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Thursday, October 14, 2004

RB15761-Rob #13: Where we go from here 

(15761) Robert Bowman [Date: Thu Oct 14, 2004 1:47 am] (Rob #13: Where we go from here)

Jason,
You wrote:
I must agree with those on this site who have intervened to say we have reached the completion of a cycle of this discussion.
As I shall explain later in this post, this is simply not correct.

You wrote:
With all due respect, this discussion is quickly descending into one of those schoolyard arguments about the rules that disrupts the game. In tennis, when a linesman calls a foot-fault, it is not "maligning" the player. It is indicating that one of the players is not abiding by the rules and standards of the game.
The reason this discussion is "descending" into an argument about fair play is that instead of simply stating where you disagreed with my arguments and why, you chose to make insulting personal comments about me. We had agreed not to do this. It would not be "maligning" for you to say (rightly or wrongly) that I had misreported something in a Greek grammar. It most definitely *is* "maligning" for you to question that I am making my arguments "in good faith" and to assert that because I am an "apologist" my "single purpose is to win arguments by any means, to defend [my] faith at any cost," in contrast to your self-proclaimed interest solely in the pursuit of truth.

You wrote:
I will avoid the mistake I made in my last post of trying to find the most generous explanation to excuse your conduct.
Perhaps you think it was generous to question my good faith, integrity, and interest in the truth and to charge that I am simply trying to win the argument "by any means" and "at any cost." I did not find that generous in the slightest.

You seem to be confused as to who has been attacking whom. Thus, you wrote:

But it is pointless to continue in this climate of recrimination against me for doing what I am here to do, which is engage in constructive debate of the issues while holding you, as you would no doubt hold me, to standards of accuracy and fairness.

There is no "climate of recrimination against" you, Jason. I simply pointed out that your personal comments about me were "insulting and unjustified." In fact, I made of point of saying that I would not return insult in kind by questioning your integrity or good faith. As has often been said, no good deed goes unpunished.

You wrote:
You said, "I had proposed we both feel free to make our case as we saw fit." It would seem you have in mind two side-by-side monologues without either being interrupted by the other. I'm sorry, but that's a total waste of my time, and you certainly don't need me present for you to "press on" with your own theories.

It is difficult to know how to respond to such wildly off-base characterizations of what I have said. The sentence that you quoted is not even from the post to which you are supposedly responding, but from an earlier post (post #11). You have lifted it out of context from that post, transplanted it into the context of my objection in my post #12 to your personal insults against me, and then somehow come up with the idea that I was objecting to "being interrupted." I cannot even imagine how in your mind this mishandling of what I wrote can be justified. For the record, what I meant by us both being "free to make our case as we saw fit" was that we could "make whatever argument we choose, whether it has precedent in published Greek grammars or not." Here is the context from my post #11:

"I had appealed for a 'level playing field' with regard to both of us having the freedom to make whatever argument we choose, whether it has precedent in published Greek grammars or not. In response, you stated that you would drop all reference in the future to an 'existential identity' function for the PPA, and that you expected me to drop all reference in the future to an 'eternal present.' Well, this is not exactly what I had in mind; I had proposed we both feel free to make our case as we saw fit."

And far from objecting to your suggestion as an "interruption," I agreed to your suggestion! Here is the rest of that paragraph:
"Perhaps you see more polemical gain to be made by excluding from consideration the possibility of an 'eternal present' even if you have to give up the 'existential identity' function of the PPA. But as it turns out, I think I can accommodate you and make the same points using recognized categories of Greek grammar."

You continue to miss the point (for whatever reason) when you write:
You are wrong when you suggest that an academic like myself has as much at stake in defending a published position no matter what as you do as an apologist. There is nothing dishonorable in an academic saying, "I once thought x, but I have since been persuaded that y is a better understanding of the case." Academics modify, reverse, and correct their positions all the time, as I would on this issue if any persuasive evidence and argument to be set before me, either of a new and better understanding of the grammar, or of flaws in my own current grasp of it. Needless to say, neither has occurred.

I agree, of course, that academics *often* "modify, reverse, and correct their positions." However, to suggest that this is the norm for academics, while insinuating that one cannot expect "apologists" to do the same, is simply wrong. Apologetics and scholarship are not mutually exclusive categories, and one can be an apologist and a scholar. Some apologists are conscientious and correct their positions as they learn more. Some scholars are academic hacks pushing an agenda. I make no judgment about what sort of scholar you are. I simply disagree with your positions on some matters. You, on the other hand, have made the offensive judgment that my values and purposes are antithetical to scholarship. That is the context in which I pointed out that scholars can and sometimes do exhibit the same kind of intransigence in the face of contrary evidence that you attribute to me and to all "apologists."

You wrote:
But although a person can be discomfited by demonstrations that he has used evidence in a faulty way, he has no grounds to blame the critic for findingthe fault.

I did not blame you for claiming that I had used evidence in a faulty way (though I did *refute* that claim). I blamed you for your insulting insinuation that I used evidence to win the argument with no regard for the truth.

You wrote:
I have patiently analyzed your arguments, and found them to be arbitrary and contrived. But that's not really the problem. The problem is that I have also found, since the discussion turned specifically to the PPA with your post 6, that you repeatedly misrepresent the material you are using from the grammars, and fail to accurately report its congruence or lack of congruence with criteria you yourself set for counting the grammars in favor or against the various positions you have maintained. This is no longer a matter simply of refuting your arguments, but of being forced to question your willingness or ability to use the evidence fairly.

What is noticeable in these comments, and throughout your most recent post, is that you offered no response to my substantive reply to your contention that I misused the evidence in my last post on the issues (my post #11). The substantive material in my post #12, about which you said nothing except for one off-base remark (see below), was roughly five-sixths of the post. The one-sixth to which you did respond, you misconstrued repeatedly, as I have been explaining here.

I responded in my post #8 to your claim that I "repeatedly misrepresent[ed]" the grammars in my post #6. In my post #11, I began recasting the issue pertaining to the PPA to meet your demand that the question be addressed solely in the categories already given in the grammars. You found, in my opinion, one minor mistake in a large pool of data, which I immediately acknowledged. I have shown considerable willingness to rethink my claims and acknowledge legitimate criticisms-far more than you have, in fact, as I shall document below.

You wrote:
We have gone over all of the salient points raised in our respective books; we have clarified our positions and noted points of agreement; we have brought into sharp relief where we disagree and the basis on which we each rest our position. Most importantly, I think I have thoroughly demonstrated the baselessness of your positions on the grammar and syntax of this sentence. It is possible that your argument got bogged down in the PPA issue, and that you intended to advance to some new feature of the question. But since we have gone over the full extent of the argument offered in your book, substantially amplified with lots of new evidence and argument on your part, I must agree that we have reached a stopping point.

It is simply factually incorrect that "we have gone over the full extent of the argument offered in [my] book." I have not yet even attempted to address a number of criticisms you expressed of the argumentation in my book from your very first post. For example, I have yet to respond to your criticisms of my argument concerning the antecedent orientation of the PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI clause. I have yet to respond to your claim that I (and A. T. Robertson!) are woefully mistaken in thinking that EIMI in John 8:58 is a predicate absolute. Nor have I replied to your criticism of my argument that the words EGW EIMI in John 8:58 should be translated "I am" to establish continuity with the other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus. I have also not yet said anything in response to your arguments against translating John 8:58 to reflect a connection with the "I am" sayings of God in Isaiah. So you are quite mistaken in thinking we have "gone over all of the salient points raised in our respective books." We are just getting started! However, I am sensitive to the desire to conclude this discussion more quickly, and I agree to do so. I will offer a specific plan at the end of this post.

You wrote:
I won't pretend to tell you what you should feel obliged to do, but from my perspective no further argument can be made on your side without some sort of accounting of the errors in what you have offered to date, and with a much more forthright declaration of your position.

Since I responded in my last post (#12) to your allegation of errors needing "some sort of accounting," and you have chosen to ignore that response, I have to differ with your "perspective."

You wrote:
You have avoided flat out denying the existence of the clausally-modified PPA, because to do so would be untenable in light of the grammars, many of which acknowledge and note its inclusion in the form under discussion. Yet in some way or another, you seek to discount this variety of the form in order to exclude John 8:58 from it. You have failed to do so. You have also failed to identify any valid and recognized alternative. Perhaps you intended eventually to do so.
There is no "perhaps" about it. In my post #11, in the very last sentence of that post, I stated:
"In my next post, I will propose a way of classifying EIMI in John 8:58 using categories from the recognized Greek grammars."

Again, you are simply ignoring most of the argumentation I have been presenting, in both #11 and #12 of my posts. I make no judgment as to *why* you are doing so, but that you are doing so is an irrefutable fact.

You wrote:
You had an opportunity following my post 10 to acknowledge that you had failed to dislodge the argument in favor of construing John 8:58 as a PPA, but would instead endeavor to offer a more compelling alternative. Instead, while ignoring my criticism of your past arguments, you returned to the same ground to try another desperate bid to push the PPA out of consideration, and committed the same faults of argument as before. I showed in my next post that this new argument of yours is as fallacious as the previous one, and that your efforts to correlate relative breadth of definition, degree of specificity of translation, and inclusion or exclusion of John 8:58 as an example to be hopelessly muddled and contrived.

This is all factually erroneous. I did not ignore your criticism of my past arguments. I quoted from several of your criticisms and explained that I was responding to them by approaching the PPA issue from a fresh angle. Instead of trying to "push the PPA out of consideration," as you allege, I suggested that one could keep the PPA in consideration with respect to John 8:58 depending on how one defines the PPA. This is exactly the point I made in my book 15 years ago, though I have sought to articulate the case for that conclusion in a fresh and more rigorous way. Your claim to have shown "that this new argument of [mine] is as fallacious as the previous one" is vacuous. The truth is that you ignored most of the data I marshaled and the careful qualifications I made, got wrong some of the points you did address, and in this latest post of yours blatantly ignored my refutation of your criticisms.

You wrote:
You now, belatedly, call one such instance a "mistake."
There was nothing "belated" about it. I immediately acknowledged that in one case I had made a mistake. I also corrected you on several mistakes that *you* made, *none of which you have acknowledged* (see below).

You wrote:
You have never, even once, made a "mistake" that did not favor your position. How do you account for that?
Naturally, all the mistakes that you claim to have found in my analyses were mistakes that you thought hurt my position. But in truth, I have not made as many mistakes as you allege, and I can actually think of at least one mistake that I made that did hurt my position-one that I corrected later, only to have you criticize me for doing so! That was the mistake of accepting uncritically the classification of Acts 27:33 as a PPA. I should have thought that through more carefully before agreeing to that classification.

Again, I have clearly and forthrightly acknowledged mistakes in my argumentation and made a good faith effort to correct them. You, on the other hand, have *not* acknowledged your mistakes. Here are some of the more notable ones (excluding your many misrepresentations of my own views and arguments):

* You claimed that John 2:9 and similar texts are examples of the PPA, when various grammarians have clearly explained that these texts exhibit a separate usage of the present in indirect discourse. After I refuted your claim, you refused to acknowledge that you were incorrect, though you agreed to leave these texts aside because none of the grammars supported your view on them.

* You cited Brooks and Winbery in support of the claim that a PPA does not need a temporal expression or indicator to mark it as such. However, as I showed, their one example of a PPA without such a marker (2 Cor. 12:9) is not a PPA. You acknowledged that it was not a PPA but did not acknowledge the point I made that without this example Brooks and Winbery failed to support their statement.

* You falsely characterized the distinction made in some grammars between the PPA and the descriptive present as hair-splitting, when the two usages are distinct in a meaningful way and when as a rule we translate them differently in English. You specifically confounded the term "durative present" as a designation for the PPA with Robertson's description of the descriptive present as "durative."

* You incorrectly claimed that I should have assigned a score of only 2 to Goodwin on the specificity of the grammar's description of the temporal marker of the PPA. I had mistakenly assigned it a score of 6, and after reading your criticism showed that the proper score was 5.

* You erroneously claimed that I should have assigned Brooks/Winbery a score of "5 at most" in the same category. I showed that the score of 6 was correct.

In addition to these mistakes-which I have already demonstrated were mistakes, and which you have chosen so far not to acknowledge-you have made other mistakes that I planned to point out in my next post. The clearest one pertains to Psalm 89:2 LXX, about which you asserted, in response to my translation of that verse, "there is nothing at all in the Greek behind 'even.'" However, the word "even" in my translation renders the Greek word KAI, which, as any first-year Greek student knows, frequently means "even."

Now, once again, I refuse to make the argument that these mistakes call into question your integrity, your status as a scholar, your good faith, or your commitment to the pursuit of truth. I will not even claim that your refusal to acknowledge the mistakes previously pointed out to you proves that you are lacking in these areas. I simply point them out as evidence that everyone makes mistakes, we all have trouble admitting them, and if we cannot always agree about what really are mistakes this is just part of the reality of human discourse, even in scholarship.

You wrote:
That is why I lamely attempted in my last post to posit a fundamental difference of attitude and approach between us, trying to imagine what an apologist has at stake that would keep him from acknowledging error or the successful point of the other side, compared to an academic such as myself for whom the issue is simply the accurate rendering of five Greek words.
Jason, I have to tell you, I just don't buy this. Your book has a clear agenda, and that is to show that the translations that most English-speaking Christians use are theologically biased, particularly in texts relating to the doctrine of the Trinity. There is a reason why your book has chapters taking issue with most English versions in their rendering of texts using PROSKUNEW as "worship" (chapter 4), of Philippians 2:6-7 (chapter 5), Colossians 1:16-20 (chapter 7), Titus 2:13 (chapter 8), Hebrews 1:8 (chapter 9), John 8:58 (chapter 10), John 1:1 (chapter 11), and texts referring to the Holy Spirit (chapter 12). It is not likely to be an accident that your book sides with the New World Translation (and other antitrinitarian versions) in *every* one of these cases. Even in your appendix, where you criticize the NWT for its use of "Jehovah" in the New Testament, you split the difference by criticizing conventional versions for *not* using it in the Old Testament. So it is not credible for you to tell us that the issue in John 8:58 for you is the trivial-sounding issue of "the accurate rendering of five Greek words." Of course, you are entitled to make your case, and any critique of your case should engage your arguments rather than resorting to _ad hominem_. But don't expect those of us who have actually read your book to believe that you do not to have a larger point you are trying to defend.

You wrote:
We had promised to those who wished to see this discussion/debate on this site that there would be an opportunity for anyone who wished to comment or raise questions. Our readers have now called for this promise to be fulfilled, and for that purpose, I will remain on the site for two weeks. After that, I am afraid that the pressing demands of my sabbatical research project must be attended to.

I certainly don't wish to keep you longer than is convenient for you. I will post on the issues I mentioned earlier in this post that I have yet to address in our discussion as quickly as I can. Let us say that I will do so by the end of this weekend. Then, beginning on Monday, October 18, we will open the discussion to list members for a week. If you would like, we can then offer closing comments in a single post each and wrap this up.

In Christ's service,

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




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