Re: John 8:58 and NWT

Alan Repurk (
Tue, 13 Aug 1996 13:15:12 -0700

-- [ From: Mitchell Andrews * EMC.Ver #2.3 ] --

Lars, Until I get a new E-mail service, can you post this to b-greek and
b-greek-digest since it came from b-greek-digest?
Thanks in advance,

Ron Henzel wrote on 8-12-96 9:43 AM EST:
> This message is directed at Mitchell Andrews' message regarding John 8:58
> and supposed parallels to the New World Translation of "I have been" for
> "ego eimi."

> The first thing I noticed is that it could be seen right on the surface
> that the majority of the instances you cited are NOT instances of the
> verb "eimi," (lexical form of the Greek verb "to be"). Although I haven't
> had time to check (I just got back from vacation and have a ton of email
> to answer!) it's possible that NONE of your "parallels" are in fact
> parallels, because they may not be instances of the verb "eimi."
> (I look forward to checking them out, however!) > They would be therefore
> disqualified from consideration due to my next point:

Dear Mr. Henzel,
Perhaps after you go through your E-mail you will have time to consider my
post with thoughtful consideration. Yes, right in the book of John there are two
other instances where the present active indicative of EIMI occur with an
expression of past time. These are:

(lit: you are with me from the beginning)

Note how most translators render EIMI with an expression of past time at John
New World: because YOU "have been" with me from when I began.
King James: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
New King James: because you "have been" with Me from the beginning.
New Revised Std: because you "have been" with me from the beginning.
Bible in Basic English: because you "have been" with me from the first.
Webster's English: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
Revised Webster: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
American Standard: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
New American Standard: because you "have been" with Me from the beginning.
New American: because you "have been" with Me from the beginning.
New International: for you "have been" with me from the beginning.

Do you see the translation of the Greek Present Active Indicative tense to the
perfect? I think this is widely recognized enough to bypass further

> There is one extremely important manner in which the "ego eimi" of
> John 8:58 differs from all the "parallels" you cited: it posesses no
> predicate. "I am" -- what? Even if you have one or two instances of
> "eimi" in your list of "parallels," they all have predicates. John 8:58
> does not, and this is a very unusual form of expression in Koine Greek.
> It goes beyond idiom, and calls for some explanation.
Please refer to my post on 8-12-96 on the implied predicate issue.

> The explanation that most RECOGNIZED translators have chosen (the New
> World Translation is NOT recognized by true Greek scholars)
Please Sir, I would enjoy this more if we could have a respectful discussion
of the issues and not resort to argumentation based upon theological concensus
and condescension of those not in the majority. This type of argumentation has
been used throughout the millenniae and is not a reliable arbiter of what is
right or wrong. The "recognized" learned men of the first century looked down
upon the "unlettered and ordinary" disciples in the book of Acts. I am not
saying that the Acts example is or is not what is happening here. But most
"recognized" scholars, although not all, are believers in the theological
teaching of the trinity. However, the majority theological concensus does not in
itself make something right or wrong. Let us examine the issues directly and
let the issues stand or fall on their own merits without resorting to bias.

> John 8:58 finds its true parallel in the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14, "ego
> eimi ho on," which is in fact a rather "dynamic equivalent" translation of
> the Hebrew "ahyeh asher ahyeh." But I'm sure that you're aware of this,
> because it's all well-documented in various annotated editions of the NWT.
> A better translation of the Hebrew of Exodus 3:14 would have dropped the
> "ho on," leaving some form of repetition of "ego eimi," bringing out more
> suitably the force of the Hebrew.
Yes, but the predicate hO WN is there, is it not? Perhaps some, including
yourself, would prefer to see the hO WN not there. Actually, an even better
translation of Exodus 3:14 would be that of Theodotion's LXX, who used ESOMAI
("I will be") and not EIMI. This captures more accurately the flavor of the
Hebrew causative EHYEH ("I shall prove to be"). But as for Exodus 3:14, please
refer to my post on 8-12-96.

> If Jesus was merely claiming pre-existence, that would not have constituted
> blasphemy. Therefore, he would not have been eligible for stoning.

Once again, I covered this in my post of 8-12-96.

> The NWT translators have created an interpretive nightmare by distorting the
> force of the present active indicative. By trying to get the verse to fit
> their theology, they have rendered the story in which it is contained
> completely unintelligible in its historical context. The Jews would NOT
> have stoned somebody for claiming mere pre-existence. If THAT was the
> case, they had more than enough grounds in verses 56-57:

Sir, did all of the above English translations also create an
"interpretive nightmare by distorting the force of the present active
indicative" by translating ESTE as "have been" at John 15:27? You may
wish to reread the comments of the grammarians I posted regarding the
perfective present.

As for putting someone to death on the grounds of being a false Messiah,
please see my previous post on 8-12-96.

As for the remainder of your post, I find from experience that it is best to
avoid discussions stemming from condescension. As for bias, I find I prefer to
judge an issue like this on its own merits rather than on the basis of its
source. I will be glad however, to pursue an intelligent and thoughtful
discussion of the specific issues. Please carefully read my previous posts and
you will find that all of the issues you raised have already been answered.
Whether you may or may not theologically agree is quite another matter and a
subject for a different forum.

I wish you well. Truly yours,
Centennial Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses
Greenwood Village, CO