Wednesday, September 08, 2004

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In your POINT 4, you claim

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

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

To which you now object

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

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

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

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

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

In your post #8, then, you clarify that

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

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

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

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

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

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

You next quote me as saying:

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

To which you reply:

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

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

You add:

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

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

You again clarify:

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

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

You duly note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You go on to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which you said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

S: All things V: continue ADV: thus

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

I said,

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

To which you replied:

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

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

You conclude post #8 with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sorry, no

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

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

Best wishes,
Jason B.

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