Re: Present tense copulative verbs

Date: Wed Sep 02 1998 - 00:48:17 EDT

> 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.

I do not often post, but since Kyle introduced the subject of Mantey and I
have some knowledge of this, I will take this opportunity to add some
clarification. Some quote Mantey but omit the response given to Mantey.
Therefore, citing Mantey's remarks about "I have been" being a
"mistranslation" but omitting the response leaves partial information. An
individual living in California answered Mantey's comments about
"mistranslation." I enclose only the first page of two pages of the response.
The letter is dated Feb 6, 1979. Mantey never broached the subject again,
although he wrote to the author again on October 19, 1980. The author writes
to Mantey in response to Mantey's comments about "I have been" being a
mistranslation and 'What Greek scholar ever translated EGW EIMI as "I have

"First, let it be noted, that the translating of a present indicative (I am)
in Greek, into a form of th English Perfect (I have been), is in accord with
correct Greek Grammar. Such must be done, however, because of proper syntax.
What comprises proper syntax? Please note: E. D. Burton in, "Syntax of the
Moods and Tenses in New Testament Greek:, section 17, "The Present Indicative,
accompanied by an adverbial expression denoting duration and referring to past
time, is sometimes used in Greek…to describe an action which, beginning in
past time, is still in progress at the time of speaking. English idiom
requires the use of the Perfect in such cases.". Does the construction of John
8:58 meet these syntactical conditions? Yes! The present indicative EGW EIMI
(I am) _is_ accompanied by an adverbial expression denoting duration and
referring to past time., PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI (before Abraham to become). What
do other scholars say about such construction and translation? G. B. Winer in,
"A Treatise of the Grammar of the New Testament Greek", p. 334, "Sometimes the
present tense includes a preterit…when the verb indicates a state which
commenced at an earlier period but still continues…Jo…viii. 58"; Sanders and
Masten, in "Harper's New Testament Commentaries:, p. 158, "To describe a state
continuing up to the present, Greek uses the present tense (EXEI) where
English uses the Perfect; cf. "John viii. 58"; J. H. Moulton and N. Turner in
"A Grammar of New Testament Greek", p. 62, "The Present which indicates the
continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking… Jn…
8 58"; A. T. Robertson in, "A Grammar of New Testament Greek in the Light of
Historical Research:, p. 879, "The Progressive Present… Often it has to be
translated into English by a sort of "progressive perfect" ('have been'); (the
claim is not made here that Dr. Robertson says John 8:58 should be translated
in the perfect; only that he knew such construction _could_ be so translated).
Dana and Mantey in, "A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament", p. 183,
under "c." make a similar observation: restrictions as to the reproduction of
the latter in the _1957_ edition make quotations unavailable. James Strong in
his "Greek Dictionary of the New Testament" contained within his "Concordance"
p. 25, word 1510 shows that EIMI, while in the present, can have perfect tense
connotations in English note: "have been…was".

The letter then quotes Luke 13:7; 15:29; John 5:6; 8;58; 14:9; 15:27.
"See also: Acts 15:21, 21:11; 2 Cor 12:19; 2 Tim. 3:15; 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John
3:3; and the translations of Moffatt, Stage, Pfaeffin, Schonfield, Lamsa,
Murdock, Delitzsch (I have been), Ginsberg (I have been), A.S. Lewis (I have
been), The Twentieth Century New Testament, Beck, Living Bible, Kliest and
Lilly, New American Standard, margin (I have been). All these render EGW EIMI
at John 8:58 in a form of the perfect tense, in keeping with the Grammar rules
noted by Grammarians.

Mantey never responded on the subject. Instead, on October 19, 1980, he
invited the author of the letter to read the new light on translations in his
new book, which had nothing to do with the subject at hand.

I add this comment for clarification since Mantey's quote was introduced.
Kyle, I hope this helps.

Mark Johnson

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