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Monday, October 25, 2004

JB15830-Jas #19: John 8:58 

(15830) Jason BeDuhn [Mon Oct 25, 2004 12:38 am](John 8:58 -- Jason #19)


Rob,
In this post I will reply to your post 15. Here you go to considerable effort to prove something that is not in dispute and does not advance your position, namely, the precise construct involved in the PRIN clause of John 8:58.


In your book, you claimed that John 8:58 "does not quite belong" to the PPA "category of usage" (105). You gave as your reason for this claim your observation (which has nothing to do with the definition of the PPA, but is rather just an accident of your sample) that supposedly all other recognized PPAs in the NT involve a distinct beginning of the verbal action -- "all of these expressions refer to a period of time beginning at some point (whether specified or not) in the past and continuing up to the time of the speaker" (109-110) -- while there was no such beginning implied in John 8:58. Of course, this is just begging the question, since you assume what you claim to conclude. You postulate a beginning to the verbal action "whether specified or not" (that is, without anything in the original Greek referencing a beginning to the action) for other PPAs while arbitrarily ruling it out for John 8:58, which you can only do because it is not specified there. Such a circular argument is without merit. I pointed out in my post 1 that many of your other examples, like John 8:58, do not "contain an expression that alludes to a beginning point in time. They are all durative expressions that leave the beginning of the action out of consideration" (I cited Luke 2:48; Luke 15:29; John 5:6; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 12:19; and 1 John 2:9 from the list of recognized PPAs you had offered in your book). I pointed out that the distinction between modifying the verb with a "from" or "until" clause or phrase, and modifying it with a "before" clause or phrase was not grammatically significant.

No grammar has ever defined or distinguished the PPA by such an arbitrary distinction, for the simple reason that "before" clauses and phrases as much require a PPA rendering of the verb as "from" and "until" clauses and phrases to make sensible sentences. Having been refuted in your claim as it was expressed in your book, you now attempt to mount the same claim of a distinction based on identifying what sort of clause is involved in John 8:58. You state it as if being this sort of clause automatically rules out it being used to make a PPA. But this is a fallacious argument.

We can agree to call this construct an "infinitive of antecedent time" (referring to how the aorist functions within a "before" clause), of which you say:

"I will argue that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is an instance of the construction "infinitive of antecedent time" and as such indicates that the main verb EIMI expresses a state antecedent to the event that the infinitive denotes (without denying that the state continues to the time of speaking)."


Of course, any "before" clause "indicates that the main verb expresses a state" or action "antecedent to the event that the infinitive denotes." No one is disputing that. What you said in your book is that the main verb is only a PPA when the modifying word, phrase, or clause indicates a time BEGINNING FROM WHICH the action of the main verb pertains. Since several of the examples you cited there, and have cited since, do not indicate a beginning of the action of the main verb, I pointed out that your claim was evidently false, and not a single grammar has ever delimited the PPA in that way. And no one has ever said an "infinitive of antecedent time" cannot be used to create a PPA. These are artificial and arbitrary distinctions of your own invention (you admitted in your book that they are "new") designed specifically to exclude John 8:58 from its proper reading as a PPA, and I have since shown how several other "before"-clause modified sentences are PPAs. I know you regarded this as a significant discovery and it's hard to let go of such things. But you must because it is indefensible.
You continue:

"Further, I will argue that the present tense main verb in such sentences often fits one of the categories of broad-band presents, especially the gnomic, customary, and descriptive presents."

You don't need to argue it, because we have already agreed that many of the examples of this construct, that you supplied in your post 7, are gnomic, customary, descriptive, etc. So how does this advance your argument regarding John 8:58? If you mean this as an argument for identifying EIMI in John 8:58 as "gnomic" rather than a PPA, it is a fallacious one, as can be seen by making it explicit:

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. !!!!

And that's without even taking note of the fact that these various kinds of present usage are themselves distinct from one another in their meaning. Anyway, you quote Young's definition of the "infinitive of antecedent time," the key part of which is: "Antecedent time means that the action of the main verb takes place before the action expressed by the infinitive. To convey this idea, 'before' is used at the beginning of the adverbial clause." You point out that Young mentions John 8:58 specifically as an example. You go on to provide statistics and a detailed list of occurrences. You then conclude:

"Statistically, we are justified in presuming unless proven otherwise that in any biblical text with a clause of the form PRO TOU or PRIN (H) followed by an aorist infinitive, the main or controlling verb expresses a state or action antecedent to that denoted by the aorist infinitive. (The state or action may continue after the event or action denoted by the aorist infinitive, but the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action.)"


Note your own words: "the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action" even when it is formally present. If the event or action of the aorist infinitive is itself a recurring action or state, then we are dealing with a gnomic, customary, or iterative main verb (procedurals come to mind as an example: "Bend your knees before you start your swing"). If the event or action of the aorist infinitive is an event of past time, then we have a PPA, because "the denotative meaning of the main verb pertains to a time prior to that event or action." There is simply no way around this, try as you might.

You have tried to contrast the PPA construct (as one where the modifying element marks the time FROM WHICH the action or state of the verb commences) to the Infinitive of antecedent time (where the modifying element marks the time BEFORE WHICH the action of the state of the verb occurs). I have shown that you claim that the PPA construct always indicates the beginning of the state or action is a false one. It is also invalid to attempt to contrast, as somehow mutually exclusive, a usage of the main verb (the PPA) and a form of dependent clause (the Inifinitive of antecedent time). There is no basis to say that the two cannot appear together. Moreover, your understanding of the antecedent function of the Infinitive of antecedent time is flawed, because it ignores the difference between such clauses when they refer to customary or procedural or anticipated events, and when they refer to specific past events. This failure to distinguish the difference has resulted in some very bizarre renderings of some of your examples. Review from your many examples of the Infinitive of antecedent time the many cases where the main verb is imperfect or aorist. These are not gnomic or static constructions. These literally place the action of the main verb BEFORE the past event of the "before" clause. Now think through the implications of this if you really believe the "before" clause does precisely the same thing in John 8:58.

It would confine Jesus' existence to before Abraham was born, which, since he is speaking long after that event, is a non-sequiter. Nor would your gnomic or customary examples work, unless their was a PROGRESSIVE character brought in by the use of the present tense which, as I have shown, works in different ways depending on whether the clause indicates a general, recurring circumstance of the main verb's action, or a specific, punctiliar event. In the latter case, when the specific event is future, you recognize the futurative modification of the main verb, don't you? So you must also recognize the preterative modificiation of the main verb when the event indicated in the clause is past.

You go on to give the same LXX passages you gave in your post 7, and on which I commented in my post 8 (Sept. 8) (helping us to get to that 400 pages I mentioned to Barry):

We agreed that Exodus 1:19 is an iterative (or customary) present.
We agreed that Job 8:12 is a customary present.
We agreed that Proverbs 18:13 is a gnomic present.
We agreed that Isaiah 46:10 is an iterative or customary present.
We agreed that Malachi 3:22 (4:5 Eng.) is a futuristic present.
We agreed that John 13:19 is a tendential present. All of these different subcategories of present just bear out Dana & Mantey' remark that "The fundamental significance of the present tense is the idea of progress. . . the idea of present time is secondary in the force of the tense. . . The other elements entering into the resultant import of the present tense are the meaning of the verb itself and the general significance of the context." (181).

You had characterized Matthew 6:8 ("For your Father knows [OIDEN, perfect indicative with present meaning] what you need before [PRO TOU] you ask [AITHSAI, aorist infinitive] him.") as a "general present" in your post 7, and now call it "a general or descriptive present" (although you have never defined or cited a definition of the latter, and it is quite distinct from what you seem to mean by the former). I had pointed out in my post 8 that it is the same usage as we have been calling the "customary" or "iterative present," or one could even call it "gnomic" in that it is always true, in the sense that it is true in each and every case. The "before" clause does not refer to an event in past time, but a recurring event of every time "you ask him."

But you once again trot out Deut. 31:21 LXX (the quote of which I now for a second time complete for you): "...for I know [OIDA, perfect indicative used as present] their wickedness which they do [POIOUSIN, present indicative] here this day, before [PRO TOU] I have brought [EISAGAGEIN, aorist infinitive] them into the land I promised them on oath" and say: "I would classify OIDA here as a descriptive or general present. The Lord was asserting that he already knew at that time what wicked things the Israelites were doing."

Your use of "already" shows that you are still stuck on the mistaken understanding of the verse given in your post # 7, where you had said:

"We seem to have here either an unusual subcategory of the gnomic present or a different category of use. It expresses a state of affairs that is timelessly true, that is, a state that has always been true, even before a particular event of the past to which that state of affairs is related."

As I already pointed out in my post 8, the "particular event of the past" is actually an event of the future. You have read the verse, but you haven't understood it at all. God is speaking BEFORE he has brought them into the land he promised, and he says explicitly that he "know(s) their wickedness . . . here this day." So the verb OIDA is a simple present, "descriptive" in Dana & Mantey's sense of simply describing the present state of affairs.

New in your post 15 is a series of procedural or didactic presents, using the imperative instead of the indicative of the present, which you subsume under the gnomic, but in any case, like all the rest of your examples here, have nothing to do with John 8:58: Sirach 11:8: "Do not answer before you listen" (PRIN H AKOUSAI [aorist infinitive] MH APOKRINOU [present imperative]). Sirach 14:13: "Do (POIEI, present imperative) good to friends before you die (PRIN SE TELEUTHSAI, aorist infinitive)." Sirach 18:19: "Before you speak (PRIN H LALHSAI, aorist infinitive), learn (MANQANE, present imperative)."

Now notice what your sample has shown: a host of different applications of the Infinitive of antecedent time to different and distinct uses of the present form of the verb. The verb does not have the same significance in all of these cases, as you seem to imply. In some of these cases the verb means that something IS HAPPENING (descriptive), in some it means that something DOES HAPPEN (customary), in some it means something IS GOING TO HAPPEN (futuristic), in some it means something SHOULD HAPPEN (didactic/procedural). And this wide diversity exists even without considering the cases where something HAS BEEN HAPPENING (past progressive) which you set aside as "disputed" for no apparent reason. So what is evident here is that the Infinitive of antecedent time construction does not in itself determine the significance of the verb. That is, the mere aorist infinitive and mere "before" preposition are significant in establishing that the verbal action is antecedent, but are not sufficient in themselves to identify whether what the action is antecedent to is past, future, recurring, or continuous. The latter is determined by other contextual information, and depending on which it is, the meaning of the verb, and its appropriate rendering into English, changes. Your examples include future tense meanings of the verb, yet you exclude the possibility that it includes past tense meanings. It includes imperative (command) forms of the verb, yet you want to exclude past tense meanings. As I will show, there are four likely examples from the larger set of your examples of past progressive (PPA) uses with the Infinitive of antecedent time, as many as for any other usage with the present tense form of the verb.

You conclude:

"Of these 11 occurrences of the infinitive of antecedent time construction, in 9 instances the main or controlling present-tense verb is a broad-band present. The only exceptions are the 2 futuristic uses (Mal. 3:22 LXX; John 13:19). Of the rest, 4 are gnomic, 3 are customary (or iterative/customary), and 2 are descriptive or general."

So you have demonstrated precisely what? Since the category "broad-band present" according to Wallace's terminology includes PPAs, where have you gotten? You have shown that the Infinitive of antecedent time is used with gnomic, customary, and descriptive presents, which are all "broad-band" or "regular uses," as well as with tendential or futuristic use, which is one of the "special uses" according to Dana & Mantey. So you have proven that the Infinitive of antecedent time construct can be used with multiple implications for the main verb. Fine. And John 8:58 is one of those multiple uses, with a PPA, which is also a "broad-band" or "regular use," so not even as much of a categorical reach as the futuristic uses you acknowledge. Nothing here to lead to the conclusion that John 8:58 must fit the gnomic category. You might just as well argue that it must fit the customary category. Either claim is erroneous because it ignores the specifics of the modifying clause, which in the case of the two futuristic uses, shifts the time reference of the main verb, just as it does in John 8:58. Plus, we can adjust your statistics, and make them less tendentious, if we bring in what you for some inexplicable reason call "disputed" examples of the Infinitive of Antecedent Time. You do not explain how they might be disputed, nor how that might be relevant to the issues we are trying to resolve. In any case, they are familiar examples from your post 7: Proverbs 8:23-25; Jeremiah 1:5; and Psalm 90.2.

A. Proverbs 8:23-25
You have been translating this as:

"Before the [PRO TOU] age he established [EQEMELIWSEN] me in the beginning, before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the earth, and [KAI] before [PRO TOU] he made [POIHSAI] the depths, before [PRO TOU] the fountains of water went forth [PROELQEIN], before [PRO TOU] the mountains were settled [EDRASQHNAI], and [DE] before [PRO] all hills, he begets [GENNAi] me."

You had said in your post 7: "Since wisdom's 'begetting' by the Lord cannot be a repeated or temporally ongoing event, we may set aside the iterative, customary, and PPA uses of the present. Since the begetting does not take place at the time of the writing, we may eliminate the 'punctiliar' and descriptive presents," etc. You left as the only two possibilities the "historical present" and the "eternal present." I responded in my post 8 that you had ruled out the PPA illegitimately. In our definitions of the PPA we say that the progressive action of the verb continues up to the time of the statement. That's a definition we have formulated based on observing how the Greek works. The temporal clauses that modify the verb in this passage refer to events of the past, and by being "before" clauses, they place the action of the main verb antecedent to the events to which they refer. Yet the verb remains in the present tense. These are the classic, defining conditions of the PPA. So we need to be instructed by the Greek, rather than trying to instruct it. The choice of the present form in such a "paradoxical" relation to its temporal modifiers must tell us something. I proposed in my post 8 that "The reason why the present is used as a PPA here is that the existence of the speaker is ongoing." I went on to say that I had seen this "special existential/identity function of the PPA before." You later replied that since I had excluded your proposition of an "eternal present" on the grounds that this supposed usage of the present is completely unknown to all Greek grammars, I had no more right to invoke an "existential/identity function" that was equally unmentioned in the grammars. You now say:

"To make the PPA classification fit, you had to invoke the notion of a "special existential/identity function of the PPA," which in your post #10 you agreed to drop. Yet I see no way to make the PPA classification work here without it, *unless* one broadens the PPA so far that it would apply to virtually any broad-band present-tense verb."

Let's see if I am really as tied up as you seem to think. I will use one of your favorite grammars to make the case that you think I cannot make. Under the rubric of Regular Uses of the Present (which they term "a single class" of usage), Dana & Mantey list (1) The Progressive Present, (2) The Customary Present, (3) The Iterative Present (pages 182-184). They distinguish these from the "special uses" of the present which are "not of so frequent occurrence as the regular uses." These include the aoristic present, futuristic present, historical present, tendential present, and static present (pages 184-186). You have tried to associate the static present with the gnomic (subsumed by D & M under the customary) and customary present. Dana & Mantey would clearly disagree with that attempt, since they consider it a "special use" and the customary/gnomic a "regular use." The first category of the regular use class is the Progressive Present, of which they say: "It signifies action in progress, or state in persistence . . . In the indicative it is related to present time, and because of possible varieties in this relation to present time it may denote three points of view" (page 182). So, a single "progressive" category of use, distinct from the customary/gnomic and iterative, that may take on three aspects. The first of these is "a sense of description, to indicate that which is now going on" (page 182), and the third is the "present of duration" (page 183), which you and I have both recognized to by Dana & Mantey's term for the PPA. Oh, by the way, please note that they say it is "generally associated with an adverb of time," but the example they quote (John 15:27) does not contain an adverb, but an adverbial phrase. Therefore we can once again see the danger of taking the description of the grammars as limiting. Here they say adverb, but they evidently don't mean ONLY an adverb, because they quote a sentence that does not contain an adverb, but an adverbial phrase. They go on to cite Lk. 13:7, which also contains an adverbial phrase, not an adverb. But now, back to my main point. The second of the three subcategories of the progressive present is the use "to denote the continuation of existing results," which they explain as "it refers to a fact which has come to be in the past, but is emphasized as a present reality" and "It . . . stresses the continuance of results through present time in a way which the perfect would not do, for the perfect stresses existence of results but not their continuance" (page 182). Sound familiar? Let's look closer at this usage which is so close to the PPA as to be listed with it as the single category of the progressive present (similarly handled in BDF). Dana & Mantey cite three examples.

One is 1 Cor. 11:18 "I hear (AKOUW 1st sing. present act. ind.) that there are divisions among you." One interesting thing about this quote is that it is one of the rare examples of the English idiom similar to the Greek, in that 'I hear' (formally a present) is not technically correct for the temporal significance of the statement. We would more precisely say "I have heard that there are divisions among you." In any case, the meaning is the same. The speaker is not saying that he is hearing this news at the same time he is speaking. He is saying that he has heard in the past of these divisions, and the result of that hearing continues with him up to the time of speaking of it. Another example they cite is Galatians 1:6 "I marvel (QAUMAZW 1st sing. present act. ind.) that you are separated (METATIQESQE 2nd pl. present pass. ind.) so quickly from the one who called you." Now the first verb is a simple present or descriptive present, and it is evidently the second verb to which Dana & Mantey refer as a present of existing result. Here, too, the people spoken to are not in the process of separating as Paul writes, but rather have separated and continue to exist in the state brought about by that separation. The third example they cite is Luke 15:27 "Your brother has come (hHKEI 3rd sing. Present ind.) and your father has killed (ETHUSEN 3rd sing. aorist ind.) the fattened calf, because he has received him back (APELABEN 3rd sing. aorist ind.) in good health." Note that three things are described as having happened: the coming of the brother, the killing of the calf, and the reception of the brother. Two of these actions are signified using an aorist form of the verb, because they are punctiliar events: the calf was killed at a particular moment, and the father received his son back at a particular moment. Well, didn't this same son, the brother of the person being spoken to, 'come' at a particular moment? Of course he did. But the present tense is used of this coming because the act of coming continues in the state of being come.

Now let's turn back to Proverbs 8:23-25. God is said to perform two actions with respect to Wisdom; it is said that he 'established' (EQEMELIWSEN 3rd sing. aorist act. ind.) her and that he 'begat' (GENNAi 3rd sing. present act. ind.) her. As in the case of Luke 15:27, evidently one action is seen as punctiliar and complete in the past, and the other as having a continuation of existing result. This accounts for the use of the present form of the verb here. Recall how closely Dana & Mantey associate the present of continuation of existing results with the PPA. They are subcategories of the same progressive present usage. Just as you have listed the gnomic and customary and iterative presents (along with the static) as more-or-less nuances of the same usage, so I would maintain that the CER and the PPA were bascially the same usage to the Greeks. In all of the cited examples of the CER, translating them exactly as we render the PPA is perfectly satisfactory in conveying the sense, and in fact is the most communicative way to get that sense across to the English reader, containing the full meaning of what is being expressed. I think my explanation of this passage of Proverbs is much more natural and contextual, and does not require any special pleading for a special sense beyond the normal use of the language that only applies in theological discourse. As I said, we might puzzle over why the Greek writers saw one sort of past action as continuing up to the present and another as not in the same way, when WE think they either both continue, or not. But the fact remains that their choices indicate the distinctions that made sense to them, and we construct our grammars by observing what they did in practice, not by insisting on a consistent following of the rules we have formulated on the basis of partial observations we have been able to make. If I have the time, I will try to find some non-biblical uses of GENNAW that help us to see how consistent this understanding of the verb was. But what we can be sure of already is that this is NOT a gnomic or customary present, is much closer to the PPA, and so joins the company of John 8:58 as an example of the use of the Infinitive of antecedent time for other than general, gnomic, or customary verbal action.

B. Jeremiah 1:5 In your post 15 you fault me for saying the following in my post #8:

You state at the beginning of your post #7 that "not one of these eleven biblical texts is a PPA," while several pages later conceding that two of them (Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5) are usually "classified as a PPA."
The latter was based on the following quote from you:

"The only ones ever classified as a PPA, to my knowledge, are Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5."


And about this you say:

"I must say that I am at a loss to understand how you came to misconstrue me in this way," that is, by my saying "usually."

Guilty. I did say "usually." I did not say that you said "usually" (notice the use of quotation marks). So I am guilty of heightening the point by using "usually." You are guilty of claiming that "not one of these eleven texts is a PPA," which is falsely stated as an established fact when, in fact, you had the "knowledge" that two of the eleven were in fact classified as PPAs. So your assertion than "none of these eleven" is a PPA is simply false.

In my post #8, I had said:

Jeremiah 1:5 is also quite clearly a PPA, and is usually translated that way in English Bibles. It should be, "I have known you since before I formed you in the womb, etc."

On which you commented:

"As for how English Bibles usually translate this line of Jeremiah 1:5, I am not aware of a single one that translates it as you say it "should be" translated."

I must say, Rob, that I am at a loss to understand how you came to misconstrue me in this way. There are two sentences in the above quote. In the first, I say that the verse is a PPA and is usually translated that way. In the second, I state how I think it should be translated. I never said that is was usually translated the way I think it "should" be translated. I said it is "usually" translated as a PPA, and it "should" be translated as indicated, which is my own translation that best brings out, in my opinion, the distinctive PPA force of the verb. From now on I will refer to you as Mr. Pot and to myself as Mr. Kettle.

But on this, we are going to have to give each other a pass, because we both make the same slip: we both talk of English Bibles translating the Greek of Jeremiah 1:5, when of course they translate the Hebrew. So my point was wrongly made. It should have been that the original Hebrew of Jeremiah 1:5 is universally understood to have a past aspect (as your list of English translations effectively shows), and the translators of the LXX, whom we must assume were knowledgeable of the underlying Hebrew and would render it accurately into Greek, used the PPA construct to convey this past aspect to their readers. We do know that among your selected grammars, Winer considers this verse a PPA, and that reading of it is more natural and closer to how English Bibles translate the Hebrew, as you well demonstrate by quoting a long list of them, NONE of which detects 'timelessness' as being indicated in this verse. You would have to postulate a deliberate change in the meaning introduced by the Greek translators, which I really takes us too far down the road of special pleading.

You continue to dispute my criticism of your omission of Winer from the fourth point of your post 6. There you claimed that, "The only grammars that evidently include whole clauses are BDF and McKay (and only because they count John 8:58 as a PPA)." I pointed out that other grammars include clausally-modified PPAs, so you were in error here. Among the others was Winer, who cites Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:15 as PPAs comparable to John 8:58. Since your statement of your fourth conclusion in your post 6 referred to "these grammars," and all references up to that point of your post were to the complete set of 15 grammars, your claim as stated was false. You subsequently clarified that you meant to refer only to those grammars "that actually say anything at all about a past-time." But this shifts the statistics behind your conclusion, and the false impression you gave of BDF and McKay as deviant from the norm (BDF of all grammars!). But you are right that thinking you "deliberately" ignored Winer was an unjustified conclusion on my part. It appears that you made an extra step of exclusion in your head that you failed to inform your readers of. I think this extra step of exclusion is a tendentious one, and that your fourth conclusion needs to be reworked from scratch, because it cannot stand as stated.

You go on to comment and expand on my characterization of the content of Jeremiah 1:5. We really have no disagreement on interpreting the theological import of the verse. Our difference is that I see this interpretation as an extrapolation, a thinking-out of the implications of what the verse says, that is probable, if not provable. You suggest that the words of the verse itself literally state this theological import. I think a close analysis of what the verse does and does not explicitly say supports my view of the matter, and that you are committing eisegesis.


You conclude:

"This usage of the present tense also seems to fit nicely the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive usage. God's knowing Jeremiah is a perpetual, temporally unbounded knowing, as starkly expressed by saying that God knows him even before he is born."


"Before he is born" is not a "temporally unbounded" expression -- as you yourself are arguing in this post, it is a marker of antecedence, which by definition marks a temporal boundary. You have been repeating this and emphasizing this but do not seem to follow its consequences. An antecedent clause places the action or state of the verb before the event indicated in the clause. Hence all those examples you listed where the main verb is an aorist place the action literally and exclusively in the time prior to the event in the modifying clause. Now why, in some cases, is a present used with a marker of antecedence? It would seem to present a temporal conflict. Well, it turns out that this is an idiomatic use of the present to mark an action or state that is durative from before the event of the dependent clause up to the present. I think the problem you may be having is that the limited set of examples you are looking at abound in references to God and Christ, and this coincidence makes you conclude a theological significance to the usage. This is what I
meant when I kept on you about how the content, the theological meaning that has been traditionally extrapolated from these examples, makes you read the grammatical elements in ways they would not normally be taken. I wasn't very clear in making that point, and it seems I was taken to be talking about the lexical content of the words in the Greek sentence, so that's my fault, and you were right to clarify that such lexical content is necessarily taken into consideration in determining the rendering of verbal significance and so forth, with which I certainly do (and always did) agree. One way to help with this problem is to supply more non-Biblical examples so that we can see how the grammar and syntax works in ordinary, non-theological passages. Unfortunately, the kinds of tools at my disposal to find such example are not as effective as the very rich body of biblical reference resources. But I will keep at it as time permits.

This last point bring me to:
C. Psalm 89:2 LXX (90:2 Eng.):

Here again I was anxious to point out the tendentiousness of your reading of the verse, how I felt you were reading in assumptions (eisegesis) rather than reading the passage in its own terms (exegesis). I made some mistakes in trying to point this out. I think you referred to one as embarrassing," which I accept despite its presumptuousness. On your translation:

Before the mountains were brought into existence,
And the earth and the world were formed,
Even from everlasting to everlasting,
You are.

I had said that your translation of the third line above was "particularly tendentious. There is nothing at all in the Greek behind "even," which is added in this translation to heighten the supposed "progression" of the imagery. "Everlasting" is based on " the age," and I have discussed the ambiguity of this expression in my post on this passage." The remark that there is "nothing at all" in the Greek behind your "even" was simply wrong, and I retract it. KAI can indeed be translated "even" sometimes. Although KAI much more is just "and," I far overstated my objection to "even." You see a progression in the verse, and construct it line by line to heighten this reading. But the three lines are not grammatically in series. The first two clauses are governed by the PRO TOU, and the KAI at the beginning of the second clause joins it to the first in its dependence on the PRO TOU. The third line is a phrase governed by APO TOU, and so distinguised from the first two lines. The KAI at the beginning of this third line is not in series with the KAI at the beginning of the second line. Now your "even" is apparently used here because you take the two KAIs to be in series, and "even" is a summative conjunction to end a series. But this is not a series.

For it to be a series, you would have to drop the APO TOU, and make the final phrase governed by the same PRO TOU as the first two clauses. Then you could have something like "from all eternity" I suppose. But that is not how the sentence works. 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. I had pointed out this difference in my previous remarks on this passage, among which you quote back to me here:

As I pointed out in my post on this passage, there is no such additional phrase in John 8:58, and this verse is a closer parallel to John 8:58 if we remove this additional phrase, leaving only a PRO TOU/PRIN clause with a present tense main verb. When we do that, the action of the verb is a classic PPA, with existence predicated "before" certain other past events and continuing to the present time of the statement.

To which you reply

"If we omit the third line, the verse predicates existence of God "before" certain past events, by saying not that God "existed" before creation but that he "exists" before creation."

Rob, this is just not an acceptable way to speak. You cannot in English use a present tense to indicate states or actions before other past events. You are defending a non-sequiter.

You continue:

"That God continued to exist after creation and up to the time of the statement is implied, of course, but that is not the precise denotation of the verb in this context. Rather, in its grammatical and semantic setting in this verse, EI denotes simple existence, an existence at all times, contrasted specifically with the origins of the ancient mountains, the earth and the world. The third line confirms this interpretation rather than being the sole basis for it."

The present form of the verb EI used only in conjunction with the two temporal clauses referencing specific events of past time means, and can only mean existence "since before" up to the present. It does not in itself mean "at all times." I agree that the verse is meant to contrast God's existence to the more limited temporal existence of the cosmos. Where we keep having a conflict is the difference between what the sentence SAYS and what it IMPLIES. By definition, what a sentence implies is not explicitly said. The third line, as I have said, makes more explicit the durative aspect of the verb than we see in other examples of PPA verbs with "before" clauses alone, and heightens the point the writer is making. 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?


You conclude:

"Thus, while the PPA classification can apply in a broad sense to Psalm 89:2, the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive classification more fully brings out the precise sense of the verb in this context."

Lo and behold, suddenly the PPA is NOT a broad-band use of the verb! Wallace doesn't say that. Dana & Mantey don't say that. So how did that happen? This is another one of those over-eager leaps of yours that can be mistaken for trying to get away with something. So let me point out the leap of argument here of which you apparently are unaware: You have not argued that the PPA is not a broad-band use. So this contrastive conclusion is erroneous. Nor have you been able to construct a coherent English sentences by taking the verb as gnomic/static. Nor have you justified your conflation of the gnomic and static. So it is all a house of cards. On the other hand, I have shown in this example as in the two before it that they are all PPAs or indistinguishably close to PPAs in their construction and meaning. This leads us to revisit your statistics:

"Of these 11 occurrences of the infinitive of antecedent time construction,"

Correct now to 15, including the three "disputed" passages, for which you never explained why you considered them disputed, plus John 8:58.

"in 9 instances the main or controlling present-tense verb is a broad-band present."

Correct to 13, with the PPA of course being included among "broad-band presents" as you have defined them.

"The only exceptions are the 2 futuristic uses (Mal. 3:22 LXX; John 13:19). Of the rest, 4 are gnomic, 3 are customary (or iterative/customary), and 2 are descriptive or general."

And 4 are PPAs, thus MAKING THE PPA USE OF THE INFINITIVE OF ANTECEDENT TIME AS COMMON IN YOUR SAMPLE AS ANY OTHER USAGE.
You then review Testament of Job 2:1 and Menander, _Dyscolos_ 615-16. I don't see anything to add to our discussion of the former. On the latter ("For assuredly I have long [PALAI] been [EIMI] your friend since before [PRIN] I saw [IDEIN] you."), your argument is:

"We both *know* that PALAI is a common marker for the PPA (as defined narrowly or in a middle-of-the-road way), especially in classical Greek (Goodwin, 268; Smyth, 423; cf. the note in Burton, 10). That a clause like the PRIN clauses of John 8:58 and this line in Menander functions as a marker of the PPA is something we do *not* both know; it is, in fact, in dispute."

This is a misstatement on your part. We *know* that the PRIN clause is a marker of the PPA to the same degree we *know* that PALAI is. You cite Goodwin, Smyth, and Burton for PALAI. I can cite BDF, McKay, and Winer for the PRIN clause. So this argument is erroneous.

You continue:

"In order to establish that such a clause, when expressing past time, would signal that the present-tense main verb is a PPA, we would need examples where that clause unambiguously performs that function. A sentence in which such a clause sits alongside a word like PALAI simply does not qualify as such an example. You assert, "If you remove the adverb PALAI from the sentence, you still have a sentence that would still be translated as a PPA." But this assertion begs the question; we cannot tell, from this example, that such a sentence would be written, or that if it were written the present-tense verb would be a PPA (in the narrow sense)."

You have not answered my point. I said that if you remove PALAI from the sentence, it is still necessarily a PPA. Please tell me how you would translate the sentence without the PALAI, with only the PRIN clause. I cannot conceive of a translation that does not shift the significance of the main verb due to the complementary function of the clause. You are quite correct that PALAI can get the credit for the shift as much as the PRIN clause does. This is a redundancy in the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence can be analyzed either with PALAI as a complement to the main verb and the clause an adjunct, or vice versa. There is no definitive way to distinguish which has priority here, as you assert when you say:

"As it stands, the clause PRIN IDEIN does not flag the present-tense verb EIMI as a PPA because the adverb PALAI, which precedes the clause in question, has already done so. If we read the sentence linearly, PALAI qualifies EIMI as a PPA, and then PRIN IDEIN qualifies or expands on what PALAI means (A long time-before I saw you!)."

This would be valid IF priority in order within a sentence equaled dominance in control of the sentence, which is not true of Greek. Besides, it would still not answer my question: how is the sentence NOT a PPA without PALAI?

In your concluding remarks, you state:

"In biblical Greek, we find well over a hundred occurrences of the construction PRO TOU or PRIN followed by the aorist infinitive. Nearly all of these (96%) indisputably use the construction to indicate that the state or action of the main verb obtained at a time antecedent to the event that the aorist infinitive expresses."

This has never been in dispute. The challenge for you is not to lock in the action of main verb antecedent to the event of the aorist infinitive, but to break it out. If it is locked in, then when the event of the aorist infinitive is in the past, then the main verb is a past tense, too. But we are not concerned with those cases; we are concerned only with when the main verb is a present tense. When it is, we have either (1) the aorist infinitive indicating a general, continuing, customary, or iterative occurrence, in which case the main verb is gnomic or customary or iterative, or (2) the aorist infinitive indicates a specific event of time, in which case the main verb is past progressive or futurative. Since you have never paid attention to that distinction within the aorist infinitive clause, your argument in without merit.

On Ps. 89:2, Prov. 8:25, and Jer. 1:5a, you say:

"In context, we can comfortably construe the present-tense verbs in each of these three texts as a broad-band present of the gnomic/static/broad-descriptive kind (which also applies to several of the other present-tense verbs where the construction is indisputable)."

I have shown why this is not true. Nor, for that matter, did you ever justify the reading you give of these verses as fitting the description of these categories.

You continue:
"In each text, the present tense expresses a state that *is* antecedent to a past event."

Since you have argued that the aorist infinitive limits the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive, you have quite simply argued away the continuing action of the verb after that event. It's a good thing your argument is an invalid one. The use of the present is what unlocks the action of the verb from mere antecedence, and gives it continuation to the present. If you had your way, we would be forced to use a simple past tense: was antecedent to a past event.

You add:
"As for translating this construction, I am not aware of a single instance, in the 20 occurrences of the construction in New Testament Greek, in which any of the standard English Bibles translates PRIN or PRO TOU "since before."

That's because the implicit "since" only pertains when you have both a past event in your aorist infinitive clause and a present tense main verb. None of the NT examples other than John 8:58 have this combination of features. But Psalm 90.2 and Jeremiah 1:5 from the OT do, and the rendering "since before" is needed to convey both antecedence and continuation in both instances, unless the main verb is rendered as a simple past, which would be incorrect.

Already in my posts 8 and 9 I addressed this sample of passages you regard as sharing a feature with John 8:58 (the kind of PRIN clause used). In my post 9, I pointed out that your sample of "closer parallels" were closer on the type of modifying clause used, but failed to distinguish between those cases where the modification involved the past from those where it involved present, customary, repeated, continuous, or future events. John 8:58 is closest to those whose modifying clause involve a past event, and all of these are PPAs. Please review the definitions of the PPA, which refer generally to various kinds of TEMPORAL MODIFICATION as the key to the verbal meaning, a modification that is never said to exclude the Infinitive of antecedent time (and which, in fact, several grammars explicitly cite in citing John 8:58). Then review the discussions of the Infinitive of antecedent time and see if they EVER rule out its use to form a PPA. You have simply drawn your line of distinction in the wrong place. That this particular infinitive construction CAN be used in non-PPA sentences in no way LIMITS its use to non-PPA sentences.

You have never made a case why the type of modifying clause should be the most important defining feature of John 8:58. In fact, as part of this last series of posts, you have continued to argue that the clause has NOTHING TO DO with the main verb, that the latter is a "predicate absolute." You can't have it both ways. Either you want to argue that EIMI is a predicate absolute, or you want to argue that the PRIN clause is the most important feature that determines the meaning of the verb. Imagine if one of the presidential candidates, in the same debate, argued that "We definitely need to raise taxes" and "We definitely need to lower taxes." Similarly, in my post 10 I pointed out how you attempted to defend yourself from criticism of your conclusions by saying you never claimed that a PPA could not be formed by an adverbial clause, while at the same time arguing that there were no examples of them, that any examples were "alleged" and were to be rejected for one reason or another. I said it had to be one or the other: either there were clausally-formed PPAs or there weren't. In the first case, we could move on to other matters, in the second you must take your lumps for a position that is wrong. I asked you to please clarify which position you are taking. You have not directly answered that question in the month since it was posed.

You have simply not constructed a coherent position on John 8:58. Instead, you have lined up a series of contradictory arguments in order to defend the traditional translation by any possible means. I suspect you don't realize it. But in this series of replies, I am showing you that it is the case. When I have completed these replies, I think you will see that you have three choices: (1) Create a coherent position that takes a consistent position on the relation of the parts of the sentence to one another and stick with it, come what may, (2) Concede defeat on the translation (which, as I have repeatedly pointed out, does not mean conceding defeat on interpretation), (3) Deal with the fact that you are indeed one of "those" apologists, who defends a position regardless of the facts due to the strength of one's convictions. You have strenuously disavowed the latter option, and I have every to take your feelings on that matter seriously. Therefore, you will need at the very least to abandon the mutually exclusive arguments you have been attempting, although I am in no position to suggest which one you might choose to stick with, since each ultimately fails.

Best wishes,
Jason B.


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