Re: New World Translation - John 8:58

Carl W. Conrad (
Tue, 6 Aug 96 00:32 EST

<x-rich>At 1:32 AM -0400 8/6/96, Mitchell Williams wrote:

<fontfamily><param>Courier</param><bigger>-- [ From: Mitchell Andrews * EMC.Ver #2.3 ] --

>On Mon, 5 Aug 1996, Alan Repurk wrote:

> > Greg Hahn wrote:

> > >

> > > I wouldn't trust the NWT at all, Lars.

> >

> > Oh, really ? Could you supply some specific examples ? The differences

> > between the translations has given me more insight into the flexibility

> > of the languages.

> I think John 8:58 was put in the wrong tense... (trusting my memory here)

Dear Sir:

I am new to this forum and b-greek and thought I would share further

information on this subject, being one of Jehovah's Witnesses familiar with

this grammatical issue.

First, the expression "I am" in itself does not equate to the LXX Exodus 3:14

"ego eimi ho On" (I am the Being, or "one who is"). Why, even the blind man in

the very next chapter of John (9:7) says "Ego Eimi" with respect to himself.

Was the blind man admitting that he was Jehovah? Of course not! Therefore,

the expression "Ego Eimi" does not in itself refer to another personage.

So what did Jesus mean when he said "Ego Eimi" in reference to "Before Abraham

came into existence?" Many references show this simply to be the greek grammar

of the present perfective. In other words, an action that started in the past

AND CONTINUES TO THE PRESENT. This is the reason for the present tense. There

are several scriptures in the N.T. that have this same type of grammar.

Here are some citations from scholarly sources showing some of these examples:

I hope it's not overkill. I will be glad to explore the context with you a

little later.

The action expressed in John 8:58 started "before Abraham came into existence"

and is still in progress. In such situation (eimi), which is the first-person

singular present indicative, is properly translated by the perfect indicative

(have ...).

Examples of the same syntax are found in Lu 2:48; 13:7; 15:29; Joh 5:6; 14:9;

15:27; Ac 15:21; 2Co 12:19; 1Jo 3:8.

(Luke 2:48 NAS) Your father and I have been (present tense) anxiously looking

for You."

(Luke 13:7) 'Here it is three years that I have come (present tense) looking

for fruit on this fig tree, but have found (present tense) none. Cut it down!'

(Luke 15:29) 'Here it is so many years I have slaved (present tense) for you...


(John 5:6) and being aware that he had already been (present tense) [sick] a

long time,

(John 14:9) Jesus said to him: "Have I been (present tense) so long a time ..."

(John 15:27) because YOU have been (present tense) with me from when I began.

(Acts 15:21) For from ancient times Moses has had (present tense) in city after

city those who preach him..."

(2 Cor 12:19) Have YOU been thinking (present tense) all this while that we

have been making (present tense) our defense to YOU?"

(1 John 3:8) because the Devil has been sinning (present tense) from [the]


(John 8:58) Before Abraham came into existence, I have been (present tense)."

Concerning this construction, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, by

G. B. Winer, seventh edition, Andover, 1897, p. 267, says: "Sometimes the

Present includes also a past tense (Mdv. 108), viz. when the verb expresses a

state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues,-a state in its

duration; as, John 15:27 [ap“ arkhes' met“ emou' este'], John 8:58 [prin

Abraam' gene'sthai ego' eimi]." (note Winer's reference to John 8:58)

Likewise, A Grammar of New Testament Greek, by J. H. Moulton, Vol. III, by

Nigel Turner, Edinburgh, 1963, p. 62, says: "The Present which indicates the

continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking is

virtually the same as Perfective, the only difference being that the action is

conceived as still in progress . . . It is frequent in the N[ew] T[estament]:

Lk 2:48 13:7 . . . 15:29 . . . Jn 5:6, 8:58 . . . " (note Moulton's reference

to John 8:58).

Further, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, by Dana and Mantey,

MacMillan, 1927, p. 183, says: "Sometimes the progressive present is

retroactive in its application, denoting that which has begun in the past and

continues into the present. For the want of a better name, we may call it the

present of *duration.* This use is generally associated with an adverb of time,

and may best be rendered by the English perfect. "Ye have been (present tense)

with me from the beginning" John 15:27.

In John 8:58, Jesus uses the present tense of the verb "to be" with a reference

to past time; "Before Abraham came into existence". The state to which Jesus

refers ('his existence') not only 'was' in the past (before Abraham), but

continues into the present. He was alive in Abraham's day and is still alive.

Therefore, translating "ego eimi" with the English perfect tense, or "I have

been" is in full harmony with scriptural context, and greek scholarship.

Attempting to identify Jesus with Jehovah, some say that ego' eimi' is the

equivalent of the Hebrew expression “ani' hu“, "I am he," which is used by God.

However, it is to be noted that this Hebrew expression is also used by man.

(1 Chronicles 21:17 - NWT) And David proceeded to say to the [true] God: "Was

it not I that said to make a numbering of the people, and is it not I (Lit.

"and I am [he]", or "ego eimi" in LXX) that have sinned and have unquestionably

done bad?"

Further attempting to identify Jesus with Jehovah, some use Ex 3:14 (LXX) which

reads: Ego eimi ho on, which means "I am The Being," or, "I am The Existing

One." This attempt cannot be sustained because the expression in Ex 3:14 is

different from the expression in Joh 8:58.

Here are some versions which offer alternate renderings:

"before Abraham was, I have been"

Syriac-Edition: A Translation of the Four Gospels from the Syriac of the

Sinaitic Palimpsest

"before ever Abraham came to be, I was"

Curetonian Syriac-Edition: The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels

"before Abraham existed, I was"

Syriac Peshitta-Edition: The Syriac New Testament

"before Abraham came to be, I was"

Georgian-Edition: "The Old Georgian Version of the Gospel of John,"

"before Abraham was born, I was"

Ethiopic-Edition: Novum Testamentum . . . Ęthiopice (The New Testament . . .

in Ethiopic)



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