Monday, February 28, 2005

RB17208 - Rob #30: The Relation of the two clauses, and EIMI as absolute, in John 8:58 

(RB17208) Robert Bowman [Mon Feb 28, 2005 1:30 pm] (Rob #30: The Relation of the two clauses, and EIMI as absolute, in John 8:58)


I here reply to your post #20, which in turn was a response to my post #17,
in which I discussed the relation between the two clauses in Jesus'
statement in John 8:58.


In the first section of my post #17, I made the point that in John 8:58 GENESQAI and EIMI stand in striking contrast to one another, in a way similar to the contrasts between the aorist infinitive and present tense verb in the three LXX texts we keep debating (Ps. 89:2 LXX; Prov. 8:23-25; Jer. 1:5). You commented:

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. (p. 253)

Are you being serious here? I explained very clearly what I meant by 'contrast' in the very next sentences:

"God 'knows' Jeremiah before he formed him; God 'begets' wisdom before making the earth; God 'is' before the mountains were brought into existence and the earth was formed; Jesus 'is' before Abraham came into existence. These contrasts are either paradoxical (How can God know Jeremiah before he was conceived? How can the first-century Jesus exist before the patriarch Abraham? How can God "beget" wisdom before the beginning?) or they express an existence antecedent to creation itself, or both. There is also a verbal contrast between the aorist infinitives (made, etc.) and the present-tense GENNAi (begets) in Proverbs 8, a contrast underscoring the paradoxical statement that God 'begets' wisdom before the beginning of creation."

It is truly disappointing to see how you repeatedly misconstrued my arguments in the series of posts you offered in October (posts #17 through #22). This is yet another example.

Regarding the first sentence quoted above, you wrote:

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

Again, no; this is a wildly inaccurate analysis of my argument. I had already argued at length for my understanding of the exegesis of these verses; to accuse me here of begging the question is, once again, to isolate something I said from its context. Furthermore, translating Greek present-tense forms with English present-tense forms in the course of making a point about the way the texts are worded cannot on any plausible argument be justly called begging the question!

You wrote:

I find your resort to `paradox' puzzling. A paradox is something that on its face is an impossibility: "I am my father's father." Now I 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. But what 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 aperfectly ordinary Greek sentence.

You then illustrate your point with the following sentence:

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

You commented:

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.

As an example of a paradox, you give the sentence, "I am my father's father." Based on this example, I think you would have to agree that claiming to be older than one's father would also be paradoxical. Right? Well, Jesus claims (even on your exegesis and translation of the verse) to be older than his great-great-great-great-great-great-great.great-great-great-great-great-grea

I had pointed out the paradox in Proverbs 8 with the following rhetorical question:

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

You commented:

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." (p. 254)

In the text, Wisdom says that God "established" her in the beginning but "begets" her before his various acts of creation. See my discussion of this passage in post #15 (pp. 180-82) for the argument for understanding the passage in this way.

You wrote:

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

There it is again: a complete miss as to what I am arguing.

The rest of your comments on Proverbs 8 presuppose your classification of GENNAi as a PPA, a classification that I have shown to be impossible to defend and from which in your more recent posts you have backed away.

I wrote:

"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*."

You asked:

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?

I don't see the inconsistency you are implying is to be found in my handling of these texts. The above quote from my post does not say anything that would exclude Proverbs 8 from using the present tense in a way similar to what we find in Psalm 89:2 or John 8:58. The semantics of the text is somewhat different, though, since GENNAi is an action word, not a word expressing a state.

I wrote:

"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's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_,112-13)."

You replied:

Rob, you are talking interpretation here, not translation. You are not advancing a point on the translational issues. (p. 255)

No, I am talking exegesis, and exegesis is relevant to translation.

You continued:

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 thatand it doesn't get you anywhere.

There's more to it than that, as you surely know. Jesus affirms his "ongoing existence" in juxtaposed contrast and as antecedent to Abraham's long-past coming into existence, in a way that echoes Old Testament sayings of God.

You wrote:

That Jesus wanted to stress his immediate continuing presence before his audience fits the literary context of the gospel in which Jesus contraststhe living favorably with the dead.

Huh? Not only are you now the one who is "talking interpretation," your interpretation rests on a vague and unsubstantiated claim about "the literary context of the gospel" that I am quite confident all learned students of the Gospel of John will recognize as mere smoke!

I wrote:

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

You replied:

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 to Abraham. Do you deny that?

I have already answered this question. Jesus says that he exists antecedently to Abraham, and he says this in a way that contrasts his existence with Abraham's coming into existence.

You do not seem to be making much of an effort to understand anything I say. To help you, add the word "merely" after the word "rather" in the sentence you quoted above.

Here again are the two extrabiblical examples you cited:

I wrote:

"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."

You replied:

Again, are you talking translation or interpretation? There is absolutely no difference in degree of grammatical contrast between thelatter 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. (p. 256)

Please note how you missed the point. I wrote:

".there is no *semantic* contrast between the two verbs."

You replied:

"There is absolutely no difference in degree of *grammatical* contrast.."

I'm starting to feel that I am wasting my time. Perhaps some of those investing their time trying to follow these proceedings will see why.

I wrote:

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

I pass over those elements of your reply that I have already addressed. You

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. (pp.256-57)

I see no "theological grammar" specified or implied anywhere in the sentence quoted above. Your criticism seems to be without merit.


You wrote:

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.

By now, those following this debate closely may be able to guess that the above criticism is factually incorrect. Once again, you make an assertion about my argumentation that is without question factually wrong. You couldn't even bring yourself to refer to the correct page in my book where I cited Robertson. Let me quote part of the relevant material:

"The first [critical observation] comes from A. T. Robertson, who in his extensive discussion of the PPA points out in passing that in John 8:58 '_eimi_ is really absolute,' implying that for this reason it is not a true example of the PPA. What Robertson means by 'absolute' is that in John 8:58 _eimi_ occurs as what is known as a predicate absolute, a construction in which a copulative verb is used without an object or complement" (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 107).

There it is: Robertson's statement is backed up with a clear explanation of what he meant, sufficient to establish that what Robertson said is correct as long as you are aware of the fact that EIMI is indeed a copulative verb and that EIMI is used in John 8:58 with no object or complement. You manage to obscure the point by failing to come to terms with what I meant by "complement," since in context I meant a subject complement and you wish to argue that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is an adverbial complement. Nevertheless, your assertion that I resorted to mere appeal to authority at this point with no argument at all to back up my claim is patently, factually

You wrote:

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 making an argument. You can cite authorities from now to doomsday, but you can't make a non-absolute construction absolute.

As you have done so often, your comments here completely ignore the context
of my remarks. Let me remind you. You had written:

He bases himself on A. T. Robertson, whose remark that eimi in the verse as "really absolute," that is, without a complement in the sentence, is one of the rare foolish assertions Robertson makes.. Thus it is simply false to call eimi in any sense a predicate absolute. I really can't imagine anything more obvious on the page of the text in front of us than that.

I replied:

"When a relatively unknown scholar of ancient religion (sorry) opines that one of the greatest Greek grammarians in history has missed something in Greek grammar that could not be 'more obvious,' the prudent thing to do is to *be skeptical*. I would have no problem whatsoever with you claiming to have noticed something that escaped Robertson's attention. We all have the opportunity to build on the work of those who went before us. I do have a problem with you claiming that Robertson's statement was 'foolish' because it overlooks something that could not be 'more obvious on the page of thetext in front of us.'"

To show that Robertson's view cannot plausibly be regarded as a rare foolish mistake overlooking something as plain as anything could be on the page in front of us, I documented the fact that Robertson's view is shared by countless exegetes whose record of scholarship is much more relevant to the study of the Greek New Testament and to John in particular than yours (or mine, for that matter). An appeal to authority is a legitimate way to refute the kind of claim you were making.

You wrote:

Never mind that many of the people you cite are as "unknown" as you say I am (Thatcher? Lincoln?), and all of a particular theological persuasion and interpretive bent when it comes to the "I am" expressions in John.

If you do not recognize Andrew T. Lincoln as a New Testament scholar of repute, then you are out of the loop. He has written several well-received books, including at least two commentaries, and numerous articles in the field. As for these scholars' theology, perhaps you know more about them than I do. I don't know anything about Thatcher's own theology, for example. But speaking of fallacies, your criticism reeks of _ad hominem_.

You wrote:

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.

Absolutely false. All three writers relate some or many of Jesus' EGW EIMI sayings in John to the "I am" sayings of God in Isaiah. However, they nuance even this association, and they do not claim that Jesus is alluding to, let alone invoking, Exodus 3:14 in *any* of those sayings. Raymond Brown barely mentions Exodus 3:14 once in his appendix on the "I am" sayings (Brown, _The Gospel according to John_, 1:533-38), and only part of the OT background to the sayings (536). He does not even mention Exodus 3:14 in his comments on John 8:58 (360, 367-68). In Philip Harner's _The "I Am" of the Fourth Gospel_, the primary OT source for Jesus' sayings is identified as the ANI HU sayings in Isaiah (6-15). Regarding Exodus 3:14, Harner argues that it "can hardly be considered a direct source for an absolute use of _ego eimi_ in the Fourth Gospel," although "we should not entirely exclude the I AM of
Exodus 3:14 as part of the more general background" (17). Later, in his chapter discussing specific "I am" sayings in John, Harner compares these texts to the sayings of God in Isaiah but does not even mention Exodus 3:14 (37-48). In his conclusion he comments that in the EGW EIMI sayings in John "we have not found any specific aspects of the phrase that would be especially reminiscent of Exodus 3:14" (60). In David Mark Ball's 300-page book _'I Am' in John's Gospel_, according to the index, he refers to Exodus 3:14 only once, in a brief comment about Harner's view (34).

It might be a good idea to READ these scholars before accusing them of "nonsense."

You wrote:

Never mind that the universities you invoke as their home are all religious institutions.

More _ad hominem_. And I don't recall saying anything about Harner or Ball's institutional affiliation. Is it hard work making up these false assertions, or do you enjoy it?

Next, you complained that I wrote as if you needed "to be educated on what an 'absolute' is" when, you claim, "obviously" you are "not the one in need of basic grammatical education here." All this because the first two dictionary definitions of 'absolute' I quoted both mention that the term applies to a "transitive" (_American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language_) or "normally transitive" (_Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_) verb. You write:

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.

You might have had a point-if only I had claimed that EIMI in John 8:58 was transitive. But I did not make that claim. I merely claimed that the definition of 'absolute' underlying its usage by biblical scholars with reference to John 8:58 was similar or analogous to the above dictionary definitions. Some grammarians classify the 'be' verb as neither transitive nor intransitive, while others do classify it as a type of intransitive verb. In any case, the 'be' verb normally takes not a direct object but a subject complement: "You are Jason"; "She is a girl"; "I am human." However, in John 8:58 there is no subject complement. This is the point that I made
after quoting those dictionary definitions.

You wrote:

But do note definition (a) in the American Heritage dictionary:
"Syntactically isolated": the main clause of John 8:58 is not syntactically isolated from the rest of the sentence. In the example from the dictionary you can clearly see that the dependent clause 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.

Yes, by definition (a) in the American Heritage, the clause PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is not absolute. But no one said it was. This definition has nothing to do with whether the main verb EIMI is absolute. You are quite muddled here.

I wrote:

"It is possible, of course, to describe PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as
'predicative' and even (arguably) as a 'complement.' _The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar_ observes: 'In some older grammar, _predicate_ rather than _predicative_ is used to describe an adjective, 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 'predicate absolute' 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.)."

You replied:

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 by a predicate noun or adjective. (p. 259)

If you had ever actually bothered to read any of these scholars' discussions of the matter, or even paid close attention to my discussion of the predicate absolute in my book, you would already have known this. Then you would not have accused them of "nonsense," as I noted earlier. Oddly enough, you neglected to mention Robertson in your list of scholars above, whose reference to EIMI in John 8:58 you characterized as "foolish." That criticism now turns out to be indefensible as well. Still, you give it a go:

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 a predicate 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.

There you go again. I never said that your statement was hyperbole, nor did I say anything that could be fairly paraphrased in that way. Here is what I actually said:

"So, when you wrote, 'Thus it is simply false to call eimi in any sense a predicate absolute,' the words 'in any sense' turn out to be indefensible. There is a recognized sense, documented in academic reference works of thehighest caliber, in which EIMI is a predicate absolute" (pp. 197-98).

Moreover, the problem with your argument was not limited to the three words "in any sense." Rather, your whole line of argument was riddled with such false claims. Robertson's statement was "foolish"; his statement and most translations make the mistake of treating "before Abraham came into being" as "a complete sentence in itself"; therefore "it is simply false" to say that EIMI is a predicate absolute "in any sense," since nothing is "more obvious on the page of the text in front of us than that." Each of these elements of your argument is flat-out incorrect.

I had written:

"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."

You replied:

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 post 4. 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 in our dicussion. (pp. 260-61)

If you can find a reference to an absolute use of the be-verb in the material from my post quoted above, feel free to point it out. I don't see it. There was nothing wrong with what I wrote; you have created problems with it out of thin air. I took nothing from your post out of context. You wrote, "To say that it is an existential verb is obviously NOT to say that it always means 'I exist' absolutely." Well, I never suggested or implied that it did. Your statement, "The existential function does not in any way preclude the depictive complement," is true but undisputed; the implication of that statement is that I had somehow disagreed with it, which is not
true. What I said was that if EIMI is existential (meaning "I exist") then if it has a complement it will not be an obligatory one. Somehow you managed to address all sorts of things I did not say while ignoring the main thing I did say.

I wrote:

"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 replied:

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.

I really don't see the basis for these claims. What lies behind the "traditional translation" is simply the recognition of EIMI as a present tense indicative first person singular form of the Greek be-verb, which is normally translated "am." The traditional interpretation, far from cutting loose the dependent clause from the rest of the sentence, construes it as an integral and crucial element in Jesus' statement. Moreover, the 'PPA translation' is the one that loses the full force of the verb in its context by construing Jesus to have been saying only that he was older than Abraham. As fantastic as even that claim would have been, Jesus' statement claimed something far greater.

I wrote:

"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 existential in 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."

You replied:

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 was making a point about the Greek, as I stated very clearly in a previous
paragraph that you seem to have missed:

"I have gone through this in order to make something clear: When biblical scholars speak of John 8:58 as a 'predicate absolute,' 'absolute,' or 'unpredicated,' they are referring to the Greek text, not necessarily to the English translation. 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. Rather, I am focusing on the Greek sentence and the role of the adverbial clause in that Greek sentence" (p. 199).

I quoted from the _Cambridge Grammar_ because its definitions and examples illustrate points of relevance to the Greek text. I discussed the English
translation of John 8:58 in my next post, which was my post #18 (pp. 203-4).

You wrote:

You say that EGW EIMI in John 8:58 is a predicate absolute, and clearly you mean not simply "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 be true, it would be necessary that the full sense of the verb remain the same with or without the PRIN clause, because the meaning of "absolute" is that its full meaning is in itself, not needing any completion from the rest of the sentence. So that would mean that Jesus is declaring his existence. I find this implausible.

To say that the main verb is meaningful without the complement is not to say that the complement adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence or that it has no relation to the main verb. It is to say that the complement is optional and depictive rather than obligatory and resultative, as I have already explained. An optional complement-or adjunct-is informative with respect to the main verb, but not strictly necessary for the main verb to function in the sentence. As I stated, quoting the _Cambridge Grammar_, "A 'depictive' is a predicative that specifies a description of the conditions of the action of the verb, as in 'He died _young_' (261)" (Bowman, 198). The word 'young' is of course informative about the circumstances and timing of the verb 'died,' but nevertheless the verb 'died' is meaningful and functions properly in the sentence without it. By definition, then, 'young' in that sentence is an adjunct. Now returning to the Greek of John 8:58, if EIMI is understood existentially (i.e., to mean "I exist" or the equivalent), then EGW EIMI is a functional clause on its own and does not actually need the dependent clause PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI in order to function as a meaningful clause. Nevertheless, of course, the dependent clause contributes significantly to the meaning of that main clause by providing a temporal orientation from which the full meaning of the main clause is to be understood. This is precisely what is meant by an adjunct or optional complement. If Jesus' entire statement had been merely EGW EIMI, we might have construed it to mean merely "I exist" and that would indeed have seemed an oddly banal thing for Jesus to say in that context. But the adjunct dependent clause makes it clear that this statement is not a mere affirmation of existence but an affirmation of existence of an extraordinary

Your remaining comments on this point (pp. 262-63) labor under the same misunderstanding. To say that EIMI is absolute is not to say that the dependent clause contributes nothing to our understanding of the temporal orientation or significance of EIMI. This either-or analysis of yours simply doesn't hold up.

Toward the end of my post #17, I argued that whether we construe EIMI in John 8:58 as existential (meaning "I exist") or as a copula with no predicate expressed (meaning, say, "I am [he]"), either way the dependent clause PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI would not be an obligatory complement but would be an adjunct. You did not address this argument but rather complained that I was not choosing one of those ways of construing EIMI:

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.. This is very confused. Either its a copula with an implicit predicate complement, or it is absolute. Please choose one.. 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 youwant no part of.

On one level, this objection simply misses the point. Suppose I pick one of these two ways of construing EIMI. Whichever one I pick, the dependent clause is an adjunct. Thus, either way, my claim that the dependent clause is an adjunct will stand. So, what will you gain polemically from my choosing one way over the other? Nothing of relevance to the point I was making.

On another level, your objection sets up the topic of my post #18, to which you responded in your post #21 (pp. 265-69). So I will save further comments on the matter for my next post, in which I will reply to your post #21.

In Christ's service,

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

JB17165 - Jason #30: Pr 8:23-35; "knew" in Jer 1:5; Ps 90:2 - A state antecedent... continues 

(JB17165) - Jason #30: [Date: Wed Feb 23, 2005 11:18 am] (Pr 8:23-35; "knew" in Jer 1:5; Ps 90:2 - A state antecedent... continues)


In your post #28, you wish to continue to dispute the PPA reading of three LXX sentences (Prov. 8:23-24; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 89:2), even though two of them are recognized by Winer as PPAs closely comparable to John 8:58, in that they are both clausally-modified as is John 8:58. I am quite content to stand on the arguments I have made, and to stand with Winer on the identification of Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 89:2 as PPAs. As I demonstrated in my post #29, your assumption that the PPA and the "Infinitive of antecedent time" are mutually exclusive categories to which the contents of a single sentence can be assigned is a very basic mistake, rather like saying that a sentence EITHER has a nominative noun OR an accusative noun, when it quite clearly can have both. The same noun, of course, cannot be both nominative and accusative, and neither can the same verb be both a PPA and an Infinitive of antecedent time. But in John 8:58, EIMI is a PPA and GENESTHAI is an Infinitive of antecedent time. Likewise, both Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 89:2 involve multiple verbs, some of which are infinitives of antecedent time, and others PPAs. You argument that these are mutually exclusive is a logical argument, not a grammatical argument, based in what you wrongly think is the limits of what we mean when we speak of antecedence. This simply has nothing to do with grammar.

As for Prov. 8:23-25, we have probably argued to a stand-off. I have suggested a PPA quality to it, in the sense that what has occurred puntiliarly in the past has lasting outcome in the present. But I admitted from the very beginning that this is a usage of the PPA not yet established in the grammars, and I will not insist on it. I did a little Rob-like experiment of making a case based on existing recognized uses of the present, but you have not accepted that argument. To me, this sentence seems to work in the same way as Rev. 21:1: "The first heaven and the first earth were gone, and the sea was (ESTIN) no more." Notice that the disappearance of the sea is a past event which creates the ongoing condition of it being absent. 5 of 8 major translations render it as if a historical present (he LB omits the clause altogether).

2 translations show a recognition of the continuation of state in the present.

Now as amorphous as the grammatical category of the historical present is, I certainly don't wish to sidetrack us into a discussion of its merits. We both agree that John 8:58 is not a historical present. Prov. 8:23-25, on the other hand, could easily be construed as one if Rev. 21:1 can be.

We are dealing, in general, with the fact that what Greek expresses with a present tense verb does not exactly line up with what English expresses with a present tense verb. We agree that that is the case. There are idioms in both languages where the formal grammatical tense does not correspond with the temporal semantics meant to be conveyed. We cannot be sure that the Greeks recognized all of the distinctions we infer for the uses of the Greek present tense. We label one present as one use, and another as another use, in order to negotiate the mis-match between our language and theirs as to the semantics of the verb. That is why in my book I address both the Greek grammar and the demands of English.

In your discussion of Jer. 1:5, you say:

"As you can see, my point was that the English versions of Jeremiah 1:5 do not offer an English equivalent of the PPA idiom. They do not have "I have known"; instead, they have "I knew." "I knew" does not express a state of knowing from the past continuing up to the present. That is why in your own rendering you suggested "I have known," because that can serve as an English equivalent to a PPA. Also, none of the English versions translate the qualifying temporal language in the way you say they should if that language was serving as the marker for a PPA ("since before you were born"). The first point is the crucial point here; the second point is further confirmation."

First, as you can see, you are making an argument based on what "the English versions of Jeremiah 1:5" do. When I pointed out that we both had inadvertently fallen into the mistake of citing English Bible translations of OT passages when discussing the meaning of Greek sentences in the LXX of the OT, and made a joke about it, you rather ungraciously said that YOU had never made such a mistake, right after saying the above.

Second, if we are talking of English translations specifically of the Greek of the LXX (e.g., Brenton), then "knew" is obviously a mistranslation, since the Greek verb is in the present tense. One could always resort to the ever-handy "historical present," which so easily glosses over any insurmountable problem in the use of the Greek present, but we both agree that John 8:58 is not a historical present, and we both agree in citing Jer. 1:5 as a parallel to John 8:58, although to different purposes.

Third, if for whatever reason we accept "knew" as an accurate rendering of this construct in Jer. 1:5, then the parallelism that we both accept to John 8:58 would indicate that we should translate the latter as "I existed." I don't think that's correct, but if you do you are welcome to it. It doesn't help your position at all.

I had suggested that "the original Hebrew of Jeremiah 1:5 is universally understood to have a past aspect . . . and the translators of the LXX . . . used the PPA construct to convey this past aspect to their readers." (p. 244)

You replied, "This won't work. For one thing, "a past aspect" is not the same thing as a PPA or its equivalent." But I never said this, Rob. I did not say that the Hebrew "past aspect" is "the same thing as a PPA." I said that the LXX translators of Jer. 1:5 used the PPA to convey the past aspect of this specific verse. Check my words above again. Of course, "Hebrew verbs don't work the same way as Greek verbs; the interplay of tense and aspect is quite different between the two languages." That is why translation involves choices of how to convey the semantics of the source language in the target language, as between Greek and English. You objection is not to the point.

You go on to say "the Hebrew verb (YADA`, in the qal perfect form) can be translated with either a present or a past tense verb depending on context." Of course. And what is the context here, Rob? Modification of the temporal sense of the verb by past tense clauses. So what's the point of citing a bunch of passages where such modification does not occur. The only relevent parallels would be ones where there is a similar modification. Even in your sample, which I assume was selected to prove your point, contains some PPAs, for example Job 28:13 (Brenton: "has not known") and Deut. 34:6 (where a PPA sense is rendered with an idiomatic English present by Brenton:

"no one knows to this day").

In your discussion of PSALM 89:2 LXX (90:2 ENGLISH) you repeat your poetic exegesis:

"Before [PRO TOU] the mountains were brought into being,
And [KAI] the earth and the world were formed,
Even [KAI] from [APO TOU] everlasting to everlasting,
You are."

I had pointed out that you wrongly constructed a grammatical series, and explained how the first two clauses are governed by the PRO TOU, and were in series, with the KAI at the beginning of the second clause joining it to the same PRO TOU as governed the first clause. I said that for the series to continue, the KAI at the beginning of the third line would work, IF thre was not an intervening APO TOU which sends the third clause off in a different direction. In other words, the first two lines are "before" clauses, while the third line is a "since" phrase (pp. 246-47). You completely missed my point, which has nothing to do with "an overly narrow understanding of my use of the word "even"" as you claimed. You went on to insist that "you still have a progression backward in time from the creation of the mountains back to the creation of the earth and the world and finally back to the everlasting past. The three lines do not need to be grammatically parallel for that progression to be evident."

Here once again, you are allowing the logic of your construal overwhelm the grammar. You interpret AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS as a period of time broader than, and encompassing the previous periods mentioned. The APO TOU is against you, because it is quite explicitly "from, since," that is, progressive time forward from the previous "before" clauses. The switch from PRO to APO signals a shift of direction in the time under consideration. If the writer wanted to convey what you mean, he could have employed a different, non-contrastive construct, such as an EN or DIA phrase.

In comparing this verse to John 8:58, I had noted the parallel of "before" clauses making a PPA, which is of course what makes a comparison relevent to what this whole discussion is about. You seemed to be resting much of your reading of the verse on the significance of the "from, since" [APO] phrase, and I suggested you shouldn't, because this was not one of the parallel features that can be compared to John 8:58. In fact, I said, the APO phrase is superfluous to the construction of a PPA sense in this verse, and merely adds something that we don't usually see in other examples of the PPA, including John 8:58. "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."

You completely misunderstood me, and replied:
"In the above statement, you appear to be claiming that the phrase APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS is the qualifying element that marks the present-tense verb EI as a PPA. Yet you go on immediately to quote yourself saying quite the contrary:
"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. (p. 247)"

In other words, if you had taken the care to read all of what I said, there would be no way for you to make the mistake of thinking I was saying the APO TOU is what made the PPA. Something's a bit off with your much-vaunted "contextual" reading here, Rob. You continue:

"In the above paragraph, you claimed that if we removed the APO TOU phrase the verb in Psalm 89:2 would be "a classic PPA," with the qualifying element being the lines fronted by the preposition "before" (PRO TOU or PRIN), as in John 8:58. But now you are claiming that it is the APO TOU phrase that has this function. Your rationale for construing Psalm 89:2 as a PPA appears to have changed significantly. If we accept your latest explanation, the PRO TOU ("before") element does not function as the marker of the PPA."

Quite clearly, you have not understood me.

Later, you repeat that your position on this verse is that, "I have merely advocated translating EI with the simple present "are.""

Obviously, this would be a non-sequiter in English. The only way to use it here would be to jettison the two "before" clauses as belonging to a separate sentence. You would need to do the same thing with the "before" clause in John 8:58. Since the translations you are defending do not take this drastic stp in either case, you have not offered a sound argument in support of your position.

In your message #29, you insist:

"I have never 'argued that the aorist *limits* the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive,' in such a way that the state is 'locked out' from continuing after that event."

Oh no? Not only did you before I said that you did, but afterwards, in your post #27, you say:

"If 'the action of the main verb takes place BEFORE the action expressed by the infinitive' (. . . Young . . . emphasis added), then the main verb is not being used to express or denote action taking place AFTER the action expressed by the infinitive." (your emphasis)

"If the main verb denotes an action or state PRIOR TO AN EVENT OF THE PAST, then it does not denote an action or state in its CONTINUANCE UP TO THE PRESENT. Those are two different denotative uses of the verb." (your emphasis)

So you can see that I am hardly putting words into your mouth. Your whole argument for the Infinitive of antecedent time not allowing a progressive verbal sense (which strangely, as I pointed out, would be the only verbal sense not allowed, while every other tense and use is), amounts precisely to this. The problem is that you cannot or will not recognize that that is the case. Don't you understand the meaning of your own words or the consequences of your own arguments?

You continue:

"That the state continues after the event denoted by the aorist infinitive is implicit from the context . . . but the denotative *sense* is that the state obtains antecedent to the event . . ."

First, if this were true, then how would you explain the use of the present tense EIMI in a way compatible with established principles of Greek grammar? Your argument has gone from making a non-sequiter in English to a non-sequiter in Greek. You simply don't have any clear cut examples where the infinitive of antecedent time involves a past action and the main verb is present tense that does not involve a PPA. Your only way out would be to understand and translate "I exist before Abraham IS born." But the translations you are defending do not take this out, so this does not support your position. My position, on the other hand, supported by Greek grammars, is that this is a recognized idiomatic construct, in which the use of the present tense with a past tense modifier signals a past state continuing to the present. If the grammar supplies this meaning, you do not need to resort to context.

Second, you are wrong to say that the context implies that "the state continues" even though by the grammar "the state obtains antecedent to the event." The fact that Jesus is now speaking a sentence that denotes that the state of his existence obtains antecedent to the event of Abraham's birth in no way establishes continuation of existence. If you are going to ignore the present value of the main verb, and force into a strictly antecedent value, then Jesus could just as well be speaking of reincarnation. That is, the implication could as easily be read as juxtaposing past and present existence, rather than implying continuous existence.

Third, what you are saying here is that John 8:58 is semantically a PPA, even if you will not agree that it is grammatically so. Note your own words" "a state antecedent . . . continues." Now, as a principle of translation, are you not bound to provide an English sentence that accurately renders the meaning of the Greek. Wherever you think you are deriving that meaning, whether from a strict reading of the grammar, or from its modification by its immediate context, that is what you are obliged to do. Now how, in English, do we convey a state that pertains already antecedent to a past event and continues t the present? Do we use a simple present to do that? No. Do we use a simple past? No. We use a progressive form: "I have been, I have existed." Isn't that so?

best wishes,
Jason B.

JB17163 - Jason #29: False either/or opposition of infinitive and indicative 

(JB17163) Jason BeDuhn [Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:52 pm] (False either/or opposition of infinitive and indicative -- Jason #29)


In your post #27 you reveal a basic confusion about what you are arguing. You pose the infinitive of antecedent time and the PPA as an either/or choice, decision, or interpretation about John 8:58. But the infinitive of antecedent time applies to the dependent clause of John 8:58 ("before Abraham was born"), while the PPA applies to the main clause ("I have existed"). Since these two categories of analysis apply to different parts of the sentence, and to different verbs in the sentence, it is simply false to suggest that the existence of one precludes the existence of another.

You make this false either/or opposition, for example, in titling a whole section of your discussion "The incompatibility of antecedent time and the PPA," when you say " If a PPA expresses a state or action from the past into the present, then an infinitive of antecedent time
simply doesn't fit what we mean by a PPA," and when you say:

"You have (unintentionally, no doubt) missed the larger point by isolating this question of whether the PPA is defined as necessarily involving a beginning of its action or state. That larger point is the contrast between (a) a verb that expresses duration subsequent to some event or time in the past up to the present and (b) a verb that expresses an action or state antecedent to some time in the past. My contention is that EIMI in John 8:58 fits the latter description, not the former one, thus excluding it from the PPA as typically (or narrowly) defined. This is the key point in the exegetical debate, as far as I am concerned, with reference to the proper translation of John 8:58."

You can see here that you have falsely made the infinitive of antecedent time something about the main verb, "a verb that expresses an action or state antecedent to some time in the past," rather than something about the infinitive. You say that "an infinitive of antecedent time simply doesn't fit what we mean by a PPA" – exactly, because the infinitive of antecedent time is an INFINITIVE construction, and the PPA is an INDICATIVE construction. Now in John 8:58, we have only one infinitive, and that is GENESTHAI, and we have only one indicative, and that is EIMI. You have taken a section of the grammars about infinitives and used it as if it was about indicatives. When Young cites John 8:58 as an example of the infinitive of antecedent time construction, he is simply commenting on the "before" clause, and its infinitive verb, not on the main clause, and its indicative verb. While it is true that the infinitive modifies the indicative, it simply does not modify it in the restrictive way you would like it to, as I will show.

If you review examples of the infinitive of antecedent time, for example those listed by Robertson, page 1091, you can see, as Robertson himself notes, that in such constructions it is not the infinitive that provides the temporal setting of antecedence, rather it is the main verb to which the infinitive is dependent, that does that. So in some of the examples the temporal setting is in the past because the main verb is in the past; in some examples the temporal setting is the future because the main verb in the future. In other words, the exact aspect of antecedence fluctuates depending on the dictates of the main verb. The infinitive is more or less temporally neutral. You can see that the infinitive construct does not limit or dictate in any way what sort of main verb can be employed with it; and the meaning of the sentence is formed by harmonizing the antecedence of the dependent clause with the verbal tense of the main verb.

Now in John 8:58, the main verb is formally in the present. Recognizing that the infinitive used in the dependent clause is temporally neutral, one could translate the sentence as a straightforward present-tense: "I exist before Abraham is born." You have suggested something like this for one of the LXX examples we have been discussing. But what we find in the main English translations of the Bible, the ones you are defending, is a mixing of tenses that is not acceptable English. This is what I criticized in my book. The dependent clause is put into a past tense, because we know that the event to which it refers is in the past. That in itself is fine. But you can't do that and at the same time leave the main clause in the simple present tense, because there is a relation of antecedence involved, so the two verbs need to be brought into semantic harmony, a harmony that such mixed tenses breaks. It is when we give due weight to the past nature of the antecedent events, which is perfectly legitimate, that the idiomatic nature of the present tense of the main verb comes to the foreground. If John meant to convey simple, limited antecedence in relation to a past event, he would have to have put the main verb in a past tense. Instead, he uses the present tense in a PPA construction to indicate progressive action or state.

If you reject this progressive sense of the main verb, and insist that the infinitive restricts what the main verb can mean, then you would end up with "I existed before Abraham was born," grammar be damned. But, of course, you want and need the main verb to be in the present tense; so your whole argument insisting on the restricted nature of antecedence does works against your own purposes, your "larger point." Of course it is false of you to say that I have "missed the larger point." You yourself quote, at the beginning of your post #29, one of my responses to this larger point, showing how your attempt at limiting antecedence to a boundary behind the wall of the infinitive event completely destroys not only the meaning John 8:58 has, but even the meaning YOU want it to have. You can scarcely claim to have missed that set of comments, since you quote it back to me.

You review the character of the PPA to be progressive from the past to the present of the statement, which hardly needs repeating since no one is disputing it, and then say: "Now, it is hardly arbitrary to notice that using a present-tense Greek verb to denote an action or state that is "qualified" in the sentence by an expression beginning with the word "before" (PRO or PRIN) in reference to a past time or event simply does not look like a usage intended to do any of the above. This observation, which I made in my book, has never been refuted."

But of course it is completely arbitrary for you to make a subjective "observation" that something "does not look like" something else. You are bypassing the grammars which you claim to use, several of which include John 8:58 as an example of a PPA and none of which place the EIMI in that verse as an example of any other verbal usage, falsely opposing the infinitive of antecedent time to the PPA, which no grammar does, confusing the verbs referred to by the two categories (the one to the finite verb, the other to the infinitive), and simply offering, "I don't see it that way." There is nothing more arbitrary than that.

Smyth's grammar differentiates two distinct uses of the infinitive with PRIN, distinguished by whether the main clause is affirmative or negative. If it is a negative, then PRIN signifies "until" and has a more restrictive temporal significance, even a conditional quality, of antecedence than is the case when the clause is affirmative, as in John 8:58, where it means "before." In the latter case, "the clause with PRIN simply adds a closer definition of the time" (2433). Smyth adds that, "PRIN is used with the aorist or (less often) with the imperfect indicative only when PRIN is equivalent to hEWS until" (2434). This, of course, is different from the infinitive constructions. "When PRIN must be rendered by before, it takes the infinitive" (2434). Smyth then gives three examples of different uses:

  1. Negative main clause: "I was not doing this until (or before) Socrates arrived." Here the time of the negated action is restricted to before, whereas the implied positive action begins some unspecified time after, the arrival of Socrates.
  2. Affirmative main clause, with indicative dependent verb: "I was doing this until Socrates arrived." Here the affirmative action is limited to the time antecedent to Socrates' arrival. THIS IS HOW YOU CLAIM JOHN 8:58 IS TO BE READ. But this employs an indicative dependent verb, not an infinitive, and so is not parallel to John 8:58.
  3. Affirmative main clause, with infinitive dependent verb: "I was doing this before Socrates arrived." Grammatically, this is the same form of sentence found in John 8:58. Note that it "simply adds a closer definition of time" than there would be if the main clause stood alone. It does not restrict the action to the time before Socrates' arrival, but informs the reader that the action had already commenced before that arrival, with no implied termination of action at the time of his arrival, and, of course, no specification of a beginning of the action.

What this comparison shows is that the use of the infinitive of antecedent time, in its affirmative form (as in John 8:58) has no necessary limitation of the action of the main verb to the time before, but only indicates that the action or state was already the case before.

Note, too, that in the example "I was doing this before Socrates arrived," nothing is said about the beginning of the verbal action. Now suppose we know that the speaker is Plato. You would say that we know that Plato is a mortal, and therefore whatever action he was performing must implicitly have a beginning. But suppose the speaker is Christ. You would say that there is no necessary beginning of an action performed by Christ. So you see that your reading depends on theology, not on grammar, because in the one case you say the grammar implies one thing, and in another you say the very same grammar implies something else. This is utterly illegitimate.

I had criticized your false claim that all PPAs involve a distinct beginning of the verbal action. Even in your book, you recognized that the grammars often speak of the verbal action "beginning" simply as a figure of speech, given that verbal actions usually start sometime, and as part of the grammars expressing the nature of the PPA as carrying the action forward. In other words, they have to say that the verbal action 'begins' in the past in order to let us know that a simple present does not adequately convey the meaning of the PPA.

In your post #27, you reiterate, in a slightly more careful manner than before, your assertion that, "With reference to genuine NT example texts of the PPA cited in the NT grammars(leaving aside John 8:58 for sake of argument), all of them have a temporal marker that implies that the action or state expressed by the PPA verb is a temporal one of some limited duration." You go on to again list the sample you mean.

Of course, by changing how you express your point to "some limited duration," you are no longer talking about them all referring "to a period of time beginning at some point" (see your book, pages 109-110). And no one is disputing that all PPAs are limited in their duration at the present end, that is, by the time when the statement is made. This says nothing about when the action may or may not have begun. Even you concede that some of these examples (note the contrast to your reference to "all of them" above) do not in fact refer or convey a beginning of the verbal action: "The only texts of those cited above where the qualifying temporal language does not make this immediately obvious are 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 1 John 2:9, where `until now' (hEWS ARTI in both texts) in and of itself gives no hint as to how long that is. . . . Even this expression hEWS ARTI, though it gives no indication by itself of the length of time involved, connotes a temporal duration that in context clearly has a beginning."

What you are doing is reading your assumptions, your own theological and anthropological constructs, into what the individual verses are talking about, and from that extrapolating an implicit beginning to the verbal action. Whatever that is (I call it eisegesis), it is not based in the grammar, and it assumes too much even about the intellectual context of the biblical writers. For example, in regard to 1 John 2:9, you say, "the false Christian who professes to be in the light and yet hates his brother 'is in the darkness until now'; this state of darkness in context obtained from the beginning of the false brother's life." You do not know, for a fact, that that is the case. You do not know that that is John's concept of the beginning of individual human existence, whether or not he believes in pre-existence of the soul, whether he has an emanationary psychology, how deeply his dualism runs, not to mention the simple issue of whether any beginning is in view to this dwelling in darkness, which may regress infinitely into the past awaiting the light of Christ. All along I have been making the point that your theology and your Christology are dictating your translational positions. You simply
posit no beginning for Christ's existence, while positing a beginning of existence for everyone and everything else that may be talked about. Thus you presume what you claim to conclude from John 8:58 – an obvious circularity. Whether or not your theology and ontology are correct, reading them into the text, rather than out of it is illegitimate. Whether or not we buy into a cosmology that says that everything has a beginning, many of your examples simply have no reference to a specific beginning in time. And one of those that does specify a beginning, 1 John 3:8, provide no more and no less than what the broadest literary context of John does for Christ (John 1:1), i.e., existence "from the beginning" (compare "in the beginning"). To go further in differentiating one reference to a beginning from another is theology, not exegesis. John 8:58 shares with many of your examples no reference to a beginning of the action at all.

You continue to say things like,
"This criticism rather badly misrepresents my argument. It treats my point about the lack of any implied beginning in isolation rather than as part of the larger point, as I have noted, about the difference between temporal language that marks the verb as expressing duration from the past to the present and temporal language that marks the verb as expressing an antecedent action or state. Your criticism further isolates this specific point from the larger argument that takes notice of (a) the predicate absolute use of EIMI, (b) the clear contrast in the sentence between GENESQAI and EIMI, and (c) the evident allusion to Old Testament "I am" sayings of God, especially those in Isaiah."

Now Rob, it is simply impossible to respond to or criticize all of your points at the same time. I must assess them one by one, and I have addressed each of these three points, in greater or lesser detail.

(a) On EIMI as a predicate absolute, please keep reading my past posts, which have argued in detail how utterly absurd such an identification is.
(b) The supposed "contrast" of the two verbs comes down to no more than this:
  1. since Christ is speaking of his ongoing existence, not his origin (as one who is "the living one" as opposed to "the dead"), he could not use the same verb as is used of Abraham;
  2. the EIMI is not in the emphatic position, the PRIN is – hence the contrast rests on "before," while the use of the present form of EIMI preserves the progressive meaning from simple antecedence.
( c) As I have argued in my book and in considerable detail in my post #4, the vast majority of "I am" statements piled up into this argument simply evaporate under close scrutiny. What you are left with is a tough choice, on whether you want to line up Jesus' copulative "I am (he)" statements with the ANI HU / EGW EIMI statements made by God in the OT (of which Exod. 3:14 is NOT one), or you want to line up the existential "I exist" of John 8:58 with those statements. The latter choice has certain problems, since the possible existential reading of the OT statements requires the mediation of the Greek of the LXX. But I went so far in my book as to say that it is possible that Jesus is invoking this language with reference to himself. Such an invocation does nothing to solve the translational issue of normal English word order and verb tense harmony, nor does it in and of itself settle any interpretive issues because it remains open to interpretation in what way he means to invoke this language. The abiding existence of Christ, quite clear from an accurate translation of John 8:58, lines up perfectly with the emphasis of similar statements in the OT, as I said in my book.

So if the parts and steps of your argument are not valid, or fail to establish anything towards building your argument, your argument as a whole is not valid. You want to add up a series of `may-bes', `could-bes', `arguably-bes', `for-the-sake-of-argument-bes' into a final `definitely is'! I can understand your frustration that I won't let you do that.

In regard to your attempt to identify John 8:58 as a "gnomic-like broad-band present" (whatever that is supposed to be), you outline a six-step argument you think you have made. But neither the second step ("The definition of the infinitive of antecedent time is incompatible with the PPA as usually defined") nor the fifth step ("The use of EIMI in John 8:58 as usually interpreted fits something like the (non-proverbial) gnomic or broad-band descriptive category") is valid, and therefore your argument as a whole is invalid. I have further demonstrated the invalidity of the second point above. As to the fifth point, I note your language "something like." Please list for us every grammar that has cited John 8:58 as a gnomic present. You don't have any? Then how can you possibly make this claim? What, then, does "usually interpreted" mean, and are you talking about grammar or theology? You have completely ignored my earlier demonstration that gnomic does not mean what you think it means. I have pointed out that for all your criticism of supposedly broad and loose definitions of the PPA, you are offering an extremely vague and broad category in which you prefer to place John 8:58, one that you build up by including things like the descriptive present, which has no temporal quality whatsoever beyond the simple present of the time of speech (such as the hierarchical reading of Col. 1:17, although its temporal reading as a PPA has a lot to be said for it), and so in no way supportive of your case for an `eternal' sense to Christ's words in John 8:58.

Even if we go this far with you, and for the sake of being supportive of you accept something as vague as "something-like" the gnomic for John 8:58, what we arrive at is "I exist before Abraham IS born." But that is not the translation you are defending, where the tenses are mixed in an illegitimate and, ahem, distinctly non-gnomic manner, which is what I criticized in my book. What these translations acknowledge is that the reference of the dependent clause is not a general or recurring event, but a particular past event at the time Jesus is speaking, and so semantically a singular past event that strips away any "transtemporal" or gnomic quality to the statement. But in making the necessary correction to the sense of the dependent
clause, they go astray in not accordingly modifying the tense of the main clause.

In my book, and in my post #4, I had offered two examples besides John 8:58 of NT PPAs involving forms of the verb EIMI (John 14:9 and 15:27). These were chosen because they use EIMI in the first person singular form, exactly as in John 8:58, and occur in John, so provide evidence for how the author employed this verbal form. They also served well because most major translations render their PPA quality accurately, which allowed me to show how anomalous was the rendering of John 8:58 in these same translations. While accepting these as PPAs, you have tried to downplay their value since they are modified by a temporal phrase rather than a temporal clause, which is what we see in John 8:58. You have tried various ways to defy the grammars that cite the EIMI of John 8:58 as a PPA. You have ignored that some grammars cite John 8:58 side-by-side with my comparative examples as PPAs (Turner, Winer, BDF). You have tried to argue away the other clausally-modified PPAs cited in the grammars. In all of these efforts you have failed.

Of course, there are other clausally-modified PPAs in the NT besides the ones that happened to be cited in the grammars, even ones employing a present form of the verb EIMI. For example:

Mk. 9:21: "And he asked his father, `How much time has it been (ESTIN) that this has happened to him?'"

Here the temporal modification is made by the dependent clause HWS TOUTO GEGONEN AUTWi. Note the PPA sense: the action has been occurring in the past up to the time of the question. The PPA sense is accurately rendered by all major translations except the KJV:

In my next message, I will reply to your posts #28-29.

Best wishes,
Jason B.

Monday, February 14, 2005

RB17055 - Rob #29: Concluding remarks on the infinitive of antecedent time 

(RB17055) - Robert Bowman [Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:44 pm] (Rob #29: Concluding remarks on the infinitive of antecedent time)


This post will conclude my response to your post #19 (pp. 249-51).

You wrote:

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. (pp. 249-50)

It is simply false to say that I have not paid attention to the two different cases you mention of the use of a present-tense main verb with the infinitive of antecedent time. In my post #15, I noted the two futuristic uses (Mal. 3:22; John 13:19), which are not broad-band uses, and
distinguished them from the uses that are broad-band, including the gnomic, customary, and iterative occurrences (p. 179). Our disagreement is whether there are occurrences that can be described as "past progressive," by which I assume you mean belonging to the PPA category. I have argued that there are no clear instances of such occurrences, at least not in biblical Greek.

You seem to have misunderstood my view as implying that the action of the main verb is "locked in" to time antecedent to the event of the aorist infinitive. Thus, you write:

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. (p. 250)

No, I have never "argued that the aorist *limits* the time of the main verb to before the event of the infinitive," in such a way that the state is "locked out" from continuing after that event. I have argued that the main verb in these constructions *denotes* a state antecedent to the main verb. That the state continues after the event denoted by the aorist infinitive is implicit from the context (e.g., Jesus obviously exists when he speaks the words of John 8:58), but the denotative *sense* is that the state obtains antecedent to the event; in turn, the *meaning* (in context) is that the state is unbounded with respect to the event of the past denoted by the aorist infinitive.

I had written:

"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.'"

You replied:

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.

Again, according to you, there are four biblical Greek texts in which a rendering like "since before" is needed (Ps. 89:2; Prov. 8:25; Jer. 1:5; John 8:58). Yet none of the English translations in current use of the LXX or of the Greek NT has ever translated any of these four texts with the locution "since before" or any equivalent.

The rest of your closing remarks in your post #19 either repeat arguments already addressed or anticipate matters relating to later posts, so I will conclude this post here.

In Christ's service,

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

Sunday, February 13, 2005

RB17053 - Rob #28: Three disputed LXX examples of the PPA 

(RB17053) Robert Bowman[Sun Feb 13, 2005 9:22 pm] (Rob #28: Three disputed LXX examples of the PPA)


In this post I will continue my response to your post #19, focusing on the middle pages (pp. 241-48) that discuss the three LXX texts that have an infinitive of antecedent time and that you claim are PPAs (Prov. 8:23-25; Ps. 89:2; Jer. 1:5).


Regarding your claim that GENNAi in Proverbs 8:23-25 is a PPA, I had commented:

“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” (p. 181).

You began your response to this challenging comment as follows:

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.
(p. 243)

This is in reference to Dana and Mantey’s _Manual Grammar_, which you had earlier asserted “is one of the weaker grammars” (p. 103) and which you described as being guilty of a “silly classification” (p. 110). Yet here you are, in a jam, trying to use Dana and Mantey to support your “existential/identity function of the PPA.” That would be all right, though, if they supported your position—but they do not. Of course, Dana and Mantey is *not* one of my favorite grammars; indeed, I have expressed some disagreements with their grammar in the course of this debate. It is fascinating that you would try to use a reference work that you had previously panned to defend a hitherto unrecognized use of the PPA, and in the process wrongly characterizing my view of that grammar and, as I shall show, misconstruing the grammar and displaying apparent unawareness of the facts about the grammatical phenomena in question.

You take a few detours along the way to making your point, but I will cut a straight path to the core of your argument. Dana and Mantey categorize the PPA as one of three varieties of the “Progressive Present,” the other two being a present “of _description_” and a present that approaches the perfect and that denotes “the continuation of _existing results_” (Dana and Mantey, _A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament_, 1957 ed., 182-83). The latter you reference using the acronym CER (Continuation of Existing Results). Since Dana and Mantey treat the PPA and this present of existing results (CER) as “subcategories of the same progressive present usage,” you conclude “that the CER and the PPA were bascially the same usage to the Greeks.” You then assert:

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. (p. 243)

Dana and Mantey cite three examples of the present of “existing results” (CER). The first is 1 Corinthians 11:18, which Dana and Mantey translate, “I hear that there are divisions among you” (Dana and Mantey, 182). They translate this lead example using an English present tense verb (“hear”), which would seem problematic for your use of this category with reference to John 8:58, where you insist that the verb *must* be translated using an English past tense verb. You try to explain:

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. (p. 242)

If anything, this example shows that the present tense can be used where a purist view of English grammar might call for the past tense, if there is some contextual or idiomatic justification for doing so. There is more going on here, though, as I shall explain further below.

The second example in Dana and Mantey of this usage is Galatians 1:6, which you translate, “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.” It is just barely possible that you are right in thinking that the verb Dana and Mantey have in view here is METATIQESQE. However, most modern English translations render this verb using an English descriptive present tense verb: “you are so quickly deserting” (ESV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); “you are turning away so soon” (NKJV, NLT). These versions also do not parse the verb as a passive here (though it is so used elsewhere), but rather as a middle form (so also the UBS Greek-English Dictionary). Even the NWT, which construes the verb as a passive, also translates it as a present tense (“YOU are being so quickly removed”). Thus, all of these versions disagree with your interpretation when you assert:

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.

It looks rather as though Paul were describing the Galatians as apostatizing without treating their apostasy as an accomplished fact. In the very next verse, Paul says that “there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:7). The two present-tense participles here cannot be construed as presents of existing results; they denote the actions and intentions of people who are still in Galatia and still trying to mislead the Galatian Christians. In this light, the English translations quoted above evidently have verse 6 right. The verb METATIQHMI is used with a middle sense elsewhere (Sirach 6:9) and such a sense fits the context in Galatians 1:6.

I cannot prove with any certainty which of the two present-tense verbs in Galatians 1:6 Dana and Mantey thought was a present of existing results. If they meant METATIQESQE, one must conclude that they were probably mistaken. It is quite possible and even likely, however, that they meant QAUMAZW after all. On this view, Dana and Mantey would be implying that Paul was amazed when he first heard about the Galatians’ slide into apostasy, and that amazement had the “continuing result” of his dismay as expressed in the epistle. This interpretation seems at least possible, so I am inclined to guess that Dana and Mantey had QAUMAZW in view. One could argue that the translations “am amazed” (NASB) and “am astonished” (ESV, NIV, NASB) reflects this understanding of the force of the verb. Moreover, I suspect that Dana and Mantey derived this example from Burton, who comments that QAUMAZW, “in Gal. 1:6, is a Progressive Present, but is best translated _I marvel_, the verb itself sufficiently suggesting the idea of action in progress” (Burton, _Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of New Testament Greek_, 3d ed. [1900], 8). Whatever Dana and Mantey might have meant, the fact is that either of the two present-tense verbs in Galatians 1:6 can be and usually is translated into English with present-tense verbs.

Dana and Mantey’s third example is the verb hHKEI in Luke 15:27, usually translated “has come”: “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound” (e.g., NASB). At last, one of the three examples cited by Dana and Mantey is of a present-tense verb usually translated into English with a past-tense verb. You have that much going for you. But then, you ask why the other two verbs in the sentence are aorists (“killed,” “received back”) but this verb, which also refers to a past event that occurred “at a particular moment,” is a present tense form. Your answer: “the present tense is used of this coming because the act of coming continues in the state of being come” (p. 243).

I can see how you could arrive at this conclusion, guided only by Dana and Mantey and spurred on by the desire to find some precedent for your existential/identity function for the PPA (though you’re still a long way off from it). However, there’s one little problem: the present-tense hHKEI usually has this past-tense force to it. Of the 51 occurrences of this specific form hHKEI in the Greek Bible, only 8 (2 Chron. 20:2; Job 3:24; Ps. 98:9 [97:9]; Song of Sol. 2:8; Jer. 25:30-31 [32:30-31 Gk.]; Ezek. 30:9; 33:33; 47:9) are not usually translated with the English perfect “has come” (and even some of these might be so translated). The same sort of statistic applies to other present-tense forms of the same verb. Reading into the
present tense form of hHKEI the sort of subtle distinction you suggest is
overreaching, even though Dana and Mantey’s citation of Luke 15:27 must have
seemed to you to justify it.

On this particular verb, various grammars have observed that its present-tense form regularly has a perfect-tense sense in English. Burton, for example, comments: “The Present form hHKW means _I have come_ (John 2:4; 4:47; etc.).” He adds, “This, however, is not a Present for the Perfect of the same verb, but a Present equivalent to the Perfect of another verb. The use of AKOUW meaning _I am informed_ (cf. similar use of English _hear_, _see_, _learn_) is more nearly a proper Present for Perfect (1 Cor. 11:8; 2 Thess. 3:11). Such use of the Present belongs to a very few verbs” (Burton, 10). Turner names both hHKW and AKOUW as among the “rare” verbs that exhibit the “Perfective Present,” and he cites Luke 15:27 and 1 Cor. 11:18 (Turner,
_Syntax_, 62). More recently, Wallace also uses the term “Perfective Present,” but he distinguishes “lexical” and “contextual” types of the perfective present. “The _lexical_ type involves certain words (most notably hHKW, which almost always has a perfective force to it” (Wallace, _Greek Grammar beyond the Basics_, 532; he cites Luke 15:27 as an example, 533). In a footnote, he mentions that Fanning observes that AKOUW and a few other Greek verbs also “occasionally function as perfective presents” (Wallace, 532 n. 53, citing Fanning, _Verbal Aspect_, 239-40). Wallace cites as contextual types of the perfective present those texts that use the present-tense LEGEI (“it says” or “he says”) to introduce an Old Testament
quotation (532, 533). He makes the interesting comment, “This usage is so distinct that it could be given a different label, something like the _introductory formula present_” (532 n. 54). Indeed this usage accounts for all of the examples he cites of the “contextual” type of perfective present. Here again, the Greek idiom is duplicated in English, since we often cite texts of the past using present-tense forms. That is why English versions commonly translate LEGEI in these occurrences in the present tense, “says” (e.g., Rom. 9:15, 17, 25; 10:6, 8, 11, 16, 19-21; 11:2, 4, 9; and many, many other NT occurrences).

It turns out, then, that the “perfective present” is limited either to certain verbs (hHKW and a few others) or, when used with other verbs, is limited to certain idiomatic purposes akin to English idiom—notably the introductory use of LEGEI, as well as introductory verbs such as “I hear,” “I see,” “I learn,” or even “I marvel.” One of Dana and Mantey’s examples fits the first type (hHKEI in Luke 15:27), while their other two examples fit the second type (QAUMAZW, Gal. 1:6; AKOUW, 1 Cor. 11:18). The first type we normally translate with an English past tense; the second type we normally translate with an English present tense.

In view of the limited nature of these lexical and idiomatic types of the perfective present, the notion of a general “present of the continuation of existing results” as a category that can be applied to GENNAi in Proverbs 8:25 LXX simply falls by the wayside. GENNAW is not one of the verbs belonging to the lexical type of perfective present, and Proverbs 8:25 is not analogous to any of the idiomatic uses of the perfective present.

Three other points of a broader nature are in order here. The preceding analysis of the perfective present shows that one cannot treat Dana and Mantey’s “present of existing results” and their “present of duration” (the PPA) as if they were the same usage of the present tense. However, if you do so, you have to give up the claim that the PPA must always be translated using a past-tense form in English. After all, the idiomatic present of existing results (or idiomatic perfective present) is usually translated into English using the present tense, as I have documented. Only lexical perfective presents involve words that despite their present-tense form are normally translated into English using the past tense, and these are limited to certain Greek verbs.

Likewise, by your own reasoning, if Dana and Mantey’s second and third types of progressive present were for the Greeks the same usage, then Dana and Mantey’s first and third types of progressive present would also have to be viewed as identical types for Greek readers. Yet their first type of progressive present, the present of description (aka the descriptive present), is normally translated into English using the present tense.

Let me put it this way, which turns your argument on its head: Suppose we agree that the subcategories of the progressive present identified by Dana and Mantey really were one usage for Greek readers and should all be translated in a similar way. Well, the first type (present of description) is normally translated with the English present tense; the second type (present of existing results) is also normally translated with the English present tense except with a few certain verbs (hHKW, AKOUW, and a few others). So, may we conclude that the third type (present of duration, aka the PPA) should also normally be translated using the English present tense? Hmm…something seems to have gone wrong. This isn’t the conclusion you

Second, I don’t see any of your tortured handling of the perfective present as helping to establish an “existential/identity function” for the PPA. You had explained this function as using the present tense where a past-tense verb is expected to express the idea that “the existence of the speaker is ongoing.” I can’t see this as having any precedence in the perfective present or “present of existing results.” In 1 Corinthians 11:18, are we to understand that Paul chose to write “I hear” rather than “I have heard” in order to convey the idea that Paul has continued to exist after hearing? I could ask a similar question with regard to the other two example texts that Dana and Mantey give, or with regard to any of the examples cited in the grammars of the perfective present.

Finally, I must comment briefly that I do not think you have been able to refute my exegesis of Proverbs 8:23-25. Indeed, you offered no arguments against it at all, except the claim that your PPA exegesis is better. But I have shown here that you cannot make GENNAi fit the PPA category in verse 25; Dana and Mantey’s present of existing results is really a distinct usage from the PPA and cannot justify interpreting a PPA as perfective, let alone interpreting Proverbs 8:25 as a PPA. So you seem to be even more “tied up” in this regard than you were before you summoned Dana and Mantey to your defense. Given the apparent impossibility of making the PPA category work in this instance, I continue to favor the view of GENNAi in Proverbs 8:25 that I have defended previously: the present tense reflects the context in which this “action” is said to antedate creation, which is another way of saying that it expresses an eternal reality.


A. Another Misrepresentation

Before discussing Jeremiah 1:5, I must address an unpleasant bit of misrepresentation on your part. In my post #7, I had made the following two statements:

“It turns out that not one of these eleven biblical texts is a PPA” (p. 70).

“The evidence shows that none of these 11 biblical texts is a PPA. The only ones ever classified as a PPA, to my knowledge, are Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5” (p. 74).

In your post #8, you had attempted to pit these two statements against each other, as follows:

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."

In my post #15, I replied:

“Please note, I did not say ‘usually.’ Nor did I say anything that you could plausibly construe as the functional equivalent of ‘usually.’ To the contrary, I said that these were the ‘only ones EVER classified as a PPA.’ The word ‘ever’ implies, if anything, that they are ‘usually’ NOT so classified. To be specific, of the 17 grammars I surveyed, only ONE—Winer—mentions these two LXX texts in the context of the PPA, and then only as LXX parallels to our controversial John 8:58. Not only did I not say that grammarians usually classify these two texts as PPAs, had I said such a thing it would be false.

I must say that I am at a loss to understand how you came to misconstrue me in this way.” (pp. 182-83)

In your post #19, you quoted only the last sentence and commented:

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. (p. 244)

In order to deflect my criticism that exposed your misrepresentation of my position, you attempt here to contrast your supposedly being merely “guilty of heightening the point” with my supposedly saying something that “is simply false.” This is spin if I ever saw it.

First, your admission of “heightening the point” is woefully inadequate. In fact you twisted what I said by (a) cutting out the word “ever” in your quotation of my statement and ignoring its import, (b) using the word “usually” in place of “ever” (albeit carefully doing so outside of the words you attributed directly to me) to distort what I said in the opposite direction of my clear intent, and (c) on that basis invented a contradiction between what you claim I “conceded” here and what I had stated earlier. In other words, where I had said “*ever* classified as a PPA,” you substituted “*usually* ‘classified as a PPA,’” substituting “usually” for “ever” but leaving it out of the quotation marks so that you could not be accused of actually “misquoting” me. Without this distorted representation of my statement, your claim that I was here conceding something contrary to my earlier statement couldn’t get off the ground.

Second, my statement that “only” two LXX texts have “ever” been classified as a PPA” is not in any way contradictory to my claim that “not one of these eleven biblical texts is a PPA.” It is transparently obvious that the latter statement represents *my own conclusion in the matter,* whereas my acknowledgment that two of the texts have been classified as PPAs is a reference to what *others* have thought. Indeed, I made both statements back-to-back in successive statements, as quoted above: “The evidence shows that none of these 11 biblical texts is a PPA. The only ones ever classified as a PPA, to my knowledge, are Psalm 90:2 and Jeremiah 1:5” (p. 74). I was therefore expressing my view while duly noting that one can find precedent
(though slim) in the literature for a different view with respect to those two texts. My statement that none of the eleven texts is a PPA may be mistaken, but the opinion of Winer does not prove that my statement is “simply false” as you claim.

In your post #8, you had written:

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."

I took issue with this claim in my post #15. The only thing I said that you quoted in your rebuttal (in your post #19) was the following sentence:

“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.”

You then tried to throw my words back at me:

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. (p. 244)

All one has to do to see that you have once again missed my point is to go back and read what I wrote:

“Only one of these eleven versions puts the clauses in what you consider the correct order, none of them translates the main verb as a PPA (‘I have known’), and none of them construes ‘before’ as ‘since before’” (p. 183).

As you can see, my point was that the English versions of Jeremiah 1:5 do not offer an English equivalent of the PPA idiom. They do not have “I have known”; instead, they have “I knew.” “I knew” does not express a state of knowing from the past continuing up to the present. That is why in your own rendering you suggested “I have known,” because that can serve as an English equivalent to a PPA. Also, none of the English versions translate the qualifying temporal language in the way you say they should if that language was serving as the marker for a PPA (“since before you were born”). The first point is the crucial point here; the second point is further confirmation. Since all of these English versions fail to have a wording consistent with an underlying PPA (or even its equivalent), your claim that it “is usually translated that way in English Bibles” is flat-out wrong. And you know it. That is why you continued by saying:

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.

Sorry, I won’t take the fall with you on this one. In the sentence immediately preceding the one that you quoted from my post, I made this very point:

“Of course, most English Bibles are translations based primarily on the Hebrew text, not on the Greek Septuagint” (p. 183).

What would you say, I wonder, if I so blatantly misrepresented you?

You continued:

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. (p. 244)

This won’t work. For one thing, “a past aspect” is not the same thing as a PPA or its equivalent. For another thing, Hebrew verbs don’t work the same way as Greek verbs; the interplay of tense and aspect is quite different between the two languages.

And another thing: You know quite well that the LXX translation does not always offer a strictly formal equivalent rendering of the Hebrew text. In fact, in at least one place in your book _Truth in Translation_ you implicitly disagree with the LXX translation of the Hebrew. Moreover, you do so in your chapter on John 8:58! Regarding Exodus 3:14, you comment, “Actually, ‘I am’ is a very uncertain rendering of the Hebrew expression in Exodus” (_Truth in Translation_, 107). You don’t explain, but your comment here presupposes the widespread view that the Hebrew EHYEH is better translated “I will be.” But “I am” is how the LXX renders one part of the expression, by your own admission, since on the next page you write, “The Septuagint of Exodus 3:14 has God say _egô eimi ho ôn_, ‘I am the being,’ or ‘I am the one who exists’” (108). And “the being” (hO WN) beyond all controversy is not a formal equivalent rendering of EHYEH.

The fact of the matter is that it is dicey to infer how one should construe the Greek of the LXX on the premise that it reflects an intention to produce a formal equivalent rendering of the underlying Hebrew. Such formal equivalency often obtains but not often enough to make this a reasonable presumption, let alone an unequivocal premise to one’s exegetical argument. Therefore, the Hebrew of Jeremiah 1:5 cannot settle the matter as to the precise nuance of the use of the present tense in the LXX rendering of Jeremiah 1:5. But it gets worse: it turns out that the Hebrew verb (YADA‘, in the qal perfect form) can be translated with either a present or a past tense verb depending on context. Thus, the qal perfect form of YADA‘ is translated:

You wrote:

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. (p. 245)

I’m sorry, but these comments suggest you do not understand what eisegesis means. Eisegesis means to read something INTO the text that is not warranted from what the text says in its context (both narrow and broad context). If my interpretation “is probable” and represents a “thinking-OUT of the implications of what the verse says,” then whatever my interpretation is, it is not eisegesis.

I wrote:

“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.”

You replied:

"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.

I did not say that “before he is born” (or rather “before you were born”) is a “temporally unbounded” expression. I said that the meaning of the text is evidently that “God’s knowing” is temporally unbounded. The expression “before you were born” does not set a boundary or limit to God’s knowledge but rather conveys the fact that God’s knowledge of Jeremiah is not even bounded or limited to his historical existence.

For sake of time and energy I will have to move on to our third and last LXX text.


First, I appreciate your retraction of your earlier statement that there was “nothing at all” in the Greek behind my use of the word “even” in translating Psalm 89:2 LXX. Here again is that translation:

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

You wrote:

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. (pp. 246-47)

Your objection rests on an overly narrow understanding of my use of the word “even” in translating the third line. Put “and” in place of “even” if you like and you still have a progression backward in time from the creation of the mountains back to the creation of the earth and the world and finally back to the everlasting past. The three lines do not need to be grammatically parallel for that progression to be evident.

You wrote:

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.

In the above statement, you appear to be claiming that the phrase APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS is the qualifying element that marks the present-tense verb EI as a PPA. Yet you go on immediately to quote yourself saying quite the contrary:

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. (p. 247)

In the above paragraph, you claimed that if we removed the APO TOU phrase the verb in Psalm 89:2 would be “a classic PPA,” with the qualifying element being the lines fronted by the preposition “before” (PRO TOU or PRIN), as in John 8:58. But now you are claiming that it is the APO TOU phrase that has this function. Your rationale for construing Psalm 89:2 as a PPA appears to have changed significantly. If we accept your latest explanation, the PRO TOU (“before”) element does not function as the marker of the PPA. Fine; then you can no longer cite Psalm 89:2 as precedent for construing PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI in John 8:58 as the marker of a PPA. And if you insist on characterizing EI in APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS SU EI as a PPA, it will have to be, as I have said before, an unusual sort of PPA, one that expresses a state that is everlasting and not merely durative from some time in the past up to the present.

I had written:

“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.”

You commented:

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.

I disagree. But as I noted before, I could accept a translation of Psalm 89:2 that coordinates the tenses in the purist way you want and that makes the same point (p. 187):

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

Unless I missed it, you have not commented on this suggestion.

You wrote:

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? (pp. 247-48)

Your criticism here is utterly beside the point. I have not advocated translating EI as “exist at all times” or “exist eternally.” If I had advocated such a translation, your criticism might have some merit. But I have merely advocated translating EI with the simple present “are.”

I had written:

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

I’m afraid you completely misunderstood the above statement. You commented:

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.

No, this is another one of those misunderstandings of yours. The “gnomic/static/broad-descriptive classification” does not exhaust the category of broad-band uses of the present. The PPA belongs to that category as well. You may be confusing what I meant by “a broad sense” of the PPA with the term “broad-band.” As I have explained in the past, if one defines the PPA in a broad, that is, wide, open-ended, loosely defined way, then it overlaps considerably with other uses of the present tense. The term “broad” in this context does not mean “broad-band.” Every PPA is a broad-band present.


You attempted to offer a general rebuttal to my argument concerning the infinitive of antecedent time by disputing a certain statement I made mid-way through my post #15 on the subject:


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

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 2are descriptive or general."



The only correction I think I need to make is that I should have counted 12, not 11, occurrences that were indisputably not PPAs, and 10 of those 12 are broad-band presents. I said 11 because I overlooked Psalms of Solomon 14:8 (“he knows the secret of the heart before it happens”). Of the four texts that you claim are PPAs, three are clearly broad-band presents (this is not clearly so for Proverbs 8:25), whether or not they are PPAs. It is, frankly, bizarre for you to claim that I never explained why the three LXX texts and John 8:58 are “disputed”: you say they are PPAs, I say they are not. That makes them disputed. To my knowledge you are the first person to argue that Proverbs 8:25 is a PPA; I have argued that such a classification makes no sense. So that is disputed. Standard English translations of Psalm 89:2 LXX render EI with the present tense “are”; these translations clearly do not recognize it as a PPA. Jeremiah 1:5 is your best hope, but no one translates the Hebrew or Greek versions as a PPA. The vast majority of translations render John 8:58 as though it were not (as you recognize and criticize). So, not one of these four texts is an undisputed example of the PPA, even outside our one-on-one disagreement over the question.

It is really impossible to make GENNAi in Proverbs 8:25 LXX fit the category of the PPA as usually defined. I do not think you have succeeded even at making a plausible case for that claim. I am not aware of anyone else who has made that claim, either, besides you.

With Winer’s parenthetical reference to Jeremiah 1:5 LXX and Psalm 89:2 LXX as parallels in his citation of John 8:58 as a PPA, you have one notable grammarian supporting your position that those two LXX texts fit the category of the PPA. However, as I have explained, Winer’s definition of the PPA is the broadest on record of all the 15 grammars that I surveyed and does not address the question of how the present-tense verb should be translated into English (Winer, of course, wrote in German). That having been said, I have given reasons for disagreeing with Winer that any of the present-tense verbs in these texts “indicates a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues,--a state in its continuance” (as Winer puts it). I have given an alternative understanding of the nuance or force of the present tense in the two LXX texts that makes good sense of the texts in context. That is all I really need to do in order to defend my position. I do not need to demonstrate that it is impossible for any Greek text anywhere to use the PPA in conjunction with the infinitive of antecedent time. I have shown that such a usage would be uncharacteristic of the PPA and uncharacteristic of the infinitive of antecedent time. I have also shown that these texts that use the infinitive of antecedent time to refer to a past event in association with a present-tense verb all make good sense as paradoxically stated affirmations of states unbounded by the events to which they are compared. These can be restated to meet purist canons of English grammar: God begets wisdom even before anything is created; God knows Jeremiah even before he is born; God exists before anything is created and from age to age; Jesus exists even before Abraham is born. The traditional translations, though, particularly of Psalm 89:2 LXX and John 8:58, make the same points and have historically been well understood despite their “irregularity” of English expression.

My next post will complete my response to your post #19.

In Christ's service,

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

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