Friday, March 11, 2005

RB17258 - Rob #33: Once again, word order 

(RB17258) - Rob #33: [Fri Mar 11, 2005 8:44 pm](Once again, word order)


In this post, I will reply to your post #24, which was in turn a reply to my post #23. In that post, I had offered two contemporary examples of the use of indicative forms of the be-verb that are similar to the conventional translations of Psalm 89:2 LXX and John 8:58 (from Benjamin Hoff's _The Tao of Pooh_ and Guy Finley's _The Lost Secrets of Prayer_). Both examples happen to italicize the be-verb so used ("Pooh just _is_"; "all already _is_"). I suggested that the italicization was for emphasis and that the wording would have the same force without the italics. You replied:

So you knew going in that there's something up with these two texts, something that makes them italicize the "is." That something is the recognition by the authors that they are employing "is" ungrammatically, precisely as you say for emphasis, to make a point; and when the second author wishes to state the same point with the emphasis elsewhere, he employs "exists." So thank you for making my point for me. (pp. 296-97)

We have evidence at least in Guy Finley's statement that the italicization does not mark the italicized "is" as ungrammatical, namely, that he italicized other words, INCLUDING "EXISTS":

"_Everything that ever was or ever will be_ already _exists_.... So in God's world, all already _is_."--Guy Finley, _The Lost Secrets of Prayer_ (Llewellyn, 1998), 32, 33 (emphasis in original).

By your reasoning, "exists" must be italicized because it is ungrammatical, but you argue that "exists" is grammatically correct.

You wrote:

But whatever you meant, the simple acknowledgment that the "wording" of the English translations as "unusual or odd" irreversibly puts the burden of proof on you to defend it, as I have said all along. No counting up of translations shifts that burden anywhere else, as I said way back at the beginning of all this, because those translations are made within tradition of translation and interpretation that make enumeration an illegitimate source of "evidence" on the question.

The burden of proof is a mild one: All I really need to do is to give a plausible, meaningful explanation for why almost all English versions have translated it with this "unusual or odd" wording. I do not have to prove that this wording is the only legitimate translation or that the alternative translations that employ a form of the past tense to render EIMI are completely without merit. One reason that the burden of proof is light on the side of "tradition" is that theologians throughout the centuries who have dissented from the traditional view of Christ have nevertheless assumed the correctness of the traditional rendering. J. Ernest Davey, whom I quoted in my book (_Jehovah's Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John_, 88-89), is a twentieth-century example. Regarding John 8:58, he wrote:

".before Abraham was I _am_ -- the change of tense implies an obvious use of the formula of divinity.... The clearest cases are (1) 8:58, where the tense is significant, as one expects 'I was'...and (2) 18:5, 6.... In John 8:58 we have probably a deliberate change of tense, i.e. from a claim of preexistence as Messiah to a claim of divinity, made however in the Greek and due to the evangelist, who has also in other places in _John_ interpreted words of Jesus in a mistaken way...." -- J. Ernest Davey, _The Jesus of St. John_ (London: Lutterworth, 1958), 94, 136, 137.

I can even appeal to the NWT in support of the traditional word order, since it also preposes the dependent clause in violation of your canon of English syntax. The best you say about this counterevidence from the nontraditional NWT is that somehow its translators were unduly influenced in this regard by the tradition of English translation. I don't find this at all plausible, because the NWT exhibits an almost obsessive penchant for departing from traditional renderings even when they are perfectly acceptable and noncontroversial. In any event, clearly the NWT translators were focused on John 8:58 as a text they chose to translate in a nontraditional way. Yet they retained the same word order that you claim is obviously defective English.

In Christ's service,

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

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