Re: Present tense copulative verbs

From: dan-ake mattsson (
Date: Sat Aug 22 1998 - 09:11:00 EDT

< I have two reasons why EIMI in Jn 8:58 is not a Perfective Present
(IMHO). 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). 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. <Two, a couple of texts from the
LXX which are true parallels to Jn 8:58 are Psalm 90:2 and Proverbs
<18:13. -James Stewart


The verb EIMI is stative. States can be defined as "static
situations with no dynamics or internal structure, as durative situations
which continue without any input of energy." States always go in one
direction - forwards. To say that EIMI in John 8:58 "is pointing to the
past" is at odds with the definition of states.

>From the words of the verse we learn one thing, namely, that Jesus is/was
before Abraham. From our knowledge of the world we know that a speaker is
existing at the point of time when he is speaking. So, from the language
of the verse and our knowledge of the world we can draw the certain
conclusion that the state of Jesus`existence held before Abraham and still
held in the first century C.E. And that is all! There is absolutely no way
by help of the words of the verse and grammatical rules ALONE to draw the
conclusion that Jesus is eternal. To draw this conslusion we need to add a
theological element.

Your example from Psalm 90:2 does not prove that a state can proceed

Lord, you have been a refuge in generation after generation,

before the mountains came into existence and the earth and the inhabited
world were formed,

Yes, from everlasting to everlasting are you.

That PRO is used in the Psalm rather than PRIN of Joh 8:58, is a minor
point, both may have about the same mening. What is important, however, is
that there is no reason to believe that the clause (2) is parallel with
clause (3). The most likely interpretation is that clause (1) and (2) are
parallel, and that (3) is an extension: Not only has God existed through
all generations, even before the earth was created, but even from
everlasting to everlasting is God existing. The first word, KAI (Heb: U) of
clause (3) evidently is used for emphasis.

Allow me also a comment on the scope of the two states expressed in Psalm
90:2 and the one in John 8:58, because all three are different. Clause
(2) of Ps 90:2 refers only to the past, the state held before the
mountains came into existence. Clause (3) of Ps 90:2 refers to past present
and future, the state has always held and will allways hold. The state of
John 8:58 refers to past and present, it held before Abraham and it still
holds in the first century CE.

Dan-Ake Mattson

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:39:59 EDT