or state that began in the past and is continuing), Acts 2:8 ('How is it that *we are hearing*') formally fits the description. The hearing is an action that began in the past (albeit the recent past, presumably a few minutes or perhaps an hour at most) and was apparently continuing at the time of speaking. If a past-time indicator is not needed, the text has everything one needs to find to conclude that the verb is a PPA. Yet the verb is regularly translated into English using the present tense ("we are hearing"), and Wallace construes it as a descriptive present.

I had written:

"As I argued previously, one can define the PPA more or less broadly. The more broadly it is defined, the more it will overlap the other broad-band
categories."


You replied:
You will need to demonstrate such overlap, and then show it applies to John 8:58. The latter verse fits PRECISELY the conditions of a PPA, in that it is temporally modified by another grammatical element of the sentence to extend its formal present tense into a semantic range that takes in the past. (p. 230)


I have demonstrated that the *way* the present-tense denotation of EIMI in John 8:58 is related to the past is *not* typical or characteristic of the PPA or even of Greek usage generally (specifically, through the expression of a contrast with a past event of becoming using the PRIN + aorist infinitive clause). Only by carefully parsing your definition and glossing over that atypical feature of the grammar of John 8:58 can you declare that it "fits PRECISELY the conditions of a PPA."

You wrote:
Do you dispute that EIMI is temporally modified in John 8:58? Think carefully before you answer, because it has serious consequences for your position.



In the sense that you mean by "temporally modified," yes, I do dispute it. You mean modified to denote existence in one specific temporal aspect (from the past into the present). (I am not here using "aspect" in the modern technical linguistic sense.) The wording of John 8:58 goes beyond that temporal aspect. Of course, I do not dispute the claim that the dependent clause is meaningfully related to the main clause.

You wrote:

The usages you are comparing it to and saying it overlaps with are not temporally modified in the same way, because their modifying element refers to recurring action or continuous states. Abraham being born is quite obviously neither a recurring action or a continuous state.


Obviously. But you are reading more into my comparison of John 8:58 to texts using gnomic, descriptive, or general presents than I intend.

I wrote:

"In pointing out ways in which a particular present-tense verb, such as EIMI in John 8:58, corresponds to other broad-band categories of usage, I am not attempting to 'push the PPA out of consideration,' as you have alleged more than once. I said in my 1989 book, and I have said again inthis discussion, that if one defines the PPA in the broadest sense, EIMI in John 8:58 legitimately fits such a broad definition of the PPA."


You replied:

Then please acknowledge, which you have never done, that the LB and NW rendering of John 8:58 is a grammatically acceptable and justified translation of the verse. Once you acknowledge that, then the debate over
translation is largely over, because as I have pointed out, you are really
arguing for an interpretation, and your linguistic arguments fail to defend the traditional translation of the verse as either accurate with regard to the Greek or coherent as an English sentence. (p. 230)


First of all, from the premise that EIMI in John 8:58 fits a broad definition of the PPA it does not follow that the LB or NWT renderings are "justified." On the broader definitions of the PPA, any present-tense verb that expresses a state that obtained in the past and continues to obtain in the present is a PPA. But not all such verbs are justifiably translated using an English past tense verb. The sentence hO QEOS AGAPH ESTIN fits this definition, because what it says that God "is" obtained in the past and continues in the present, but it would be unjustifiable to translate this
sentence "God has been love."

Second, you have things rather confused. I have argued that renderings like those found in the LB or NWT, particularly in the context of a simplified English paraphrase or idiomatic version, are *possible* options but lose something important in the translation and are not *the best* rendering in a "literal" or primarily word-for-word kind of translation, such as the NWT purports to be. If by "grammatically acceptable and justified" you meant merely that the LB and NWT renderings were possible, defensible translations, "on the radar screen" of legitimate possibilities to be considered, then of course I would agree, as I have agreed all along. Your use of "acceptable" makes it sound as though this is all you are asking. But then you go on to claim that if I were to acknowledge this point the debate would be "largely over" because I supposedly have failed to defend the
conventional translation as either accurate or coherent. That makes it apparent that what you are really trying to get me to "acknowledge" is that the LB or NWT rendering is right and the conventional rendering is wrong. This is of course your claim, to put it mildly. You have argued that the conventional translations of John 8:58 are simply not "accurate with regard to the Greek" (so above), "defective," downright "bad English," indeed, they are "not English," "not coherent as an English sentence" (so again above), with "mangled," "fractured," or "broken" syntax, "UNREADABLE," and evidence of theological bias (apparently in all of the many, many versions, commentaries, academic monographs, dissertations, and the like that utilize the conventional rendering). In recognizing that a minority report on the
translation of John 8:58 has some legitimacy as a possible view, I am not
committing myself to "acknowledge" any of this!

You claim that I am "arguing for an interpretation," presumably as contrasted with you arguing merely for a particular translation. This is a tendentious representation of the actual situation. I am arguing for a translation of John 8:58 that most fully expresses the nuance of the Greek text's wording, in a way that the LB and NWT renderings do not. I am arguing for a translation of the text that preserves the connections between this and other sayings of Jesus utilizing the unpredicated EGW EIMI. I am arguing for a translation of the text that conveys the Old Testament allusions of this and other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those in Isaiah. These are all legitimate purposes in translation.

Besides, most people who read Greek simply disagree with your claim that rendering EIMI in John 8:58 as "am" rather than "have been" is somehow interpretive to the point of being suspect as evidence of bias. You state in _Truth in Translation_, "The first choice when faced with options of how best to translate the original Greek usually should be the most obvious, straightforward, unspecialized understanding of the word or phrase" (xv-xvi). Well, the vast majority of scholars who have translated Greek professionally have evidently been of the opinion that "I am" is the most obvious, straightforward, unspecialized understanding of EGW EIMI. This is not a fallacious appeal to numbers or majority or even a fallacious appeal
to authority; it is simply empirical evidence as to what is and is not "obvious" in this instance. And while obviousness can be a matter of some subjectivity and disagreement (calling into question your own statement), I think it fair to say that it would be quite a stretch to argue that "I am" is not at least *an* obvious choice for translating EGW EIMI.

In the very next paragraph of your book after the one from which I just quoted, you wrote: "If the translation given is at least within the realm of possibility for the meaning of the Greek, we must grant that fact and not be too hard on the translators for preferring one possible meaning over another. But if they stretch beyond that rather generous range and reach for the truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek, we must be very suspicious of their motives" (xvi). Yet you violate this "generous" allowance for translators to choose "one possible meaning over another" not only in your chapter on John 8:58, but several times in your book. Thus, somehow we are to gather that "worship" is a "truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek" word PROSKUNEW-when it is applied to Christ (chapter 4); "God" is likewise a tendentious rendering of the Greek word QEOS in John 1:1c (chapter 11); and of course "am" is just plain wrong as a rendering of EIMI in John 8:58 (chapter 10). Forgive me, but this is brazen.

You wrote:

But once again I must challenge your assertion that the PPA must be defined "in the broadest sense" to include John 8:58. This is false. The
broadest sense of the PPA would include sentences with NO temporal indicator at all, but read as PPAs because of the general literary context (such as Acts 26:31). John 8:58 has such a temporal indicator in the same sentence and in a relationship of complementarity to the verb, which is a closer relationship to the verb than that held by several of the adverbs or adverbial phrases in other PPA examples. I have already demonstrated that your assignment of the grammars to various degrees of support for a "narrower" sense to the PPA is largely flawed. So EIMI in John 8:58 is a PPA in a widely accepted, average sense of the category. (p. 231)


As I have stated repeatedly, three of the four grammars that classify John 8:58 as a PPA offer a definition of the PPA that omits any reference to a temporal indicator. McKay is the sole anomaly. Yes, John 8:58 has a temporal subordinate clause that stands in some sort of relation to the main clause that contains the present-tense verb EIMI. However, this is not the sort of "temporal indicator" that flags a present-tense verb as a PPA in the "widely accepted, average sense." I explained why in my post on the significance of the subordinate clause.

My next post will complete my response to your post #18.

In Christ's service,

Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net



Wednesday, January 12, 2005

RB16601 - Rob #24: Refocusing the revisitation of the PPA( 

(16601) - Robert Bowman [Wed Jan 12, 2005 1:21 pm] (Rob #24: Refocusing the revisitation of the PPA)


Jason,

In this post I will complete my response to your post #17, addressing the sections "What Makes a PPA?" and "What Makes a PPA, Part 2" (pp. 219-27).

First, let's look at your section "What Makes a PPA?" (which dealt with my posts #6 and #8).

In post #6, I made four "summary observations" regarding what the grammars say about John 8:58. You strongly criticized these summary observations and we have debated them at some length already. If there was a problem, it was my use of the term "adverbial expression" in my second and fourth points and "adverbials" in my third point (p. 61). You construed me to use these terms in the second and third points to fudge my analysis of the grammars with regard to the function of dependent clauses in marking the PPA. I think this criticism exposes a lack of clarity and precision in the way I expressed the second and third points, though I stand by the claims I was actually making. Let me review the four points and state them more precisely.


  1. Almost all of these grammars note that the action or state that the verb expresses is "still in progress at the time of speaking" (as Burton puts it). I don't think you challenged this point.
  2. Most of the grammars make note of "some sort of temporal indicator" (as Wallace puts it) marking the PPA. In this restated, more precise articulation, please note that I am not addressing what forms this temporal indicator might take or how often it occurs in a PPA sentence.
  3. Some of the grammars treat this temporal marker (of whatever forms) as a standard element of the PPA usage; other grammars indicate that the temporal marker usually or often occurs but allow exceptions. I think we can leave it at that, with no quantifying at all, and my conclusions will still follow.
  4. The sorts of temporal indicators or markers that dominate the descriptions and examples of such temporal indicators given in the grammars for the PPA are adverbs and adverbial phrases, though half a dozen use the vague term "expressions" for the temporal indicators and a few cite examples in which the temporal indicator would have to be a dependent clause (the primary such example, cited in four grammars, being John 8:58 itself).


If you don't like the way these four points are articulated (it is especially difficult to state the fourth point succinctly), I will be happy to accommodate you and use your own summation:

SO NOTE THAT HALF THE GRAMMARS THINK THERE CAN BE A PPA WITH NO ADVERBIAL MODIFICATION WHATSOEVER, FOUR OTHERS THINK THE PPA IS FORMED BY MODIFICATION WITH A `EXPRESSION OF PAST TIME' OR `TEMPORAL EXPRESSION,' AND ONLY FOUR GRAMMARS SPECIFY MODIFICATION BY `ADVERBIAL EXPRESSION' (JANNARIS, BURTON), OR `A SPECIFIC PHRASE' (GREENLEE) OR `AN ADVERBIAL PHRASE OR OTHER TIME-INDICATION' (FANNING) AS THE DEFINING FEATURE. (p. 220, capitalization in the original)


For the sake of moving the argument forward, if nothing else, let us use your own emphatically presented "statistical summation." What may we conclude from the above statement? Here is what we may conclude:


From these two conclusions, I infer a third:


If we could agree on the above statement, then I think we could end our formal exchange and open the floor to a wider discussion. After all, my position all along has been quite simply that the evidence does not support your strong claim that John 8:58 *must* be translated idiomatically into English on the understanding that EIMI *can only be* a PPA (and therefore that the conventional translations of John 8:58 are just plain wrong). If you fall back to the weaker claim that John 8:58 *might* be a PPA and *could* be translated that way, then you will have in effect recanted your conclusion in chapter 10 of _Truth in Translation_. The only way I can see for you to salvage your stronger claim, while admitting the above three conclusions, is to insist that any Greek grammar that implicitly or explicitly excludes John 8:58 from the category of the PPA is definitely, clearly wrong, too: they also are ignoring clear facts. If you wish to take that stance, please let us all know.

You wrote:

Any future argument you wish to make concerning what makes a PPA must take account of the following two points of information: (1) 4 OF 15 GRAMMARS CITE EXAMPLES THAT HAVE NO ADVERBIAL MODIFIER AT ALL. (Luke 2:48 Turner, Moule; Acts 26:31 Turner, BDF, Winer) (2) 7 OF 15 GRAMMARS CITE EXAMPLES EMPLOYING AN ADVERBIAL CLAUSE (John 8:58 Turner, BDF, Winer, McKay; Acts 27:33 Fanning, Wallace; 2 Peter 3:4 Turner, Winer, Fanning, Robertson) - see my post 7. (p. 223)


Taking this information about the grammars at face value, what we may conclude is that some of the grammars give examples of the PPA that would be precedent for *possibly* considering EIMI in John 8:58 as a PPA. The fact that a minority of the grammars give examples of the PPA "that have no adverbial modifier at all" does not tell us anything about whether a particular text is a PPA. The fact that roughly half of the grammars give examples involving an adverbial clause shows that a text such as John 8:58 that also has such an adverbial clause *might* (in that respect) be a PPA. It does not prove that John 8:58 *is* a PPA.

There are other concerns I would raise here. Your second point is the more important of the two, and you mention three texts cited in the seven grammars as exemplifying the use of an adverbial dependent clause as the temporal marker for a PPA. One of these is John 8:58, which is of course the text in dispute. The four grammars that cite John 8:58 as a PPA provide a basis for the claim that a reasonable person *might* so classify John 8:58. They do not prove more than that. Three of those four, by your own account in the first point, do not make any sort of temporal indicator a requirement for the PPA (Winer, Turner, BDF), so their inclusion of John 8:58 does not imply that in their view the dependent clause in John 8:58 fulfills that function. To be more precise, Winer and Turner say nothing about such a temporal indicator and so we can draw no inference at all about it from their citation of John 8:58. BDF does say something about temporal indicators but allows exceptions, and so one might infer that its citation of John 8:58 is consistent with its viewing the dependent clause as such a temporal indicator. Two of those three also list 2 Peter 3:4, and the same point applies in those instances. Then again, the other two grammars that list 2 Peter 3:4 (Robertson and Fanning) also do not indicate that the
dependent clause fulfills that function. It is possible that they construed the adverbial phrase in that verse as the temporal marker of the PPA, rather than the dependent clause. So the citation of 2 Peter 3:4 is not evidence of these grammars viewing dependent clauses as potential markers of the PPA. This leaves Acts 27:33 as the sole possible example that shows that the two grammars citing it are treating a dependent clause as the temporal marker for a PPA. They do not specify that a dependent clause in Acts 27:33 functions as the temporal marker, but for sake of argument I will agree that this may be implied by their classification. Thus, the evidence of these citations for the conclusion that a dependent clause ever serves that function is much thinner than your "7 of 15 GRAMMARS" indicates. You can validly claim some precedent in the grammars; but you cannot validly claim that the grammars support the view that the role of dependent clauses as temporal markers for the PPA is clear or indisputable.

Part 2 of your discussion on "What Makes a PPA" focuses entirely on further criticism of my numerically expressed analysis of the descriptions given in the grammars in my post 11. Let me quote your conclusion:

All of your errors take the form of overscoring, rather than underscoring, and they all occur in assigning the highest two scores (those closest to your view). So there is a clear tendency in these errors, which is to skew the testimony of the grammars in such a way that your position appears more broadly supported than it actually is, and mine seems less supported than it actually is. Your original scoring had 7 out of 15 grammars in the two highest scores, compared to 8 of 15 in the lower three scores. A more accurate accounting (even allowing Greenlee's reference to a "phrase expressing the past time aspect" to be scored high) has 3 or 4 out of 15 grammars (depending on where Brooks/Winbery end up) in the top two scores, and 11 or 12 out of 15 in the lower three scores. So now we can see how the grammatical evidence actually breaks on this issue, and can see how the so-called "broad" definition of the PPA is by far the majority view of it among your set of grammars. Any "burden of proof," therefore, is on a "narrow" definition of the PPA modification, that is, yours. (pp. 226-27)


Your conclusion simply misses the entire point of my analysis. I was not in the least attempting to determine whether a majority of the grammars favored a broad or a narrow definition. I was not attempting to argue for a narrow definition as opposed to a broad one on the grounds that a majority of grammars employed a narrow definition. This means that this whole last section of your post #17 (pp. 224-27), which purports to be a critique of my argument, is entirely irrelevant (except for the very last sentence; see below).

What was I attempting to prove? I set out explicitly and quite plainly what I intended to prove in my post #14, which you completely bypassed on your last round of posts (pp. 169-70). I'll repeat those points shortly. But first, let's look at your critique. In the first of my categories for noting differences in the definitions given in the grammars (description of the past-time indicator), you wanted to assign Goodwin a score of 2 rather than 5 or 6 as I had said. You said that Brooks/Winbery should have 5 at most, but arguably should get 2. Wallace and Jannaris should have had 4 points instead of 5, and Wallace could conceivably be scored much lower. Taking all of this pretty much at face value without debate (for the sake of argument), we would revise my scale to look something like this:

Winer and Turner -3 points
BDF and Goodwin -7 points
Brooks/Winbery -11 points, possibly as low as 8
Young and Smyth -10 points
Wallace -12 points, possibly as low as 10
McKay -11 points
Greenlee and Robertson -12 points
Jannaris -12 points
Dana/Mantey and Burton -14 points
Fanning -15 points

How does this revision affect my conclusions, reviewed for you in my post #14? It doesn't affect my conclusions in the slightest. Let's go over them. I'll repeat what I wrote in post #14 (pp. 169-70) with some additional comments in light of the above considerations.


In relation to this point, though, you do attempt a sort of rebuttal. At the very end of your post #17, you make the following comment:

I think I have already sufficiently commented on the happenstance nature of grammars commenting on translation, and effectively shown that there is no exclusive correlation between those that do and the "narrow" definition of the PPA.


Since I didn't claim there was an "exclusive correlation" in this regard, and even noted that the correlation was *not* exclusive (specifying four out of five), you are knocking down a straw man. The fact is that the three grammars that have the broadest definition of the PPA "happen" to say nothing at all about how to translate it, while four of the five grammars that specify to translate the PPA using an English past tense "happen" to sit at the narrow end of the spectrum of definitions of the PPA. This is not an "exclusive correlation," but it is a statistically significant enough correlation not to be dismissed as "happenstance." At the very least, the evidence here offers some measure of support for my position; I think the evidence is very strong.


My next two posts will respond to your post #18.

In Christ's service,

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

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