Re: John 8:58 (longish)

Date: Thu Aug 08 1996 - 14:42:56 EDT writes on 8/8/96:

> wrote:
> > It's an interlingual pun for a bilingual audience, "Before Abraham
> > was born, YHWH."
> In all my other excercises I am able to substitute nouns for nouns,
> adjectives for adjectives and verbs for verbs, etc. This is one
> of the ways I check my translations.

This mechanical procedure will not hold up in all situations. For example,
translating "It's raining cats and dogs" into other languages word for
word doesn't work: it's usually nonsense in the target language. But,
the main difficulty is that languages express many things at different
semantic levels. Even translations which have a good correspondence
with the original and make "sense" in the source and target languages
do not reproduce the original. This is one reason why many people see
translation as either a doomed, flawed, or creative enterprise.

> But I have a real problem with John 8:58 :
> Joh 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
> Before Abraham was, 'Fred'.
> If 'I AM' is a proper name, should not this make sense.

Does Ex 3:14 make such sense ? "I AM has sent me to you." Only in a
double sense, as when Cyclops bewails "NO MAN has put out my eye."

The "pun" does not depend on EGW EIMI being a proper name, but on
*both* the fact that it means "I am" in Greek and the fact that YHWH
was translated "I am" in Greek.

> It seems to me that what does not make good English also does not
> make good Greek.

A more popular rule of thumb is "What does not make good theology
also does not make good Greek." (Who says we're reading "good Greek"?)

A more telling one might be "What does not make good Greek also does
not make good Hebrew."

Will Wagers "Reality is the best metaphor."


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