Re: Re; Aorist Use of EIMI
Tue, 20 Aug 96 12:10:10 MST

Thanks Carl.

Actually, I didn't have John 8:58 in mind on this, its a question I've
had for a long, long time and the present discussion jogged my memory.
But thanks for the references. I still have further questions on this
since I see other scriptural uses of EIMI that don't fit the eternity
paradigm. But I've decided to not continue asking due to the emotional
nature of this subject at the present time. And sorry I got the
mountains mixed up!

My Father-In-Law hails from Ash (spell?) County. His name is Gillett.
His father was a well-known author in those parts and an English
Grammar Professor. I thought you might know him if you also hail from
those parts (or should I say "them there parts?")


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Subject: Re: Re; Aorist Use of EIMI
Author: "Carl W. Conrad" <> at SMTP-PO
Date: 8/19/96 8:07 PM

At 6:35 PM -0500 8/19/96, wrote:
> Now that this subject received the first round of answers, I have a
> follow-up question.

And I, in turn, have a follow-up answer (or series of answers).

> - Carl says "I was in the Smokies (Durative)".
> For this a Greek would likely use imperfect HN.

Actually, I would say, "I was in the Blue Ridge"--for that is where I
actually was (n.e. of Asheville, close to the corner of NC adjacent to both
TN and VA), although I passed through the Smokies on my way to and from the
Blue Ridge.

> Would not EIMI be used in Greek as an Aorist in the following manner:

> - Carl says "I was in the Smokies (Looking upon the entire act as a
> completed whole)."
> Would not a Greek use HN here also? I would think so, but please
> correct me if I am mistaken. I do not think he would use GINOMAI here.

Honestly, I think this is purely speculative and misrepresents the sense of
the Greek verb EINAI. The verb is simply not conjugated in the perfect
tense, has no perfective aspect--and therefore cannot "look upon the entire
act as a completed whole." Latin can use the perfect of ESSE that way, as
in the celebrated line of Vergil: ILIUM FUIT ("Troy has been, i.e. Troy's
existence is a fait accompli."
The Greek verb EINAI is such that it does not conceive of "being" as
something transient but rather as something permanent. As I tried to note
before, it is no accident that Parmenides "created" metaphysics by
demonstrating the impossibility of limiting "being" temporally or
spatially. Now I could say something like, HN D'EGW EN EKEINAIS TAIS
hHMERAIS EN TOIS ORESIN TOIS KUANEOIS. But this would not indicate that I
had not been there earlier or that I am no longer there--only that
throughout that extended period I continued to be there.

> - Carl's son passes through the Smokies and visits Carl for one day
> and leaves. Carl's son says "I was in the Smokies (Punctiliar)"
> Would not a Greek use HN here also?

Indeed, my son DID pass through the Smokies and visited me for a whole week
before leaving (and passing yet again through the Smokies). Again "HN"
EKEINOIS TOIS ORESIN MIAN hHMERAN (=3D "he continued to be in those mountain=
for one day"). I suspect, however, that MENEIN might serve better here, as
stayed in those mountains only one day").

In sum, you can't get the perfective or aoristic notion by using EINAI;
rather you must use a different verb. Nor do I, frankly, understand these
games being played with translation of EIMI as "I have been." To be sure,
one might say that it is implicit that the speaker in Jn 8:58 asserts that
he "has been" prior to Abraham's being born, but the fundamental sense of
EIMI there (in terms of what the Greek verb can mean) is "I continue to
exist (as hitherto and hereafter)."

There is an old but still worth-reading book by Thorleif Boman, _Hebrew
Thought Compared with Greek_ (originally German, _Das hebraeische Denken
mit dem griechischen vergleicht_), one major chapter of which was devoted
to differences and implications of the differences between the Greek and
Hebrew verbs for "be."

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 20:12:45 -0500
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <>
Subject: Re: Re; Aorist Use of EIMI