Thursday, March 31, 2005

JB17307 - Jason #33: Grammar must rule over whim 

Jason BeDuhn [Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:44 am] (Jason #33: Grammar must rule over whim)


For the sake of wrapping things up, I will let the record stand on my past criticisms of your argument and your objections to those criticisms. Readers can best judge that aspect of the debate for themselves. Here I will confine myself to a couple of reiterative points about the specific grammatical constructs we have debating in relation to John 8:58, as well as respond to your readings of the three new PPAs I introduced in January in the hope of clarifying how a PPA works, and why EIMI in John 8:58 is a PPA.

In your book, you acknowledge that a PPA reading of John 8:58 is possible. Your argument consists in seeking not to refute it, but to make it less probable than some other reading that could be construed as justifying the traditional translation. Neither in your book nor in our 400+ pages of debate have you settled on one particular reading, and neither of your readings justify the traditional translation. Therefore, I maintain, you have lost this debate.

In your post #35, you spend several pages seeking to deny that you have been confusing the distinct parts of the sentence involved in the infinitive of antecedent time and in the progressive present, without acknowledging that because they do involve distinct parts of the sentence, they are not an either/or choice, and so, contrary to what you have argued, they can both appear in the same sentence. It is irrelevant that you can cite sentences from your post where you accurately state the respective formation of the infinitive of antecedent time and of the progressive present (you seem to keep wanting me to quote back your entire previous post, which is scarcely efficient for the progress of the debate). The fact remains that in the crucial passages, where you conclude that the infinitive of antecedent time and the progressive present are mutually exclusive, you are guilty of such confusion, and that is why I quoted back to you those specific passages. If you want to prove that you are not guilty of such confusion, then you must acknowledge that it is perfectly possible for an infinitive of antecedent time to appear in the same sentence with a PPA. This is true, whether you acknowledge it or not.

You have gone to great lengths in this debate to question the formation of a PPA by means of an adverbial clause. Although you wish to avoid the obvious fallacy of outright denying it, you have sought to relegate such constructs to only the most loosely defined fringe of grammatical discussion of the subject, and you have rejected every example of a clausally-modified PPA listed in the grammars, either trying to ascribe their modification to something in the sentence other than the adverbial clause, or simply rejecting them outright when you cannot bend them to your position. This has been an egregious error on your part that you must now come to terms with, as I will show.

In your post #35, referring to my post #29, you write:
"You closed, oddly, with an entirely irrelevant, though legitimate, example of the PPA not mentioned in the grammars . . . Mark 9:21 ("How long has this been happening to him?") is indeed a PPA.

Note that you have acknowledged that Mark 9:21 is a legitimate example of a PPA. As for it being "entirely irrelevant," we shall see that you missed the boat.

You continue:
"More curious still, you misidentified the temporal marker in this instance. Here is the sentence: POSOS CRONOS ESTIN hWS TOUTO GEGONEN AUTWi. The temporal marker of the PPA verb ESTIN in the above sentence is not hWS TOUTO GEGONEN AUTWi, as you claimed (p.354), but the temporal expression POSOS CRONOS ("how much time," i.e.,"how long")."

You are quite wrong about that, Rob. POSOS CRONOS is the SUBJECT of the sentence, not an adverbial phrase. As usual, your decision to correct me simply entangles you in more and more error. You continue:

"This temporal marker is similar to those found in other instances of the PPA, such as `a long time already (POLUN HDH CRONON)' (John 5:6) and `so long a time (TOSOUTWi CRONWi MEQ' hUMWN)' (John 14:9). All I can figure is that you were so eager to establish a precedent for `clausally-modified PPAs' that you missed the obvious here."

Your parallels are not apt, and your added comment typically self-damaging. In both of these examples, the phrase in question is not the subject of the sentence, and actually functions as an
adverbial. POSOS CRONOS is not an adverbial, but the subject of the sentence. I would think it was fairly obvious that POSOS CRONOS is the subject, and not the adverbial, but you never can tell what someone might miss, no matter how obvious.

Nor can POSOS CRONOS possibly form a PPA, since it does not contain any past reference. The pronoun POSOS, of course, appears with the regular present tense as well as the future tense verb (e.g., Mt 7:11, Lk 11:13, Rom 11:24, Heb 9:14). And although we happen not to have any other example of POSOS CRONOS in the NT, it is very easy to recognize that such a phrase could be used with a present or future tense without any temporal conflict:
"How long a time will it be before these things come to pass?"

So, since you have acknowledged that Mark 9:21 is a PPA, and now see that POSOS CRONOS cannot be the modifying element that makes it a PPA, we come together to the inevitable conclusion that Mark 9:21 is yet another example, in addition to those cited in your grammars that we have discussed before, of a clausally-modified PPA. We then see that far from being "entirely irrelevant," this example confirms once and for all that PPAs are regularly formed by adverbial clauses, that you have been wrong to deny what the grammars affirm, and that your effort to undermine the PPA reading of John 8:58 has failed. So much for your argument from Greek grammar.

I had come across two other PPAs in the OT by laborious effort (how I wish I had known Stafford had already found them!). The first was 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]."

You offer in place of my rendering the following translation:
"I am not fit, before yesterday or the day before, or from when you began to speak to your servant; I am weak of speech and slow of tongue."

What sort of gibberish is this? Here you demonstrate exactly what is wrong with your grasp of English grammar and syntax. "I am not fit before yesterday or the day before, etc." is not an English sentence, because you cannot use the present tense in an expression of a state or action in the past. This precisely shows why your argument about John 8:58 is worthless, because you have no interest in adhering to normal English usage, and are willing to violate it in making your defense. Your attempt to sneak a comma in after "fit" does not succeed in obscuring the fact that both the adverbial phrase and the adverbial clause are past references, and so it is not possible to construe the main verb as a simple present; it must be a PPA. You translate the main clause independently, leaving the adverbials dangling with no connection to it. So to what do they refer, since obviously they cannot refer to Moses' present unfitness? You arbitrarily and fallaciously bisect this sentence just as you do John 8:58. You have consistently sought to divorce the main verb, in Greek and in English, from its temporal adverb. But since Greek tense forms do not have a one-to-one correspondence with English tense forms, temporal adverbs are absolutely essential to determining what English tense appropriately conveys the meaning of the Greek. And in English, the harmony of the verbal tense to the referred time of the state or action is mandatory.

You yourself abandon your initial fallacious translation and admit a PPA semantics to this sentence:

"Thus, if we want to convey the full sense in our translation, we might render it as follows: `I was not fit previously, nor am I [or, `have I been'] fit since you began to speak to your servant.'"

You are exactly right in saying so. But of course, we have a much more succinct way "to convey the full sense," namely, "I have not been fit . . ." Isn't that so? Isn't the full sense you acknowledge precisely how the PPA is defined, and precisely what the English past progressive meant to convey?

You continue:
"Note that your translation, `I have not been fit before yesterday or before the third day,' is not grammatically normal English (something that you consider very important in a translation!). In English, one would not say, `I have not been fit before yesterday,' but rather `I was not fit before yesterday.' You might, then, decide that it would be better translated, `I have not been fit since before yesterday.' I would have no objection to such a translation as a way of smoothing out the sentence in English . . ."

Again, I agree completely. Good English expression in such a case really requires us to add the "since," just as I have proposed for John 8:58. You continue:

"I would have no objection to such a translation as a way of smoothing out the sentence in English , but only because of the rest of the sentence, not because of the temporal phrases with PRO. It is the final temporal phrase, `since you began to speak to your servant,' that might be construed as marking the verb EIMI as a PPA. Again, though, I think EIMI is temporally qualified in two different ways in this complex sentence."

I simply note that here you identify an adverbial CLAUSE (not a `phrase' as you call it) as the likely modifier of the verb to make a PPA, something you have refused to acknowledge any example of up until now. But of course the main verb would still be a PPA if the sentence had only the PRO phrase.

My second OT example was 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] . . ."

To this you reply:

"We might translate the sentence like this: `But if the bull is known to be a gorer previous to the incident, and if those knowing it warn its master and yet he failed to restrain it....'"

This, of course, is paraphrase. You continue:

"I think this is a far better translation than something like this:
`But if the bull is known to have been a gorer since before the incident' (which, again, is how you would actually need to translate it if you want to construe the verb as a PPA)."

Once again, I thank you for confirming the need in English of "since" to make a smooth PPA with a "before" phrase or clause. This controverts your initial objections to the introduction of "since" to my renderings of the PPA in 8:58.

It has been rather amusing to me that you have faulted me for being a stickler about grammar. God forbid that we should be very careful and precise about the actual grammar of the Bible! Regarding my position on Psalm 89:2 (LXX), you say: "you are allowing your overly fussy construal of the grammar to overwhelm the logic of the text" (!). Whose logic would that be, Rob? My point in my book, and from the beginning of our discussion, has been that modern logic, even modern `Christian' logic, is not necessarily the logic of the writers of the Bible or of its original audience. Rather than assume we know what they meant, I argue, we should pay very close attention to what they actually wrote, and build any understanding of the Bible out of that, rather than imposing our own beliefs and tendencies of thought onto the Bible. Sometimes the grammar is not as unambiguous as we would like. So, for example, I must acknowledge that EIMI could be functioning as a copula in 8:58, as it seems to be in proximate verses of John. But we would then have to translate as such, supplying the implicit predicate pronoun. It cannot be both an existential and a copula. The existential reading is still, in my opinion, the more probable one, the one an ancient reader is more likely to have seen or heard, given the rest of the predicate. The copulative reading is more contrived, and yet, as a possible reading, cannot be ruled out. In either case, the traditional English translation cannot be saved, no matter how many great men of the past have followed it. Their authority must yield to grammatical facts, and to the purpose of translation, which is to convey to the reader exactly what the original meant as it was written, no more and no less. Theological interpretation and application must come after, not before.

Best wishes,
Jason B.

Monday, March 28, 2005

JB17298 - Jason #32: Exegeting and translating John 8:58 

Jason BeDuhn [Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:19 am] (Jason #32: Exegeting and translating John 8:58)

In your message #31, all of your discussion is in support of a reading that would make EIMI in John 8:58 a copula. As I have already pointed out, this position may be defensible, but it requires an abandonment of the defense of the traditional translation that you have undertaken to mount in our discussion. The traditional translation found in the majority of major modern English translations does not render EIMI as a copula in John 8:58, as one can plainly see by comparing how the verse is rendered with how the same translations render John 8:24, 28, where EIMI is understood to be employed as a copula. Therefore, this line of argument on your part, while interesting in itself, does not make a defense of the traditional translation. Since you have favored the copula argument more and more as the debate has proceeded, I think it can be fairly said that the defense of the traditional translation, which creates an ungrammatical rendering of EIMI in its existential use, has failed. I still think it is an existential in John 8:58, and think that a stronger case can be made for this reading. But I do not consider the copulative reading impossible. So we may be able to reach a speedy conclusion on this basis.

You say:
Translators cannot ignore interpretive issues. However, they can make translational choices that avoid coming down in a heavy-handed way on one particular interpretive reading of the text.

We agree on this principle, and I have simply maintained that ignoring the Greek verbal idiom employed in John 8:58, and translating the verse in a manner that violates normal English grammar and syntax, qualifies as such a heavy-handed, interpretive manner of translation. Since you have not been able to prove that the idiom in question (the PPA) is not involved here, or that the grammar and syntax of the traditional English sentence is in any sense usual for English expression, I find absolutely no validity in your claim that "The conventional translation of EGW EIMI as 'I am' is therefore the least obtrusively interpretive English rendering on the market." It is quite obtrusive, in that it offends normal English expression. And if you were, as you have so disingenuously claimed, merely defending rendering a formally present tense noun as present tense, you could never suggest that "Jesus' statement means nothing more than that he was older than Abraham." Present tense existence is not "more than" any temporal extent of existence. But I have labored this point enough, and if you're not going to get it, you're not going to get it. "I am" would certainly be an obtrusive and heavy-handed translation if one meant to convey a coipulative use of "am" as you now seem to be arguing. I pointed out way back at the beginning of the discussion that a copulative "am" requires a complement in English. So "I am" would be wholly ungrammatical in a copulative expression.

On including John 8:58 in a supposed series of "I am" statements in the Gospel, you have quite simply missed my point (isn't that a familiar phrase in this debate?). The series is made up of statement in which EIMI is a copula, with a predicate complement ("I am the light," "I am the shepherd," etc.). Often included in the series are passages such as John 8:24, where EIMI is again a copula, and the predicate complement is implied, "I am he," and supplied by the context (John 8:28, the Son of Man). Other examples of the implied complement are not as clear. John 8:58 does not belong to any such series because it is generally agreed that EIMI here is not a copula with either an explicit or implicit complement, but in an existential function. Therefore it is simply untrue that, "the rendering 'I am' preserves the association between John 8:58 and these other self-revelatory statements and makes the revelatory function of the saying in 8:58 explicit." Please review how the other verses in the series render EGW EIMI in its copulative function, and how the translations you cite make the implicit predicate complement explicit. The translations you cite do not render these statements as "I am," but as "I am he." If you believe that John 8:58 belongs to this series of expressions, you must render it likewise. If you wish to
argue that it is a copula, and should be included in the series to which you have referred, you can make such an argument and, I think, even make a defensible argument for this. But that means abandoning all those translations you like to list, none of which translate it this way. Those are your choices: PPA, or copula with implicit complement which one would make explicit in English translation as is the norm with the rest of your series. Both are defensible translations. The traditional one found in so many translations is not defensible. So you can walk away from this debate with your interpretation defended, but only at the cost of the defeat of the traditional translation, which is ungrammatical and inaccurate as it stands, which is all I have ever argued.

You had written,
"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.'"

When I criticized this statement in my reply, you responded:
I did not say that EIMI in John 8:24 was "semantically absolute" in the sense you are using.

Ther you go again, Rob, denying what is there in the previous post for all to see. If you say that Jesus said "I am" plain and simple, you are saying he made a semantically absolute statement. If you don't understand this, please review your basic grammar. What you seem to miss is that the Greek statement EGW EIMI in a copulative use literally means "I am he" or "I am she" or "I am it." You are ignoring the Greek idiom in which the predicate complement can be implicit in the actual words, and so be heard as if the complement were uttered. If Jesus was depicted saying EGW EIMI absolutely, the verb would be understood as an existential, not a copula, and then, as I pointed out, the crowd would not ask him to be more specific about the "he" he was saying he was, but about what his claim of existence was supposed to signify.

We can probably skip going down the whole ANI HU road together, since it is tied to your reading of John 8:58 as a copula, which I have already said is an acceptable position for you to take, abandoning the traditional translation as illegitimate. But you must give up saying things like:

The EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus in verses 24, 28, and 58 of John 8 are all . . . predicateless . . .

If these three verses all employ EIMI as a copula, then they are not predicateless, they have implicit predicates, which the Greek employers of the idiom would hear and recognize just as much as they would understand the subject "I" in cases where someone said EIMI without an explicit subject. If EIMI is verse 58 is existential, then is has a predicate complement in the adverbial clause.

I had pointed out that your supposed series leaves out the very next "I am" in the immediate context, that of the blind man in John 9. To this you reply:

This is a straw-man objection, nothing more. . . . The man healed of blindness speaking in John 9:9 does not say EGW EIMI in any sort of context that might even plausibly be construed as anything more than it is: an affirmation that he is indeed the one whom Jesus had healed.

Oh, you mean the context supplies the reference of the implicit pronomial complement 'he'? The same is true in John 8:28, where the context supplies "Son of Man." Why do you accept a contextual reference in the case of the blind man, and ignore it in the case of Jesus in order to appeal to a reference in Isaiah? This differential grammar and semantics on your part is what I mean when I speak of theological grammar.

You say:
I have already addressed the matter of "proper tense significance" at length. Like most biblical scholars, I have focused on the EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those that are "absolute" or unpredicated (that is, that have no subject complement stated), because it is evident from the contexts of these statements that most if not all of them have a revelatory significance beyond "it's me." This is reason enough in a formal equivalency version to translate EGW EIMI in John 8:58 as "I am" if at all possible, and of course, it is more than possible.

Precisely NOT. Read your statement above again. If 8:58 belongs to the set you are now claiming it does, where the complement is implicit but unstated (whatever you want to call it), then you are reading EIMI in 8:58 as a copula, and so you must translate it EXACTLY as the other statements in the series have it, with the implicit complement made explicit. Otherwise, you are differentiating 8:58 from the series with which you wish to associate it. You cannot have it both ways. If it's a copula, you need to add the "he," and you have lost this debate. It cannot be both a copula and an existential. Your effort to have it both ways is utterly illegitimate, and violates all norms of grammar, syntax, and semantics. Ther is no comparison at all between such indeterminate grammar as you are proposing and double entendre.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Friday, March 25, 2005

JB17280 - Jason #31: More and more problems 

Jason BeDuhn [Date: Fri Mar 25, 2005 10:36 am] (More and more problems)

You continue to compound your initial grammatical errors with new ones, taking us deeper into a twilight zone where normal rules of grammar do not apply, where EIMI or `be' are transitive verbs, where there can be "absolute" copulas with nothing coupled to the subject, where present tense action can occur before past events. This might make interesting science fiction, but it simply is beyond the fringe of any generally recognized principles of either Greek or English grammar, and there is no point in me continuing to debate where such fundamental rules of language are simply ignored. It seems to me fairly clear if you must resort to such absurd violations of grammar to defend the traditional English translation of John 8:58, then it cannot be reasonably defended. This abuse of grammar and syntax must be considered alongside of your repeated misuse and misrepresentation of the evidence you marshal in your arguments, as well as your complete failure to hold a consistent position on whether EIMI is used in its existential or copulative function, on the source of its temporal modification beyond the simple present, or on whether it is or is not in temporal relation to the dependent clause of the same sentence.

In your post #30, you continue to try to maintain two contradictory positions at once. You want to argue that EIMI is "absolute" in John 8:58, but you cannot settle on whether you think it an absolute existential, or an absolute copula. I pointed out this trend in your argument in my post #20, to which you only replied with a typical claim that I had missed your point. No, Rob, I think I get your point exactly, which is that you are willing to argue by any means, without concern for consistency or coherence. The fact that you will not even settle upon a position is a classic example of this. You seem to have forgotten that you have entered this debate as a defender of the traditional translation. I intend to hold you to that position, which means disposing of half of your argument as simply irrelevant, because it cannot be made to support that position.

In your post #30 you say that you don't see any implication of `theological grammar' in your statements. I'm not sure how to help you see that when the same verb is rendered in ordinary temporal senses when the subject is something other than what you consider a divine being, but as signifying "a state or action that is constant, perpetual, or simply always so" when the subject is considered by you a divine being, that runs afoul of the "theological grammar" charge.

In your post #30 you say the following:
"What lies behind the `traditional translation' is simply the recognition of EIMI as a present tense indicative first person singular form of the Greek be-verb, which is normally translated `am.'"

Rob, this takes us all the way back to my book, where I point out that such a rote, lexical, `interlinear' approach to translation is completely invalid, and repudiated by every major English translation of the Bible. I have shown why this is invalid as English, and invalid as an accurate rendering of the Greek. I have pointed out a number of times that your position does not even adhere to this statement of yours, because you infer a transtemporal significance, "something far greater" in your words a few lines later than the simple present tense, and I have shown how your argument for the absoluteness of the verb deprives you of any temporal modification that would make EIMI more than a simple present. You go on to say that, "The traditional interpretation, far from cutting loose the dependent clause from the rest of the sentence, construes it as an integral and crucial element in Jesus' statement." Although we are debating translation, not interpretation, as I need to keep reminding you, I have good news for your "traditional interpretation": it is defensibly grounded in the grammar, which also makes the dependent clause "an integral and crucial element" of the main clause, in fact, as a depictive temporal complement that completes the sense of the verb so that it is "something far greater" than the simple present tense, namely, a PPA. You, of course, understand none of this and think the simple present tense, in and of itself, signifies eternity, which is patently absurd. You need the dependent clause, Rob.

In my post #20 I pointed this out quite emphatically, but you have not come to terms with, nor even directly answered, the point I make here:

"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 or an `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." (JB, post #20)

And please don't tell me again what you think you know about the interpretation and meaning of Jesus' statement. Tell me how you can translate it so that any reader, coming to it without your knowledge and wisdom, would understand that the temporal significance of EIMI is other than the simple present tense. That is what we are debating. You are thinking as a theologian, rather than as a translator, as is evident in every one of your postings. There simply is no "affirmation of existence of an extraordinary kind" in an absolute, unmodified present tense be-verb. If you think there is, I don't know how to help you see that this is theology talking, not grammar or syntax.

You don't even understand what "absolute" means. You state:
"To say that EIMI is absolute is not to say that the dependent clause contributes nothing to our understanding of the temporal orientation or significance of EIMI." But that is PRECISELY what "absolute" means. Absolute means self-contained and unmodified in temporal orientation and significance.

In your post #30, you object to the following in my post #20:

"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."

"By now, those following this debate closely may be able to guess that the above criticism is factually incorrect. Once again, you make an assertion about my argumentation that is without question factually wrong. You couldn't even bring yourself to refer to the correct page in my book where I cited Robertson. Let me quote part of the relevant material: `The first [critical observation] comes from A. T. Robertson, who in his extensive discussion of the PPA points out in passing that in John 8:58 `_eimi_ is really absolute,' implying that for this reason it is not a true example of the PPA. What Robertson means by `absolute' is that in John 8:58 _eimi_ occurs as what is known as a predicate absolute, a construction in which a copulative verb is used without an object or complement' (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 107). There it is: Robertson's statement is backed up with a clear explanation of what he meant . . . your assertion that I resorted to mere appeal to authority at this point with no argument at all to back up my claim is patently, factually incorrect."

Thank you, Rob, for quoting for our readers the demonstration that what I said was indeed factually correct. Which means that when you say my "criticism is factually incorrect," you are quite simply employing defensive rhetoric utterly without merit. As everyone can see, patently, in your book you do not make an argument; you simply cite Robertson's remark, which is no more and no less than the words you quote and, for that reason, quite cryptic since he says no more here about what he means by "absolute." But that doesn't stop you. You then presume to explain what you think Robertson means by "absolute":

"What Robertson means by `absolute' is that in John 8:58 _eimi_ occurs as what is known as a predicate absolute, a construction in which a copulative verb is used without an object or complement" (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 107).

First, explaining a quote is not making an argument, and does not advance discussion beyond taking the quote as authoritative. Second, Robertson's remark remains 'cryptic' in its original context, no matter what you say. Third, Robertson in fact nowhere defines `absolute' in the way you say, does he Rob? You simply impose that meaning on his use of the word `absolute.' Nowhere does Robertson use `absolute' in connection with a copulative verb, as you say he does. He uses it only in the context of discussing infinitives (1092-1093), and participles in subordinate clauses (1130-1132), and in both contexts he means merely "clauses that stand apart from the rest of the sentence" (1130). So, in other words, you are FALSIFYING what Robertson means by `absolute,' aren't you? You need to retract what your book says, and apologize for its misrepresentation of Robertson and for your completely false claim that my remark was "factually incorrect." Do you see now what comes of casting aspersions before your own house is in order?

You go on in your post #30 to say that what you said in your book is "sufficient to establish that what Robertson said is correct as long as you are aware of the fact that EIMI is indeed a copulative verb and that EIMI is used in John 8:58 with no object or complement."

I must admit that I completely overlooked your reference to EIMI in John 8:58 as a copulative verb in your book, and it is quite instructive for your to reiterate this claim so emphatically in your post #30. If that is what you think, then you cannot defend the traditional translation of John 8:58, which does not translate the verb as a copula, but as an existential, and therefore you have lost this debate in which you have taken the position of defending the traditional translation.

If you wish to propose that EIMI is copulative in John 8:58, you would be forced in translation to provide the implied predicate complement, just as all the major translations do in other examples of copulative EIMI with an implicit complement (see my discussion of this in my post #4). So your citation of definitions and discussion involving a copulative understanding of "I am" sentences in John is utterly irrelevant for your defense of the traditional translation of John 8:58, which is not based in a copulative understanding of the verse.

In your post #17, you cited a set of authorities for regarding EGW EIMI in John 8:58 as an absolute. I dismissed this as an argument from authority that I saw no reason to accept. In your message #21, you state that my dismissal "reeks of ad hominem." As I have explained before, ad hominem applies only when an argument had been presented and, instead of responding to the points of the argument, one attacks the source of the argument. It is not ad hominem to dismiss an argument from authority, since such an argument deals with nothing else than hominem, so to speak, and you presented it in precisely such a way ("the premier Roman Catholic New Testament scholar of the twentieth century," no less!).

From Brown, you quote as follows:
"Grammatically we may distinguish three types of use" of EGW EIMI: "(1) The absolute use with no predicate."

You tell us that Brown cites John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 as examples. This is apparently distinguished by Brown from "(2) The use where a predicate may be understood even though it is not expressed." Harner likewise identifies 13:19 and 8:58 as, in your words, "unambiguously absolute EGW EIMI sayings that have no predicate expressed or implied ," while 8:24, 28 and other verses involve double entendres that include an absolute reading.

Notice that these are just assertions, not arguments. But there's a big problem with these assertions. Most major translations of John 8:24, 8:28, and 13:19 translate them as belonging to Brown's category 2, that is, with an understood predicate complement. The exception in the NAB which has "I AM." As we agreed at the beginning of our discussion back in August, the use of "I AM" points to the erroneous idea that this is a name or designation of God in Exodus 3:14. Hence my conclusion that Brown and Harner "buy into the `I Am' nonsense." Because, you see, there is simply no such thing as EIMI used as a copula in an absolute construction without an implied complement. Such a thing would be incomprehensible as a sentence.

And here we get to the hub of the problem. There simply is no such thing as an absolute copula. A copula, Rob, copulates. You cannot have a copula without something on the other side of it, so to speak, explicitly or implicitly. Don't you understand this? So your authorities are inadvertently uttering nonsense, IF, that is, they are talking about EIMI as a copula, which you assume and assert that they are. I would tend to doubt that they are guilty of such an outrageous abuse of grammar, and that is why I suspect that they are citing those verses of John as allusions by Jesus of Exodus 3:14, where an absolute EXISTENTIAL is involved. I would guess that if I checked Brown's and Harner's fuller discussion, I would find that you have as wrongly read them as speaking of an absolute copula as you did in the case of Robertson. I can understand how you could make such a mistake, since the verses they cite, with the exception of John 8:58, are usually understood to be copulas with implied predicate pronouns. I agree with this understanding and, as you know, reject as indefensible the idea that Jesus is citing Exodus 3:14 here. And although you have accused me of being unreasonably hard on Robertson for calling his remark about the absoluteness of EIMI in John 8:58 "foolish," I will at least rescue him from the responsibility you falsely place upon him of meaning something as absurd as an "absolute copula."

So your book is in error in referring to EIMI in John 8:58 as an absolute copula, because there is no such thing. If there is an implicit predicate complement ("he"), then it is not an absolute. And if there is no implicit predicate complement, EIMI cannot be a copula. If you intend to read EIMI in John 8:58 copulatively, you must realize that (a) that is not how it is translated in the traditional translation, which you have taken the position of defending, and (b) such a reading will require you to translate it with the implicit complement made explicit, as all the major translations do in such cases. Either way, you break with the traditional translation which you have taken the position of defending, and so lose the debate.

You went on in your post #17 to cite a set of definitions for `absolute,' identifying John 8:58 as fitting these definitions, all of which involve the textual absence of an implied object of the verb. These definitions do not, then, involve grammatical, syntactical, or semantic absoluteness, but what one might call orthographic absoluteness. In my reply (post #20), I pointed out two faults in your attempt to define EIMI's absoluteness. The first is that you are citing English grammatical definitions in a discussion of Greek grammar, something we had an exchange on early in our debate, where we decided this could not be allowed. Second is that these definitions involve transitive verbs, not intransitives, and the be-verb is an intransitive, so the definitions are not at all applicable to the case of John 8:58. Since you had made a rather impolite suggestion in your post that I was in need of some basic grammatical education, I turned this language back on you in pointing out such a basic error of grammar as confusing transitive and intransitive verbs.

In your message #30, rather than admitting that you were wrongly arguing the case for the absoluteness of EIMI on the basis of definitions that referred to transitive verbs, whereas EIMI is an instransitive verb, you responded,

"All this [i.e., my critical remarks about your misunderstanding of the intransitive be-verb as a transitive] because the first two dictionary definitions of `absolute' I quoted both mention that the term applies to a `transitive' . . . or `normally transitive' . . . verb."

Well, yes, the fact that the definitions you were using apply to transitive verbs shows that they have nothing to do with the be-verb which we are discussing. So it is an error on your part to regard them as supportive of your argument. But you then add,

"You might have had a point – if only I had claimed tht EIMI in John 8:58 was transitive. But I did not make that claim."

I cannot imagine, Rob, how you thought you could get away with that denial, given that your prior message is on public display for all to check. If the definitions of absolutes you are quoting involve transitive verbs, and you are not making the claim that EIMI is transitive, then what are these definitions doing in your post?

In your post #30, you say you only meant that "the definition of `absolute' underlying its usage by biblical scholars . . . was similar or analogous" to these definitions.

Let's see if that's true. You came to cite the definitions in the context of saying to me, "you are misunderstanding practically every New Testament scholar on the planet who has commented on the matter when they say that EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute or unpredicated," ("practically every New Testament scholar on the planet," of course, referring to the six you mention). To inform me what is meant when "they saythat EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute," you quote from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (which is, of course, a dictionary not a grammar):

"a. Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as _the referee having finally arrived_ in _The referee having finally arrived, the game began_."

[This, by the way, is probably what Robertson meant by his remark. (JB)]

"b. Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object is implied 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."

The definition is "applicable" to what? To saying that EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute, of course. That is what you explicitly said you were explaining to me. Later in the same post, you reiterate:

"In this respect, its being `absolute' corresponds with the dictionary definitions of an absolute verb as a normally transitive verb that is used intransitively."

"Its being `absolute'," of course, refers to John 8:58 being absolute according to your claim, and this being absolute "corresponds with the dictionary definitions" which, again explicitly involves "a normally transitive verb." So when you say in your post#30, "if only I had claimed that EIMI in John 8:58 was transitive. But I did not make that claim," this is clearly an untruth. There are your own words to show that you did make such a claim in your post#17, and to show that in denying that you did so, in your post #30, you are not being truthful. Nowhere in your post#17 did you qualify the identification of EIMI with these definitions involving transitive verbs, nor did you use the words "similar" or "analogous" in making this identification. So, once again, rather than acknowledge error, you attempt a dodge that only makes things worse by entangling yourself in more convoluted dodges and false statements. After more than seven months of this I am losing my generous attitude towards this sort of conduct, a generous attitude you counted on to defend you against harsher criticisms of your conduct of the debate voiced by others who have been following it.

In your post#30 you go on to try to suggest that some grammarians classify the be-verb as neither transitive nor intransitive. But your definitions in post#17 involve transitive verbs, not verbs that are neither transitive nor intransitive. In any case, the suggestion makes no sense, since a verb either expresses an action which is not confined to the agent and which is capable of governing a direct object, or does not. The be-verb does not. As the Greek grammars show in their discussion of EIMI, when there is an implied predicate noun, pronoun, or adjective, the verb is a copula, and so by definition intransitive; when there is no implied predicate noun, pronoun, or adjective, but the verb (with all its adverbial modifications) forms a complete predicate, it is existential, and so by definition intransitive.

You went on to say in your post#17:
"Let's get specific here. PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is clearly not a `predicate' or `complement' in the sense of a subject complement. It is neither an adjective phrase nor a noun phrase nor any equivalent (such as an articular participle)."

No one has ever said that it is, obviously, since it is an adverbial clause. From this you conclude:
"In this sense, EIMI is `unpredicated' or `absolute.'"

What rubbish. This is like saying, "The be-verb is not a transitive verb; in this sense, it is not a verb." You are saying that the PRIN clause is not an adjectival or nominal complement, and "in this sense" it is not a complement. This is meaningless, because in another sense, in a valid sense, it is a complement. The "sense" which you are denying to PRIN only applies when the be-verb is a copula, not when it functions existentially. Only when the be-verb is a copula can it have an adjectival or nominal complement, and without one be `absolute.' But it cannot be really `absolute' and a copula at the same time, because to be a copula it must have at least an implied complement. When the be-verb is a copula, and is written without an explicit complement (and so is orthographically absolute), the implied complement is to be found in the immediate context. When such a construct is translated in the Bible, the implied complement is typically rendered explicit, otherwise the copula might be mistaken for the existential. Now in other occurrences of EGW EIMI in John that you have been citing as comparable there is no nearby noun, pronoun, or adjective that the reader can latch onto as the implied reference, and so translators supply a generic "he." That this seems to be the correct solution in a passage such as John 8:24 is supported but the response of the crowd. If you read John 8:58 in the same way, however, there is a contextual noun which can be referenced, which is "Abraham." So by this reading of the sentence, you come up with "I was Abraham before Abraham was born." Now if we want to avoid that (although if ancient readers took EIMI copulatively, they could hardly have avoided such an understanding), then we would have to take this as another example of the mysterious, unidentified implied "he" found also in 8:24. I have no problem with that. But in that case we would need to recognize that John supplies the missing reference of the implied "he" of 8:24 in 8:28, where he makes it explicitly "the Son of Man." How that reference would work in John 8:58 I don't pretend to know. But in any case it would not be the traditional English translation, and so you would be venturing down a new path and abandoning your defense of that translation. Hence my remark that this whole effort at identifying EIMI as in some sense `absolute' in not in any sense applicable or relevant to our debate. If you would like to adopt this position, you may do so, and concede that the traditional translation is wrong. I would not object to this position, and we could conclude the debate with both of us holding defensible, though different views of the best translation of the verse:

"I have existed since before Abraham was born."

"Before Abraham was born, I am He."

Already in my post #1, in response to your mention of `absolute' in your book, I pointed out that there is not a single clear-cut case of a true absolute use of the be-verb in the whole of John. Some sort of predicate complement is typically implicit, unless we take it that Jesus is saying repeatedly simply "I exist." But I have already pointed out how John 8:24 shows, by the response of those who hear Jesus' remark, that this is not the case. In John 8:58, on the other hand, 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.

To conclude, an increasing amount of your argument over time has drawn on grammatical points that would be involved only if EIMI in John 8:58 is a copula. This reading is contradictory to all aspects of your argument that assumes EIMI is an existential. You are free to change, or "clarify" your position to adopt a copulative reading, and such a position would seem to me on first examination to be defensible, and to avoid many of the objections I have made to the part of your argument involving an existential reading. You would be able to maintain this as a possible translation of the verse alongside of the PPA reading, which you also accept as possible. The copulative option is not the traditional translation, however. Since our debate has been framed in terms of your defense of the traditional translation against my criticisms of it, the debate would be at an end as soon as we both acknowledge that the traditional translation is not valid, but either the copulative or the PPA translations are possible.


You said, in your post #17:
"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 would be fine, Rob, if we were speaking about a hypothetical absolute sentence – "I exist." – that by being given that way we are to understand is the whole sentence. But we are not dealing with a hypothetical sentence, but with an actual sentence that has more words in it. Doesn't the sentence in John 8:58 have more words in it, Rob? Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking to a fifth grader, but that's exactly how I feel. I had cautioned, in my message #20, that one needs to be clear about what we mean by the be-verb's "existential function," and cautioned that one cannot simply equate that function with, and limit it to, the absolute existential statement "I exist." Rather than accept that caution with good will, you objected to it, saying I was creating problems "out of thin air," and proceeded to make exactly the same mistake again (in your post #30): "What I said was that if EIMI is existential (meaning `I exist') then if it has a complement it will not be an obligatory one." Now notice what you do here: you give the grammatical term "existential" the meaning `I exist' in an absolute form. This is precisely the equation I said you were committing in your post#17 confusing different meanings of the term `existential,' an observation that you protested in your post#30 as something you had "never suggested or implied," and that you challenged me to point out in what you had said.

Now I note two shifts in your position here. First, you follow the suggestion I made back in post #4 that in absolute existential statements, English abandons the be-verb for an alternative, such as "exist." This shift in itself recognizes the validity of my criticism of the traditional English translation in one respect. Second, you shift your argument from saying that the PRIN clause in John 8:58 is an adjunct to saying that, while it may be a complement as I have contended, it is at least not an OBLIGATORY complement. But there are a number of problems with your contention as you have stated it.

First, it is circular. You postulate a use of EIMI where its meaning and point is primarily "exist," that is, an absolute use, and on the basis of that postulate say in such a use it will not have an obligatory complement. But by these conditions it will not have any complement at all. You have simply ruled out, as a premise, existential functions that involve depictives, that is, qualifications and modifications of the character of being in existential statements.

Second, it is overstated. You claim about EIMI that "if it has a complement it will not be an obligatory one." This is wrong. Consider, for example, the negative complement, which is an obligatory one in any sentence where it occurs. In the hypothetical sentence "He never existed," it is patently false to say that the complement "never" is not obligatory. Let me know if you do not understand why.

Third, although you speak here in terms of complements, at the end of your post #30 you speak as if there is an either/or between obligatory complements and adjuncts. You deliberately omit optional complements, which form an essential and integral part of the discussion on the pages of the Cambridge Grammar that you cite. This is to give a false impression about the possible relations of the dependent clause to the main one, artificially limiting the options in order to suggest that if it is not obligatory, it is not a complement but an adjunct. This is completely false.

I readily acknowledge that we could go round and round on whether depictives are obligatory or optional, as we have on so many other issues, with no prospect of agreeing. In English, the complement of a be-verb is generally obligatory, in its existential as well as its copulative and auxiliary functions, as the Cambridge Grammar states. You have wisely chosen a rendering that avoids the be-verb, as I have suggested all along, for EIMI in John 8:58, and thus dodged this character of the English be-verb. I would argue that depictives are equally obligatory for Greek EIMI. But whether they are obligatory or optional, they are complements, and that means they complete the meaning of the verb in the sentence in which they occur.

The simple sentence "I exist," of course, has no complements, so that doesn't help us see what sort of complements existential verbs have. Take, for example, "I existed yesterday." Is "yesterday" in this sentence an optional, or an obligatory complement.? In "In the beginning was the Word," is "in the beginning" an optional or obligatory complement? One might argue that these are both examples of optional complements, since it remains true that "I existed," and "The Word was" with or without the specifics of when.

But once one concedes that the PRIN clause is a complement, not an adjunct, regardless of whether it is obligatory or optional you have recognized that what the sentence is conveying is not the mere fact of existence, but existence in relation to other conditions. In John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word," is not saying just that "The Word was." The meaning and point of the sentence is that the Word was in a particular point of time. In John 8:58, the semantics of the predicate is not Jesus' mere existence, but existence in relation to a temporal depictive, just as in the sentence "Jill is in her study," it is not the mere existence of Jill, but her existence in relation to a locative depictive that is the meaning of the predicate.

This is the point I made in a part of my message #20 that you decided not to reply to. You had quoted once again a familiar set of examples:

To these I replied: "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 with John 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?"

Will you answer this question now? By reverting to talking about the PRIN clause as an adjunct at the end of your post #30, you deliberately avoid conceding its complementary character, and give the false impression that if it is not an obligatory complement, then it must be an adjunct. This is simply an incomplete, and therefore false, set of choices.

In my post #20, I had pointed out that you were using an English grammar to argue something about the Greek, and asked which language you were intending to make a point about. You reply, in your post #30, "I was making a point about the Greek." So, do I need to remind you that we agreed long ago that this is invalid? Or do those rules only apply to me?

Here again, you chose not to reply to my comment:
"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 specifically about the be-verb. As you well know, many of the things we can say about transitive verbs we cannot say about intransitives, and vice versa. Many of the rules and characterizations that apply for other verbs are different for the be-verb. So you are not even citing particularly 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 her study' is a complement, not an adjunct, because the statement is not that Jill exists, but that she presently exists in a particular place. `The meeting was on Monday' -- same comments. What the verb indicates is fundamentally different with or without its complement." (JB post #20)

Can you please defend the meaningfulness, as part of these sentences, of "Jill is" and "The meeting was"? Can you please explain to us how the speakers of these sentences were conveying, in an absolute sense, the existence of Jill and the meeting, rather than the specific temporal or spatial existence of Jill and the meeting? Do you agree that these are existential uses of their respective verbs? Are "in her study" and "on Monday" adjuncts or complements? Are they obligatory or optional?

With regard to Proverbs 8:22-25, we have been debating whether or not it involves a PPA in the verb GENNAi. In my post#20, I pointed out that you made a mistake in asking rhetorically (in your post#17) "How can God `beget' wisdom before the beginning?" since the passage does not say that God "begat" (or "begets") wisdom "before the beginning," but rather that he "ESTABLISHED" wisdom "IN the beginning." Your rhetorical question was part of an argument that we are forced away from a PPA reading of the verb because there is not a logical temporal relation here, but rather "paradox." I stated that the actual reading of the verse is simply temporal priority, "in the beginning" (compare John 1:1) without paradox. Replying to my observations in your post #30 you acknowledge that it does indeed read "in the beginning" rather than "before the beginning," but, you add, God "begets" wisdom "before his various acts of creation." Well, this is not the same as what you asserted in your post #17, and it also leaves out the prior clause, as I have already pointed out in our discussion of this passage (in my post #8), namely, "The Lord created (EKTISE) me as a beginning of his ways for his works." This is perfectly clear and unambiguous: wisdom is created, in a past tense. So then, according to your reading, God creates wisdom in the past, but begets wisdom always. Well, that's interesting, but I think rather cumbersome when you have aspects of the present tense that would bring these two verbs into closer harmony in meaning. I stated that I had seen examples where a present tense has the sense of an ongoing condition of a past action or state, and suggested that this is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the PPA. You objected to this rather undeveloped observation as not established in the grammars. But this usage is of course simply the perfective present, which Dana & Mantey includes with the PPA within the Progressive Present category (182-183). Brooks & Winbery say that the perfective "has something in common" with the PPA, but whereas the PPA "emphasizes the fact that the action is still in progress," the perfective emphasizes "the result or state of being of the action" (90). They point out that the perfective present "is not limited to verbs whose stem expresses perfective Aktionsart . . . Context as well as root meaning can produce the perfective idea of existing results" (89-90). But acknowledging that my argument collapsed two types distinguished, however finely, in the grammars, I recognized that you were not obliged to go along with my explanation. So already in post #8 I said, "So at least two and possibly three of your eleven examples are PPAs, and these are also the two or three that most closely resemble John 8:58, in that the aorist infinitive of the dependent adverbial clause is used of past time (as noted by Winer), rather than general or future time."

That was post #8, so it is hardly correct to say that I "have backed away" from the classification of GENNAi as a PPA in my "more recent posts." Already in post #8 I indicated that I did not insist on it, and did not need it to make my argument. Since then I have only commented on your continuing efforts to translate it using a simple present, and to associate that translation with John 8:58. I have continued to maintain that it cannot be translated that way, because it has a perfective aspect, as the context clearly shows, and that perfective aspect is created by the same temporal modification as is found in cases of the PPA. So the distinction is a semantic one, not a grammatical one, and a very narrow semantic one at that, since it still involves a past aspect.

It must also be noted that your discussion of this verse is part of a discussion of supposed "contrast" between clauses and verbs within a single sentence. For your other examples in this discussion, you "contrast" verbs of being with verbs of becoming. But as I have pointed out, GENNAW is a verb of becoming, so what is it being "contrasted" to in its sentence? Other verbs of becoming. So much for "contrast." The "contrast" you have in mind, of course, is the Christian theological contrast of being begotten to being created; but that's not in the Greek grammar itself, but is imposed on it by a tradition of later interpretation. And do note that wisdom is said to be both created and begotten in this passage. You obscure the arbitrariness of your distinctions by calling them "semantic," and claim that there is no comparable contrast between the two verbs in one of my extrabiblical examples, "I have been a friend of yours a long time, before I saw you" (your rendering). But we see here the same degree of contrast as in your own preferred biblical examples, namely between a being-verb and an action-verb. This highlights the arbitrariness of your distinctions, which are under the influence of extra-grammatical forces.

best wishes,
Jason B.

Friday, March 11, 2005

RB17260 - Rob #35: Antecedent time, LXX parallels, and the meaning of EIMI in John 8:58 

(RB17260) - Robert Bowman [Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:52 pm] (Rob #35: Antecedent time, LXX parallels, and the meaning of EIMI in John 8:58)


This post is in response to your post #29, which was a reply to my post #27, and your post #30, which was a reply to my posts #28-29. Thus, the three sections of this post correspond to my posts #27-29.


You began post #29 as follows:

In your post #27 you reveal a basic confusion about what you are arguing. You pose the infinitive of antecedent time and the PPA as an either/or choice, decision, or interpretation about John 8:58. But the infinitive of antecedent time applies to the dependent clause of John 8:58 ("before Abraham was born"), while the PPA applies to the main clause ("I have existed"). Since these two categories of analysis apply to different parts of the sentence, and to different verbs in the sentence, it is simply false to suggest that the existence of one precludes the existence of another. (348)

You then elaborate on this criticism, noting my reference to "the incompatibility of antecedent time and the PPA" and you reiterate:

You can see here that you have falsely made the infinitive of antecedent time something about the main verb, "a verb that expresses an action or state antecedent to some time in the past," rather than something about the infinitive. You say that "an infinitive of antecedent time simply doesn't fit what we mean by a PPA" - exactly, because the infinitive of antecedent time is an INFINITIVE construction, and the PPA is an INDICATIVE construction.

This critique is absurdly off the mark. The contrast I drew in my post #27 was between a present-tense indicative main verb associated with an expression denoting duration from the past into the present (the PPA) and a present-tense indicative main verb associated with the infinitive of antecedent time. Your attempt to portray me as confusedly arguing that the infinitive GENESQAI cannot be a PPA is sophisticated obfuscation, nothing more. To support this criticism, you quote from two widely separated paragraphs of my post. Here is the first of those paragraphs:

"You have (unintentionally, no doubt) missed the larger point by isolating this question of whether the PPA is defined as necessarily involving a beginning of its action or state. That larger point is the contrast between (a) a verb that expresses duration subsequent to some event or time in the past up to the present and (b) a verb that expresses an action or state antecedent to some time in the past. My contention is that EIMI in John 8:58 fits the latter description, not the former one, thus excluding it from the PPA as typically (or narrowly) defined. This is the key point in the exegetical debate, as far as I am concerned, with reference to the proper translation of John 8:58" (p. 323).

By "(b) a verb that expresses an action or state antecedent to some time in the past" I was referring to the present-tense indicative verb EIMI (as I said *explicitly* in the *very next sentence*), not to the aorist infinitive GENESQAI. The aorist infinitive does not express the antecedent action or state; it marks the present indicative verb associated with it as expressing an antecedent action or state. If you genuinely misunderstood this, you completely failed to come to terms with my argument. The "basic confusion about what [I] am arguing" is on your end.

Here is the second statement you quoted, put in its context (p. 327):

You wrote that

no one has ever said an "infinitive of antecedent time" cannot be used to create a PPA. (p. 237)

That is a fallacious argument from silence. If a PPA expresses a state or action from the past into the present, then an infinitive of antecedent time simply doesn't fit what we mean by a PPA. I don't need a grammarian to say this explicitly in order for my observation to be justified. If "the action of the main verb takes place BEFORE the action expressed by the infinitive," as Young says (Richard A. Young, _Intermediate New Testament Greek_, 166, emphasis added), then the main verb is not being used to express or denote action taking place AFTER the action expressed by the infinitive.

In context, when I said that "an infinitive of antecedent time simply doesn't fit what we mean by a PPA," I clearly meant that it did not fit as the kind of temporal marker associated with a PPA. I certainly did not mean that the infinitive could not itself BE the PPA. I was replying to your
argument from silence about no one ever saying that such an infinitive could not "be used to create a PPA." Even in this paragraph I refer twice to "the main verb" in association with the infinitive of antecedent time, so that it is quite clear that it is the main verb that I am saying is not a PPA in such a construction.

You wrote:

Now in John 8:58, the main verb is formally in the present. Recognizing that the infinitive used in the dependent clause is temporally neutral, one could translate the sentence as a straightforward present-tense: "I exist before Abraham is born." You have suggested something like this for one of the LXX examples we have been discussing. (349)

I would not object to translating John 8:58, "Before Abraham comes into being, I am"; such a translation would meet your criticisms part way, though I doubt you would consider it acceptable. You continued:

But what we find in the main English translations of the Bible, the ones you are defending, is a mixing of tenses that is not acceptable English. This is what I criticized in my book. The dependent clause is put into a past tense, because we know that the event to which it refers is in the past. That in itself is fine. But you can't do that and at the same time leave the main clause in the simple present tense, because there is a relation of antecedence involved, so the two verbs need to be brought into semantic harmony, a harmony that such mixed tenses breaks.

Again, although the conventional translation is not elegant modern English, I think it is acceptable in a formal equivalency translation, like the usual translation of Psalm 89:2, "Before the mountains were formed.you are."

You wrote:

If John meant to convey simple, limited antecedence in relation to a past event, he would have to have put the main verb in a past tense. Instead, he uses the present tense in a PPA construction to indicate progressive action or state.

If the main verb had been in the past tense, it would have simply meant that Jesus existed before Abraham, without (of course) denying that he still existed at the time of Jesus' speaking. I will return to this point in my response to your post #30.

I had observed "that using a present-tense Greek verb to denote an action or state that is 'qualified' in the sentence by an expression beginning with the word 'before' (PRO or PRIN) in reference to a past time or event simply does not look like a usage intended to do any of the above." You commented:

But of course it is completely arbitrary for you to make a subjective "observation" that something "does not look like" something else. (350)

Since I specified what it was about such a construction that "does not look like" a PPA, and why, my argument was not subjective as you claim.

You offered some fairly lengthy comments on the infinitive of antecedent time based on Smyth's grammar. Your comments focused on Smyth's three example sentences illustrating the use of PRIN:

"I was doing this until Socrates arrived."
"I was not doing this until (or before) Socrates arrived."
"I was doing this before Socrates arrived."

You claim that I construe John 8:58 as parallel to the first sentence:

Here the affirmative action is limited to the time antecedent to Socrates' arrival. THIS IS HOW YOU CLAIM JOHN 8:58 IS TO BE READ. But this employs an indicative dependent verb, not an infinitive, and so is not parallel to John 8:58 (350).

However, you are mistaken on more than one count. First, I do not construe John 8:58 as parallel to Smyth's first sentence. Second, I do not (for the umpteenth time) claim that the state of Jesus' existence in John 8:58 "is limited to the time antecedent to" the time marked by the infinitive. I simply claim that the verb EIMI in that construction *expresses* existence antecedent to the time marked by the infinitive, without implying that such existence is "limited" to that antecedent time.

Oh, and by the way, the main verb "was doing" in all three of Smyth's example sentences is imperfect (EPOIOUN), not present tense.

I had written:

"With reference to genuine NT example texts of the PPA cited in the NT grammars (leaving aside John 8:58 for sake of argument), all of them have a temporal marker that implies that the action or state expressed by the PPA verb is a temporal one of some limited duration" (324).

You commented:

Of course, by changing how you express your point to "some limited duration," you are no longer talking about them all referring "to a period of time beginning at some point" (see your book, pages 109-110). And no one is disputing that all PPAs are limited in their duration at the present end, that is, by the time when the statement is made. This says nothing about when the action may or may not have begun.

By "limited duration" I meant exactly what I meant in my book, namely, that the state or action had been enduring for a limited period of time at the time the statement was made. You are twisting what I said yet again.

You wrote:

Even you concede that some of these examples (note the contrast to your reference to "all of them" above) do not in fact refer or convey a beginning of the verbal action: "The only texts of those cited above where the qualifying temporal language does not make this immediately obvious are 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 1 John 2:9, where `until now' (hEWS ARTI in both texts) in and of itself gives no hint as to how long that is. . . . Even this expression hEWS ARTI, though it gives no indication by itself of the length of time involved, connotes a temporal duration that in context clearly has a beginning." (351)

First, I must point out that I did *not* concede that some of my examples do not convey that the verbal action or state were of limited duration in having some beginning. What I said was that this was not "immediately obvious" in two of the examples. The sentence preceding your quote from my post states it this way: "In most of the texts, that the actions or states had a beginning is self-evident from the qualifying temporal language ('all these years,' 'from the beginning,' and the like)" (324). The limited duration and beginning of the action or state may be implied or otherwise evident even if the sentence does not have qualifying temporal language that makes this "self-evident" or "immediately obvious."

Second, your ellipsis omits a sentence that makes a point of some significance with regard to those two texts:

"I find it interesting to note that most translations render the verb in both texts with an English present tense. (In fact, *all* of the English versions I have surveyed, including the NWT, do so; I say 'most' only because there are too many to check them all.)" (324)

In other words, if these two texts are PPAs, they exemplify the point that a PPA need not always be translated with an English past tense verb. Conversely, if a PPA must always be translated with an English past tense verb, then these two texts are evidently not PPAs.

You made no attempt to rebut the above point. Nor did you make any attempt to refute the point that a beginning is evident in 1 Corinthians 15:6. You did attempt to refute that point with regard to 1 John 2:9, writing:

For example, in regard to 1 John 2:9, you say, "the false Christian who professes to be in the light and yet hates his brother 'is in the darkness until now'; this state of darkness in context obtained from the beginning of the false brother's life." You do not know, for a fact, that that is the case. You do not know that that is John's concept of the beginning of individual human existence, whether or not he believes in pre-existence of the soul, whether he has an emanationary psychology, how deeply his dualism runs, not to mention the simple issue of whether any beginning is in view to this dwelling in darkness, which may regress infinitely into the past awaiting the light of Christ. (351-52)

Suppose for the sake of argument I grant your point, though we would need to sharpen it to the claim that we don't know that John thought a human being's existence had a beginning. Then I can simply say that 1 John 2:9, if it is a PPA, is an unusual one if it is taken to refer to a state that had no beginning. Or, I can say that 1 John 2:9 might not even be a PPA, at least in the usual sense, since all of the English translations I checked render the verb with the English present tense. So, your objection, even if granted, proves nothing. On the other hand, your objection is refuted in John 8:58, the very verse that is the focus of this debate. Abraham, who is understood in context to have been a human being, albeit a great or even the greatest human being from a Jewish perspective, is said to have had a beginning: "before Abraham came into being [GENESQAI]." This saying of Jesus is, of course, reported in the Gospel of John, authored by the same person who gave us 1 John. John reports that John (the Baptist) acknowledged that his origin, like that of other human beings, was "of the earth," whereas Jesus was "from above" and "from heaven" and was therefore "above all" (John 3:31). In these statements, and others implicitly in his writings (e.g., John 1:15), we can see that John affirmed a traditional Jewish anthropology.

I had written:

"You claim that I am guilty of 'arbitrarily ruling.out' a beginning 'for John 8:58,' and that I 'can only do [so] because it is not specified there.' This criticism rather badly misrepresents my argument. It treats my point about the lack of any implied beginning in isolation rather than as part of the larger point, as I have noted, about the difference between temporal language that marks the verb as expressing duration from the past to the present and temporal language that marks the verb as expressing an antecedent action or state. Your criticism further isolates this specific point from the larger argument that takes notice of (a) the predicate absolute use of EIMI, (b) the clear contrast in the sentence between GENESQAI and EIMI, and (c) the evident allusion to Old Testament 'I am' sayings of God, especially those in Isaiah" (325-26).

You quoted everything in that paragraph except the first sentence, and then replied:

Now Rob, it is simply impossible to respond to or criticize all of your points at the same time. I must assess them one by one, and I have addressed each of these three points, in greater or lesser detail. (352)

This opening comment, and what follows, ignores what it was that you had claimed and that I was refuting, namely, your claim that I ruled out a beginning in John 8:58 "arbitrarily" on no other grounds than that "it is not specified there."

You wrote:

(a) On EIMI as a predicate absolute, please keep reading my past posts, which have argued in detail how utterly absurd such an identification is.

I have responded to the relevant arguments in those posts.

You continued:

(b) The supposed "contrast" of the two verbs comes down to no more than this: (1) since Christ is speaking of his ongoing existence, not his origin (as one who is "the living one" as opposed to "the dead"), he could not use the same verb as is used of Abraham; (2) the EIMI is not in the emphatic position, the PRIN is - hence the contrast rests on "before," while the use of the present form of EIMI preserves the progressive meaning from simple antecedence.

And I reply: (1) If Jesus had merely been claiming to have been alive in contrast to the dead Abraham, well, any of his listeners could have made *that* claim! You are here engaged in "interpretation," as you so often criticize me for doing, with the difference being that your interpretation is without merit. The only way to make your point work would be to broaden
it further to a contrast between Abraham, who "came into being" and died, and Jesus, who before and after simply *is* or *lives* (EGW EIMI). But broadening the contrast in this way in effect admits that EIMI connotes beginningless (as well as endless) existence or life. (2) The final position in a Greek sentence is per se not emphatic syntactically, but there is in this instance a clear *semantic* emphasis due to the clear contrast between GENESQAI and EIMI.

Regarding Jesus' allusion to the "I am" sayings of God in Isaiah, you commented:

But I went so far in my book as to say that it is possible that Jesus is invoking this language with reference to himself. Such an invocation does nothing to solve the translational issue of normal English word order and verb tense harmony, nor does it in and of itself settle any interpretive issues because it remains open to interpretation in what way he means to invoke this language. (352-53)

As I have explained in a previous post, the allusion to the Isaianic "I am" sayings of God does contribute to the question of the best translation of EGW EIMI in John 8:58, in that the best translation will make it possible to recognize that allusion, and "I have been" fails miserably in this regard whereas "I am" does quite well.

You wrote:

So if the parts and steps of your argument are not valid, or fail to establish anything towards building your argument, your argument as a whole is not valid. You want to add up a series of `may-bes', `could-bes', `arguably-bes', `for-the-sake-of-argument-bes' into a final `definitely is'! I can understand your frustration that I won't let you do that. (353)

Well, I see nothing wrong with the parts of my argument, and I don't see them as fitting your characterization of "may-bes" or "could-bes" or the like. I didn't argue that John 8:58 "may be" a predicate absolute, that there "could be" a contrast between GENESQAI and EIMI, or that there might "arguably be" an allusion to Old Testament "I am" sayings of God! So you have caricatured my argument once again.

Speaking of caricatures of my arguments, you had badly caricatured my argument as running along the following lines:

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. !!!! (237)

I pointed out (p. 328) that a better enumeration of my argument would look something like the following:

  1. John 8:58 involves an infinitive of antecedent time.
  2. The definition of the infinitive of antecedent time is incompatible with the PPA as usually defined.
  3. Few if any of the 16 occurrences with a present-tense main verb of an infinitive of antecedent time could conceivably be classified as a PPA as usually defined. Besides John 8:58, only three such texts in the LXX speaking of God's wisdom, knowledge, or existence have ever been so classified. One of these (Prov. 8:25) cannot be a PPA, and the other two (Ps. 89:2; Jer. 1:5) are disputable examples of the PPA.
  4. On the other hand, most of the present-tense main verbs associated with an infinitive of antecedent time fit into such categories as the gnomic, customary, or broad-band descriptive usage.
  5. The use of EIMI in John 8:58 as usually interpreted fits something like the (non-proverbial) gnomic or broad-band descriptive category.
  6. Therefore, John 8:58 is better categorized as using the present tense in something like the (non-proverbial) gnomic or broad-band descriptive usage than the PPA (as usually defined).

Now, it would have been nice if you had acknowledged the fact that you had badly caricatured my argument. You didn't. Instead, you tried to refute the above argument by critiquing two of the premises:

In regard to your attempt to identify John 8:58 as a "gnomic-like broad-band present" (whatever that is supposed to be), you outline a six-step argument you think you have made. But neither the second step ("The definition of the infinitive of antecedent time is incompatible with the PPA as usually defined") nor the fifth step ("The use of EIMI in John 8:58 as usually interpreted fits something like the (non-proverbial) gnomic or broad-band descriptive category") is valid, and therefore your argument as a whole is invalid. I have further demonstrated the invalidity of the second point above. As to the fifth point, I note your language "something like." Please list for us every grammar that has cited John 8:58 as a gnomic present. You don't have any? Then how can you possibly make this claim? What, then, does "usually interpreted" mean, and are you talking about grammar or theology? (353)

What objections you did raise to the second point were peripheral or irrelevant, and I have answered them earlier in this post. With regard to my fifth point, your objection is, once again, a fallacious argument from silence. Every grammarian and exegete who interprets EIMI to connote eternal existence supports my point. These scholars include Greek scholars Milligan
and Moulton, Westcott, Robertson (see, e.g., his _Word Pictures_), and Young (p. 166), numerous biblical commentators, and even unorthodox commentators like Bultmann and Davey.

As an aside, you made the comment regarding Colossians 1:17 that "its temporal reading as a PPA has a lot to be said for it" (353). Let's look at how various English versions translate AUTOS ESTIN PRO PANTWN in Colossians 1:17:

"he is before all things" (KJV; NKJV; ASV; NASB; ESV; NIV; NRSV; many others)
"He himself is before all things" (NET Bible)
"he is before all" (Douay-Rheims; Darby)
"he is before all [other] things" (NWT)

Even the NWT, despite its controversial addition of "other," agrees with the other versions in translating ESTIN as "is". Of the numerous versions I checked, only the NLT, which is a (generally excellent) paraphrase, does otherwise, and it reads, "He existed before everything else began."

If we construe ESTIN here as a PPA, and translate it as you would indicate from your handling of John 8:58, we would not render it as the NLT did. Instead, we would have to translate it something like, "he has been since before all things." Well, feel free to go out on that limb and knock yourself out, but the meaning would still be the same. After all, if the Son (the subject here, see vv. 13-14) has been since before all things, then he has *always* existed. We know this because in context "all things" are things God created; Paul draws a line between the all things that were created and the Son, through and for whom those all things were created and
who ESTIN PRO all things. In any case, the conventional rendering of Colossians 1:17 is quite defensible and seems best in context.

You closed, oddly, with an entirely irrelevant, though legitimate, example of the PPA not mentioned in the grammars (What? What happened to your argument from silence?). Mark 9:21 ("How long has this been happening to him?") is indeed a PPA. More curious still, you misidentified the temporal marker in this instance. Here is the sentence:


The temporal marker of the PPA verb ESTIN in the above sentence is not hWS TOUTO GEGONEN AUTWi, as you claimed (p. 354), but the temporal expression POSOS CRONOS ("how much time," i.e., "how long"). This temporal marker is similar to those found in other instances of the PPA, such as "a long time already (POLUN HDH CRONON)" (John 5:6) and "so long a time (TOSOUTWi CRONWi MEQ' hUMWN)" (John 14:9).

All I can figure is that you were so eager to establish a precedent for "clausally-modified PPAs" that you missed the obvious here.


I now turn to your post #30, which in turn was your reply to my posts #28 and #29. In this section I will focus on your reply to my post #28. You began:

In your post #28, you wish to continue to dispute the PPA reading of three LXX sentences (Prov. 8:23-24; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 89:2), even though two of them are recognized by Winer as PPAs closely comparable to John 8:58, in that they are both clausally-modified as is John 8:58. I am quite content to stand on the arguments I have made, and to stand with Winer on theidentification of Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 89:2 as PPAs. (355)

For the sake of argument, I could agree to "stand with Winer" in that his definition of the PPA (assuming that "commenced" is not pressed) is so broad as to allow for the conventional English translation of John 8:58 as well as the traditional Christian interpretation of that verse. His comparison of John 8:58 with two texts that speak of God's knowledge and existence (and
that are usually translated using a present-tense verb in English) will appear quite compatible with the view that in John 8:58 EIMI connotes beginningless existence or life and not only that Jesus was older than Abraham.

Regarding your attempt to support your understanding of Proverbs 8:23-25 as a PPA using the Dana and Mantey grammar, you wrote:

I did a little Rob-like experiment of making a case based on existing recognized uses of the present, but you have not accepted that argument.

Are you saying that your argument was a good one, like arguments I have made from the grammars? That doesn't seem likely to be your meaning. Are you saying that it was an argument that you presented with all seriousness but that you now recognize was a bad argument, supposedly like a bad argument I have made from the grammars? Or are you saying you knew all along it wasn't a good argument, although you didn't say so at the time (and still aren't saying so clearly)? It's hard to tell what you are saying. My conclusion: The above is a bit of sleight-of-hand rhetoric that you used to avoid making any clear statement at all or responding in a substantive way to the significant points I made in my critique of your argument.

To recap, those significant points were that (1) the categories of usage to which you appealed from Dana and Mantey are normally (i.e., with the exception of a small category of verbs) translated in English with the present tense; (2) your handling of the perfective present yielded no plausible support for a PPA interpretation of GENNAi in Proverbs 8:23-25; and (3) you still have not presented a more cogent exegesis of that passage than the one I offered (pp. 331-36, with the conclusion stated on pp. 334-36).

In a peculiar twist, you then argued that although you agree that EIMI in John 8:58 is not an historical present, GENNAi in Proverbs 8:23-25 might be one, and you cited ESTIN in Revelation 21:1 as a parallel example (pp. 355-56). I don't think this is a particularly good argument, but if you're dropping Proverbs 8:23-25 as a PPA and now categorizing it as an historical present, we can leave that part of our debate behind us!

With regard to Jeremiah 1:5, I see nothing in your comments (pp. 356-57) requiring a substantive response. You ignored the first case of misrepresentation I addressed (pp. 336-37) and tried to deflect the second case of misrepresentation (pp. 337-38) by addressing only select bits of my comments. You appear to have conceded my next two points, which were that
one cannot assume a one-to-one correspondence between the Hebrew text and the LXX translation and that the Hebrew word in Jeremiah 1:5 is often translated in the present tense (p. 339). You did not address my response to your incoherent accusation of eisegesis or my statement that in Jeremiah 1:5 God's knowledge of Jeremiah is "temporally unbounded" (p. 340).

On Psalm 89:2 LXX, you had objected to my exegesis on the grounds that the third line is not grammatically parallel to the first two lines, and I had replied that the three lines exhibit a semantic "progression backward in time from the creation of the mountains back to the creation of the earth and the world and finally back to the everlasting past. The three lines do not need to be grammatically parallel for that progression to be evident" (p. 31). You replied:

Here once again, you are allowing the logic of your construal overwhelm the grammar. You interpret AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS as a period of time broader than, and encompassing the previous periods mentioned. The APO TOU is against you, because it is quite explicitly "from, since," that is, progressive time forward from the previous "before" clauses. The switch from PRO to APO signals a shift of direction in the time under consideration. If the writer wanted to convey what you mean, he could have employed a different, non-contrastive construct, such as an EN or DIA phrase.

You are the very first person I have ever encountered that suggested that the period of time denoted by APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS is actually circumscribed or limited by the preceding clauses about the mountains and the world. In this case I think I will have to say that you are allowing your overly fussy construal of the grammar to overwhelm the logic of the
text. There is nothing in Psalm 89:2 LXX that I can see, even after your explanation, that would indicate that APO refers to a time after the events of the preceding two lines (which seems to be your meaning).

You had written:

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. (247)

Note that in the above comments, you say 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 . . .'" Since "a marker of durative time.of.continued existence since" some past time would seem to be a clear definition of the temporal marker of the PPA, I commented:

"In the above statement, you appear to be claiming that the phrase APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS is the qualifying element that marks the present-tense verb EI as a PPA" (341).

You complained:

In other words, if you had taken the care to read all of what I said, there would be no way for you to make the mistake of thinking I was saying the APO TOU is what made the PPA. Something's a bit off with your much-vaunted "contextual" reading here, Rob.... Quite clearly, you have not understood me. (358)

I'd take this criticism with some seriousness if you had actually commented on your statement, which I have quoted again for you above, in which you seemed to say that the APO phrase marked the present-tense verb as a PPA. As it stands, my "misunderstanding" seems quite understandable.

You had written:

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? (pp. 247-48)

I replied:

"Your criticism here is utterly beside the point. I have not advocated translating EI as 'exist at all times' or 'exist eternally.' If I had advocated such a translation, your criticism might have some merit. But I have merely advocated translating EI with the simple present 'are'" (343).

You ignored the point I was making in response to your unwarranted criticism, quoted only the last sentence, and then commented:

Obviously, this would be a non-sequiter in English. The only way to use it here would be to jettison the two "before" clauses as belonging to a separate sentence. You would need to do the same thing with the "before" clause in John 8:58. Since the translations you are defending do not take this drastic stp in either case, you have not offered a sound argument in support of your position. (359)

You have been doing this over and over in our debate, especially in your January and February posts. You forget or ignore the point you originally made and refuse to acknowledge that I have effectively refuted it. You then take something I said out of that context that you think you can criticize on its own. This might be effective for those who aren't following the debate closely, but I will call you on it as often as I can.

As for the point you make here, what we have seen is that you have to accuse translators throughout the English-speaking world and over the past many centuries of mistranslating not only John 8:58, but also Psalm 89:2 LXX, apparently also 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 1 John 2:9, and perhaps Colossians 1:17 as well. There is nothing "obvious" about your position. The conventional translations of these texts work just fine, and in neither Psalm 89:2 nor John 8:58 (nor Colossians 1:17!) require excising the 'before' clauses.


Turning to your comments on my post #29, you quote the following sentence from that post:

"I have never 'argued that the aorist *limits* the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive,' in such a way that the state is 'lockedout' from continuing after that event" (346).

You then reply (359):

Oh no? Not only did you before I said that you did, but afterwards, in your post #27, you say:

"If 'the action of the main verb takes place BEFORE the action expressed by the infinitive' (. . . Young . . . emphasis added), then the main verb is not being used to express or denote action taking place AFTER the action expressed by the infinitive." (your emphasis)

"If the main verb denotes an action or state PRIOR TO AN EVENT OF THE PAST, then it does not denote an action or state in its CONTINUANCE UP TO THE PRESENT. Those are two different denotative uses of the verb." (your emphasis)

So you can see that I am hardly putting words into your mouth. Your whole argument for the Infinitive of antecedent time not allowing a progressive verbal sense (which strangely, as I pointed out, would be the only verbal sense not allowed, while every other tense and use is), amounts precisely to this. The problem is that you cannot or will not recognize that that is the
case. Don't you understand the meaning of your own words or the consequences of your own arguments?

I really can't tell if you are being deliberately obtuse or just don't understand the point I was making. Here is the full paragraph from which you quoted only the first sentence above:

"No, I have never 'argued that the aorist *limits* the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive,' in such a way that the state is 'locked out' from continuing after that event. I have argued that the main verb in these constructions *denotes* a state antecedent to the main verb. That the state continues after the event denoted by the aorist infinitive is implicit from the context (e.g., Jesus obviously exists when he speaks the words of John 8:58), but the denotative *sense* is that the state obtains antecedent to the event; in turn, the *meaning* (in context) is that the state is unbounded with respect to the event of the past denoted by the aorist infinitive" (346-47).

The material you quoted from me that you thought proved your understanding of my position to be accurate is perfectly consistent with my explanation here. I speak there of what the main verb expresses or denotes about the action or state, not about whether that action or state actually continues. I *do* understand my own words; the most charitable thing I can say for you
is that it is possible you do not understand them.

You wrote:

Second, you are wrong to say that the context implies that "the state continues" even though by the grammar "the state obtains antecedent to the event." The fact that Jesus is now speaking a sentence that denotes that the state of his existence obtains antecedent to the event of Abraham's birth in no way establishes continuation of existence. If you are going to ignore the present value of the main verb, and force into a strictly antecedent value, then Jesus could just as well be speaking of reincarnation. That is, the implication could as easily be read as juxtaposing past and present existence, rather than implying continuous existence. (360)

First, I am not ignoring the present value of the main verb; I am construing it as denoting antecedent existence but connoting in context omnitemporal existence. Second, your speculation that Jesus' wording might (on my exegesis) be construed to imply or fit with Jesus being reincarnated would fall outside the worldview spectrum of conceivable explanations in John's
religious context. Moreover, reincarnationists do not believe that persons exist, stop existing for a period of time, and then resume existing; they believe that the spirit or soul or something of the person exists continually through the series of reincarnations. Thus, even a reincarnationist trying to fit Jesus' statement into his own worldview would not come up with the explanation you suggest.

You concluded:

Third, what you are saying here is that John 8:58 is semantically a PPA, even if you will not agree that it is grammatically so. Note your own words" "a state antecedent . . . continues." Now, as a principle of translation, are you not bound to provide an English sentence that accurately renders the meaning of the Greek. Wherever you think you are deriving that meaning, whether from a strict reading of the grammar, or from its modification by its immediate context, that is what you are obliged to do. Now how, in English, do we convey a state that pertains already antecedent to a past event and continues to the present? Do we use a simple present to do that? No. Do we use a simple past? No. We use a progressive form: "I have been, I have existed." Isn't that so?

I have *always*, beginning with my book sixteen years ago, agreed that in a broad sense of the PPA the verb EIMI might be construed as one, in that it connotes existence/life in the past that continues into the present. This is nothing new. How do we convey this in English? It depends on a combination of factors, all of which must be taken into account. The grammar is only one
factor. When we consider the relation of this saying to other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those in 8:24, 28, the allusions to EGW EIMI sayings of God in the LXX, and the intentional contrast between EIMI and GENESQAI with its implication of omnitemporal or transtemporal existence and life for the speaker, "I am" appears to be the best translation overall, even if it is grammatically somewhat archaic or odd by some purists' standards.


I have now, I think, replied to all of your posts. You have not had an opportunity to reply to my most recent posts, #30-35, and you may wish to do so. I am attempting to wind my side down (my six posts #30-35 were in response to ten of your posts, #20-22, 24-30) since we have gone back and forth over the whole terrain of the debate a few times now (and we've already exceeded that 400-page mark!). However, you have the option of responding to my most recent posts, if you wish. When we are both ready to conclude our debate, I suggest we each agree to offer one final closing post at about the same time and then open the discussion to the list members. Let me know what you decide.

In Christ's service,

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

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