Re: John 8:58

On Wed, 7 Dec 1994, Travis Bauer wrote:

> Regarding JoRiz's message earlier,
> I think it's interesting that all of the verses you listed where ego eimi 
> is found were translated in the present active indicitive.  This is 
> appropritae, for they clearly are in that tense and the context leads us 
> to believe that this is what the authors intended.  However, you break 
> your pattern in John 8:58 when assert that we shouldn't translate it in 
> the present active indicitive, but as a perfect or and aorist.
> The verb here simply is a present active indicitive that stands in 
> tension with the prin Abraam genesQai, which indicates an action that 
> obviously took place in the past.  This tension is resolved when we see 
> the play on words coming from the reference in the Septuagent.
> If John did mean a different tense, he would have used one.  Neither him, 
> nor the later scribes who copied the texts seemed to want to resolve this 
> tension, as is evidenced by the lack of textual variants on this 
> passage.  There seems to be an inconsistency in your argument when you 
> want to cite other instances of ego eimi in the New Testament as examples 
> that Jesus did not have a monopoly on this phrase, yet indicate that 
> Jesus (John's quote of Jesus :) ) used this phrase to mean something other 
> than anyone else did.  

I think it may be worth mentioning, just in case anyone is NOT aware of 
this fact, that the Greek verb EINAI for practical purposes has ONLY a 
present tense. To be sure there exists a future tense form, esomai, but 
even that appears to be a secondary development. gi(g)nomai serves to 
provide the meanings mostly outside of the present tense system, but the 
verb essentially has to do with durative, continuing being, which is 
precisely why Parmenides was able to construct his doctrine of spatially 
and temporally undifferentiated Being upon an analysis of contradictions 
that are apparently involved in attempting to use the verb EINAI with 
negative or qualifying temporal and spatial adverbs. It seems to me that 
this is one of the reasons that the EGW EIMI sayings in John's gospel, 
and particularly the one at 8:58, are so forceful--and would be so, even 
if the allusion to Exodus 3:14 is not, or were not, assumed.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
(314) 935-4018
cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu  OR cwc@oui.com

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