Re: Present tence copulative verbs

From: Kyle Dillon (
Date: Tue Sep 01 1998 - 00:53:26 EDT

-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: Biblical Greek <>
Cc: <>
Date: Monday, August 31, 1998 11:27 AM
Subject: Re: Present tence copulative verbs

>In a message dated 8/31/98 10:37:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> writes:
><< I agree with you that PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI "Before Abraham
>into being, I am" is different from PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGO HMHN "I
> existed before Abraham came into being", and this distinction is being
> ignored by many here. However, I don't think it is accurate to say that
> present tense is omnitemporal. >>
>It is indeed different. EGW HMHN would not stress the fact that his
>continues to the present moment of speaking the way the PPA does.

True, but EGW HMHN is grammatically (and temporally) more accurate. EGW EIMI
does not temporally agree with the imperfect subordinate clause PRIN ABRAAM
GENESQAI. A literal translation of John 8:58 would read, "I am existing
before the birth of Abraham" (temporally impossible, since Abraham had
already been born when Jesus said this). The adverbial expression of a PPA
idiom must be perfective for the present tense main verb to carry the idea
into the present. John 8:58 is therefore not a PPA idiom, because the
adverbial expression is not perfective but imperfective (i.e., you cannot
carry the idea of being "before Abraham" into the present).

Jesus could have said, "Before Abraham was born, EGW HMHN," or "Since before
Abraham's birth, EGW EIMI;" the former conforming the main verb to the
adverbial, and the latter conforming the adverbial to the main verb. Both
are grammatically and temporally acceptable, but "Before Abraham was born, I
am/have been" is incorrect in both Greek and English.

The sentence PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI suggests, as some have said,
omnitemporality, being an allusion to Exodus 3:14. There can be no doubt
that Jesus was making a theological statement concerning his eternality. If
Jesus was simply implying preexistence, then either the subordinating clause
should have been perfective, or the main verb should have been imperfective.
But an imperfective dependent clause cannot grammatically/temporally link to
a present tense main verb.

><< This verse tells us that Jesus exists, and has existed since before
> Abraham, but does not tell us when he began to exist. Many of the people
> this discussion seem to be arguing the Jehovah's Witnesses position. If I
> understand it correctly, they teach that Jesus is not God, but a created
> being who came into existence before humans did. >>

>I may be able to help clarify this point. First, no one has mentioned any
>particular theological position, until now. Rather, those involved in the
>discussion have simply commented on what the text says. I think it is
>unnecessary to put a label on a particular view that has merely been
>from the perspective of what the Bible says. Also, if you are going to
>that some are arguing for a "Witness" position, I think it only fair to
>mention that others are arguing for a trinitarian position.

I think we need to forget any presupposed theologies. Let Scripture
influence interpretation, not translation. We have to first understand what
the Bible says before we decide what it means. And in John 8:58, it says
that Jesus is either eternally preexistent or just preexistent, and I think
it is obvious that it says he is eternal.


Kyle Dillon

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