Dan Wallace's Grammer

Walt McFall (ana@net1.nw.com.au)
Fri, 10 Jan 1997 01:53:02 +0000

Hi All,

This post is in regard to Daniel Wallace's Greek Grammer...

Alan Feurbacher has several criticisms of Daniel Wallace's Grammer
(claiming that he is deliberately deceiving people). Alan is on this
list (b-greek) and stated that he looks forward to debating this with
anyone interested, especially Dr. Wallace himself. I disagree with Alan's
assessment, but I am posting it here in accordance with his wishes to
debate this on b-greek.

I have repeatedly stated I personally do not believe that John 8:58 is
quoting Ex 3:14 and have stated so over and over, but have also
stated that it cannot be ruled out *linguistically* and suggested that the
discussion be dropped from our list (that is... if no one wanted to discuss
this on b-greek). Alan F. stated that he wanted to bring this discussion
especially re: Wallace's Grammer to b-greek and so (with his wishes)
I've posted Alan's criticisms and ask for anyone interested to please

Alan wrote:
> At the moment I can only make a few comments on this issue. I know
> that you'd rather drop this, Walt, but I think it's instructive to
> show that even laymen like me can find solid arguments in the literature
> and show that some supposed scholars like D. B. Wallace will sometimes
> resort to intellectual dishonesty to support their theology.

I wrote:
>> Daniel Wallace (Greek Beyond the Basics, p. 531)
>>notes, "...if ego eimi is not a historical present, then Jesus is here
>>claiming to be the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush,
>>the I AM, the eternally existing One, Yahweh (cf. Exod 3:14 in the
>>LXX, ego eimi o on)."

>You've even got the intent of this passage wrong. As I showed
>above, the part of the quote you left out says, "In effect, this is
>a negative admission that..." You can't *prove* anything with a
>negative admission, especially one that you ascribe to your
>opponent but with which he would disagree!

>Now, even this argument from negative admission hinges on a big IF:
>"*if* ego eimi is not a historical present..." How does Wallace try
>to show that in John 8:58, it is not? He attacks (p. 530) an
>article by one Dennis Light in defense of the NWT rendering of John
>8:58. He says Light's argument has several flaws in it. I will
>present his three comments and show why they do not prove his point.

>Wallace quotes Light thus: "The Greek verb eimi, literally present
>tense, must be viewed as a historical present, because of being
>preceded by the aorist infinitve clause referring to Abraham's past".
>Then Wallace comments:

>(1) The fact that the present tense follows an aorist
>_infinitive_ has nothing to do with how it should be rendered.
>In fact, historical presents are usually wedged in between aorist
> (or imperfect) _indicatives), not infinitives.

>This is another negative argument. It only states that the _other_
>guy's argument is wrong but says nothing positive about why
>Wallace's argument is right. Furthermore, the point is not just
>about the one point of grammar Wallace dealt with in Light's
>statement, but the fact that the "aorist infinitive clause" in
>John 8:58, "prin Abraam genesthai" (before Abraham to-become) with
>the Greek word "prin" (before) with an infinitive _allows_ for the
>historical present. For example, in dealing with this matter, _A
>Greek Grammar of the New Testament_ (Blass, Debrunner and Funk,
>Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961, pp. 202-3, Sect. 395) says:

>... the infinitive is used after positive clauses (as in Attic).
>Pro tou with the infinitive can be used in a way similar to this
>prin ..., especially in the case of events which are thought of
>as having actually taken place (subsequently); but prin is not
>excluded in such cases (A 7:2, Jn 8:58; Attic likewise).

>We can conclude from this point that the historical present is not
>shown conclusively to be allowed or disallowed in John 8:58.
>Wallace continues:

>(2) If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only
>historical present in the NT that uses the equative verb eimi.
>The burden of proof, therefore, lies with one who sees eimi as
>_ever_ being used as a historical present.

>This statement is false, as can be shown by looking at John 14:9.
>The NIV renders it thus:

>Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have
>been among you such a long time?

>In Greek and literal English, the important parts are:

>tosouton khronon meth umon eimi kai ouk egnokas me
>so-much time with you I-am and not you-have-known me

>All references I have found that comment on the "historical present"
>or "progressive present" or whatever term you like, include John 14:9
>as an example of its use. It shows directly that "eimi" (I am) can
>be translated "I have been" (or in question form, "have I been").
>Therefore we must ask why Wallace failed to include this example.
>I can hardly conclude that he is unfamiliar with it, or with the
>many references that even I could find. Therefore, I must conclude
>that he is deliberately attempting to deceive his readers to defend
>his theology. Wallace continues:

>(3) If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only
>historical present in the NT that is in other than the third

>Again we find a negative argument. While admitting that the historical
>present is not ruled out, Wallace seems to think that context is
>unimportant. In context we have the Jews asking Jesus, "What? You
>claim to have seen Abraham? Man, you're not even 50!" What does it
>make more sense for Jesus to say in answer: "Hey, before Abraham was,
>I am!" or "Hey, before Abraham was, I existed!"?

>Furthermore, there are very few instances in the NT where eimi or
>even its derivatives are used in the sense of "exist" (KJV:0, NIV:3,
>NRSV:3, NASB:8). Remember that eimi is a general word and can mean
>"to be, to exist, to become, to happen, to be present," etc. So why
>would anyone expect the NT to contain a full range of all possibilities
>allowed by the Greek language? A far better example would be the LXX,
>which is much larger than the NT and contains a much wider range of
>Greek usage.

>Finally, Wallace deliberately fails to mention that "ego eimi" is
>used indisputably in the LXX as a historical present. Roger already
>pointed out Gen. 31:38, 41, which in the NIV are translated as "I
>have been with you for twenty years now" and "... for the twenty
>years I was in your household" (also see any English translation of
>the LXX). Therefore, Wallace's attempt to show that there are no
>examples of "ego eimi" used as a historical present is seen to be
>a blatant attempt to mislead the reader by presenting one-sided
>data -- that the NT does not use the form, while the LXX most
>certainly does.

>From these examples, where Wallace has deliberately misled the
>reader by such devices as saying "this isn't in the NT" while
>ignoring the fact that "it" certainly _is_ in the LXX, I must
>conclude that Wallace is an untrustworthy reference. He is not
>objective and he deliberately misleads the reader by failing to
>tell the full truth.

>Finally, many important Greek Grammars give John 8:58 as an example
>of the historical present. I'll list them another time.

>I wrote saying that if John 8:58 is not a historical present than it
>is certainly possible that it refers to Ex 3:14
>Now, here's a PhD Greek scholar who says that John 8:58 refers to
>Ex 3:14, and **YOU** say that it is impossible.

>Wallace has been shown to be dishonest. All of his writings are
>therefore suspect.

>>If you're
>>going to criticise Wallace, then I'm sure that we can get a debate
>>going on b-greek... and I'm sure that Daniel Wallace would be
>>interested in joining that debate... because he's on b-greek too. ;-]

>Ok, let's do it. Let's see if he can defend his arguments in light
>of the above. I think you'll see him run with his tail between his


Walt McFall

Quest for Truth at...