Thursday, January 13, 2005

RB16602 - Rob #25: Broad-band presents 

(16602 ) Robert Bowman [Thu Jan 13, 2005 11:42 pm] (John 8:58 - Rob #25: Broad-band presents)

This post is a response to the first part of your post #18 (pp. 228-31).

Let me begin by responding to the following statement:
You fail to explain, however, what Wallace means by "broad-band," and "narrow-band." (p. 228)

I will take this as a request for clarification and am happy to provide it (at the time when I wrote my post #16, I did not realize that you did not have a copy of Wallace available to you). Wallace defines the terms as follows:

"'Narrow band' means that the action is portrayed as occurring over a relatively short interval; 'broad band' means that the action is portrayed as occurring over a longer interval" (Wallace, _Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics_, 516).
You wrote:
You have often criticized in this discussion the relative breadth of definition of the PPA in some grammarians compared to those whose view you prefer.
Once again, this is a misunderstanding of my entire line of argument. I have simply argued that on the broader definitions of the PPA, one cannot claim that all PPA verbs *must* be translated using a form of the past tense. That's it!

I wrote:
"Wallace defends one of his examples of the descriptive present, Acts 2:8 ('How is it that *we are hearing*'), against the suggestion that it is a PPA. He favors the descriptive over the PPA because of the lack of a past-time marker, while acknowledging that Brooks-Winbery dispute the necessity of such a marker (519 n. 15). Wallace notes that the PPA can be defined more or less 'tightly,' resulting in its being 'relatively rare or fairly common' (519)."

You replied:
But Acts 2:8 is cited by NONE of your grammars as a PPA, and has never been part of the pool of samples we have been considering. So I don't know who has suggested that it is a PPA, and Wallace's argument that it is not is well-grounded. So this is not a case of legitimate overlap of the PPA and the descriptive based in the sources we have agreed to use so far. (p. 229)

You seem to be missing the point again. I am not disputing Wallace's analysis. Nor am I saying that Acts 2:8 was classified by someone as a PPA or that it should be so classified. I am pointing out that Wallace finds it necessary or useful to point out that Acts 2:8, though formally it may seem to fit some definitions of the PPA, is in his judgment better classified as something else. This is one of several examples from his grammar that illustrate my point about the relative fluidity of these grammatical categories and the fact that how one classifies a particular text will depend at least somewhat on how one defines those categories.

I wrote:
"The bottom line is that a variety of usages of the Greek present tense can be formally similar to one another. These include the PPA, the descriptive or progressive present, the iterative, customary, and stative presents, and the gnomic present."

You replied:

You haven't effectively demonstrated that the PPA can be lumped together with these other uses of the Greek present. Just go back to your list of PPAs from your post 6 and try to start translating them as gnomics, etc. It can't be done without making nonsense of most of those sentences. It is only when the verse is speaking of God or Jesus that you think it should be read differently. Linguists would just look at this as bizarre, and I criticize it in my book.

I didn't advocate lumping the PPA with those other usages in the sense of claiming that they can all be translated in the same way. You are missing the point still.

You continued:

We also need to be clear on what you mean by "formally similar?" If you mean the verb has the same grammatical form, then of course the same grammatically present form can be used in distinct ways. If you just place the verbs side by side, you could never tell a gnomic from an iterative, from a progressive, from a PPA. You need to see the rest of the sentence and how it modifies the meaning and rendering of the verb. It seems you mean something more than the form taken by the verb, perhaps the "form" of
the construction, of the syntax by which these usages are identified. If
so, you will need to demonstrate that they have this same "form." (pp. 229-30 Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net Center for Biblical Apologetics Robert M. Bowman, Jr.)

My sentence was explicit: the "usages.can be formally similar to one another." Your second guess, then, was closer to the mark. I already gave you an example and you didn't get it: Acts 2:8. On a broad description of the grammatical/syntactical features of a PPA (a present tense verb denoting an action or state that began in the past and is continuing), Acts 2:8 ('How is it that *we are hearing*') formally fits the description. The hearing is an action that began in the past (albeit the recent past, presumably a few minutes or perhaps an hour at most) and was apparently continuing at the time of speaking. If a past-time indicator is not needed, the text has everything one needs to find to conclude that the verb is a PPA. Yet the verb is regularly translated into English using the present tense ("we are hearing"), and Wallace construes it as a descriptive present.

I had written:

"As I argued previously, one can define the PPA more or less broadly. The more broadly it is defined, the more it will overlap the other broad-band

You replied:
You will need to demonstrate such overlap, and then show it applies to John 8:58. The latter verse fits PRECISELY the conditions of a PPA, in that it is temporally modified by another grammatical element of the sentence to extend its formal present tense into a semantic range that takes in the past. (p. 230)

I have demonstrated that the *way* the present-tense denotation of EIMI in John 8:58 is related to the past is *not* typical or characteristic of the PPA or even of Greek usage generally (specifically, through the expression of a contrast with a past event of becoming using the PRIN + aorist infinitive clause). Only by carefully parsing your definition and glossing over that atypical feature of the grammar of John 8:58 can you declare that it "fits PRECISELY the conditions of a PPA."

You wrote:
Do you dispute that EIMI is temporally modified in John 8:58? Think carefully before you answer, because it has serious consequences for your position.

In the sense that you mean by "temporally modified," yes, I do dispute it. You mean modified to denote existence in one specific temporal aspect (from the past into the present). (I am not here using "aspect" in the modern technical linguistic sense.) The wording of John 8:58 goes beyond that temporal aspect. Of course, I do not dispute the claim that the dependent clause is meaningfully related to the main clause.

You wrote:

The usages you are comparing it to and saying it overlaps with are not temporally modified in the same way, because their modifying element refers to recurring action or continuous states. Abraham being born is quite obviously neither a recurring action or a continuous state.

Obviously. But you are reading more into my comparison of John 8:58 to texts using gnomic, descriptive, or general presents than I intend.

I wrote:

"In pointing out ways in which a particular present-tense verb, such as EIMI in John 8:58, corresponds to other broad-band categories of usage, I am not attempting to 'push the PPA out of consideration,' as you have alleged more than once. I said in my 1989 book, and I have said again inthis discussion, that if one defines the PPA in the broadest sense, EIMI in John 8:58 legitimately fits such a broad definition of the PPA."

You replied:

Then please acknowledge, which you have never done, that the LB and NW rendering of John 8:58 is a grammatically acceptable and justified translation of the verse. Once you acknowledge that, then the debate over
translation is largely over, because as I have pointed out, you are really
arguing for an interpretation, and your linguistic arguments fail to defend the traditional translation of the verse as either accurate with regard to the Greek or coherent as an English sentence. (p. 230)

First of all, from the premise that EIMI in John 8:58 fits a broad definition of the PPA it does not follow that the LB or NWT renderings are "justified." On the broader definitions of the PPA, any present-tense verb that expresses a state that obtained in the past and continues to obtain in the present is a PPA. But not all such verbs are justifiably translated using an English past tense verb. The sentence hO QEOS AGAPH ESTIN fits this definition, because what it says that God "is" obtained in the past and continues in the present, but it would be unjustifiable to translate this
sentence "God has been love."

Second, you have things rather confused. I have argued that renderings like those found in the LB or NWT, particularly in the context of a simplified English paraphrase or idiomatic version, are *possible* options but lose something important in the translation and are not *the best* rendering in a "literal" or primarily word-for-word kind of translation, such as the NWT purports to be. If by "grammatically acceptable and justified" you meant merely that the LB and NWT renderings were possible, defensible translations, "on the radar screen" of legitimate possibilities to be considered, then of course I would agree, as I have agreed all along. Your use of "acceptable" makes it sound as though this is all you are asking. But then you go on to claim that if I were to acknowledge this point the debate would be "largely over" because I supposedly have failed to defend the
conventional translation as either accurate or coherent. That makes it apparent that what you are really trying to get me to "acknowledge" is that the LB or NWT rendering is right and the conventional rendering is wrong. This is of course your claim, to put it mildly. You have argued that the conventional translations of John 8:58 are simply not "accurate with regard to the Greek" (so above), "defective," downright "bad English," indeed, they are "not English," "not coherent as an English sentence" (so again above), with "mangled," "fractured," or "broken" syntax, "UNREADABLE," and evidence of theological bias (apparently in all of the many, many versions, commentaries, academic monographs, dissertations, and the like that utilize the conventional rendering). In recognizing that a minority report on the
translation of John 8:58 has some legitimacy as a possible view, I am not
committing myself to "acknowledge" any of this!

You claim that I am "arguing for an interpretation," presumably as contrasted with you arguing merely for a particular translation. This is a tendentious representation of the actual situation. I am arguing for a translation of John 8:58 that most fully expresses the nuance of the Greek text's wording, in a way that the LB and NWT renderings do not. I am arguing for a translation of the text that preserves the connections between this and other sayings of Jesus utilizing the unpredicated EGW EIMI. I am arguing for a translation of the text that conveys the Old Testament allusions of this and other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those in Isaiah. These are all legitimate purposes in translation.

Besides, most people who read Greek simply disagree with your claim that rendering EIMI in John 8:58 as "am" rather than "have been" is somehow interpretive to the point of being suspect as evidence of bias. You state in _Truth in Translation_, "The first choice when faced with options of how best to translate the original Greek usually should be the most obvious, straightforward, unspecialized understanding of the word or phrase" (xv-xvi). Well, the vast majority of scholars who have translated Greek professionally have evidently been of the opinion that "I am" is the most obvious, straightforward, unspecialized understanding of EGW EIMI. This is not a fallacious appeal to numbers or majority or even a fallacious appeal
to authority; it is simply empirical evidence as to what is and is not "obvious" in this instance. And while obviousness can be a matter of some subjectivity and disagreement (calling into question your own statement), I think it fair to say that it would be quite a stretch to argue that "I am" is not at least *an* obvious choice for translating EGW EIMI.

In the very next paragraph of your book after the one from which I just quoted, you wrote: "If the translation given is at least within the realm of possibility for the meaning of the Greek, we must grant that fact and not be too hard on the translators for preferring one possible meaning over another. But if they stretch beyond that rather generous range and reach for the truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek, we must be very suspicious of their motives" (xvi). Yet you violate this "generous" allowance for translators to choose "one possible meaning over another" not only in your chapter on John 8:58, but several times in your book. Thus, somehow we are to gather that "worship" is a "truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek" word PROSKUNEW-when it is applied to Christ (chapter 4); "God" is likewise a tendentious rendering of the Greek word QEOS in John 1:1c (chapter 11); and of course "am" is just plain wrong as a rendering of EIMI in John 8:58 (chapter 10). Forgive me, but this is brazen.

You wrote:

But once again I must challenge your assertion that the PPA must be defined "in the broadest sense" to include John 8:58. This is false. The
broadest sense of the PPA would include sentences with NO temporal indicator at all, but read as PPAs because of the general literary context (such as Acts 26:31). John 8:58 has such a temporal indicator in the same sentence and in a relationship of complementarity to the verb, which is a closer relationship to the verb than that held by several of the adverbs or adverbial phrases in other PPA examples. I have already demonstrated that your assignment of the grammars to various degrees of support for a "narrower" sense to the PPA is largely flawed. So EIMI in John 8:58 is a PPA in a widely accepted, average sense of the category. (p. 231)

As I have stated repeatedly, three of the four grammars that classify John 8:58 as a PPA offer a definition of the PPA that omits any reference to a temporal indicator. McKay is the sole anomaly. Yes, John 8:58 has a temporal subordinate clause that stands in some sort of relation to the main clause that contains the present-tense verb EIMI. However, this is not the sort of "temporal indicator" that flags a present-tense verb as a PPA in the "widely accepted, average sense." I explained why in my post on the significance of the subordinate clause.

My next post will complete my response to your post #18.

In Christ's service,

Center for Biblical Apologetics
Online: http://www.biblicalapologetics.net

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