Date: Thu Aug 20 1998 - 10:13:08 EDT
Are present tense copulative verbs (EIMI verbs) known to take on a perfect
meaning when in a past tense context (e.g., John 8:58)?
In John 8:58 and other texts EIMI is being used as a verb of existence, so if
the context and adverbial modifiers point to what we in English refer to as
"perfect meaning," then the answer to your question is yes.
Examples that might be helpful to you, as far as how some English translations
render EIMI in certain contexts, are John 14:9 and John 15:27.
The way you use the word "tense" in your question seems to indicate that you
understand time as something grammaticalized (indicated by inflection) in the
Greek verb. That is not necessarily the case. However, leaving that point
aside for now, most Greek grammars recognize that when certain verbs are used
with adverbial expressions denoting duration, and referring to a past time
period, they are correctly translated with the English perfect.
One such grammarian is K. L. McKay, who in his A New Syntax of the Verb in New
Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach (New York: Peter Lang, 1994), pages
41-42, states: "When used with an expression of either past time or extent of
time with past implications . . . the present tense signals an activity begun
in the past and continuing to present time . . . John 8:58 . . . I have been
in existence since before Abraham was born."
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