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Friday, March 25, 2005

JB17280 - Jason #31: More and more problems 

Jason BeDuhn [Date: Fri Mar 25, 2005 10:36 am] (More and more problems)
Rob,

You continue to compound your initial grammatical errors with new ones, taking us deeper into a twilight zone where normal rules of grammar do not apply, where EIMI or `be' are transitive verbs, where there can be "absolute" copulas with nothing coupled to the subject, where present tense action can occur before past events. This might make interesting science fiction, but it simply is beyond the fringe of any generally recognized principles of either Greek or English grammar, and there is no point in me continuing to debate where such fundamental rules of language are simply ignored. It seems to me fairly clear if you must resort to such absurd violations of grammar to defend the traditional English translation of John 8:58, then it cannot be reasonably defended. This abuse of grammar and syntax must be considered alongside of your repeated misuse and misrepresentation of the evidence you marshal in your arguments, as well as your complete failure to hold a consistent position on whether EIMI is used in its existential or copulative function, on the source of its temporal modification beyond the simple present, or on whether it is or is not in temporal relation to the dependent clause of the same sentence.

In your post #30, you continue to try to maintain two contradictory positions at once. You want to argue that EIMI is "absolute" in John 8:58, but you cannot settle on whether you think it an absolute existential, or an absolute copula. I pointed out this trend in your argument in my post #20, to which you only replied with a typical claim that I had missed your point. No, Rob, I think I get your point exactly, which is that you are willing to argue by any means, without concern for consistency or coherence. The fact that you will not even settle upon a position is a classic example of this. You seem to have forgotten that you have entered this debate as a defender of the traditional translation. I intend to hold you to that position, which means disposing of half of your argument as simply irrelevant, because it cannot be made to support that position.

In your post #30 you say that you don't see any implication of `theological grammar' in your statements. I'm not sure how to help you see that when the same verb is rendered in ordinary temporal senses when the subject is something other than what you consider a divine being, but as signifying "a state or action that is constant, perpetual, or simply always so" when the subject is considered by you a divine being, that runs afoul of the "theological grammar" charge.

In your post #30 you say the following:
"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.'"


Rob, this takes us all the way back to my book, where I point out that such a rote, lexical, `interlinear' approach to translation is completely invalid, and repudiated by every major English translation of the Bible. I have shown why this is invalid as English, and invalid as an accurate rendering of the Greek. I have pointed out a number of times that your position does not even adhere to this statement of yours, because you infer a transtemporal significance, "something far greater" in your words a few lines later than the simple present tense, and I have shown how your argument for the absoluteness of the verb deprives you of any temporal modification that would make EIMI more than a simple present. You go on to say that, "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." Although we are debating translation, not interpretation, as I need to keep reminding you, I have good news for your "traditional interpretation": it is defensibly grounded in the grammar, which also makes the dependent clause "an integral and crucial element" of the main clause, in fact, as a depictive temporal complement that completes the sense of the verb so that it is "something far greater" than the simple present tense, namely, a PPA. You, of course, understand none of this and think the simple present tense, in and of itself, signifies eternity, which is patently absurd. You need the dependent clause, Rob.

In my post #20 I pointed this out quite emphatically, but you have not come to terms with, nor even directly answered, the point I make here:

"Moreover, the relation between the temporal clause and the main verb actually CHANGES what the verb signifies in terms of tense. If, for the sake of argument, we go along with your proposition that EIMI is absolute, and that its full meaning is established in itself without an obligatory complement from the temporal clause, THEN THERE WOULD BE NO TEMPORAL MODIFICATION OF THE SIMPLE PRESENT IN EGW EIMI, AND IT WOULD HAVE NONE OF THE `TRANSTEMPORAL,' NOT TO MENTION `ETERNAL' SIGNIFICANCE YOU TAKE IT TO HAVE. Please note this because it is very important. Either the temporal clause is a complement that alters the significance of the verbal tense, or EIMI is absolute and a simple present. It has to be one or the other. YOU CANNOT SAY EIMI IS ABSOLUTE AND AT THE SAME TIME GIVE IT ANY ELEMENT OF TENSE BEYOND THE SIMPLE PRESENT FOUND IN EIMI ALONE. If we are to propose that EIMI in John 8:58 has any tense significance beyond the simple present, then it necessarily must draw on the temporal clause for that significance, and this drawing upon the temporal clause for significance establishes a relation of obligatory complementarity between the main verb and the temporal clause. If we agree that EIMI means more than that Jesus exists in the moment he is speaking, then we agree that the verb is modified in regard to tense; and if it is modified in regard to tense, then that modification must come from the temporal clause; and if the modification comes from the temporal clause, then the latter is an obligatory complement to the full meaning of the verb. So whether we are arguing for a PPA or an `eternal' reading of the main verb, we necessarily agree on all these things. That means that your entire argument in your post 17, if it were supportable, would undermine your reading of the verse as much as mine." (JB, post #20)


And please don't tell me again what you think you know about the interpretation and meaning of Jesus' statement. Tell me how you can translate it so that any reader, coming to it without your knowledge and wisdom, would understand that the temporal significance of EIMI is other than the simple present tense. That is what we are debating. You are thinking as a theologian, rather than as a translator, as is evident in every one of your postings. There simply is no "affirmation of existence of an extraordinary kind" in an absolute, unmodified present tense be-verb. If you think there is, I don't know how to help you see that this is theology talking, not grammar or syntax.

You don't even understand what "absolute" means. You state:
"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." But that is PRECISELY what "absolute" means. Absolute means self-contained and unmodified in temporal orientation and significance.


In your post #30, you object to the following in my post #20:

Jason:
"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."


Rob:
"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 . . . 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."


Thank you, Rob, for quoting for our readers the demonstration that what I said was indeed factually correct. Which means that when you say my "criticism is factually incorrect," you are quite simply employing defensive rhetoric utterly without merit. As everyone can see, patently, in your book you do not make an argument; you simply cite Robertson's remark, which is no more and no less than the words you quote and, for that reason, quite cryptic since he says no more here about what he means by "absolute." But that doesn't stop you. You then presume to explain what you think Robertson means by "absolute":

"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).


First, explaining a quote is not making an argument, and does not advance discussion beyond taking the quote as authoritative. Second, Robertson's remark remains 'cryptic' in its original context, no matter what you say. Third, Robertson in fact nowhere defines `absolute' in the way you say, does he Rob? You simply impose that meaning on his use of the word `absolute.' Nowhere does Robertson use `absolute' in connection with a copulative verb, as you say he does. He uses it only in the context of discussing infinitives (1092-1093), and participles in subordinate clauses (1130-1132), and in both contexts he means merely "clauses that stand apart from the rest of the sentence" (1130). So, in other words, you are FALSIFYING what Robertson means by `absolute,' aren't you? You need to retract what your book says, and apologize for its misrepresentation of Robertson and for your completely false claim that my remark was "factually incorrect." Do you see now what comes of casting aspersions before your own house is in order?

You go on in your post #30 to say that what you said in your book is "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."

I must admit that I completely overlooked your reference to EIMI in John 8:58 as a copulative verb in your book, and it is quite instructive for your to reiterate this claim so emphatically in your post #30. If that is what you think, then you cannot defend the traditional translation of John 8:58, which does not translate the verb as a copula, but as an existential, and therefore you have lost this debate in which you have taken the position of defending the traditional translation.

If you wish to propose that EIMI is copulative in John 8:58, you would be forced in translation to provide the implied predicate complement, just as all the major translations do in other examples of copulative EIMI with an implicit complement (see my discussion of this in my post #4). So your citation of definitions and discussion involving a copulative understanding of "I am" sentences in John is utterly irrelevant for your defense of the traditional translation of John 8:58, which is not based in a copulative understanding of the verse.

In your post #17, you cited a set of authorities for regarding EGW EIMI in John 8:58 as an absolute. I dismissed this as an argument from authority that I saw no reason to accept. In your message #21, you state that my dismissal "reeks of ad hominem." As I have explained before, ad hominem applies only when an argument had been presented and, instead of responding to the points of the argument, one attacks the source of the argument. It is not ad hominem to dismiss an argument from authority, since such an argument deals with nothing else than hominem, so to speak, and you presented it in precisely such a way ("the premier Roman Catholic New Testament scholar of the twentieth century," no less!).

From Brown, you quote as follows:
"Grammatically we may distinguish three types of use" of EGW EIMI: "(1) The absolute use with no predicate."


You tell us that Brown cites John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 as examples. This is apparently distinguished by Brown from "(2) The use where a predicate may be understood even though it is not expressed." Harner likewise identifies 13:19 and 8:58 as, in your words, "unambiguously absolute EGW EIMI sayings that have no predicate expressed or implied ," while 8:24, 28 and other verses involve double entendres that include an absolute reading.

Notice that these are just assertions, not arguments. But there's a big problem with these assertions. Most major translations of John 8:24, 8:28, and 13:19 translate them as belonging to Brown's category 2, that is, with an understood predicate complement. The exception in the NAB which has "I AM." As we agreed at the beginning of our discussion back in August, the use of "I AM" points to the erroneous idea that this is a name or designation of God in Exodus 3:14. Hence my conclusion that Brown and Harner "buy into the `I Am' nonsense." Because, you see, there is simply no such thing as EIMI used as a copula in an absolute construction without an implied complement. Such a thing would be incomprehensible as a sentence.

And here we get to the hub of the problem. There simply is no such thing as an absolute copula. A copula, Rob, copulates. You cannot have a copula without something on the other side of it, so to speak, explicitly or implicitly. Don't you understand this? So your authorities are inadvertently uttering nonsense, IF, that is, they are talking about EIMI as a copula, which you assume and assert that they are. I would tend to doubt that they are guilty of such an outrageous abuse of grammar, and that is why I suspect that they are citing those verses of John as allusions by Jesus of Exodus 3:14, where an absolute EXISTENTIAL is involved. I would guess that if I checked Brown's and Harner's fuller discussion, I would find that you have as wrongly read them as speaking of an absolute copula as you did in the case of Robertson. I can understand how you could make such a mistake, since the verses they cite, with the exception of John 8:58, are usually understood to be copulas with implied predicate pronouns. I agree with this understanding and, as you know, reject as indefensible the idea that Jesus is citing Exodus 3:14 here. And although you have accused me of being unreasonably hard on Robertson for calling his remark about the absoluteness of EIMI in John 8:58 "foolish," I will at least rescue him from the responsibility you falsely place upon him of meaning something as absurd as an "absolute copula."

So your book is in error in referring to EIMI in John 8:58 as an absolute copula, because there is no such thing. If there is an implicit predicate complement ("he"), then it is not an absolute. And if there is no implicit predicate complement, EIMI cannot be a copula. If you intend to read EIMI in John 8:58 copulatively, you must realize that (a) that is not how it is translated in the traditional translation, which you have taken the position of defending, and (b) such a reading will require you to translate it with the implicit complement made explicit, as all the major translations do in such cases. Either way, you break with the traditional translation which you have taken the position of defending, and so lose the debate.

You went on in your post #17 to cite a set of definitions for `absolute,' identifying John 8:58 as fitting these definitions, all of which involve the textual absence of an implied object of the verb. These definitions do not, then, involve grammatical, syntactical, or semantic absoluteness, but what one might call orthographic absoluteness. In my reply (post #20), I pointed out two faults in your attempt to define EIMI's absoluteness. The first is that you are citing English grammatical definitions in a discussion of Greek grammar, something we had an exchange on early in our debate, where we decided this could not be allowed. Second is that these definitions involve transitive verbs, not intransitives, and the be-verb is an intransitive, so the definitions are not at all applicable to the case of John 8:58. Since you had made a rather impolite suggestion in your post that I was in need of some basic grammatical education, I turned this language back on you in pointing out such a basic error of grammar as confusing transitive and intransitive verbs.

In your message #30, rather than admitting that you were wrongly arguing the case for the absoluteness of EIMI on the basis of definitions that referred to transitive verbs, whereas EIMI is an instransitive verb, you responded,

"All this [i.e., my critical remarks about your misunderstanding of the intransitive be-verb as a transitive] because the first two dictionary definitions of `absolute' I quoted both mention that the term applies to a `transitive' . . . or `normally transitive' . . . verb."


Well, yes, the fact that the definitions you were using apply to transitive verbs shows that they have nothing to do with the be-verb which we are discussing. So it is an error on your part to regard them as supportive of your argument. But you then add,

"You might have had a point – if only I had claimed tht EIMI in John 8:58 was transitive. But I did not make that claim."


I cannot imagine, Rob, how you thought you could get away with that denial, given that your prior message is on public display for all to check. If the definitions of absolutes you are quoting involve transitive verbs, and you are not making the claim that EIMI is transitive, then what are these definitions doing in your post?

In your post #30, you say you only meant that "the definition of `absolute' underlying its usage by biblical scholars . . . was similar or analogous" to these definitions.

Let's see if that's true. You came to cite the definitions in the context of saying to me, "you are misunderstanding practically every New Testament scholar on the planet who has commented on the matter when they say that EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute or unpredicated," ("practically every New Testament scholar on the planet," of course, referring to the six you mention). To inform me what is meant when "they saythat EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute," you quote from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (which is, of course, a dictionary not a grammar):

"a. Of, relating to, or being a word, phrase, or construction that is isolated syntactically from the rest of a sentence, as _the referee having finally arrived_ in _The referee having finally arrived, the game began_."


[This, by the way, is probably what Robertson meant by his remark. (JB)]

"b. Of, relating to, or being a transitive verb when its object is implied but not stated. For example, _inspires_ in _We have a teacher who inspires_ is an absolute verb."


On which you comment:

"Clearly, the applicable definition here is (b), according to which a verb is `absolute' if it is a transitive verb with no object expressed."


The definition is "applicable" to what? To saying that EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute, of course. That is what you explicitly said you were explaining to me. Later in the same post, you reiterate:

"In this respect, its being `absolute' corresponds with the dictionary definitions of an absolute verb as a normally transitive verb that is used intransitively."

"Its being `absolute'," of course, refers to John 8:58 being absolute according to your claim, and this being absolute "corresponds with the dictionary definitions" which, again explicitly involves "a normally transitive verb." So when you say in your post#30, "if only I had claimed that EIMI in John 8:58 was transitive. But I did not make that claim," this is clearly an untruth. There are your own words to show that you did make such a claim in your post#17, and to show that in denying that you did so, in your post #30, you are not being truthful. Nowhere in your post#17 did you qualify the identification of EIMI with these definitions involving transitive verbs, nor did you use the words "similar" or "analogous" in making this identification. So, once again, rather than acknowledge error, you attempt a dodge that only makes things worse by entangling yourself in more convoluted dodges and false statements. After more than seven months of this I am losing my generous attitude towards this sort of conduct, a generous attitude you counted on to defend you against harsher criticisms of your conduct of the debate voiced by others who have been following it.

In your post#30 you go on to try to suggest that some grammarians classify the be-verb as neither transitive nor intransitive. But your definitions in post#17 involve transitive verbs, not verbs that are neither transitive nor intransitive. In any case, the suggestion makes no sense, since a verb either expresses an action which is not confined to the agent and which is capable of governing a direct object, or does not. The be-verb does not. As the Greek grammars show in their discussion of EIMI, when there is an implied predicate noun, pronoun, or adjective, the verb is a copula, and so by definition intransitive; when there is no implied predicate noun, pronoun, or adjective, but the verb (with all its adverbial modifications) forms a complete predicate, it is existential, and so by definition intransitive.

You went on to say in your post#17:
"Let's get specific here. PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is clearly not a `predicate' or `complement' in the sense of a subject complement. It is neither an adjective phrase nor a noun phrase nor any equivalent (such as an articular participle)."

No one has ever said that it is, obviously, since it is an adverbial clause. From this you conclude:
"In this sense, EIMI is `unpredicated' or `absolute.'"

What rubbish. This is like saying, "The be-verb is not a transitive verb; in this sense, it is not a verb." You are saying that the PRIN clause is not an adjectival or nominal complement, and "in this sense" it is not a complement. This is meaningless, because in another sense, in a valid sense, it is a complement. The "sense" which you are denying to PRIN only applies when the be-verb is a copula, not when it functions existentially. Only when the be-verb is a copula can it have an adjectival or nominal complement, and without one be `absolute.' But it cannot be really `absolute' and a copula at the same time, because to be a copula it must have at least an implied complement. When the be-verb is a copula, and is written without an explicit complement (and so is orthographically absolute), the implied complement is to be found in the immediate context. When such a construct is translated in the Bible, the implied complement is typically rendered explicit, otherwise the copula might be mistaken for the existential. Now in other occurrences of EGW EIMI in John that you have been citing as comparable there is no nearby noun, pronoun, or adjective that the reader can latch onto as the implied reference, and so translators supply a generic "he." That this seems to be the correct solution in a passage such as John 8:24 is supported but the response of the crowd. If you read John 8:58 in the same way, however, there is a contextual noun which can be referenced, which is "Abraham." So by this reading of the sentence, you come up with "I was Abraham before Abraham was born." Now if we want to avoid that (although if ancient readers took EIMI copulatively, they could hardly have avoided such an understanding), then we would have to take this as another example of the mysterious, unidentified implied "he" found also in 8:24. I have no problem with that. But in that case we would need to recognize that John supplies the missing reference of the implied "he" of 8:24 in 8:28, where he makes it explicitly "the Son of Man." How that reference would work in John 8:58 I don't pretend to know. But in any case it would not be the traditional English translation, and so you would be venturing down a new path and abandoning your defense of that translation. Hence my remark that this whole effort at identifying EIMI as in some sense `absolute' in not in any sense applicable or relevant to our debate. If you would like to adopt this position, you may do so, and concede that the traditional translation is wrong. I would not object to this position, and we could conclude the debate with both of us holding defensible, though different views of the best translation of the verse:

Jason:
"I have existed since before Abraham was born."

Rob:
"Before Abraham was born, I am He."

Already in my post #1, in response to your mention of `absolute' in your book, I pointed out that there is not a single clear-cut case of a true absolute use of the be-verb in the whole of John. Some sort of predicate complement is typically implicit, unless we take it that Jesus is saying repeatedly simply "I exist." But I have already pointed out how John 8:24 shows, by the response of those who hear Jesus' remark, that this is not the case. In John 8:58, on the other hand, there is an explicit adverbial complement, and none of your "absolute" parallels involve an adverb, adverbial phrase, or adverbial clause, so they are not close parallels at all since none involve a temporal modification of the verb, and so are true present tense uses, whereas John 8:58 is so modified and so is properly rendered as a PPA.

To conclude, an increasing amount of your argument over time has drawn on grammatical points that would be involved only if EIMI in John 8:58 is a copula. This reading is contradictory to all aspects of your argument that assumes EIMI is an existential. You are free to change, or "clarify" your position to adopt a copulative reading, and such a position would seem to me on first examination to be defensible, and to avoid many of the objections I have made to the part of your argument involving an existential reading. You would be able to maintain this as a possible translation of the verse alongside of the PPA reading, which you also accept as possible. The copulative option is not the traditional translation, however. Since our debate has been framed in terms of your defense of the traditional translation against my criticisms of it, the debate would be at an end as soon as we both acknowledge that the traditional translation is not valid, but either the copulative or the PPA translations are possible.


II. ROB'S SECOND POSITION: EIMI AS EXISTENTIAL

You said, in your post #17:
"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."


This would be fine, Rob, if we were speaking about a hypothetical absolute sentence – "I exist." – that by being given that way we are to understand is the whole sentence. But we are not dealing with a hypothetical sentence, but with an actual sentence that has more words in it. Doesn't the sentence in John 8:58 have more words in it, Rob? Sorry if it sounds like I'm talking to a fifth grader, but that's exactly how I feel. I had cautioned, in my message #20, that one needs to be clear about what we mean by the be-verb's "existential function," and cautioned that one cannot simply equate that function with, and limit it to, the absolute existential statement "I exist." Rather than accept that caution with good will, you objected to it, saying I was creating problems "out of thin air," and proceeded to make exactly the same mistake again (in your post #30): "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." Now notice what you do here: you give the grammatical term "existential" the meaning `I exist' in an absolute form. This is precisely the equation I said you were committing in your post#17 confusing different meanings of the term `existential,' an observation that you protested in your post#30 as something you had "never suggested or implied," and that you challenged me to point out in what you had said.

Now I note two shifts in your position here. First, you follow the suggestion I made back in post #4 that in absolute existential statements, English abandons the be-verb for an alternative, such as "exist." This shift in itself recognizes the validity of my criticism of the traditional English translation in one respect. Second, you shift your argument from saying that the PRIN clause in John 8:58 is an adjunct to saying that, while it may be a complement as I have contended, it is at least not an OBLIGATORY complement. But there are a number of problems with your contention as you have stated it.

First, it is circular. You postulate a use of EIMI where its meaning and point is primarily "exist," that is, an absolute use, and on the basis of that postulate say in such a use it will not have an obligatory complement. But by these conditions it will not have any complement at all. You have simply ruled out, as a premise, existential functions that involve depictives, that is, qualifications and modifications of the character of being in existential statements.

Second, it is overstated. You claim about EIMI that "if it has a complement it will not be an obligatory one." This is wrong. Consider, for example, the negative complement, which is an obligatory one in any sentence where it occurs. In the hypothetical sentence "He never existed," it is patently false to say that the complement "never" is not obligatory. Let me know if you do not understand why.

Third, although you speak here in terms of complements, at the end of your post #30 you speak as if there is an either/or between obligatory complements and adjuncts. You deliberately omit optional complements, which form an essential and integral part of the discussion on the pages of the Cambridge Grammar that you cite. This is to give a false impression about the possible relations of the dependent clause to the main one, artificially limiting the options in order to suggest that if it is not obligatory, it is not a complement but an adjunct. This is completely false.

I readily acknowledge that we could go round and round on whether depictives are obligatory or optional, as we have on so many other issues, with no prospect of agreeing. In English, the complement of a be-verb is generally obligatory, in its existential as well as its copulative and auxiliary functions, as the Cambridge Grammar states. You have wisely chosen a rendering that avoids the be-verb, as I have suggested all along, for EIMI in John 8:58, and thus dodged this character of the English be-verb. I would argue that depictives are equally obligatory for Greek EIMI. But whether they are obligatory or optional, they are complements, and that means they complete the meaning of the verb in the sentence in which they occur.

The simple sentence "I exist," of course, has no complements, so that doesn't help us see what sort of complements existential verbs have. Take, for example, "I existed yesterday." Is "yesterday" in this sentence an optional, or an obligatory complement.? In "In the beginning was the Word," is "in the beginning" an optional or obligatory complement? One might argue that these are both examples of optional complements, since it remains true that "I existed," and "The Word was" with or without the specifics of when.

But once one concedes that the PRIN clause is a complement, not an adjunct, regardless of whether it is obligatory or optional you have recognized that what the sentence is conveying is not the mere fact of existence, but existence in relation to other conditions. In John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word," is not saying just that "The Word was." The meaning and point of the sentence is that the Word was in a particular point of time. In John 8:58, the semantics of the predicate is not Jesus' mere existence, but existence in relation to a temporal depictive, just as in the sentence "Jill is in her study," it is not the mere existence of Jill, but her existence in relation to a locative depictive that is the meaning of the predicate.

This is the point I made in a part of my message #20 that you decided not to reply to. You had quoted once again a familiar set of examples:


To these I replied: "Precisely. Note how in each case the full meaning of the statement is not `I am serving you' or `I am with you' or `You are thinking' or `You know the sacred writings' or `The devil is sinning.' In each case, the temporal modification provides the complete significance of the verb, which is in the duration of the action or state, not the mere facticity of action or state. This is precisely the case with John 8:58, where it is not the existence of Jesus on the day of his remark that is significant, but the duration of that existence over supernaturally long time. Don't you agree?"

Will you answer this question now? By reverting to talking about the PRIN clause as an adjunct at the end of your post #30, you deliberately avoid conceding its complementary character, and give the false impression that if it is not an obligatory complement, then it must be an adjunct. This is simply an incomplete, and therefore false, set of choices.

In my post #20, I had pointed out that you were using an English grammar to argue something about the Greek, and asked which language you were intending to make a point about. You reply, in your post #30, "I was making a point about the Greek." So, do I need to remind you that we agreed long ago that this is invalid? Or do those rules only apply to me?

Here again, you chose not to reply to my comment:
"Now it seems to me you are ignoring a crucial point I made in the passage you quoted from my post 4 about the English of John 8:58 based on the Cambridge Grammar, which says: `Most obviously, the verb be almost always requires an internal complement' (page 222). Notice `requires' and about the be-verb, too. You instead are citing material and examples from the Cambridge Grammar not specifically about the be-verb. As you well know, many of the things we can say about transitive verbs we cannot say about intransitives, and vice versa. Many of the rules and characterizations that apply for other verbs are different for the be-verb. So you are not even citing particularly relevant English grammar here, not to mention anything at all about Greek. I cited from the Cambridge Grammar be-verb sentences closely parallel to John 8:58 that clearly illustrate the place of complements in them: `Jill is in her study' -- `in her study' is a complement, not an adjunct, because the statement is not that Jill exists, but that she presently exists in a particular place. `The meeting was on Monday' -- same comments. What the verb indicates is fundamentally different with or without its complement." (JB post #20)


Can you please defend the meaningfulness, as part of these sentences, of "Jill is" and "The meeting was"? Can you please explain to us how the speakers of these sentences were conveying, in an absolute sense, the existence of Jill and the meeting, rather than the specific temporal or spatial existence of Jill and the meeting? Do you agree that these are existential uses of their respective verbs? Are "in her study" and "on Monday" adjuncts or complements? Are they obligatory or optional?

With regard to Proverbs 8:22-25, we have been debating whether or not it involves a PPA in the verb GENNAi. In my post#20, I pointed out that you made a mistake in asking rhetorically (in your post#17) "How can God `beget' wisdom before the beginning?" since the passage does not say that God "begat" (or "begets") wisdom "before the beginning," but rather that he "ESTABLISHED" wisdom "IN the beginning." Your rhetorical question was part of an argument that we are forced away from a PPA reading of the verb because there is not a logical temporal relation here, but rather "paradox." I stated that the actual reading of the verse is simply temporal priority, "in the beginning" (compare John 1:1) without paradox. Replying to my observations in your post #30 you acknowledge that it does indeed read "in the beginning" rather than "before the beginning," but, you add, God "begets" wisdom "before his various acts of creation." Well, this is not the same as what you asserted in your post #17, and it also leaves out the prior clause, as I have already pointed out in our discussion of this passage (in my post #8), namely, "The Lord created (EKTISE) me as a beginning of his ways for his works." This is perfectly clear and unambiguous: wisdom is created, in a past tense. So then, according to your reading, God creates wisdom in the past, but begets wisdom always. Well, that's interesting, but I think rather cumbersome when you have aspects of the present tense that would bring these two verbs into closer harmony in meaning. I stated that I had seen examples where a present tense has the sense of an ongoing condition of a past action or state, and suggested that this is for all intents and purposes indistinguishable from the PPA. You objected to this rather undeveloped observation as not established in the grammars. But this usage is of course simply the perfective present, which Dana & Mantey includes with the PPA within the Progressive Present category (182-183). Brooks & Winbery say that the perfective "has something in common" with the PPA, but whereas the PPA "emphasizes the fact that the action is still in progress," the perfective emphasizes "the result or state of being of the action" (90). They point out that the perfective present "is not limited to verbs whose stem expresses perfective Aktionsart . . . Context as well as root meaning can produce the perfective idea of existing results" (89-90). But acknowledging that my argument collapsed two types distinguished, however finely, in the grammars, I recognized that you were not obliged to go along with my explanation. So already in post #8 I said, "So at least two and possibly three of your eleven examples are PPAs, and these are also the two or three that most closely resemble John 8:58, in that the aorist infinitive of the dependent adverbial clause is used of past time (as noted by Winer), rather than general or future time."

That was post #8, so it is hardly correct to say that I "have backed away" from the classification of GENNAi as a PPA in my "more recent posts." Already in post #8 I indicated that I did not insist on it, and did not need it to make my argument. Since then I have only commented on your continuing efforts to translate it using a simple present, and to associate that translation with John 8:58. I have continued to maintain that it cannot be translated that way, because it has a perfective aspect, as the context clearly shows, and that perfective aspect is created by the same temporal modification as is found in cases of the PPA. So the distinction is a semantic one, not a grammatical one, and a very narrow semantic one at that, since it still involves a past aspect.

It must also be noted that your discussion of this verse is part of a discussion of supposed "contrast" between clauses and verbs within a single sentence. For your other examples in this discussion, you "contrast" verbs of being with verbs of becoming. But as I have pointed out, GENNAW is a verb of becoming, so what is it being "contrasted" to in its sentence? Other verbs of becoming. So much for "contrast." The "contrast" you have in mind, of course, is the Christian theological contrast of being begotten to being created; but that's not in the Greek grammar itself, but is imposed on it by a tradition of later interpretation. And do note that wisdom is said to be both created and begotten in this passage. You obscure the arbitrariness of your distinctions by calling them "semantic," and claim that there is no comparable contrast between the two verbs in one of my extrabiblical examples, "I have been a friend of yours a long time, before I saw you" (your rendering). But we see here the same degree of contrast as in your own preferred biblical examples, namely between a being-verb and an action-verb. This highlights the arbitrariness of your distinctions, which are under the influence of extra-grammatical forces.

best wishes,
Jason B.

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