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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

JB15758-Jas #12 :Re: John 8:58 

(15758) Jason BeDuhn [Date: Wed Oct 13, 2004 11:27 am] (Subject: Re: John 8:58: Jason #12) [Jason challenges Rob Bowman to a debate on John 1:1 in this post.] Rob,

I must agree with those on this site who have intervened to say we have reached the completion of a cycle of this discussion. With all due respect, this discussion is quickly descending into one of those schoolyard arguments about the rules that disrupts the game. In tennis, when a linesman calls a foot-fault, it is not "maligning" the player. It is indicating that one of the players is not abiding by the rules and standards of the game. When the player commits the foot-fault repeatedly, as you have repeatedly misrepresented the data of the grammars in our discussion, this can be attributed to one of three causes: (1) the player does not understand the rules, (2) the player lacks the skill to avoid committing the fault, or (3) the player is trying to get away with something to give him an unfair advantage. I will avoid the mistake I made in my last post of trying to find the most generous explanation to excuse your conduct. Your vociferous objection to that effort showed that it was futile. You may choose any of the above reasons that best suits you, as can our readers. But it is pointless to continue in this climate of recrimination against me for doing what I am here to do, which is engage in constructive debate of the issues while holding you, as you would no doubt hold me, to standards of accuracy and fairness.

You said, "I had proposed we both feel free to make our case as we saw fit." It would seem you have in mind two side-by-side monologues without either being interrupted by the other. I'm sorry, but that's a total waste of my time, and you certainly don't need me present for you to "press on" with your own theories. In the academic forum, or even in public debate, one's arguments and evidence are subject to review, testing, and challenge. You are wrong when you suggest that an academic like myself has as much at stake in defending a published position no matter what as you do as an apologist. There is nothing dishonorable in an academic saying, "I once thought x, but I have since been persuaded that y is a better understanding of the case." Academics modify, reverse, and correct their positions all the time, as I would on this issue if any persuasive evidence and argument to be set before me, either of a new and better understanding of the grammar, or of flaws in my own current grasp of it. Needless to say, neither has occurred. But although a person can be discomfited by demonstrations that he has used evidence in a faulty way, he has no grounds to blame the critic for finding the fault. I have patiently analyzed your arguments, and found them to be arbitrary and contrived. But that's not really the problem. The problem is that I have also found, since the discussion turned specifically to the PPA with your post 6, that you repeatedly misrepresent the material you are using from the grammars, and fail to accurately report its congruence or lack of congruence with criteria you yourself set for counting the grammars in favor or against the various positions you have maintained. This is no longer a matter simply of refuting your arguments, but of being forced to question your willingness or ability to use the evidence fairly.

When I agreed to come on to your site and discuss/debate John 8:58, I naturally assumed that there would come a time when we would have probed and tested each other's arguments thoroughly, when each of us would have learned all there was to know about the strengths and weaknesses of our respective positions, and -- most importantly -- when the air would have been cleared of erroneous arguments and the issues would be reduced to the few bare debatable facts. That time seems to have come. We have gone over all of the salient points raised in our respective books; we have clarified our positions and noted points of agreement; we have brought into sharp relief where we disagree and the basis on which we each rest our position. Most importantly, I think I have thoroughly demonstrated the baselessness of your positions on the grammar and syntax of this sentence. It is possible that your argument got bogged down in the PPA issue, and that you intended to advance to some new feature of the question. But since we have gone over the full extent of the argument offered in your book, substantially amplified with lots of new evidence and argument on your part, I must agree that we have reached a stopping point.

I won't pretend to tell you what you should feel obliged to do, but from my perspective no further argument can be made on your side without some sort of accounting of the errors in what you have offered to date, and with a much more forthright declaration of your position. Despite repeated restatements, your position has not gotten any clearer. You have avoided flat out denying the existence of the clausally-modified PPA, because to do so would be untenable in light of the grammars, many of which acknowledge and note its inclusion in the form under discussion. Yet in some way or another, you seek to discount this variety of the form in order to exclude John 8:58 from it. You have failed to do so. You have also failed to identify any valid and recognized alternative. Perhaps you intended eventually to do so. You had an opportunity following my post 10 to acknowledge that you had failed to dislodge the argument in favor of construing John 8:58 as a PPA, but would instead endeavor to offer a more compelling alternative. Instead, while ignoring my criticism of your past arguments, you returned to the same ground to try another desperate bid to push the PPA out of consideration, and committed the same faults of argument as before. I showed in my next post that this new argument of yours is as fallacious as the previous one, and that your efforts to correlate relative breadth of definition, degree of specificity of translation, and inclusion or exclusion of John 8:58 as an example to be hopelessly muddled and contrived. But more disappointingly, this argument involved the same sort of misrepresentation of the grammars that I had pointed out in my responses to your posts 6-8, and asked you to explain in my post 10. I must remind you that these involved cases where YOU established the criteria by which you would count a grammar for one position or another, and then failed to accurately report how the grammars met your criteria, simply misascribing grammars to a position in some cases, finding exceptional reasons not in your basic criteria to assign a grammar to a position when it favored you, finding exceptional reasons not in your criteria to exclude and not count a grammar to a position that did not favor you, counting an example as a PPA when you thought it favored you, and then rejecting it as a PPA when I pointed out that it in fact favored my position. It is not personal when I point these out, it is not insulting or rude or maligning. It is what is necessarily involved in a debate over something that is to be settled by the facts. If facts are misreported, the issue cannot be settled on valid grounds. You now, belatedly, call one such instance a "mistake." Once or twice is a mistake, but a dozen times is not, especially when every single "mistake" has been to your advantage. You have never, even once, made a "mistake" that did not favor your position. How do you account for that? Nor have you, in light of me pointing out miscounts and things of that sort, gone back and withdrawn an argument based on what I have demonstrated to be faulty use of the evidence. That is why I lamely attempted in my last post to posit a fundamental difference of attitude and approach between us, trying to imagine what an apologist has at stake that would keep him from acknowledging error or the successful point of the other side, compared to an academic such as myself for whom the issue is simply the accurate rendering of five Greek words. If I make a mistake, or someone else makes a valid point I have not previously considered, what I want to do is take that into account in reaching a better understanding and rendering of those five Greek words, setting aside (or "bracketing") any bias of preference or belief that would cloud my judgement or prevent me from accepting what is validly argued and supported.

So we are stuck and it would probably be good to hear from our audience if they see any point in continuing this line of the debate, and to allow a review and response to questions that have occurred to them about the ground we have covered. We had promised to those who wished to see this discussion/debate on this site that there would be an opportunity for anyone who wished to comment or raise questions. Our readers have now called for this promise to be fulfilled, and for that purpose, I will remain on the site for two weeks. After that, I am afraid that the pressing demands of my sabbatical research project must be attended to. We can leave open a possible resumption in the future, or perhaps a debate of John 1:1 on which we also have both taken strong public positions, provided we can resolve our differences over fair debate.

best wishes to all,
Jason B.

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