Date: Sun May 10 1998 - 11:43:39 EDT
Williams, Wes wrote:
> 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
PRIN ABRAAM? yes [before Abraham]
PRIN GENESQAI? yes [before 'to birth']
PRIN EGW? no [before 'I' ??]
PRIN EIMI? no [before exist/am??]
PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAU? yes [before Abraham 'to birth']
PRIN EGW EIMI? no [before I exist??]
Therefore not: PRIN [ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI] [garbles] [before I am
Abraham 'to exist']
EGO EIMI is the independent clause, and the construction PRIN ABRAAM
GENESQAI answers a particular implicit question "PRIN TI?" in
subordination to it. 'Modify' is a misleading grammatical term here,
in the sense that to modify is to delimit or restrict something. [As
in 'This is a PRE-'60's car.' Or, giving the car its own voice, 'I AM
a pre-'60's car.'] Instead, this construction is one in which the
prepositional phrase 'pertains to' [is true of], but does not 'modify'
the independent clause. It states a truth that exists in virtue of
the independent clause.
The alternatives to PRIN are 'during' and 'after', and they would, on
this approach, be true as well, given the time-transcending force of
this statement of the EGW EIMI. In effect, [but not in
translation!!], this construction is saying EGW EIMI, and that means,
in this particular case, for instance, even PRIN QBRAAN GENESQAI!!
[Got a problem with that?? Well, the Jews sure did! They tried to
So your question 'which verb does the adverb PRIN modify?' would seem
to be a tad misleading. It modifies Abraham and it modifies 'to
birth', both separately and together, and the entire prepositional
phrase illustrates [gives an instanciation of], but does not modify,
But then how can this be determined by the grammar? This construction
would have no difficulty if it was saying, for instance, 'Before my
son 'to birth', I exist.' That is well known and well understood.
And the before here modifies what? My son and his birth. Taken as a
whole, this prepositional phrase tell WHEN I exist regarding my son,
without modifying my existing.
Perhaps a different approach is needed here. Adverbial prepositions
of time establish sequence of events and/or states of being. They do
not 'modify', they 'sequence', them. So too do the verb tenses. They
establish a 'time line'. And here, we have a time line that breaks
all the rules of known time. Nobody in their 30s can exist prior to
someone who died hundreds of years ago. [If you told me this
sentence, why... I might even be a lookin' fer rocks mah-self!!] So
perhaps we had better just leave this at sequence, which CAN be
understood as a 'modification' of the action or state of the verb[s],
but only confoundingly. 'I exist before' must be clearly distinct
from 'Before I exist' in English.
The other thing about this sentence is the aorist infinitive. I spent
some time driving and worked with this English phrase: "Before
Abraham to birth". It gets interesting. The infinitive adds
additional sequencing, you see... The abstract idea of birth, [which
is the aorist], in the infinitive, involves a 'slipping into' the
action of the verb, a kind of incipience and vergence upon the idea of
the action. He COULD have said, 'Before Abraham was born' [perfect
passive], or even 'birthed', [perfect active], or 'was being born'
[imperfect passive] or 'was birthing' [imperfect], or 'births' [aorist
active] or 'is born' [aorist passive], or 'is being born', or 'is
birthing', or even 'will be born' or 'will birth', but He does NOT.
WHY??? Why the aorist Infinitive? Why 'to birth'? And the answer
lies, I believe, in the additional sequencing that the infinitive
affords, for implicit in it is the idea that 'even before Abraham
BEGAN 'to birth', I AM. And it does so without telling HOW LONG
before. Theologically, of course, the 'length' of the incipience or
interval is eternal. It is an awesome construction and use of the
infinitive!! And the present [ongoing] tense of EIMI simply smothers
it! Such is the power of tenses in John... And the need to
rigorously keep them clear in translation.
Enough for now... I'd like to hear if I even am getting PROS
answering your question!!
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