Qualitative-Indefinite Pre-verbal Predicates

From: Al Kidd (akidd@infoave.net)
Date: Sun Sep 15 1996 - 22:56:56 EDT

   Lane McGaughy lists Luke 20:6 PEPEISMENOS GAR ESTIN as an
example of where the predicate is a participle and the subject
is indicated by the verb. Why did not McGaughy treat of
instances where the "being" verb is an infinitive having both
an explicitly given accusative-case subject and an explicitly
given accusative-case predicate? Do we not see an example of
such a construction in the final part of Luke 20:6 itself?
There we read:

              John (a) prophet to be (is)

    Can this not be pressed into service against Daniel
Wallace's ambivalent exegesis of John 4:19? Wallace teeters
just short of explaining "prophet" there as a qualitative-only
use of a predicative "prophet." (See D. Wallace, _Greek Grammar
Beyond the Basics_, pp 265ff.) One senses that he would like
to rule out the logic that we may infer as to what the woman
should have to have admitted had she been pressed as to what was
her opinion of the status of Jesus' prophethood, this being her
opinion until Jesus revealed his Messiahship to her (verse 26).
Until then, she would not have had any basis for thinking Jesus
to be The Prophet; therefore, logic has it that the woman should
have to have seen Jesus _not_ as his being The Prophet but
rather as his being an ordinary member of a class of prophets,
that being the most that she could have logically admitted about
Jesus until he spoke to her the words in verse 26. Just the
same, we are all agreed that that membership was not uppermost
in her mind; rather, she was impressed by the fact that Jesus
was demonstrating his prophethood---that he was truly

    Of course, among some of the things Wallace wishes to
advance is the following: "[John 4:19] is the most likely
candidate of an indefinite pre-verbal P[redicate] N[ominative]
in the NT."

    Well, we can give him argument against his too-restrictve
enumeration of examples of indefinite, pre-verbal predicates.
One thing we can bring to his attention is this: there is no
"magic" in the nominativeness of the predicate such that that
nominativeness must impart some kind of meaning (syntagmatic
effect) not possible for a predicate in the accusative case (see
Luke 20:6). Bearing this in mind, we look again at Luke 20:6,
we especially taking note of the context, which is as follows:

    The Baptist is already dead at the time the chief priests
and scribes say the words of Luke 20:6. Even so, those enemies
of Jesus know that the Jews honor the Baptist's memory by their
holding the popular conviction _not_ that he was The Prophet,
but that he was prophetic (an owner of prophethood), for it is
not at all likely that they were holding him to have been The
Prophet, seeing that he was murdered by Herod (cf. John 12:34).

    So, this pre-verbal predicate, while laying emphasis on the
qualitativeness of the predicate's attributes (the Baptist's
prophethood) all right, serves to show us the following:

    Had the Jews been pressed as to what they considered to be
the status of the Baptist's prophethood, then they should have
to have admitted that John was not in their opinion The Prophet
but was instead _a_ prophet.

    Of course, Jesus' enemies were not focusing upon the
Baptist's mere---yet real---membership in the class "God's
prophets"; they were concerned that the Jews held him to be
prophetic. So, there are instances where the predicate can have
qualitative emphasis given it, though this need not rule out
that the logic of a greater context---one not necessarily
explicitly given in the narrative itself---can show that that
predicate is indefinite, too. But with John 1:1b we have an
item that is explicitly given as part of the context for John
1:1c, which is that "the Word was with God." But even if John
1:1b had not been given as part of the context for 1:1c, we
should still be able to point to a context such that "the Word
was a god" (John 1:1c) is just as permissible as either "you
are a prophet" (John 4:19) or "John [the Baptist] was a prophet"
(Luke 20:6), although in none of the cases do we see that mere
membership in some class was the thing uppermost in the mind of
the speaker.

    We can point out, however, that John 1:1b is very much an
item of context---an item that, because it is an item of context
explicitly given us in the narrative, cannot be circumvented
except one resort to a nonbiblical denial of all the pertinent
context, which is a context that includes the Gospel of John
throughout---because throughout that Gospel we see that it
consistently gives us a portrait of Jesus in which he is
essentially (ontologically) subordinate to God (the Father).
This is a position (namely, one's holding that the Gospel of
John, despite its "high Christology," gives us the picture that
there is essential subordination of the Son to the Father)
acknowledged by evengelical scholar John Dahms, too.

Al Kidd

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