Re: Present tence copulative verbs

Date: Wed Aug 26 1998 - 00:57:40 EDT

Dear James:

You wrote:

<< Dear Mr. Stafford,
     I stand corrected on the distinction between a Perfective Present and a
Present of Past Action still in Progress. You are right. My mistake. I had
in mind the Present of Past Action still in Progress when I wrote my comments.

No problem. I am just glad we understand what is and what is not being

<< I don't think the picture I tried to describe came across very well. Jesus
didn't say "Since Abraham came into existence, I have been." He said "Before
Abraham came into existence..." Notice that in PPAs a beginning is stated or
implied. >>

I understood the point you were making. But thank you for making it clear once
again. Of course Jesus did not say, "Since Abraham came into existence I have
been." That would have been incorrect, from a biblical perspective. His words
would have then implied that he existed only from that point forward. By using
"before" he is able to make his point and remain consistent with the facts of
his existence. There is no specific point (a "beginning") to which he could
have referred in this instance, since his existence predated the Jews'
knowledge of history.

On this matter of PPAs having either a stated or implied beginning, I would
simply ask, how is it that a beginning is implied in texts where the adverbial
expression does not make a specific reference to a beginning? Of course, you
will no doubt say that the context, immediate and/or larger, gives us that
knowledge, and I would agree with you. Thus, in John 8:58, like John 14:9, the
length of duration is not defined, and NO grammar, to my knowledge, claims
that the *length* of duration must be specified in order for the usage to be
classified as a PPA. They are pretty consistent in stating that the present
verb must be accompanied by an expression denoting duration and referring to a
past time. Some make reference to the fact that the action began (but they
never limit it to this), and in many cases a beginning point is fixed (Luke
13:7), but not always. John 8:58 and 14:9 are but two of many examples (see
also Luke 15:29) where if a beginning is sought it is to be found outside of
the text itself.

To illustrate what I mean, one could argue that in John 14:9 TOSOUTON CHRONON
is an unspecified length of time, even eternal. Well, if we only had this text
to consider then it would hard to disprove such a theory. But by appealing to
the greater context of Jesus' ministry and his calling of Philip (John 1:43)
we know that John 14:9 does in fact have an implied beginning.

It is the same with John 8:58. While I am not here going to bring up the issue
of whether or not Jesus had a beginning to his prehuman existence (we may
discuss this privately, though) I will simply say that John 8:58 does not tell
us anything but that Jesus existed before Abraham. It does not tell us that he
had a beginning, nor that he did not have one.

<< Jn 8:58 does not have this. What we have in Jn 8:58 is a case of
Antecedent time. R.A. Young states in his grammar on page 166, "Antecedent
time means that the action of the main verb takes place before the action
expressed by the infinitive. To convey this idea, "before" is used at the
beginning of the adverbial clause." >>

That is correct. Jesus' existence (EIMI) is antecedent to Abraham's birth

<< Notice also in this context that EGW EIMI is used two other times in
verses 24 and 28 with the meaning I Am. In all three uses of EGW EIMI in this
context, A.T.Robertson calls an absolute use of EIMI. >>

Yes, I agree that there is a definite connection between all three uses, but
it is not an absolute usage, in my opinion. If you examine the context of
these three texts it seems clear, at least to me, that the implied predicate
is "Messiah" or "Christ." I have written a book that contains an entire
chapter about "The `I Am' Sayings of Jesus." If you want a copy, I will be
happy to provide you with one. Or, if you would like to order it yourself, you
can get it from Barnes&Noble, or from Elihubooks
( You might also consider other uses of EGW EIMI in John,
starting with John 4:26. But I recommend you consider the aforementioned
chapter, and, again, I will be happy to provide you with a free copy. Then,
after you read it, we can either discuss the grammatical issues here, or if
you want to discuss theology we can go private.

<< This same idiom is used in Psalm 90:2: "PRO TOU ORH GENHQHNAI...SU EI."
This would not be translated as 'You have been.' >>

I agree that the same idiom is used in both texts. But there is absolutely
nothing wrong with translating Ps. 90:2 (LXX) as "you have been." In fact,
Charles Thomson renders it as "Thou existed" in his translation of the LXX.
The key phrase in this text is APO TOU AIWNOS hEWS TOU AIWNOS, which is, of
course, not found in John 8:58.

<< Also, in Jn 8:58 and Psalm 90:2, there is a contrast between EIMI and
GINOMAI. Please see Ron Henzel's post 8-14-96 entitled 'Jn 8:58 and the
subordinating adverbial particle.' >>

Was that a b-Greek post? I'll check the archives. But, in any event, you are
correct. There is a contrast between that which existed and that which came
into existence. But this does not necessarily imply a contrast between that
which is eternal and that which came into existence.

Greg Stafford

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