Monday, May 23, 2005

JB17738 - Jason#34: And finally... 

Jason BeDuhn [Mon May 23, 2005 7:21 pm] (Jason #34: And finally . . . )

Since in your latest post you insist that my characterization is unfair, and that you fully recognize the modifying role of the adverbial clause, it remains only a matter of coming to terms with in what manner an adverbial clause of past time may modify the main verb. My position is that it modifies the verb in the direction of the past, making the present progressive from the past. What is your position on this modification?

In my post #28, I pressed you to make clear one of your lines of argument:

JASON: "Do you mean to argue that the PPA so overlaps with the `universal' gnomic and the `static' that to say that EIMI in John 8:58 can be construed as a PPA is necessarily to leave open its construal as one of these other two categories of use? Or do you mean to argue that EIMI in John 8:58 is one of these other two categories of use and NOT a PPA? These are two distinct, irreconciliable arguments, but I can't quite tell which of them you are making. In either case, I think you have insurmountable obstacles to making your case. In the first line of argument, you have not been able to demonstrate that any grammars support the idea that the PPA overlaps with these other categories of use (and for good reason, because the progressive temporal quality of the PPA is exactly what is lacking in "universal" or "static" states or natures). In the second line of argument you face the challenge that none of your grammars identifies John 8:58 as belonging to these other categories of use. Four of your grammars consider it a PPA, and to the best of my knowledge none of them cite it under any other category of use."

To this you replied in your post #34:

ROB: "The answer is that neither of these is my argument. My argument is that the PPA is formally similar enough to the universal gnomic, static, and other broad-band presents that a text that in some ways looks like a PPA text might be better construed as a different type of broad-band present. In other words, in some cases which use of the present most exactly fits the text may be a judgment call."

In other words, Rob, you are introducing "a different type of broad-band present" not identified or recognized in the grammars. Well, we decided back last fall that this was out of bounds, and that any grammatical argument must be based in recognized grammatical categories. Your "different type" of present here is quite simply your "eternal present" slipped back into the argument after you agreed to retract it. Meanwhile, have already shown how what you wished to include under `broad-band presents' can be divided into those that are recurrent or constant, and those modified by specific past-time events. This is a clear point of differentiation that does not leave any room for a `judgment call.'

In your post #35 you resorted to the following ploy:

"As for the point you make here, what we have seen is that you have to accuse translators throughout the English-speaking world and over the past many centuries of mistranslating not only John 8:58, but also Psalm 89:2 LXX, apparently also 1 Corinthians 15:6 and 1 John 2:9, and perhaps Colossians 1:17 as well. There is nothing `obvious' about your position. The conventional translations of these texts work just fine, and in neither Psalm 89:2 nor John 8:58 (nor Colossians 1:17!) require excising the `before' clauses."

If you bothered to read my book with anything but a jaundiced eye, you would realize that what I have said is that both unconscious theological bias as well as strong traditions of translation have shaped modern translations of the Bible. When people are used to hearing a particular rendering of a passage ringing in their ears, it shapes how they think of it, and how they will themselves render it when given the opportunity. That is why English archaisms survive in Bible translations far more than in other literature. All of these translators are interconnected by common religious and literary heritage. So just counting up how many of them agree is a circular argument. Let's take 1 Cor. 15:6 for example. I have said that proper modern English would translate a clause of this verse as something like "The majority have remained (MENOUSIN) until now," rather than "remain until now," because there is a progressive element in the verb's meaning, rather than a static one, with a clear duration from a past event to the time of sentence is uttered. Now the verb here means "remain, continue" as is translated that way by the KJV, NASB, and NW. But along came the Revised Standard Version, where the translators thought it better rendered paraphrastically as "are still alive." And then, lo and behold, this rendering suddenly pops up everywhere, in the NIV, NAB, AB, LB, TEV, English Standard, etc., where "still alive" or "still living" replaces the literal "remain until now." All this shows is the interdependence of Bible translation, and the rote way established phrasing gets carried over, both where it is very theologically significant and where it is fairly innocuous.

Or how about Colossians 1:17? Here again we are supposed to believe that the whole assembly of translating saints stands opposed to me in rejecting a rendering of the formally present tense ESTIN with an English past tense. Really? What about the TEV (Good News) "Christ existed before all things"; the AB "And He Himself existed before all things"; the LB "He was before all else began"; the NLT "He existed before everything else began"; the New Century "He was there before anything was made"; the Message "He was there before any of it came into existence"; and so forth? Apparently all these translators need to have defended to them what you claim "hardly needs to be defended," namely, that an English present tense is supposedly always the proper way to render a Greek present tense form of a verb. To do so in Colossians 1:17 actually produces an ungrammatical English sentence. Note the coordination of the first clause with the second, in which a perfect tense is used of how these same "all things" have related to Christ since the time referred to in the first clause, when he was "before" them.

In conclusion, then, if "I am" cannot be defended as a copulative rendering (since those translations that have "I am" in John 8:58 have "I am he" in what they take to be copulative cases, which is the necessary form of such copulative sentences in English), and it cannot be defended as an existential rendering (because modern English favors "exist" for this function, as you yourself have conceded by recently switching to "exist" in defending the possibility of an `absolute" expression of existence), then "I am" simply cannot be defended.


We have spent an inordinate amount of time arguing over your use of "absolute." I have objected that your use of "absolute" derives from grammatical discussions that have nothing to do with the grammatical features of John 8:58. The "good detective work" for which I praised you was identifying a sense of "absolute" that would explain how some biblical scholars have used the term that has nothing to do with our debate over John 8:58, because it involved the presence or absence of nominal, pronominal, or adjectival complements. This is simply not an issue between us for John 8:58, and your "good detective work" demonstrated the irrelevance of the remarks about "absolutes" you were citing. You have cited definitions or grammatical discussions of "absolute" that refer to transitive verbs lacking an explicit complement – this has nothing to do with John 8:58, which does not have a transitive verb. You have cited and made comparisons to sentences in which EIMI functions as a copula – this has nothing to do with the traditional translation of John 8:58, which does not render EIMI as a copula.

In my post #20, I said that one cannot refer to EIMI in John 8:58 as a predicate absolute "in any sense relevant to the issues we are debating, since obviously we agree that it does not involve a predicate noun or adjective." In other words, this sense of "absolute" has nothing to do with EIMI in John 8:58, which is an intransitive verb, not a transitive one as in the definitions you cited, and it has an adverbial complement, although not a nominal or adjectival one, and so is by no means "absolute" in the sense of uncomplemented. Despite this, you have continued to claim that EIMI is "absolute" because it does not have a nominal or adjectival complement. The only response to this is, "So what?" Isn't our argument about the semantic tense of the main verb? Nominal or adjectival complements have nothing to do with this issue. It does have an adverbial complement, the only sort of complement relevant to our debate. I have said that because it is complemented, it is not "absolute" in the sense most grammarians mean by the term when used generically, and in the sense you would need it to be to support your position on the semantic tense of the verb. In fact, in an existential verb, we would not normally have a nominal or adjectival complement, and so we would never speak of an existential verb as
"absolute" for lacking such kinds of complements. Rather, its absoluteness would be determined by the lack of other sorts of complements typical of existentials, namely, adverbials.

Up to now, you have dodged this problem by citing discussions and comparisons that involve the be-verb in its copulative rather than existential function. To this I objected that there is no such thing as an absolute copula, since a verb cannot be a copula without at least an implicit predicate complement. Notice that Kahn, whom you cite on the subject of "absolutes" in your post #36, likewise affirms that an absolute use of the Greek be-verb and a copulative use of it are mutually exclusive (He says that a particular use of EIMI he calls the `veridical' "cannot in general be identified with a copula use because the syntax of the veridical is typically `absolute', with no nominal or locative predicate expression," Kahn, p. 333). Even if sentences such as John 8:24 and 8:28 may be, by some stretch of expression, described as formally absolute, they are not semantically absolute. They have implicit predicate complements, and must have such implicit predicate complements to be complete sentences. But in your post #36 you say:

"a copulative verb . . . can also be used with no recognizable or discernible predicate expressed or implied, even though its usage appears to be copulative. This is how many exegetes understand John 8:24 . . ."

You go on to read this verse as an incomplete sentence. Now, of course, in an incomplete sentence, grammatical requirements can go unfulfilled. If I am interrupted mid-sentence, I cannot be held accountable for failing to provide all that grammar requires of a complete sentence. But of course John 8:24 is not an incomplete sentence, and to treat it that way is just silly. Jesus does not say "I am . . ." and leave a pregnant "blank" to elicit a inquiry from his
audience. He says, in perfect idiomatic Greek, a complete sentence whose actual meaning is equivalent to the English sentence "I am he." The ambiguity of the implicit predicate complement ("he") evokes the further questioning of his audience. All you need to do is compare his expression here to the same expression used several times in John 18 to see that this is a recognizable complete sentence. It is translated as a complete sentence, with the implicit predicate complement supplied, in most major translations, the same ones that translate John 8:58 without supplying the pronoun because they do not construe it as the same sort of sentence. Even your comparison to Isaiah 43:10 shows that Greek EGW EIMI has the meaning "I am he," not "I am . . ."

In your post #36, you say:

"The words `I exist,' like EGW EIMI, *can* be a whole, complete sentence, but they can also of course be part of a larger sentence, as EGW EIMI are in John 8:58. You know that, I know that, and you know that I know that."

Yes, Rob, what you say is true in modern English of "I exist," but not of "I am." The latter only appears in modern English in a very specific context where the verb is a copula with an implicit predicate complement supplied by the immediate context of communication. In your post #36 you observe this usage (as I did in my post #4 nine months ago), that in answer to the direct question "Are you x?" – it is acceptable in English to answer "I am." Here again, while formally
absolute this sentence is certainly not semantically absolute; the "x" is implicit. And if you remove the sentence from the specific circumstance of the direct question, it becomes meaningless without the "x" being provided. Note as well that neither John 8:58, nor in the other occurrences in John 8 or 18, is there this specific circumstance of the question "Are you x?" Therefore your citation of this English idiom is irrelevant. Your tacit acknowledgment that "exist" is more usual or normal in modern English usage than "am" when we are dealing with an existential rather than a copulative expression supports what I have been saying all along, and what you admitted months ago, that the traditional translation of John 8:58 is "unusual" and not a standard English sentence. Nor is there any legitimacy to the notion that this oddness of expression needs to be used in order to make clear connections to other EGW EIMI sentences in the gospel, when the sweeping inclusion within a single category of every occurrence of EGW EIMI despite quite distinct grammatical uses of this pronoun-verb combination, is a claim open to dispute and debate.

To defend your use of "absolute" to characterize EIMI in John 8:58, you cite from Charles Kahn's book on the Greek verb `be,' which I am sure we both wish was more helpful for the issues we are discussing. But here, once again, you have cited a comment on EIMI in one usage (namely, existential) for an argument on a different usage (namely, copulative), continuing your habit of misusing the grammars. But let's take a closer look at Kahn. You quote him as follows:

"By an absolute construction I mean that there is no nominal or locative predicate and no other complement such as the possessive dative, nor even an adverb of manner. An absolute construction may, however, admit adverbs of time" (240).

You go on to comment:
"Please notice that Kahn defines `an absolute construction' as one in which `there is no nominal or locative predicate and no other complement such as the possessive dative, nor even an adverb of manner,' and that he then explicitly notes that such an `absolute construction' may have associated with it `adverbs of time.' This definition agrees nicely with the usage of the term `absolute' in biblical scholarship with regards to John 8:58." You say elsewhere, "It is quite common for scholars to use the term `absolute' (or the term `unpredicated') to describe the verb even if there is an adverbial associated with it."

So then, Rob, what advance of your position does it make to use "absolute" in this sense, since such a use of the term does not disassociate the verb from its adverbial modification? I can't imagine how you thought this would help you. It apparently was of such importance to you to be vindicated for referring to EIMI in John 8:58 as "absolute" that you would resort to a use of that term that, when applied to John 8:58 actually defeats you. Going back to my point in my post #20, the question is not whether someone uses the term "absolute," but what they mean by it. You have cited a number of different references to "absolute" that employ the term in different ways, and I have kept challenging you to say something relevant to John 8:58 with regard to "absolute" and to show how what others mean by the word applies to what you are claiming "absolute" means. You have in fact talked of EIMI as an "absolute" in the context of arguing that it stands alone from any temporal modification by the adverbial clause, so that it remains present tense. But Kahn clearly does not use "absolute" in that sense. You go so far as to emphasize the correlation of what he calls an "absolute construction" with John 8:58 in that such a construction "may admit adverbs of time." In other words, temporal adverbials are so closely connected to the verb they modify that they do not count as predication, but as part of the verb, just as in the sentence on which he was commenting in the passage you cited from him, where EISI does not appear alone with a subject, but together with the adverb ETI, `yet, still.' Kahn himself reiterates this on p. 281, where he says that a construction of a particular type "is `absolute' (in the sense that there is no nominal or locative predicate and no `complement' such as the possessive dative or the predicate genitive, ALTHOUGH THERE MAY BE A TEMPORAL MODIFIER like NUN `now')."

Kahn's definition of "absolute," then, would encompass EIMI with its adverbial modification in John 8:58, so that "have been" is the proper "absolute" rendering of the verb by this definition. By calling EIMI in John 8:58 an "absolute" in Kahn's terms, you do not make it independent of its temporal modification. So by all means, call it an "absolute" if you want to. It was unfair of me to say that you didn't understand the meaning of the word. What you don't understand is how
calling EIMI an "absolute" by any of the definitions of that term you have cited fails to provide even the slightest support for your position.

Which brings us back to Robertson. I have pointed out how in your book you foisted your own assumption about what "absolute" means onto Robertson's terse statement that EIMI in John 8:58 is absolute, by claiming to provide what Robertson means by the term. Your reader would naturally assume that you derived that meaning from other things Robertson says about "absolute." I demonstrated that by actually looking at what else Robertson says about "absolute," the meaning you claimed he gave it was nowhere to be found. In your post #36, then,
you concede, "You are partly right: Robertson never uses the term `absolute' to refer to a verb that HE IDENTIFIES AS copulative" (you used star marks for emphasis where I have made all caps), trying to suggest by your emphasis that he had simply failed to explicitly identify John 8:58 as copulative when he remarked on it being "absolute." Your suggestion is false, of course, as you well know because you go on to cite his remark on page 394 where he explicitly identifies EIMI in John 8:58 as existential. What you go on to say about how you would now qualify what you said in your book is as illegitimate as the original statement. What Robertson means by "absolute" in reference to John 8:58 must have something to do with why he hesitates to identify it as a PPA, since that is the context in which he makes the reference. It would be nonsensical to say a verb is not a PPA because it does not have a subject complement. The
presence or absence of a subject complement has nothing to do with whether a verb is or is not a PPA. One might suggest, then, that Robertson meant what Kahn means by "absolute," since Kahn's remark has to do with existential usages of EIMI and we know that Robertson
construes EIMI in John 8:58 as an existential. But if he had the same definition of "absolute" as Kahn, this would not be a reason why the verb could not be a PPA, since Kahn says that his meaning of "absolute" includes temporal adverbial modification. So we are left with the only remaining possibility, that Robertson meant "absolute" in its general sense of completely unmodified, which as I have said, is a foolish claim to make about EIMI in John 8:58 and we must regard as a mistake on Robertson's part, influenced by the traditional translation which does indeed treat the verb as "absolute" in this sense, as completely unmodified.

You correctly point out that at the beginning of the discussion we both seemed to be in agreement that, "By itself, of course, the word EIMI does not connote eternal preexistence." I don't like to contradict myself, but what I thought we agreed on has been challenged by your effort in the course of our discussion to somehow detach EIMI from its temporal modification so as to defend what in English is a simple present form of the be-verb. The incoherence in your argument has been that you want EIMI to be "absolute" in the sense of not modified in tense by the adverbial clause, and so properly translated as "am," and yet on the other hand modified in tense by the adverbial clause so that it is an eternal "am," rather than a simple present. You can't have it both ways. Either EIMI is temporally modified, or it is not. If it is not, then it is a simple present (and in this sentence a non sequiter). If it is, then it is modified toward the past, and that is what we call a progressive present or PPA. Those are your only choices on the issue of adverbial modification here. You have to take a position one way or another.

In my post #20 I commented on your list of examples of temporally modified clauses:

JASON: "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?"

Since you didn't answer in any of your subsequent postings, I block quoted the whole section again, and asked, in my post #31, "Will you answer this question now?" Apparently not.

In my post #31, I went on to ask regarding old familiar examples from the Cambridge English Grammar:

JASON: "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?"

You replied in your post #36:

"I have said numerous times now that EGW EIMI is not `conveying…the mere fact of existence,' and that the PRIN clause makes this clear. However, that doesn't mean that EGW EIMI would be meaningless without the PRIN clause; it means that the full import of EGW EIMI would not be expressed without it. It is a fact that one *can* in some instances say something like `Jill is, as in answer to certain questions, such as `Who is in the study?' In such a sentence there is an implicit complement that has already been expressed in the question and is therefore tacitly implied in the answer. So I agree that in the sentence `Jill is in the study' the prepositional phrase `in the study' is an obligatory complement. However, PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGWEIMI is not that sort of sentence."

To get away with this subjective distinction, you went on to repeat a claim from an earlier posting, that an existential use of EIMI cannot have an obligatory complement. As I already pointed out long ago, the negative is an obligatory complement of ANY verb, including the
be-verb. Also, by Kahn's own definition, a temporal modification would always be obligatory, since he construes it as part of the verb. So your claim seems to be poorly thought through.

In my post #30 I pointed out:
"what you are saying here is that John 8:58 is semantically a PPA, even if you will not agree that it is grammatically so. Note your own words `a state antecedent . . . continues.' Now, as a principle of translation, are you not bound to provide an English sentence that accurately renders the meaning of the Greek. Wherever you think you are deriving that meaning, whether from a strict reading of the grammar, or from its modification by its immediate context, that is what you are obliged to do. Now how, in English, do we convey a state that pertains already antecedent to a past event and continues to the present? Do we use a simple present to do that? No. Do we use a simple past? No. We use a progressive form: `I have been, I have existed.' Isn't that so?"

To this you replied in your post #35:
"I have *always*, beginning with my book sixteen years ago, agreed that in a broad sense of the PPA the verb EIMI might be construed as one, in that it connotes existence/life in the past that continues into the present. This is nothing new. How do we convey this in English? It depends on a combination of factors, all of which must be taken into account. The grammar is only one factor. When we consider the relation of this saying to other EGW EIMI sayings of Jesus, especially those in 8:24, 28, the allusions to EGW EIMI sayings of God in the LXX, and the intentional contrast between EIMI and GENESQAI with its implication of omnitemporal or transtemporal existence and life for the speaker, `I am' appears to be the best translationoverall, even if it is grammatically somewhat archaic or odd by some purists' standards."

And as I have *always* said, what you are talking about is interpretation and commentary, not translation. You simply presume these connections. You cannot prove them. The grammar is there; it is certainly connected to the meaning of what is said. The stuff you are talking about MAY be connected to it, but that is a matter of argument. You propose to elevate your interpretation to biblical status, to make your interpretation canonical by inserting it into the
Bible's text. Whether your commentary and the connections its purports to find is right or not, it cannot justifiably be added to the biblical text. That is my stance, and if it is a "purist" one, so
be it. I can live with being that sort of a purist.

III. MARK 9:21

On Mark 9:21, you have again read the Greek through English. I pointed out in my post #4 how English employs dummy subjects in certain circumstances with the be-verb ("there is" "it is"). A
sentence such as "How long has it been since this happened to him?" is a perfect example of this English idiom. "It" refers to nothing whatsoever. It is not the semantic subject of the sentence. In a sentence "How much time has passed?" the subject is obviously the noun "time," modified by "how much." What has passed? Time has. But when we replace "pass" with the be-verb, what should be "How much time has been?" becomes "How much time has it been." The dummy subject slips in with the be-verb. So with the English rendering of Mark 9:21. You have translated it as "How long has it been," but this is actually slightly paraphrastic, isn't it? Actually, it should be "How long a time has it been," or "How much time has it been." The subject here
is clearly "time" (KRONOS). What has been? Time has. Even in the English sentence "How long has it been," "time" is implicit as the subject: "How long a time."

You say that,
"the meaning and significance of POSOS CRONOS in the sentence is comparable to undisputed PPA temporal markers in other NT texts, `a long time already' (POLUN HDH CRONON, John 5:6) and `so long a time' (TOSOUTWi CRONWi, John 14:9)."

Here again, you assume that these phrases are the temporal markers in these PPA sentences, working with your arbitrarily narrow and restrictive notion of what can make a PPA. What you fail to notice is how in both examples the noun phrase works with other elements of the sentence to create a past time sense. In John 5:6, POLUN CRONON alone does not have a past time sense, but gains it with the addition of the adverb HDH. In John 14:9, the noun phrase carries no past time sense in its own right, but gains it from the coordination with the past tense verb EGNWKAS. This can be seen if we simply substitute a non-past tense verb in the coordinated position: "For so long a time I am with you, and then I will depart." We would understand the main verb in such a sentence to be "futuristic" or "tendential," rather than a PPA.


In your post #36, you say:
"However, it is not at all crucial to my argument to deny that a dependent clause could ever function as the PPA temporal marker. Even if dependent clauses can perform this function (as for example I agreed that one might in Exodus 4:10, although that occurrence is also rather complex), it remains true that the type of dependent clause found in John 8:58, namely, an infinitive of antecedent time clause (PRIN + aorist infinitive) is not the right kind of dependent clause."

And again:

"The issue in this matter is whether it is plausible or probable for an infinitive of antecedent time to function as the temporal marker of a PPA. I maintain that it is not."

But here again, you are taking a position unsupported by any Greek grammar even within your own set of selected titles. Winer expressly identifies Jer. 1:5 and Ps. 89.2 as PPAs, and these both involve modification of the main verb by infinitives of antecedent time. So does Menander, Dyscolos 615-616. We have seen the wide variety of modification accepted by the grammars for PPAs, including non-adverbial phrases that simply have content with past time references within them. Now an infinitive clause is recognized even by you to function adverbially. So how arbitrary do you have to be to rule out this one type of adverbial modification, one that you
recognize to contain past time reference, from the ability to make a PPA? You are simply making a denial based on the conclusion to which you want to come, rather than basing your position in any legitimate fact about the Greek language. Time and again we see that when the
present tense of the Greek be-verb either appears together with a phrase of past time reference, or stands in some sort of relation to a dependent or coordinated clause containing a past time reference, it gets shifted into a past sense that a PPA rendering most effectively
balances with the choice of the present tense form by the writer:



Clauses containing an infinitive of antecedent time:

Sometimes we see dual modification of the main verb. As you have pointed out, in the sentence from Menander's Dyscolos, we have both an infinitive of antecedent time and the adverb PALAI. Since the infinitive of antecedent time is a dependent clause, it must modify the main verb, and therefore we know that it serves to shift the tense of the verb in the direction of "before seeing you," i.e., into the past, creating a PPA. As an adverb, PALAI does the same thing redundently.

The same dual modification might at first glance be argued for Psalm 89:2 LXX. Here we have, first of all, two "before" clauses involving infinitives of antecedent time. Since these are dependent clauses, they must serve to adverbially modify the main verb, thus shifting its
temporal reference into the past time to which they refer. But on the other hand we appear to have the APO phrase redundantly doing the same thing. But notice that this phrase reads "from the age until the age," and so in itself does not have a specific past time reference. One could couple this exact phrase with a future tense verb and speak of what will be "from age to age" in the future. But when it is combined with the past tense references of the two "before" clauses,
it takes on a past connotation complementary to theirs. This is similar to those cases discussed in my post #33 where what you have assumed to be the modifying phrase often does not have in itself a past time sense, and so can only make a PPA by appearing in conjunction with some other element in the context which supplies the past time sense. I would suggest translating this as "from one age to the next." Now you have said, in your post #35:

"There is nothing in Psalm 89:2 LXX that I can see . . . that would indicate that APO refers to a time after the events of the preceding two lines . . ."

But of course APO precisely denotes "from," and you yourself have argued that it marks a specific beginning of the action of the verb in such PPAs as John 15:27, 2 Peter 3:4, 1 John 3:8, and 2 Timothy 3:15 (your post #27). Now suddenly in the case of Psalm 89:2 LXX you deny
that it has this same significance you have so strenuously argued that it has elsewhere. Hmmm. Well maybe there is some important difference between those other occurrences where you say APO does denote a defined beginning of the verbal action, and Psalm 89:2 LXX where you say it does not. Oh, of course, how silly of me. There is an important difference. Psalm 89:2 is speaking of God, while those other verses are not. As I said in my book, Rob, bias is detected by inconsistent application of principles of understanding or translating the same grammar. Your inconsistent understanding of the significance of APO is a classic example of this, and yet another reason why I maintain that you are guilty of working with a "theological grammar" that adjusts how you read and translate things depending on the theological stake of a particular passage.


I am sorry if you felt that my criticism of your omission of optional complements was malicious. The fact is that you did omit this third category, and by doing so you gave the false impression that there are only two ways to construe a dependent clause, as either an obligatory complement or as an adjunct. I am not mistaken about that omission. Therefore, you have no grounds to say, "Your criticism is completely false." To say that you had already discussed optional complements in your post #17 does not in any way justify your omission of that
category in making an argument for the PRIN clause to be an adjunct if it is not an obligatory complement in your post #30. You say that for me to say you "deliberately" omitted the third category is malicious. Presumptive maybe, but not malicious. You are right that I do not
for a fact know that the omission was deliberate, and therefore I retract the word "deliberately" as presumptive on my part. In the end, you say your case for the traditional translation does not depend on identifying the PRIN clause as an adjunct. If we count up all the things you say your case does not depend on, however, you are left with no case at all.

You also found it unfair that I would characterize as disingenuous your claim to be merely arguing for a simple present tense rendering of EIMI in John 8:58. The latest version of this claim, in your post #36 is:

"My point was that rendering a Greek present-tense verb with an English present-tense verb hardly needs any defense as a matter of translation choice . . ."

Hardly needs any defense? Then please explain to us, Rob, why the Greek grammars recognize categories of using the Greek present tense that are NOT best rendered by an English present tense? Why do translators not consistently follow this simple one-to-one rote manner of translation you say needs no defending? The answer, of course, is that there is no one-to-one match of the Greek and English present tenses. They overlap considerably, but in some places a Greek present tense form of a verb does not correspond to what would have present tense meaning in English. And vice versa. That's what all those grammars spend dozens of pages explaining and sorting out, in case you didn't notice.

I had written:
JASON: "you avoid any comment on the fact that those who do comment on translation assume a past rendering as the norm, which clearly puts your position against the tide."

To this, you replied (post #34):
"This is just plain false. In fact, I showed that your claim here that those grammars assume a past rendering as the norm is itself false. I pointed out that `some say or imply that the proper translation is always in the past tense; and others say that the past tense is normally, usually, or often the right translation.'"

Uh, Rob, read your own quoted statement back to yourself. "Some say . . . ALWAYS in the past tense . . . others say NORMALLY, USUALLY, OR OFTEN" in the past tense. Please explain to me, then, how it can be true that the claim "that those grammars assume a past rendering as the norm is itself false." What else is `the norm' than what "normally, usually, or often" is the case?

In your post #36 you dismissed without answer my criticism of your handling of the Exodus passages which I offered as more PPAs to consider in comparison with John 8:58, by saying that my criticisms were "off-base and unfair." What were these "off-base and unfair" criticisms? That you resorted to paraphrase and ungrammatical English in your translations to avoid PPA renderings. How is it off-base or unfair to point to non-literal translation and English
ungrammaticalities? Are such things present in your translations? Yes. So on-base. Would literal and grammatically sound translations produce PPA sentences? Yes. So fair. Readers, please refer back and see for yourself.

Now let's return to an issue that you have made much of. In your post #17, you sought to justify your use of the term `absolute' by citing biblical scholars whose authority you contended was sufficient to prove your usage. Two of the four you cited are obscure figures, while the other two were Philip Harner and Raymond Brown. Let's take Brown as representative. You wrote:

ROB: "I begin with Raymond Brown, without a doubt the premier Roman Catholic New Testament scholar of the twentieth century (though not, in his biblical interpretation, particularly conservative). He stated, `Grammatically we may distinguish three types of use" of EGW EIMI:

  • (1) The absolute use with no predicate.' Brown cites John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 as examples.
  • (2) The use where a predicate may be understood even though it is not expressed.'Brown cites John 6:20 and 18:5 as examples, while noting that in both cases John's wording may have a double entendre, both implying a predicate ("It is I" or "I am he") and as absolute.`
  • (3) The use with a predicate nominative.' Here Brown cites the usual Johannine examples (John 6:35; 8:12; etc.). He also notes texts `on the borderline of this group' (e.g., John 8:18, 23). In these texts, the complement is an articular participle (8:18), which functionally is also a predicate nominative, and a prepositional phrase ("from those above," 8:23).[Raymond E. Brown, _The Gospel According to John_, Anchor Bible Commentaries (New York: Doubleday, 1966), 1:533-534.]"

I replied to this in my post #20:

JASON: "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. 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. 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."

You replied to me in your post #30:

ROB: "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). . . . It might be a good idea to READ these scholars before accusing them of `nonsense.'"

Note that you claimed my association of Brown et al. with "the `I AM' nonsense" to be "absolutely false." As everyone knows who has read my book and followed our debate, I was referring to the idea that "I AM" is a name of God, introduced to Moses in Exod. 3:14, and extractable as an invocation of that name from sentences where the pronoun and verb otherwise serve normal grammatical functions. As I said in my post # 31:

JASON: "As we agreed at the beginning of our discussion back in August, the use of `I AM'" i.e., this capitalized form, "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.'"

If you look back to the quote from Harner, page 17 that you supplied in your post #30, you will see that he uses precisely this all capitalized form "I AM" that treats it as a divine name. Of this all capitalized form you had said in your post #5, "I agree that the versions using such capitalization have tipped their hand" as to their "understanding" of John 8:58 in connection with Exod. 3:14 as a divine name. So we can see that by that criterion, Harner does indeed "buy
into the `I AM' nonsense," even though you said it was "absolutely false" for me to say that he did. Nevertheless, you replied to me on the subject of Brown and friends again in your post #36, under the heading "Misconstruing the Major Treatments that You didn't Read," by saying:

ROB: "But for all your wiggling here, the fact remains that you misrepresented Brown, Harner, and Ball, because you didn't read them."

You should have stopped goading me about not reading them, Rob, because now I have gone down to the library and pulled Brown off the shelf. And of course I have found, in a consistent pattern we have seen throughout this debate, that you have misled us about what he says also. First of all, in your original citation from him, you listed the verses he cited in the category of the "absolute use": John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19. If you had actually quoted the verses as he gives them in this discussion (page 533), we all would have seen that in every case he translates "I AM" in all capitals, which you agreed back in your post #5 "tips (his) hand" as to associating the verse
with "I AM" as a divine name supposedly given in Exod. 3:14. He uses the same all capitalized form, I AM, in the main body of his translation at 8:58 (page 354). In his comment on this verse (page 367), he refers to "the divine name, `I AM'" and when we return to Appendix IV, from which you quoted, we see that there, too, he refers to "EGW EIMI employed as a divine name in the OT" (page 533). The analysis of various uses of "I am . . ." in the OT and in Jewish and pagan literature includes discussion of where the verb functions as a copula with a predicate, which Brown also regards as divine revelation, even though the pronoun and verb do not function as a name in these many cases. This leads him to discussion of the ANI HU passages, which he understands as "I am he," and so not a divine name, even though rendered in the LXX as EGW EIMI (page 536). He goes on to suggest that it was through the medium of the Greek of the LXX in Isaiah that EGW EIMI might have come to be seen as a title. He includes Exod. 3:14 in his discussion as "the all-important text for the meaning of `Yahweh'": its Hebrew meaning as `He who causes to be' is part of the background, and its LXX rendering as `I am the Existing One' part of the development of a shift or "tendency" in the reading of EGW EIMI away from identity in a copulative expression and towards a stress on "existence" (page 536). Thus to claim that Brown "barely mentions" the Exodus passage is at best shows a poor grasp of the significance it has in his discussion.

It quickly becomes clear, as I suggested in my earlier comment on Brown, that there are problems with his categories. Even though he says "grammatically we can distinguish three types of use," his categories 1 (absolute) and 2 (implicit predicate) are written exactly the same way: EGW EIMI. So obviously by "grammatically" he means not just in terms of lexical form but, as he explicitly says, "use" or meaning. Fine so far. Then how do we distinguish between identical lexical forms which are `absolute,' and which have an implicit predicate, since lexically everything in both categories is `absolute'? As I said before, Brown's division does not match that of the KJV, etc. (most of the major translations), which understand nearly all of his category 1 examples as belonging to his category 2. Those translators rightly saw that the syntax of 8:28 demands that it be read with an implicit predicate, that the immediate context of 8:24 (i.e., the response of the audience in 8:25) demands the same thing, as it does in 13:19 (i.e., reference back to the subject of the quote in 13:18). They also rightly saw that to take the pronoun and verb as a name destroys the syntax of the sentences involved, as we can see if
we substitute a name for EGW EIMI in these sentences:

We see, then, that Brown sees I AM where the major translations do not, and that he sees it as a name of God where grammatically it cannot possibly be a name. Since it is handling EGW EIMI as a name, and imposing it as a name on sentences where it would destroy the actual grammar of the sentence, that I consider the "I AM nonsense," as I stated on more than one occasion, Brown is guilty of this, as I originally charged, even though you declared my charge "absolutely false." This fits a well-worn pattern in your debate with me, in which I point out or suggest that you are misrepresenting a source, you lash back with overheated rhetoric about my criticism being "malicious," or "unfair," or "absolutely false," and then I painstakingly demonstrate how my criticism is fully justified.

So that's enough, I think. Nine months is long enough to give birth to anything worthwhile. Your original position was that the New World translation of John 8:58 is a possible accurate rendering of the Greek, but that the traditional translation could be defended as better. If that were true then the position I take in my book on John 8:58 would be unfair, since I criticize the traditional translation even though on principle I allow for any translation that can reasonably be defended in the original Greek, sorting renderings into possible and probable, and reserving strong criticism for translations that cannot be so defended. But you have failed to marshal a single cogent argument to support that traditional translation, or to undermine my argument that the traditional translation ignores a clear idiomatic use of the verb recognized in the Greek grammars and as a result produces an ungrammatical English sentence that skews the meaning of the underlying Greek.

I see no need to compose a summary of the entire debate here at the end. Such an undertaking by either of us would be simply an exercise in trying to control the reading of what has gone before. I am content to stand on what I have written on this subject. Thank you, Rob, for the mental exercise. I will try my best to answer questions and comments from our audience, but cannot commit to a particular turn-around time on doing so. Obviously, the text of our debate will be there to stimulate such comment for a long time to come. Okay, did we reach 500 pages?

Best wishes,
Jason B.

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