Friday, March 11, 2005

RB17257 - Rob #32: Exodus 4:10 and 21:36 and the PPA 

(RB17257) - Robert Bowman [Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:42 pm] (Rob #32: Exodus 4:10 and 21:36 and the PPA)

In this post I will respond to your post #22 and so conclude my replies to your series of posts from late October (your posts #17-22).

In your post #22, you asked me to "take into consideration the following two additional OT PPAs involving the verb EIMI that we have failed to include before now." You quoted those two texts as follows:

Exodus 4:10 "Lord, I have not been fit (OUCH hIKANOS EIMI) before (PRO) yesterday or before the third day [i.e., in the past]." Exodus 21:36 "But if it is known of the bull that it has been a gorer (hOTI KERATISTHS ESTI) before (PRO) yesterday and before the third day [i.e., in the past] . . ."

Yes, I've seen these two texts before. Greg Stafford makes much of these two texts in his book _Jehovah's Witnesses Defended_ (2d ed., 274). Stafford claims that Brenton's English translation in both texts is "trying to capture the sense of an idiom used in the Greek text," and of course this claim is implicit in your citation of these texts as examples of the PPA. The idiom in question is really a Hebrew one that the LXX literally, if woodenly, translated. Specifically, the temporal phrase "yesterday and the third day" ("third" counting inclusively, thus referring to the day before yesterday) is a Hebrew idiom that we might translate "yesterday and the day before" but which actually means "previously" or "in the past." The LXX translates this same idiom literally in Exodus 21:29 (where the verb Hi is the present subjunctive) and elsewhere.

Let's take the first of the two texts that you and Stafford cite:

"I am not fit, before yesterday or the day before, or from when you began to speak to your servant; I am weak of speech and slow of tongue" (Ex. 4:10).

Here the LXX, in a somewhat awkwardly literal translation (which I have tried to reproduce in the above English rendering), reports Moses making the general statement that he is not able or worthy to be God's spokesman, and then qualifying that statement temporally in two ways: previously ("before yesterday or the day before") and since God first started speaking to him. Thus, if we want to convey the full sense in our translation, we might render it as follows: "I was not fit previously, nor am I [or, "have I been"] fit since you began to speak to your servant." Note that your translation, "I have not been fit before yesterday or before the third day," is not grammatically normal English (something that you consider very important in a translation!). In English, one would not say, "I have not been fit before yesterday," but rather "I was not fit before yesterday." You might, then, decide that it would be better translated, "I have not been fit since before yesterday." I would have no objection to such a translation as a way of smoothing out the sentence in English, but only because of the rest of the sentence, not because of the temporal phrases with PRO. It is the final temporal phrase, "since you began to speak to your servant," that might be construed as marking the verb EIMI as a PPA. Again, though, I think EIMI is temporally qualified in two different ways in this complex sentence.

The statements in Exodus 21 are quite different, though they use the same idiom. Here is the one you quoted in part:

"But if the bull is known that it is a gorer before yesterday or the day before, and if they are warning its master and he did not restrain it, he shall pay back bull for bull, but the one killed shall be for him" (Ex. 21:36).

The present tenses in this sentence appear to be the kind of present one finds in legal texts, a special genre-specific idiomatic use of the present found in English as well. We might translate the sentence like this:

"But if the bull is known to be a gorer previous to the incident, and if those knowing it warn its master and yet he failed to restrain it...."

I think this is a far better translation than something like this: "But if the bull is known to have been a gorer since before the incident" (which, again, is how you would actually need to translate it if you want to construe the verb as a PPA).

However one construes the present-tense verbs in these two texts, I do not think these examples overturn my conclusion that the aorist infinitive clause marks the present-tense main verb as expressing antecedent time in texts like John 8:58.

In Christ's service,

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

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