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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