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.

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