Tuesday, October 26, 2004

JB15832-Jas #20: John 8:58 

(15832) Jason BeDuhn [Tue Oct 26, 2004 12:09 am](John 8:58 -- Jason #20)

Rob, in this post I am responding to your post 17. You begin by discussing "I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO CLAUSES AND VERBS"

You say:"In your first post, you agreed with me "that there is a contrast implied between the eimi used of Jesus and the genesthai used of Abraham." This is an important point. My position is that this contrast sets John 8:58 apart from the class of PPA texts (as usually defined) and confirms that it belongs in the same category as the three controversial LXX texts discussed earlier."

The contrast is a semantic one in the choice of verbs, which I granted you as a point of interpretation of the verse. How you are using `contrast' here to make a different point is unclear to me. You then review the three passages from the OT that I have agreed are the most closely parallel in structure and sense to John 8:58. So thank you for finally setting aside all of those gnomic, customary, tendential, didactic, and other forms as not germane:

"Before [PRO TOU] I formed [PLASAI, aorist infinitive] you in the womb, I know EPISTAMAI, present indicative] you" (Jer. 1:5).

"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" (Prov. 8:23-25).

"Before [PRO TOU; in some mss., PRIN] the mountains were brought into being GENHQHNAI, aorist infinitive] and the earth and the world were formed PLASQHNAI, aorist infinitive], even from everlasting to everlasting [APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS], you are [SU EI, the second-person equivalent of EGW EIMI]" (Ps. 89:2 [90:2 Eng.]).

"Before [PRIN] Abraham came into being [GENESQAI], I am [EGW EIMI]" (John 8:58).

And conclude:

"In all four of these texts, there is a striking contrast expressed between the subordinate aorist infinitive clauses and the present-tense verb main clause."

By contrast you seem to mean simply that one thing happens `before' another, and so there is a contrast between that which exists prior and that which exists later. I fail to see any significance of kind in this observation.

You say:

"God `knows' Jeremiah before he formed him; God `begets' wisdom before making the earth; God `is' before the mountains were broughtinto existence and the earth was formed; Jesus `is' before Abraham came into existence."

Your present-tense translations of these verbs beg the question. You are literally saying that what is significant here is the very form of translation you adopt in line with your own preformed conclusions.

You say:

"These contrasts are either paradoxical (How can God know Jeremiah before he was conceived? How can the first-century Jesus exist beforethe patriarch Abraham? . . ."

I find your resort to `paradox' puzzling. A paradox is something that on its face is an impossibility: "I am my father's father." NowI suppose you mean that Jesus claims to be older than one of his own ancestors, and in that sense I can see what you mean by paradox. Butwhat are we talking about here, a paradox of interpretation or a paradox of translation? Is there anything `paradoxical' about the Greek of John 8:58? No, it's a perfectly ordinary Greek sentence.

Let me demonstrate this by a permutation of it:

"John Wayne said, `I have been in existence since before Kevin Costner was born.'"

Okay, now, as a sentence in its own right, there is nothing paradoxical here. The speaker claims to be older than someone else. Add context, and we could quickly calculate how old John would have to be to be older than Kevin. We might have at our disposal, then,some means to assess the validity of the claim. Then suppose we had this permutation:

"John Wayne said,
`I have been in existence since before George Washington was born.'"

Leaving aside the possibility that he is speaking in character, we have seen a definite heightening of the claim. But this is not paradox. If we have reason not to discount the claim, we would be forced to conclude that John Wayne is supernaturally old. We may even find reason to interpret his remark as a claim to be eternal. We don't have to change his wording at all to make that interpretation, since he did not specify just how much older than George he is.

You continue:

"How can God "beget" wisdom before the beginning?"

I think you have made a mistake here. The passage says:
"He established me in the beginning, before the age," not "before the beginning" and so not paradox. God can certainly establish, and beget, Wisdom "before the age."

Anyway, what is so significant in your argument of something being antecedent to something else?

You say:

"There is also a verbal contrast between the aorist infinitives (made, etc.) and the present-tense GENNAi (begets) in Proverbs 8, underscoring the paradoxical statement that God `begets' wisdom before the beginning of creation."

First, as I have said, the passage does not say that God begets Wisdom before the beginning, so there is no paradox. Wisdom says she was begotten first, before at least some of the most basic world construction and "the age." This is part of portraying her as the instrument and means of God's subsequent creative acts. In short, God creates with Wisdom, he creates wisely. Second, the "contrast"is simply the distinct verbal forms in their different functions within the sentence, the aorist infinitive in a dependent clause, andthe present indicative as the main verb. This is the same formal "contrast" found in all of the Infinitive of antecedent timeconstructions, and similar in kind to a dozen other constructions of complex sentence in Greek. Third, as I have already explained, the aorist infinitives are a standard part of clausally modified PPAs, and they all occur within "before" dependent clauses. The main clause is thus "he has begotten me." For it to be read as "begets," the "before" clauses would have to be customary actions, allowing themain verb to also be gnomic/customary. If they are read as punctiliar past actions, this determines the main verb as a PPA.

You say:

"The verbal contrasts are most pronounced in Psalm 89:2 and John 8:58; in both cases, the actual verbs themselves create a sharp contrast between brought or coming into being (GENHQHNAI or GENESQAI) and simply being (EI or EIMI). In short, the verbs in context express a contrast between *becoming* and *being*."

But you maintain that `to be begotten' in Proverbs 8 is also to be seen as a verb of this kind, to be translated `transtemporally' as a present. So which is it? Do the four examples hang together or hang separately?

You say:

"Not every collocation of forms of GINOMAI and EINAI expresses such a contrast, of course. It is the way the two words are set off against each other in the sentence that produces the contrast. As I documented briefly in my book, biblical scholars across the theological spectrum have recognized this contrast in John 8:58; the list includes a virtual "who's who" of New Testament Greek scholars who have written extensively on John, including Alford, Bultmann, Lenski, Robertson, and Westcott, to name but a few (_Jehovah'sWitnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 112-13)."

Rob, you are talking interpretation here, not translation. You are not advancing a point on the translational issues. One thing is spoken of in terms of its coming into existence, the other is spoken of in terms of its ongoing existence. No one is disputing that and it doesn't get you anywhere. That Jesus wanted to stress his immediate continuing presence before his audience fits the literary context of the gospel in which Jesus contrasts the living favorably with the dead. You can, as I have said all along, extrapolate some interpretive significance from how he speaks here, but that doesn't preclude other interpretations and it certainly doesn't force an ungrammatical translation.

You say:
"In what grammarians usually list as PPA texts, on the other hand, the temporal indicator does not contrast with the present-tense verbat all, but rather gives it a context in which its meaning is clearer. "

You have once again contrived a wholly meaningless and meritless subjective distinction of your own between `contrast' and `giving a context in which the meaning is clearer.' The temporal clause in John 8:58 clearly does the latter. Jesus is not saying to his audience `Behold, I exist!' This is really where your argument is tending. He is saying he exists in a specific temporal relation toAbraham. Do you deny that? I will show later how your mistaken notion of EGW EIMI as a `predicate absolute' really messes you up.

You say:

"The following examples are typical (not necessarily exhaustive):"for three years I have been coming searching" (Luke 13:7)."all these years I have been serving you" (Luke 15:29)."knowing that he had been that way a long time already" (John 5:6)."I have been with you so long a time" (John 14:9)."you have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:27)."For Moses has had from ancient generations" (Acts 15:21)."Have you been thinking all this time" (2 Cor. 12:19)."from childhood you have known the sacred writings" (2 Tim. 3:15)."the devil has been sinning from the beginning" (1 John 3:8)."

Precisely. Note how in each case the full meaning of the statement is not "I am serving you" or "I am with you" or "You are thinking"or "You know the sacred writings" or "The devil is sinning." In each case, the temporal modification provides the complete significance of the verb, which is in the duration of the action or state, not the mere facticity of action or state. This is precisely the case withJohn 8:58, where it is not the existence of Jesus on the day of his remark that is significant, but the duration of that existence over supernaturally long time. Don't you agree?

You add:
"To be fair, let's expand this list to include some other texts that you have argued are PPAs in which another verb might, depending on how one analyzes the grammar, be considered part or all of the temporal marker:

"You are going a fourteenth day today waiting without food" (Acts 27:33)"For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things remain the same" (2 Pet. 3:4)."For I was Jobab before the Lord named me Job" (TJob 2:1)."

For I have been...a friend of yours a long time, before I saw you" (_Dyscolos_ 615-16).

The closest thing we get in any of these texts to a contrast at all similar to those considered above is the statement in_Dyscolos_, "For I have been a friend before I saw you."

In this case, though, there is no semantic contrast between the two verbs, but rather the surprising affirmation of friendship prior to sight."

Again, are you talking translation or interpretation? There is absolutely no difference in degree of grammatical contrast between the latter two "before" constructions and the ones from your pet four examples. To name and to see are both punctiliar acts, and to be is an existential state -- same degree of contrast as that between coming to be at one point of time and being as an existential state.

You say:
"As I explained earlier, the relevance of this text to our discussion is complicated by the presence of a common PPA marker in the sentence prior to the subordinate clause."

As I have already pointed out, even without the PALAI, the sentence would still be a PPA. Please demonstrate otherwise or concede the point.

You say:
"The contrasts in the three LXX texts and in John 8:58 all tend to confirm the understanding that the present-tense verb expresses astate or action that is constant, perpetual, or simply always so:

Before Jeremiah has been born, God *knows* him.Before God has made the earth and before the mountains have been settled, God *begets* wisdom. Before the mountains have been brought into existence and before the earth and world have been formed, God *is.*Before Abraham came into being, Christ *is.*"

To repeat yet again, these translations are all tendentious, and really non-sequiters. The main verbs could only be rendered in agnomic/static/customary present if the modifying temporal clauses also referred to gnomic/static/ customary conditions. But they do not. The conditions are all specific events of past time; this rules out the gnomic, static, or customary categories of use altogether. Moreover, you are committing the fallacy of postulating the existence of theological grammar, distinct rules of grammar that apply only in theological discourse. That is special pleading and meritless.

Your second topic in your post 17 is:

In my post 1 I already criticized your claim that EIMI in John 8:58 is a "predicate absolute" a claim you do not support by argument in your book, other than to cite A. T. Robertson's rather cryptic remark on the matter, which as an appeal to authority is not sufficient.You say that John 8:58 "does not have the usual adverbial expression denoting the duration of the verb" (111), but as I pointed out in my post 1, and again here, this notion of yours that PPAs only involve expressions that limit the duration by referencing a specific beginning is baseless: the grammars do not support it and even your own examples do not support it. I went on in my post 1 to question the superficial invocation in your book of supposed "absolute" uses of EGW EIMI by Jesus in the Gospel of John; there is not a single clear-cut case of a true absolute use of the verb involved in these other verses. Some sort of predicate complements is typically implicit. In John 8:58 there is an explicit adverbial complement, and none of your "absolute" parallels involve an adverb, adverbial phrase, or adverbial clause, so they are not close parallels at all since none involve a temporal modification of the verb, and so are true present tense uses, whereas John 8:58 is so modified and so is properly rendered as a PPA.

Now in your post 17 you cite some selected figures who call the main clause of John 8:58 "absolute." Rob, citing authority is not makingan argument. You can cite authorities from now to doomsday, but you can't make a non-absolute construction absolute. Never mind thatmany of the people you cite are as "unknown" as you say I am (Thatcher? Lincoln?), and all of a particular theological persuasionand interpretive bent when it comes to the "I am" expressions in John. Brown, Harner, and Ball all buy into the great "I AM" nonsense(that Jesus is invoking Exodus 3:14 even when he says things like "Hi, it's me," and "I'm the one you're looking for"), and this dictates their supposedly grammatical analysis. Never mind that the universities you invoke as their home are all religiousinstitutions. Never mind that each seems to mean something slightly different by `absolute' (for those who even use this expression) and, as we shall see, use it in a way probably irrelevant to our question. The broader point is that `bias' is a community in which accumulated ideas carry forward without question, and control even what one sees on the page in front of them.

You next go on to seek an appropriate definition for "absolute" used in English-language discussions of grammar, since you feel I need tobe educated on what an "absolute" is:

"The _American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_ (4th ed., 2000), gives the following definitions:

"a. Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as _the refereehaving finally arrived_ in _The referee having finally arrived, the game began_. b. Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object isimplied but not stated. For example, _inspires_ in _We have a teacher who inspires_ is an absolute verb."

On which you comment:
"Clearly, the applicable definition here is (b), according to which a verb is "absolute" if it is a transitive verb with no object expressed."

Pardon me!? The be-verb is transitive? You repeat this embarrassing error:

"_The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ by Sylvia Chalker and Edmund Weiner (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994) gives the following definition for "absolute": "*4* (In older usage.) Designating an adjective or verb when standing outside certain usual constructions or syntactic relationships, as.... _(b)_ designating a normally transitive verb used intransitively (e.g., _Have you eaten?_)" (p. 4)."

On which you comment:
"This definition is similar to the _American Heritage Dictionary_ definition, but not exactly the same: any verb that is normally transitive but is used intransitively is "absolute," whether an object is implied or not."

Thanks for the lesson, but obviously I am not the one in need of basic grammatical education here. Let me return the favor by quoting Mario Pei & Frank Gaynor, A Dictionary of Linguistics (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954), page 219: "transitive verb: A verb expressing an action which does not end with or is not confined to the agent; transitive verbs are capable of governing a direct object." A be-verb is the quintessential intransitive verb. So much for that line of argument.

But do note definition (a) in the American Heritage dictionary: "Syntactically isolated": the main clause of John 8:58 isnot syntactically isolated from the rest of the sentence. In the example from the dictionary you can clearly see that the dependentclause is an adjunct, a "by the way" remark that is not necessary to complete the verbal meaning of "the game began." This is certainly not the case with John 8:58, as I will show once again below.

You go on to say:
"It is possible, of course, to describe PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as "predicative" and even (arguably) as a "complement." _The OxfordDictionary of English Grammar_ observes: "In some older grammar, _predicate_ rather than _predicative_ is used to describe anadjective, noun, or pronoun when such a word is `predicated of the subject,' i.e. is used in predicative position"(307). In keeping with this definition, biblical scholars often describe EIMI as "absolute" or more specifically as a "predicateabsolute" because it lacks a "predicate" according to this older usage. The _Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ adds, "In modern terminology such a word functioning after a linking verb is said to be a _subject complement_ or possibly a _predicative complement_"(ibid.).

Precisely. You have done some good detective work here. You have ferreted out the way in which Thatcher, Lincoln, Brown, Harner, Ball,et al. mean that EIMI in John 8:58 lacks a "predicate." They mean it is to be distinguished from those cases where EIMI is accompanied bya predicate noun or adjective. This has nothing to do with the verbal complement cosntruction of the PRIN clause, as yourself have just said. So this whole line of argument has been pointless, hasn't it? So now, thanks to your good detective work, I must admit to a mistake since, as you point out, I had said that EGW EIMI was not "in any sense" a predicate absolute. You are correct that that was hyperbole. I should have said "in any sense relevant to the issues we are debating," since obviously we agree that it does not involve apredicate noun or adjective. So feel free to make any ground you can in your argument by celebrating my free admission that the main clause of John 8:58 does not contain a predicate noun or adjective. It contributes nothing to our discussion.

You now come to the core issue of your post:

"C. Is PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI a "Complement" to EIMI?"

You say:
"Recall that _The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ defines a complement in the wider sense as an "element needed to `complete'"the verb. If the adverbial clause is a complement in this sense, it is not, as I understand you to have said, because the adverbial clause needs the main clause, but because the main clause needs the adverbial clause. If the adverbial clause is not needed to complete the main clause, then the adverbial clause may be an "adjunct," not acomplement.

The _Cambridge Grammar of the English Language_ (which we have had occasion to quote in earlier posts) offers an even more nuanced analysis of complements and adjuncts. It distinguishes obligatory complements (e.g., "She perused _the report_") from optional complements (e.g., "She read _the report_") and adjuncts (e.g., "She left _because she was ill_") (221).

In other words, if the predicative is obligatory (one cannot say "She perused"), it *must* be a complement; if the predicative is optional, it may be either a complement or an adjunct. The _Grammar_ goes on to suggest that with optional predicatives, "there are grounds for saying that while resultatives are complements, the depictives are adjuncts" (262). A "resultative" is a predicative that specifies the result of the action of the verb, as in "The pond froze _solid_." A "depictive" is a predicative that specifies a description of the conditions of the action of the verb, as in "He died _young_" (261)."

You had earlier quoted from my post #4 the following:

The English be-verb does not, of course, take a direct object, but requires a predicate noun or adjective when it is used as a copula, or a DEPICTIVE COMPLEMENT such as an adverb when used existentially. This fact of English is stated, for example, in R. Huddleston & G. K.Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (Cambridge University Press, 2002), on page 222: "Most obviously, the verb be almost always requires an internal complement." For example, one can say "Jill is in her study" but not "Jill is." One can say "The meeting was on Monday" but not "The meeting was." For the apparently intended meaning of the two unacceptable statements just given, an English speaker resorts to some other existential verb: "Jill exists." "The meeting occurred." The verb "to be" is not employed in modern English in this uncomplemented existential function. The authors of the Cambridge Grammar state that "only asmall number of verbs (or verbal idioms) take complements of temporal location; clear examples include: i. be . . ." (page 694). This is precisely the case with John 8:58, where the prin clause is, I think, an obligatory temporal complement to eimi.

And you had asked me to clarify whether what I was saying here was meant to be about the English sentence or the Greek, to which Iresponded that since I was obviously commenting on the acceptable English form of the sentence. You go on this post 17 to acknowledge that:

"It may be that in good idiomatic English "am" in an English Bible at John 8:58 would require an "obligatory complement." On these grounds,you argue that in good idiomatic English "before Abraham came into being" needs to be treated as "an obligatory temporal complement" to "am" and should therefore follow "am" in the sentence. I am not addressing that argument at present."

Well, when will you? Because our debate is on both what the Greek means and how that meaning is best conveyed in grammaticallyacceptable English. In your very first post, you expressed dissatisfaction with my characterization of the traditional translation of John 8:58 as "fractured syntax." I responded in my post 4 to justify this characterization, part of which you quote here. So I'm still waiting for you to address that argument or concede the point, as you ALMOST do here. But you say you want tomake an argument now about the Greek, not the English.

You say:"Now, there are two ways of construing John 8:58 in relation to these grammatical issues. First, we may construe EIMI "existentially" as expressing existence.

In support of this exegesis, we may refer to the sharp contrast between GENESQAI and EIMI, already discussed. The meaning of EGW EIMI (however we translate it) would then be something like "I exist." You favored this understanding (and assumed that I agreed) in your post #4:

We agree that in John 8:58 the be-verb is not a copula, but has an existential function. Assuming this is correct, if EIMI in John 8:58 has an existential function, then the adverbial is not an obligatory complement. If EGW EIMI means something like "I exist," then no complement is obligatory; the statement is meaningful without one."

This combination of your and my remarks, taken so far out of context, threatens to confuse three different uses of the expression "existential." First, the be-verb is an existential verb in all but its auxiliary functions (in both Greek and English). To say that it is an existential verb is obviously NOT to say that it always means "I exist" absolutely. Second, the be-verb can be used either in a copulative function or an existential function: copulative when its complement is nominal, pronominal, or adjectival, existential either in absolute uses or when its complement is adverbial. This is obviously what I meant in the quote from my post4. The existential function does not in any way preclude the depictive complement. Third, you seem to use "existential" here solely in the sense of an absolute use, but that's not what I mean by "existential," so we need to keep these two meanings distinct inour dicussion.

You continue:
"Again, it seems you had things turned around as to what makes a complement obligatory. Thus, immediately after the above sentence, you wrote:

One of the points we are seeking to resolve is whether it is a predicate absolute or occurs with a dependent depictive complement. I have argued that it cannot be a predicate absolute, since "before Abraham was born" must form part of the sentence.

I am not clear on whether you meant that "before Abraham was born" cannot stand on its own (as you said elsewhere in the same post,already quoted above) or that it is needed to complement "I am." As I have explained, while it is true that "before Abraham was born" cannot stand on its own, that is not a test of a complement."

You are right, I was not careful to distinguish two distinct points. On the one hand I want to point out how the the full meaning of the verb is left incomplete by fracturing the syntax in the traiditonal translation. On the other hand I want to point out how the dependent clause is orphaned, cut loose from the rest of the sentence, by the interpretation that lies behind the traditional translation.

You continue:
"What you call a "dependent depictive complement," according to the _Cambridge Grammar_, is technically an adjunct, not a complement(262). I am bracketing for now the question of the best translation of EIMI in John 8:58. It is clear enough that if EIMI is existentialin John 8:58, then PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is, according to the definitions of the _Cambridge Grammar_ (221, 261-62), an adjunct. It is optional rather than obligatory and depictive rather than resultative."

Pardon me, but you are using an English grammar to argue something about the Greek. So are you trying to make a point about the English or the Greek? I cited the Cambridge Grammar in my post 4 because I was defending my characterization of the English of many translations as "fractured." From the passages you now cite, the only good comparative example to the English of John 8:58 is "He died young"(261), because it alone involves an intransitive verb, like the be-verb. Whether "young" here is a complement or an adjunct, it necessarily follows the verb: "He dies young," not "Young he died." This was the point I was making in post 4, and it stands.
Now it seems to me you are ignoring a crucial point I made in the passage you quoted from my post 4 about the English of John 8:58 based on the Cambridge Grammar, which says: "Most obviously, the verb be almost always requires an internal complement" (page 222).

Notice "requires" and about the be-verb, too. You instead are citing material and examples from the Cambridge Grammar not specificallyabout the be-verb. As you well know, many of the things we can say about transitive verbs we cannot say about intransitives, and viceversa. Many of the rules and characterizations that apply for other verbs are different for the be-verb. So you are not even citingparticularly relevant English grammar here, not to mention anything at all about Greek. I cited from the Cambridge Grammar be-verb sentences closely parallel to John 8:58 that clearly illustrate the place of complements in them: "Jill is in her study" -- "in herstudy" is a complement, not an adjunct, because the statement is not that Jill exists, but that she presently exists in a particularplace. "The meeting was on Monday" -- same comments. What the verb indicates is fundamentally different with or without its complement.

Now let's switch over to talking about Greek. You say that EGW EIMI in John 8:58 is a predicate absolute, and clearly you mean notsimply "it does not have a nominal, pronominal, or adjectival complement" but something more than that. Because no one has ever said it had a copulative function here. So you mean that it is syntactically separable from the PRIN clause, right? For this to betrue, it would be necessary that the full sense of the verb remain the same with or without the PRIN clause, because the meaningof "absolute" is that its full meaning is in itself, not needing any completion from the rest of the sentence. So that would mean thatJesus is declaring his existence. I find this implausible. I don't see anything in the literary context to suggest that declaring hisexistence was what Jesus is doing with this statement. It seems pretty obvious to me that he is making a statement not about hisexistence per se, but about the duration of his existence, the fact that it is continuing from a time before Abraham was born.

Moreover, the relation between the temporal clause and the main verb actually CHANGES what the verb signifies in terms of tense. If, for the sake of argument, we go along with your proposition that EIMI is absolute, and that its full meaning is established in itself without an obligatory complement from the temporal clause, THEN THERE WOULD BE NO TEMPORAL MODIFICATION OF THE SIMPLE PRESENT IN EGW EIMI, AND IT WOULD HAVE NONE OF THE `TRANSTEMPORAL,' NOT TO MENTION `ETERNAL' SIGNIFICANCE YOU TAKE IT TO HAVE. Please note this because it is very important. Either the temporal clause is a complement that alters the significance of the verbal tense, or EIMI is absolute and a simple present. It has to be one or the other. YOU CANNOT SAY EIMI IS ABSOLUTE AND AT THE SAME TIME GIVE IT ANY ELEMENT OF TENSE BEYOND THE SIMPLE PRESENT FOUND IN EIMI ALONE. If we are to propose that EIMI in John 8:58 has any tense significance beyond the simple present, then it necessarily must draw on the temporal clause for that significance, and this drawing upon the temporal clause for significance establishes a relation of obligatory complementarity between the main verb and the temporal clause. If we agree that EIMI means more than that Jesus exists in the moment he is speaking, then we agree that the verb is modified in regard to tense; and if it is modified in regard to tense, then that modification must come from the temporal clause; and if the modification comes from the temporal clause, then the latter is an obligatory complement to the full meaning of the verb. So whether we are arguing for a PPA oran `eternal' reading of the main verb, we necessarily agree on all these things. That means that your entire argument in your post 17, if it were supportable, would undermine your reading of the verse as much as mine. Fortunately, as I have shown, it is not nearly so well supported as you initially thought.

That is really that, but let me wrap up with the rest of your remarks, so that it will not appear I am glossing over anything.

You say:

"Let me put it this way. In biblical Greek, EIMI normally functions as a copula and either takes or implies (from the context) some sortof complement. If EIMI in John 8:58 is not a copula but instead denotes existence, then it does not need a complement and is, according to the technical grammatical definition, "absolute." In this respect, its being "absolute" corresponds with the dictionary definitions of an absolute verb as a normally transitive verb that is used intransitively."

Not only is it wholly inaccurate to equate "existential"with "absolute" as you do here, and then suggest that if the be-verb is not a copula it is absolute, but you repeat the same embarrassing error of calling the be-verb a transitive verb. Enough said.

You continue:

"Second, it is possible to construe EIMI in John 8:58 as a copula with its predicate nominative or subject complement unexpressed. Thisis not an impossible position. . . it is possible to understand John 8:58 to mean, "Before Abraham came into being, I am [he]," . . ."

So now EIMI is a copula? Whenever you make up your mind about what you want to argue for, will you please let me know? This just appears to be tossing out all possible arguments hoping something, anything will stick. Can I please just remind you that you are supposed to be defending the traditional translation -- have you decided to abandon that defense?

You continue:

"If this reading of John 8:58 is correct, EIMI is once again absolute in the sense that no predicate is expressed with it. Thepredicate "he" would not be directly implied in the overt context of John but would be indirectly implicit through the allusions to the Isaianic sayings."

This is very confused. Either its a copula with an implicit predicate complement, or it is absolute. Please choose one.

You continue:
"Either way, it is a mistake to understand PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as an obligatory complement to EIMI. If EIMI functions existentially, thenno complement can be obligatory because "I exist" does not require a complement. If EIMI functions copulatively, it has an implied complement, "he," in keeping with the allusion to the Isaiah texts."

So, apparently, you are willing to trot out contradictory positions so long as they block the complement status of the PRIN clause. This is precisely the apologetic procedure that you say you want no part of. Here you keep repeating the same mistake: "existential" cannot be simply equated with absolute. "Absolute" and "copula" are not the only two ways the be-verb can be used. There are existential uses of it with complements. I hope that is clear now.

You continue:
"Thus, even in the "wider sense" of the term, it appears that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is not a complement. As I explained earlier, we can describe EIMI as"absolute" or "unpredicated" in the sense that it appears in the sentence with no predicate nominative, no subject complement, expressed or implied. But we can also describe EIMI as "absolute" in an even more stringent sense as taking no complements at all, because PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is evidently an adjunct, not a complement."

You simply have not demonstrated this in any compelling way, and certainly not by citing English grammars(!).

You end your post 17 with a list of "conclusions" that I have addressed in series as they have appeared in your posts 15-17, so it would be redundant to go over them again here.

In my next post, I will wrap up the argument to this point, responding to the last of your new posts.

best wishes,
Jason B.

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