Wednesday, September 08, 2004

RB15586-Rob #9: Shall we continue? 

(15586) Robert Bowman [Wed Sep 8, 2004 11:35 pm] (John 8:58 - Rob #9: Shall we continue?)


Although I am prepared to continue our discussion, it seems prudent to pause and ask you if you wish to do so. I ask for two reasons.

First, you have lost the respectful tone that characterized your earlier posts, suggesting that you are losing patience with me. I am thinking of comments like these from your most recent post:

Do you wish to make an argument or only pretend to make an argument?
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
You always seem to bend the rules and categories to your own advantage,
Oh, but now this example has embarrassed you, so you must reverse yourself and
reject it.

I must say that rude comments like these discourage me from continuing. I have tried to be as fair to you as possible and to accept your clarifications and explanations in good faith. For example, consider our discussion of the argument in your book with regard to the placing of the
main clause in the English translation of John 8:58. I critiqued that argument, showing that as stated the argument was unsound (and would even mean that several of your own sentences were "not English at all"!). In response, you thanked me for helping you to "clarify" what you knew you meant, and then proceeded to set forth what looked to me like a rather different argument. However, I did not accuse you of being unwilling to admit "a simple misstatement." I accepted your "newly clarified argument" (as I put it) as you presented it and proceeded from there.

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. At the end of post #8 you wrote:

Since we seem to have exhausted the biblical data on the grammar and syntax of John 8:58, since the closest parallels among that data all support the reading of the verse I have been defending, and since broader interpretation and Christology is not what this discussion is about, I am inclined to see this exchange as nearing its finish. Of course, if you have anything new tointroduce, I would be happy to consider it.

The last sentence expresses openness to "anything new," but this apparently means material on something other than the PPA.

In post #9, you seem downright impatient for this part of the discussion to end:

Great, then it's settled. Why are we still arguing about this?

But let's cut to the chase, shall we?

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.

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. 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 unclear. However, I would rather stop than subject myself further to increased belittling.

It seems to me that you wish to allow yourself the freedom to "clarify" your position, express criticisms of what the grammarians say, and espouse your own opinions on these matters, but you are not prepared to extend the same courtesies to me. Here's a particularly telling example. In your post #8, you wrote:

But, you argue, they should be reinterpreted as examples of a previously unheard of grammatical classification, the "eternal present." Now, Rob, if you would like to propose a brand new category of verbal tense in the Greek language, please write an academic argument and submit it to a peer reviewed journal dealing with such matters. In the meantime, I think it best that we stick to generally recognized grammatical categories as the level playing field on which we discuss the meaning of John 8:58.

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.

Or, we could just agree to consider each other's arguments without resorting to arguments _ad verecundiam_. In order to do so, though, we will need to agree to allow each other the same freedoms of exploration, clarification, and revision that we wish to exercise.

Frankly, we would need to agree to such a "level playing field" before continuing any sort of discussion, whether or not we move beyond the question of the classification of John 8:58 as a PPA. We would also need to agree to avoid rude, condescending remarks toward each other. Otherwise, this discussion indeed will be over. That would be a shame, in my opinion.

Regardless of what you decide in this regard, I plan to continue thinking through and writing about the issues. If you wish to continue our discussion, please let me know.

In Christ's service,

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

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