Re: Present tence copulative verbs

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Tue Sep 01 1998 - 16:35:15 EDT

On Tue 1 Sep 98 (09:35:20 +0200), wrote:
> My mother tongue is not English, but it seems to me that the translation
> (RSV) "Before Abraham was, I am." is grammatically wrong, and the only
> way to defend it, is to introduce a mystical element (which of course is
> not based on grammar). The use of perfect would on the other hand be fine
> English. Is this view correct?

 You raise some interesting points, Dan-Ake.

 The retro-translation of John 8:58 into Hebrew by Franz Delitzsch uses
 the phrase 'aNiY HuW' "I he". There is no verb; the present tense of "to
 be" is understood, but not expressed. As far as English usage is concerned,
 one would say e.g. "I have been in England since 1990"; whereas a German
 would say "Ich bin in England seit dem Jahre 1990": using the Present where
 English uses the Perfect. Both English and German understands "I have been
 *and still am* here": "Ich bin *und bleibe noch* hier".

 So the English "Since Abraham was, I am" is accurate in expressing PRIN
 ABRAAM GENESQAI, EGW EIMI. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that
 Norwegian and the Scandinavian languages follow the German usage of the
 Present and Perfect tenses here.


 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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