Re: John 8:58 & NWT

From: Alan Repurk (
Date: Tue Aug 13 1996 - 12:46:54 EDT

For the list ....

-- [ From: Mitchell Andrews * EMC.Ver #2.3 ] --

Lars, Until I get a new E-mail service, can you post this to b-greek ?

Ron Henzel wrote on 8-12-96 9:43 AM EST:
>This message is directed at Mitchell Andrews' message regarding John 8:58
> and supposed parallels to the New World Translation of "I have been" for "ego eimi."

> The first thing I noticed is that it could be seen right on the surface that the
> majority of the instances you cited are NOT instances of the verb "eimi,"
> (lexical form of the Greek verb "to be"). Although I haven't had time to check
> (I just got back from vacation and have a ton of email to answer!) it's possible
> that NONE of your "parallels" are in fact parallels, because they may not be
> instances of the verb "eimi." (I look forward to checking them out, however!)
> They would be therefore disqualified from consideration due to my next point:

Dear Mr. Henzel,
   Perhaps after you go through your E-mail you will have time to consider my
post with thoughtful consideration. Yes, right in the book of John there are two
other instances where the present active indicative of EIMI occurs with an expression
of past time. These are:


Note how most translators render EIMI with an expression of past time at John 15:27:
New World: because YOU "have been" with me from when I began.
King James: because ye *have been" with me from the beginning.
New King James: because you "*have been" with Me from the beginning.
New Revised Standard: because you 'have been" with me from the beginning.
Bible in Basic English: because you "have been" with me from the first.
Webster's English: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
Revised Webster: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
American Standard: because ye "have been" with me from the beginning.
New American Standard: because you "have been" with Me from the beginning.
New American: because you "have been" with Me from the beginning.
New International: for you "have been" with me from the beginning.

Do you see how translators and scholars recognize the translation of the Greek
Present Active Indicative tense to the perfect? I think this is widely
recognized enough to bypass further commentary.

> There is one extremely important manner in which the "ego eimi" of
> John 8:58 differs from all the "parallels" you cited: it posesses no predicate.
> "I am" -- what? Even if you have one or two instances of "eimi" in your list
> of "parallels," they all have predicates. John 8:58 does not, and this is a
> very unusual form of expression in Koine Greek. It goes beyond idiom,
> and calls for some explanation.
Please refer to my post on 8-12-96 on the implied predicate issue.

> The explanation that most RECOGNIZED translators have chosen (the New
> World Translation is NOT recognized by true Greek scholars)
 Please Sir, I would enjoy this more if we could have a respectful discussion
of the issues and not resort to argumentation based upon theological concensus.
This type of argumentation has been used throughout the millenniae and is not a
reliable indicator of what is right or wrong. The "recognized" learned men of
the first century looked down upon the "unlettered and ordinary" disciples in
the book of Acts. It is a fact that most "recognized" scholars are believers in
the trinity. However, this does not in fact make something right or wrong. Let
us examine the issues directly and let the issues stand or fall on their own
merits without resorting to arrogance or bias.

> John 8:58 finds its true parallel in the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14, "ego
> eimi ho on," which is in fact a rather "dynamic equivalent" translation of
> the Hebrew "ahyeh asher ahyeh." But I'm sure that you're aware of this,
> because it's all well-documented in various annotated editions of the NWT.
> A better translation of the Hebrew of Exodus 3:14 would have dropped the
> "ho on," leaving some form of repetition of "ego eimi," bringing out more
> suitably the force of the Hebrew.
Ah... But the hO WN is there, is it not? I am sure that many would prefer to
see the hO WN removed. Actually, an ever better translation of Exodus 3:14
would be that of Theodotion's LXX, who used ESOMAI and not EIMI. This
captures more correctly the flavor of the Hebrew causative EHYEH. But
as for Exodus 3:14, please refer to my post on 8-12-96.

> If Jesus was merely claiming pre-existence, that would not have constituted
> blasphemy. Therefore, he would not have been eligible for stoning.

Once again, I covered this in my post of 8-12-96.

> The NWT translators have created an interpretive nightmare by distorting the
> force of the present active indicative. By trying to get the verse to fit their
> theology, they have rendered the story in which it is contained completely
> unintelligible in its historical context. The Jews would NOT have stoned
> somebody for claiming mere pre-existence. If THAT was the case, they had
> more than enough grounds in verses 56-57:

Sir, did all of the above English translations also create an "interpretive
nightmare by distorting the force of the present active indicative" by translating
ESTE as "have been" at John 15:27? You may wish to reread the comments
of the grammarians I posted regarding the perfective present.

As for putting someone to death on the grounds of being a false Messiah,
please see my previous post on 8-12-96.

As for the remainder of your post, I find from experience that it is best to
avoid discussions stemming from condescension. As for bias, I find I prefer to
judge an issue like this on its own merits rather than on the basis of its
source. I will be glad however, to pursue an intelligent and thoughtful
discussion of the issues. Please carefully read my previous posts and you will
find that all of the issues you raised have already been answered. Whether you
may or may not theologically agree is quite another matter and a subject for a
different forum.

I wish you well. Truly yours,
Centennial Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses
Greenwood Village, CO

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:37:48 EDT