John 8:58

The Greek copula eimi in the indicative has three tenses: present, imperfect,
and future.  In other moods and in non-finite forms it has only present tense. 
What is lacking here are contrasting aspects.  Since there are no perfective
tenses, the available tenses must be used to do the job for which perfective 
tenses would usually be used.

Having said that, I think the real question is not can the present tense be
used for relative past time, but why is there an unexpected shift in tenses in
John 8:58.  The rule would be:

before [past tense], [relative past tense]

It would have been normal for Jesus to have said: prin Abraam genesthai, egw
hmhn.  hmhn would yield itself to relative past tense more easily than eimi
would.  Further, the use of the first person would say that the speaker is
still in existence.  So *why* the use of the unexpected present tense here?  
Is this some kind of dramatic emphasis on the continued existence of Jesus, 
or is it a reference to a literal non-LXX translation of Ex. 3:14?

Bruce Terry                            E-MAIL: terry@bible.acu.edu
Box 8426, ACU Station		       Phone:  915/674-3759
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