Re: Present tense copulative verbs

Date: Fri Aug 21 1998 - 23:37:36 EDT

Dear James:

In a message dated 8/21/98 7:53:22 PM Pacific Daylight Time, you wrote:

<< I have two reasons why EIMI in Jn 8:58 is not a Perfective Present (IMHO).

I don't think anyone has suggested that EIMI in John 8:58 is a "Perfective
Present." The Perfective Present is only found with a limited number of verbs,
such as hHKW, AKOUW and others. No one is saying that EIMI, by itself, assumes
a "Perfective" sense.

<<One, Burton in his Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of New Testament Greek
states that Perfective Presents are,"...accompanied by an adverbial expression
denoting duration and referring to past time."(10, section 17) Examples of
true Perfective Presents and their adverbial expressions are: "so many years"
(TOSAUTA ETH, Luke 15:29); "a long time" (POLUN HDH CRONON, Jn 5:6); "so long
a time" (TOSIUTWi CRONWi, Jn 14:9); "from the beginning" (AP ARCHS, Jn 15:27);
and "from ancient times" (EK GENEWN ARCAIWN, Acts 15:21). >>

Not one of these are examples of Perfective Presents, but, rather, of presents
used with adverbial expressions referring to a past time period. This idiom is
labeled as a "Present of Past Action Still in Progress" by Burton, and McKay
calls it an "Extension from Past" present.

<< As can be seen from these examples, you have an event in the past which
has present results. The movement of time is the past to the present. In Jn
8:58, the movement of time is in the opposite direction. It starts at
Abraham's existence and points before it. It is pointing to the past. >>

There is no "pointing [in the sense of actively extending beyond the point of
reference] backwards," but merely a past reference, to a time "before"
Abraham." Abraham is the point of contention, and Jesus chooses a period
"before" his birth as a point of reference and points out that his existence
is inclusive of that period and continues to the present. That is why he can
say he "saw" Abraham "rejoice."

<< Two, a couple of texts from the LXX which are true parallels to Jn 8:58 are
Psalm 90:2 and Proverbs 18:13. >>

All of the examples you gave from Burton are also true parallels to John 8:58.
They have present tense verb forms, used together with adverbial expressions
referring to past time. Obviously, the time period in each case is going to be
different, because a different past period is referred to. The prepositions
used in the adverbial expression will also exhibit differences, but this does
not mean they are not parallel to each other as far as being instances of this
particular idiom.

Greg Stafford

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