Tuesday, October 12, 2004

RB15754-Rob #12: Broad/Narrow Definitions of the PPA 

(15754) Robert Bowman [Tue Oct 12, 2004 1:20 am]( Rob #12: Broad and Narrow Definitions of the PPA (cont.))


I wish I could thank you for your reply, but regrettably, I cannot.

Your critique of my point scales takes no notice whatsoever of either the reasons I gave for them or the cautions I noted about pressing the numbers in any precise way. I specifically made note of the kinds of difficulties you mentioned (e.g., the fact that grammarians may not mean to exclude "states" when they say "actions," or the fact that some grammars go into matters in more detail than others). I also cautioned that the numbers were only illustrative.

You found fault with two of the scores I gave in the first category, specifically for Goodwin and Brooks/Winbery. You are only somewhat right about Goodwin. He says "expressions denoting past time, especially PALAI," and the last two words (which you omitted in your critique), though very specific, do not exclude other "expressions" besides words and phrases. So I should not have assigned Goodwin 6 points. However, I stated that I assigned "5 points if it so specifies (i.e., adverbs or phrases) but allows for other types of temporal expressions." Therefore, since Goodwin specified the adverb PALAI as "especially" what he had in mind, I should have assigned 5 points rather than 6 to Goodwin in this category. So Goodwin's total score should have been 10, not 11. Your claim that by my system Goodwin should have received 2 points in the first category is simply mistaken.

You claimed, "Brooks/Winbery should be a 5 at most by your point system," because, you note, they say that "a verb alone is sometimes sufficient." However, this qualification pertains to my second category (the frequency with which they associate the temporal indicator with the PPA), not the first category (how they describe the temporal indicator). Brooks/Winbery, who describe the temporal indicator as "an adverb of time," use the same expression as Dana/Mantey, and therefore should have a score of 6 points.

You go on to imply that my entire analysis is flawed by commenting, "And so forth, throughout your quantifying exercise." But all you have stirred up is a tempest in a teapot. My analysis involved assigning 75 distinct scores (to 15 grammars in 5 categories), and as far as I can tell you have exposed a mistake of 1 point out of 6 in 1 of those 75 scores. (If we take your figures at face value, we are still talking about mistakes in only 2 of those 75 scores.) You asked, "So do you expect me to say nothing about this? Maybe just 'oops'?" Yes. That's about all it deserves. You claim, "This repeated problem raises questions about your arguments being made in good faith. I can't help it, but it does." Well, I can't help but disagree. I doubt it would do any good for me to argue for my integrity or good faith. I'll tell you what, though: I will not stoop to this level and claim that your mistakes suggest a lack of good faith on your part. I must also reject your insulting claim that as an apologist (as opposed to objective, truth-seeking academics like you) my "single purpose is to win arguments by any means." As if an academic could not possibly have any interest in reaching certain conclusions or in defending those conclusions once he has put them in print! The fact is that as an apologist, I want to be held "to a level of integrity in the use of evidence." For you to assert otherwise is both insulting and unjustified. In this case, *your* "use of evidence" (to justify these offensive comments) is seriously in question.

You commented, regarding the paragraph in which you make these personal judgments about my intent and method:

"Rob, I've labored over this paragraph of my response much longer than the rest of it."

I'm afraid I think you should have labored longer over trying to understand my arguments fairly and accurately.

Next, you went through my conclusions and discussed them under six points. You agreed that (1) "the narrower the definition of the PPA, the more circumscribed or limited its application," though trivializing it as "a tautology." You also acknowledged the accuracy of my statement that (3) "three of the four grammars that list John 8:58 as an example of the PPA also happen to be the three grammars giving the broadest descriptions of the PPA."

I had also stated that (5) grammars using the narrowest definitions of the PPA "do not cite John 8:58 as an example of the PPA." Further, I commented, "their omission of John 8:58 is consistent with their narrow definition of the PPA as a present-tense verb that is accompanied by an adverbial expression that denotes duration or continuation from some past time and that must be translated into English using a past-tense form." You disagreed, stating that McKay's definition fits that description. However, McKay does not specify that the temporal indicator must be "adverbial" (his description of the temporal indicator is one of the broadest) and does not say that we "must" translate a PPA with a past-tense form. His definition, as I explained, is in the middle range, not at the narrow end of the spectrum. In any case, I acknowledged that his grammar is anomalous with regard to my observation that classifications of John 8:58 as a PPA tend to be linked to broad definitions of the PPA.

Your main claim in responding to the remaining points (2, 4, and 6) is that I failed to show that the narrowness or broadness of the various definitions of the PPA had any connection to what the grammars say about translating the PPA. Your objections amount, in my estimation, to saying that there is no hard and fast, necessary correlation between the broadness or narrowness of the definitions and the comments (if any) about how we should translate the PPA. I really think that, here again, your objections simply do not take into account the qualifications I carefully made. My claim was not that a necessary, inexorable correlation exists between narrowness of definition and definiteness about how to translate the PPA. My claim was that narrow definitions are consistent with definite assertions about using past-tense English forms to translate the PPA, and that the grammars reflect this claim to a significant extent but not perfectly. Note, for example, the following comments:

"Likewise, grammars that are neither simply narrow nor simply broad in their definitions of the PPA vary in their comments regarding how to translate a PPA verb into English. Those that say anything about it may say that the translation 'normally,' 'usually,' or 'often' uses, or will use, an English past tense. In several instances, a particular grammar is narrow in one respect but broad in another. This should not be surprising, especially in the more recent grammars, since later grammars tend to draw from earlier ones and "mixed" treatments can be the result."

If we keep these cautions and qualifications in mind, I think my comments about a "characteristic" correlation are justified. Of the five grammars that state or imply that we should always render a PPA using an English past-tense verb, four are at the narrow end of the spectrum of definitions (Jannaris, Dana/Mantey, Burton, and Fanning; Young is the only exception). In fact, these four grammars have four of the five narrowest definitions. (The other grammar, Wallace, says that we should "normally" so translate a PPA.) This is an impressive correlation; and in this light, the fact that all three of the grammars giving the broadest definitions fail to say anything about how to translate the PPA merits at least some significance as well.

What is beyond controversy is that the grammars do not all agree that the proper English translation of a PPA is always a past-tense verb. Of the ten that say anything about it, five do say or imply that the proper translation is always in the past tense, but the other five say that the past tense is normally, usually, or often the right translation. We can say either that there is only one correct definition of the PPA and that at least five of these ten grammars are wrong on this particular issue, or we can say that they may all be right depending on how broadly or narrowly we define the PPA.

Finally, you are mistaken in thinking that my argument with regard to John 8:58 is that "the verse itself, by not referring to commencement of being, necessarily refers to an eternal non-commencement of being." That simply is not my argument.

So, I am disappointed in your response-not because you disagreed with me, but because you maligned me based on a rather poor understanding my arguments.

Nevertheless, I will press on and continue the discussion as time and energy permit. I have already done a lot of work on my next installment and hope to post it in the next day or two.

In Christ's service,

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

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