Re: Present tence copulative verbs

From: Kyle Dillon (
Date: Tue Sep 01 1998 - 14:03:50 EDT

My conclusions were my own. I did not read some grammar concerning the use
of adverbial expressions in PPA idioms. I simply read what some grammarians
said about John 8:58, read the examples of the PPA idiom, and decided for
myself. On this discussion, I think that is the best we can do.

Grammarian A.T. Robertson said, "Undoubtedly here [at John 8:58] Jesus
claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast
between GENESQAI (entrance into existence of Abraham) and EIMI (timeless
being) is complete." (Word Pictures of the New Testament - John 8:58)

I also read that Julius Mantey, in his letter to the Watchtower Society,
said that their NWT rendering of EGW EIMI as "I have been" in John 8:58 is a
"mistranslation." My initial conclusion was that Jesus may have been
alluding to Exodus 3:14 (although that may be wrong). Then I read of a "Past
of Present Action," or PPA idiom. In the examples that I have read (except
for LXX Jeremiah 1:5), such as Luke 15:29, John 14:9, John 15:27, Acts
15:12, etc., all have a perfective adverbial expression; that is, all
adverbial expressions allow the idea to continue into the present. John 8:58
does not follow this pattern, so I concluded that it was not a PPA idiom.

Recently, Dan-Ake Mattsson quoted the LXX Jeremiah 1:5, which says PRO TOU
ME PLASAI SE EN KOILIAi, EPISTAMAI SE, or "before I formed you in the womb,
I knew [lit. "know] you." This is what I was looking for. Here we see a
similar grammatical construction to John 8:58 (an imperfective subordinate
clause and a present tense main verb). If this is indeed a PPA idiom, then
perhaps John 8:58 is as well. But I think Jeremiah 1:5 needs to be examined
more closely. I did a search at the Perseus web site, and I was unable to
find any example of EPISTAMAI in the perfect tense. We also have to consider
that this is in the Septuagint, a translation of Hebrew writings, and in
Greek New Testament writings, we never find PRIN or PRO modifying a
present/perfect tense main verb.

I do apologize if it sounded like I was putting my theology before
translation. But that is what happens when we discuss the theological nature
of a Greek text.

Kyle Dillon

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