Date: Thu Aug 15 1996 - 18:15:57 EDT
>> This construction begins with <prin>, which is known as a
"subordinating adverbial particle." Subordinating adverbial
particles denote the beginning of dependent clauses. Therefore, the
clause, "Before Abraham was" is a dependent clause and not a
coordinate clause of "I am." Therefore, "Before Abraham was" cannot
possibly modify the meaning of "I am." On the contrary: "Before
Abraham was" is GRAMMATICALLY DEPENDENT on "I am."
The net result of this is that due to the presence of the
subordinating adverbial particle, <eimi> in John 8:58 canNOT POSSIBLY
be a use of the "perfective present," as A.T. Robertson also points
out. Therefore, it is improper to translate it "I have been."<<
I see the point but the conclusion does not follow from the statement.
While what is said about the *grammatical* dependency is true, the
subordinating adverbial particle PRIN does create a *temporal* dependency
in the main clause. The PRIN marks the verb in the main clause as
antecedent from the dependent clause. For example, in the statement:
"Before a cock crows, you will disown me,"
the main clause "you will disown me" occurs temporally before (PRIN) the
dependent clause "a cock crows." The 'disowning' comes first, then the
The grammatical use of the "perfective present" is a *temporal*
modification and not a *grammatical* one. Therefore, it would be
grammatically allowable to translate the main clause verb in its temporal
I have listed at the bottom of this post all instances of PRIN occurring in
the N.T. The specific verses that parallel the John 8:58 construction are
prin + aorist infinitive.
>>(Another grammatical note -- no extra charge: the "was" in the clause "Before
Abraham was," is actually NOT a past tense, but an idiomatic use of the
infinitive. Infinitives possess no inherent time reference, because they're not
indicatives. It's a "translator's call" on how it should be rendered, based on
The infinitive to which you refer is an aorist infinitive and may be punctiliar
or simply not referencing a particular instance of time. While not referring to
past time in itself, the adverb PRIN modifies the verb of the main clause
timewise, as antecedent action. Therefore, whether the verb of the main clause
is future "you will disown" or past "he lived," the verbal action in the main
clause occurs *before* the action in the dependent clause. (Note: Instead of
the ambiguous 'Abraham was,' (aorist or durative?) we might say 'before Abraham
existed' or 'before Abraham was born.')
This PRIN argument you raise actually *in itself* supports Mitchell's argument
as to the time of verbal "eimi" occurring before "Abraham existed," since PRIN
as an adverb argues in favor of a verb to modify.
Here are the instances of PRIN in the N.T. Note in all cases that the action of
the main clause occurs before the action of the dependent clause:
NIV Matthew 1:18 but before they came together, she was found to be with child
through the Holy Spirit.
Mt 1:18 PRIN H SUNELQEIN AUTOUS EUREQH EN GASTRI EXOUSA EK PNEUMATOS AGIOU
NIV Matthew 26:34 before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
Mt 26:34 PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI TRIS APARNHSH ME
NIV Matthew 26:75 "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." Mt
26:75 PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI TRIS APARNHSH ME KAI ECELQWN ECW EKLAUSEN PIKRWS
NIV Mark 14:30 before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three
Mk 14:30 PRIN H DIS ALEKTORA FWNHSAI TRIS ME APARNSN
NIV Mark 14:72 Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times."
Mk 14:72 PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI DIS TRIS ME APARNSN
NIV Luke 2:26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not
die before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
Lu 2:26 KAI HN AUTW KEXRHMATISMENON UPO TOU PNEUMATOS TOU AGIOU MH IDEIN
QANATON PRIN [H] AN IDH TON XRISTON KURIOU
NIV Luke 22:61 "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times."
Lu 22:61 PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI SHMERON APARNHSH ME TRIS
NIV John 4:49 "Sir, come down before my child dies."
Joh 4:49 KURIE KATABHQI PRIN APOQANEIN TO PAIDION MOU
NIV John 8:58 "before Abraham was born, <ego eimi>"
Joh 8:58 PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI
NIV John 14:29 I have told you now before it happens,
Joh 14:29 KAI NUN EIRHKA UMIN PRIN GENESQAI
NIV Acts 2:20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before
the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
Ac 2:20 O HLIOS METASTRAFHSETAI EIS SKOTOS KAI H SELHNH EIS AIMA PRIN ELQEIN
HMERAN KURIOU THN MEGALHN KAI EPIFANH
NIV Acts 7:2 The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still
in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.
Ac 7:2 O DE EFH ANDRES ADELFOI KAI PATERES AKOUSATE O QEOS THS DOCHS WFQH TW
PATRI HMWN ABRAAM ONTI EN TH MESOPOTAMIA PRIN H KATOIKHSAI AUTON EN XARRAN
NIV Acts 25:16 "I told them that it is not the Roman custom to hand over any man
before he has faced his accusers
Ac 25:16 PROS OUS APEKRIQHN OTI OUK ESTIN EQOS RWMAIOIS XARIZESQAI TINA
ANQRWPON PRIN H O KATHGOROUMENOS KATA PROSWPON EXOI
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