Tuesday, September 14, 2004

JB15636-Jas #10: Shall we continue? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

as always, best wishes
Jason B.

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