EIMI with Temporal Clauses

From: Williams, Wes (Wes.Williams@echostar.com)
Date: Fri May 08 1998 - 13:21:59 EDT

> Williams, Wes wrote:
> > While it is true that the Greek Present "form" generally refers to
> > present time, there are other considerations for translators. Here
> is
> > some food for thought. An adverbial temporal clause modifying the
> > present verb form can throw the starting point into the past. A
> > translator needs to take a temporal time clause into consideration
> along
> > with a verb form. In John 8:58 there is a temporal clause referring
> to
> > past time "PRIN ABRAAM GENSEQAI." PRIN is an adverbial coordinating
> > conjunction. Which verb does PRIN modify? How does it modify the
> verb?
> > What should a translator do with this verb form?
> George wrote:
> So taken this way, it says "Before Abraham births" [or comes to be],
> and without Abraham, it would read "Before birth", yes?
Dear George,

Your exegesis of the adverbial temporal phrase PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI is
roughly equivalent to mine. My question is not what the phrase means,
but in the sentence PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI, which verb does the
adverb PRIN modify? It cannot modify GENESQAI since GENESQAI itself is
part of the adverbial phrase. And then, how does the phrase modify that

> > Likewise, what effect does the temporal clause TOSOUTON CRONON have
> on
> > EIMI in John 14:9 causing the following translations to modify the
> > present form into a "Present of Past Action?" (cf Moulton A Grammar
> of
> > N.T. Greek, Vol. III, 1963, p.62)
> >
> > John 14:9 "eimi" with past time clause = "I have been" (in the past
> and
> > still am)
> > KJV John 14:9 Have I been so long time with you
> > ASV John 14:9 Have I been so long time with you
> > NAS John 14:9 "Have I been so long with you
> > NAB John 14:9 "Have I been so long with you
> > NWT John 14:9 "Have I been with you men so long a time
> > NIV John 14:9 "even after I have been among you such a long time?
        <snip other translations>
> "And is saying to him Jesus, "This much time with you I am being, and
> not you have known me, Phillip?" Word substitution here only
> struggles a little, and is easily adjusted to a normal English
> sentence.
The translation you offer is accurate. Darby and Young's Literal
Translation agree with your English translation over the "I have been"
that reflects English idiom more closely. To be consistent with your
translation principle, you would likely translate EIMI with the temporal
phrase at John 15:27 AP ARCHS MET EMOU ESTE as "you are the ones that
ARE with me from the beginning" rather than the more idiomatic "have
been with me." (Also, EIMI in itself does not insist a "past eternal
existence" with Phillip.)

The challenge here is that the use of the English present sounds unusual
to the English ear since we usually use the perfect to represent
continuous time starting in the past and continuing unbroken into the
present. The *sense* of the phrase is that Jesus was with them for some
past time and continues with them up to the present. How do we translate
this *sense* into English? Some may disagree with you and say that "This
much time I am being" is a much greater struggle than "So long a time I
have been" for the English ear since the English "I have been" more
closely respresents the unbroken time of the past and present rolled
together into a single verb form.

The above work by Moulton says on p.62 "The Present which indicates the
continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of
speaking is virtually the same as Perfective, the only difference being
that the action is conceived as still in progress . . . It is frequent
in the N.T.: Lk 2:48 13:7 ... 15:29 ... Jn 5:6 8:58.

Even Darby yielded to the effect of the Present of Past Action Still in
Progress when he translated the present EXEI at John 5:6 as:
and knowing that he was {in that state} now a great length of time,
POLUN HDH CRONON ECEI (how much time he is having already).

> The REAL question [to me] is 'What effect does EIMI have on
> TOSOUTON CRONON, instead of vice-versa. Seems to be to me, Wes, that
> as translators we had better let the reader figure it out, and just
> say what the text says, without all of our presumed grammatical
> insight that none of us seem to agree on. Then, at least, the reader
> has a fighting chance...
I am strongly in favor of your principle to let the reader "figure it
out," perhaps helping by suggesting allowable alternatives via
footnotes. We must also keep in mind that the reader does not understand
Koine grammar and there are grammatical considerations to bear in mind
beyond a word-for-word translation. Is it proper to not notify the
reader that near context is having an effect on the present form verb?
We do want to give them a literal translation that is more than an
interlinear, do we not? It seems to me that your translation principles
are to present more of an interlinear if we do not translate the effect
of temporal clauses on the verb. Do I understand you properly?

Wes Williams


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