John 8:58 and the subordinating adverbial particle.

Ron Henzel (
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 16:41:13 CST6CDT

Hello, all!

Here's a little grammatical note on the construction of Christ's
words in John 8:58: "Before Abraham was, I am."

This construction begins with <prin>, which is known as a
"subordinating adverbial particle." Subordinating adverbial
particles denote the beginning of dependent clauses. Therefore, the
clause, "Before Abraham was" is a dependent clause and not a
coordinate clause of "I am." Therefore, "Before Abraham was" cannot
possibly modify the meaning of "I am." On the contrary: "Before
Abraham was" is GRAMMATICALLY DEPENDENT on "I am."

The net result of this is that due to the presence of the
subordinating adverbial particle, <eimi> in John 8:58 canNOT POSSIBLY
be a use of the "perfective present," as A.T. Robertson also points
out. Therefore, it is improper to translate it "I have been."

(Another grammatical note -- no extra charge: the "was" in the clause
"Before Abraham was," is actually NOT a past tense, but an idiomatic
use of the infinitive. Infinitives possess no inherent time
reference, because they're not indicatives. It's a "translator's
call" on how it should be rendered, based on context.)
sola (scriptura + gratia + fide) = solus Christus,

-- Ron Henzel