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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)


Jason,

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.

"I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TWO CLAUSES AND VERBS"

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
t-great-grandfather!

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
wrote:

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.


II. EIMI IN JOHN 8:58 AS "ABSOLUTE"

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
incorrect.

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:

*****BEGIN QUOTE FROM ROB'S POST*****
"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."
*****END QUOTE FROM ROB'S POST*****

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
kind.

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

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