John 8:58

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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Below is something I wrote up on basic sentence structure some time ago. If there are any mistakes please correct me. There would seem to be a blending of two different sentence types. One as a convertible proposition which is a complete thought and then one which requires a main verb
(the linking verb) to be used in the other sentence. So it would be a compound sentence of two equative sentences:

I am the Christ. and I am (have been, have existed) before Abraham came to be. So a blending of sentences that I have numbered type II and type IV.

Also how would one back translate I am (have been) the Messiah before Abraham came to be?

There are 5 basic sentence types:
I. The Intransitive Type
 These are sentences containing a subject and an intransitive verb as the predicate. A verb that can stand alone in a verb phrase and function as the entire predicate is intransitive.

Jesus wept.-John ‪11:35‬
ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς

Types II, III, and IV --Linking (Copular) Verbs

II. The Verb "Be" Requiring Adverbs of Time or Place
Time:
The Word was present at the start.
Ἑν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος.

Place:
The Word was in God's presence.
ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν.

In Type II sentences, a form of the linking verb "be" requires an adverbial complement that completes the predicate and expresses place or time. Such complements refer to the place or time of the subject, not of the verb.

III. The Linking Verb Type with Adjectival Subject Complement

Yet the earth was invisible.
ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος.

The adjective phrase describes the noun phrase that functions as a subject. Again, because the "be" verb serves to join or link the subject to the descriptive word or phrase in the predicate, they are called "linking" verbs or "copulative" verbs. The adjective phrase that follows them functions as an adjectival subject complement also called a predicate adjective. The adjective phrase that functions as a subject complement in Type III sentences is required; it completes the predicate while providing descriptive information about the subject.

IV. The Linking Verb with Nominal Subject Complement

The Word was a god.
θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

These sentences, like those of Type III, contain verbs that link the subject with a subject complement in the predicate, but in Type IV sentences, the linking verb is followed by a nominal constituent-that is a noun phrase functioning as the subject complement. (Nominal means "functioning as a noun.") The noun or noun phrase that is linked with the linking verb always has the same referent as the subject - that is it always refers to the same person, place or thing as the subject noun phrase. 
The nominal subject complements are called predicate nominatives. These nouns occur in the same case as the subject noun- the nominative case.

V. The Transitive Type

God made the heavens.
ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανόν.

As we have seen, intransitive verbs in Type I sentences require no complements. Linking verbs in Type II, III, and IV sentences have complements that refer in some way to the subject of the sentence. These four verb types contrast with transitive verbs (Type V). Verbs in Type V sentences require a noun phrase complement that refers to something or someone other than that to which the subject noun phrase refers. None of the other sentence types have this characteristic.
The second noun phrase in Type V sentences functions as a direct object. Transitive verbs require a direct object.
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

If the sentence πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί would at the same time expresses both identity with an unexpressed predicate (I am the Christ/God) and also expresses existence with the same “be” verb it would be the height of John’s double entendres. Even surpassing John 8:25 with it’s possible question Why am I even talking to you at all? And Even what I told you from the start (at the beginning) and The Beginning even as I told you.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Viewing ἐγὼ εἰμί as absolute creates the difficultly that γενέσθαι has no controlling verb to give it it's time.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Jonathan Robie »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: July 31st, 2021, 8:59 am
Jonathan Robie wrote: July 31st, 2021, 8:01 am I think the syntax is fairly straightforward here.
I think the syntax, grammar and semantics of the πριν clause are straightforward. But the grammar of the present tense of the main verb in this context isn't.
Exactly. The present tense is a surprise, and it's one real issue in this verse.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: July 31st, 2021, 8:59 am Nobody has yet given me examples where an expression which limits the time we are talking about to past is combined with the present tense main verb. (This is the most generic and generous requirement I can think about when I'm requesting parallels or similar examples.) I can't myself find any; therefore I ask if anyone else can find them. Also I very much want to find examples of PPA (which aren't parallels of this) so that I could see if my hypothesis holds.
I wish I had a list of adjuncts of time, identified by past, present, or future reference. It would make this kind of search a lot easier. I am on the lookout for lists like that.

But here's one well-known example:
Psalm 89:2 wrote:πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ.

Which is syntactically very similar to:
John 8:58 wrote:εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί.
But I am also very curious about the Septuagint translation here, the Hebrew explicitly mentions God, the Greek does not:
Psa 90:2 wrote:בְּטֶ֤רֶם ׀ הָ֘רִ֤ים יֻלָּ֗דוּ וַתְּח֣וֹלֵֽל אֶ֣רֶץ וְתֵבֵ֑ל וּֽמֵעוֹלָ֥ם עַד־ע֝וֹלָ֗ם אַתָּ֥ה אֵֽל׃
To me, the syntax of these two examples is similar enough that I would expect the usage to be the same in both places. And it does make me wonder if Jesus may have been calling that verse to mind, it's a very distinctive usage.

The other issue is that the predicate is not specified. "I am". I am WHAT? The subject is specified, the predicate is not. I think that's what the OP means by a "predicateless copula." There are, of course, other places where a copulative verb does not specify a predicate. Are there any useful parallels here? Whatever it means, it has to answer this question:

μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ, ὅστις ἀπέθανεν; καὶ οἱ προφῆται ἀπέθανον. τίνα σεαυτὸν ποιεῖς;

Does this list suggest senses that would be plausible answers to that question? Here's one really speculative idea:
Before Abraham was ... it's me.
It says that Jesus was there before Abraham without saying that there was a time he came into existence. It does so in a way that feels parallel to the LXX for Psalm 89:2.

In light of the uses below, is that plausible or not? I don't think we usually translate ἐγὼ εἰμί without a predicate as "I am" in other contexts. But this one feels special, so maybe "I am" is the right way to translate here. And that's usually the way we translate Psalm 89:2, we don't translate that "you are". Thoughts?

<p>Matt.14.27 εὐθὺς δὲ ἐλάλησεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς αὐτοῖς λέγων Θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε.</p>
<p>Matt.14.28 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν Κύριε, εἰ σὺ εἶ, κέλευσόν με ἐλθεῖν πρὸς σὲ ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα.</p>
<p>Matt.26.22 καὶ λυπούμενοι σφόδρα ἤρξαντο λέγειν αὐτῷ εἷς ἕκαστος Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, Κύριε;</p>
<p>Matt.26.25 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν εἶπεν Μήτι ἐγώ εἰμι, Ῥαββεί;</p>
<p>Mark.6.50 ὁ δὲ εὐθὺς ἐλάλησεν μετ’ αὐτῶν, καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε.</p>
<p>Mark.13.6 πολλοὶ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ πολλοὺς πλανήσουσιν.</p>
<p>Mark.14.62 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν Ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ὄψεσθε τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμενον τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ.</p>
<p>Luke.21.8 πολλοὶ γὰρ ἐλεύσονται ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματί μου λέγοντες Ἐγώ εἰμι, καί Ὁ καιρὸς ἤγγικεν·</p>
<p>Luke.22.58 ὁ δὲ Πέτρος ἔφη Ἄνθρωπε, οὐκ εἰμί.</p>
<p>Luke.22.70 ὁ δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἔφη Ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.</p>
<p>John.1.21 καὶ λέγει Οὐκ εἰμί.</p>
<p>John.4.26 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ἐγώ εἰμι, ὁ λαλῶν σοι.</p>
<p>John.6.20 ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε.</p>
<p>John.8.24 εἶπον οὖν ὑμῖν ὅτι ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν· ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ πιστεύσητε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀποθανεῖσθε ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν.</p>
<p>John.8.28 εἶπεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς Ὅταν ὑψώσητε τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τότε γνώσεσθε ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ ποιῶ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ καθὼς ἐδίδαξέν με ὁ Πατὴρ, ταῦτα λαλῶ.</p>
<p>John.9.9 ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγεν ὅτι Ἐγώ εἰμι.</p>
<p>John.13.13 ὑμεῖς φωνεῖτέ με Ὁ Διδάσκαλος καὶ ὁ Κύριος, καὶ καλῶς λέγετε· εἰμὶ γάρ.</p>
<p>John.13.19 ἀπ’ ἄρτι λέγω ὑμῖν πρὸ τοῦ γενέσθαι, ἵνα πιστεύητε ὅταν γένηται ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι.</p>
<p>John.18.5 λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἐγώ εἰμι.</p>
<p>John.18.6 ὡς οὖν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἐγώ εἰμι, ἀπῆλθαν εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω καὶ ἔπεσαν χαμαί.</p>
<p>John.18.8John.18.9 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς Εἶπον ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐγώ εἰμι· εἰ οὖν ἐμὲ ζητεῖτε, ἄφετε τούτους ὑπάγειν· ἵνα πληρωθῇ ὁ λόγος ὃν εἶπεν, ὅτι Οὓς δέδωκάς μοι, οὐκ ἀπώλεσα ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐδένα.</p>
<p>John.18.17 λέγει ἐκεῖνος Οὐκ εἰμί.</p>
<p>John.18.25 ἠρνήσατο ἐκεῖνος καὶ εἶπεν Οὐκ εἰμί.</p>
<p>Acts.13.25 ὡς δὲ ἐπλήρου Ἰωάνης τὸν δρόμον, ἔλεγεν Τί ἐμὲ ὑπονοεῖτε εἶναι, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐγώ· ἀλλ’ ἰδοὺ ἔρχεται μετ’ ἐμὲ οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἄξιος τὸ ὑπόδημα τῶν ποδῶν λῦσαι.</p>
<p>Acts.22.2Acts.22.3Acts.22.4Acts.22.5 καὶ φησίν— Ἐγώ εἰμι ἀνὴρ Ἰουδαῖος, γεγεννημένος ἐν Ταρσῷ τῆς Κιλικίας, ἀνατεθραμμένος δὲ ἐν τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ, παρὰ τοὺς πόδας Γαμαλιήλ πεπαιδευμένος κατὰ ἀκρίβειαν τοῦ πατρῴου νόμου, ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τοῦ Θεοῦ καθὼς πάντες ὑμεῖς ἐστε σήμερον· ὃς ταύτην τὴν Ὁδὸν ἐδίωξα ἄχρι θανάτου, δεσμεύων καὶ παραδιδοὺς εἰς φυλακὰς ἄνδρας τε καὶ γυναῖκας, ὡς καὶ ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς μαρτυρεῖ μοι καὶ πᾶν τὸ πρεσβυτέριον· παρ’ ὧν καὶ ἐπιστολὰς δεξάμενος πρὸς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς εἰς Δαμασκὸν ἐπορευόμην, ἄξων καὶ τοὺς ἐκεῖσε ὄντας δεδεμένους εἰς Ἱερουσαλὴμ ἵνα τιμωρηθῶσιν.</p>
<p>Rom.6.5 εἰ γὰρ σύμφυτοι γεγόναμεν τῷ ὁμοιώματι τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἀναστάσεως ἐσόμεθα·</p>
<p>Rom.9.8 τοῦτ’ ἔστιν, οὐ τὰ τέκνα τῆς σαρκὸς ταῦτα τέκνα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας λογίζεται εἰς σπέρμα.</p>
<p>1Cor.9.2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι·</p>
<p>1John.3.1 καὶ ἐσμέν.</p>
<p>1John.4.17 Ἐν τούτῳ τετελείωται ἡ ἀγάπη μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ἵνα παρρησίαν ἔχωμεν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως, ὅτι καθὼς ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐσμεν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ.</p>
<p>Rev.2.2 Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ τὸν κόπον καὶ τὴν ὑπομονήν σου, καὶ ὅτι οὐ δύνῃ βαστάσαι κακούς, καὶ ἐπείρασας τοὺς λέγοντας ἑαυτοὺς ἀποστόλους καὶ οὐκ εἰσίν, καὶ εὗρες αὐτοὺς ψευδεῖς·</p>
ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Jonathan you suggested: Before Abraham was ... it's me.

In that sentence “was” has an existential sense and would seem to be either the main verb (which an infinitive cannot be). Or “it’s me.” is absolute and again I point out that there is no controlling verb to give γενέσθαι its time and without it would mean something like “to be born”.

It is intriguing that Ps 89:2 in the OG leaves out the subject which makes it easier to apply to the Messiah
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Jonathan in addition to answering the question μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ, ὅστις ἀπέθανεν; καὶ οἱ προφῆται ἀπέθανον. τίνα σεαυτὸν ποιεῖς; Jesus’ response at verse 58 it needs to answer the question:

εἶπον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι πρὸς αὐτόν· πεντήκοντα ἔτη οὔπω ἔχεις καὶ Ἀβραὰμ ἑώρακας;

So it should answer both the question of identity and age.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Jonathan Robie wrote: July 31st, 2021, 4:50 pm But here's one well-known example:
Psalm 89:2 wrote:πρὸ τοῦ ὄρη γενηθῆναι καὶ πλασθῆναι τὴν γῆν καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος σὺ εἶ.
I was aware of that one but didn't remember where it is. It's really a parallel, but if it's the only parallel in Koine, it's not pleasant to many of those who want to see Jesus saying only "I existed" because Jesus says about himself something which is otherwise said only about God.
The other issue is that the predicate is not specified. "I am". I am WHAT? The subject is specified, the predicate is not. I think that's what the OP means by a "predicateless copula." There are, of course, other places where a copulative verb does not specify a predicate. Are there any useful parallels here? Whatever it means, it has to answer this question:

μὴ σὺ μείζων εἶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ, ὅστις ἀπέθανεν; καὶ οἱ προφῆται ἀπέθανον. τίνα σεαυτὸν ποιεῖς;

Does this list suggest senses that would be plausible answers to that question? Here's one really speculative idea:
Before Abraham was ... it's me.
In light of the uses below, is that plausible or not? I don't think we usually translate ἐγὼ εἰμί without a predicate as "I am" in other contexts. But this one feels special, so maybe it's the right way to translate here. Thoughts?
In those examples it's easy to see what can fill in the ellipsis. It must be something readily cognitively available and active. For example "it's me (and not something else like a ghost)". Or "The one you are talking about - I'm that one". There just isn't anything like that in this passage. One can of course say there is, but that feels forced. As I said earlier, if someone wants to believe there's an ellipsis or missing predicate here, it's very difficult to argue otherwise because it's contextual, and it's possible to see almost anything in the context if one really wants to.

Myriads of grammarians and exegetes have covered this. Has anyone suggested this solution? We know that many of those haven't needed to see anything theologically important there and have explained this as normal grammar. Therefore if some interpretation would have been even remotely plausible, wouldn't it have been handled in all those discussions? As far as I can see, the only real options are 1) "I am", 2) PPA with "to exist", 3) some other normal grammatical phenomenon with "to exist" which makes it possible to use the present tense with a πριν clause. But I have explained why I don't see 2) and 3) as probable at all unless someone gives examples which prove them.

I can easily understand why some see "I am" being driven by theological agenda, but they haven't actually proved the other options, they have only simply claimed that this is normal grammar.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Scott Lawson wrote: July 31st, 2021, 4:05 pm Viewing ἐγὼ εἰμί as absolute creates the difficultly that γενέσθαι has no controlling verb to give it it's time.

First, I don't know why you think it needs a controlling verb. Second, I don't see any difference between "absolute" and "non-absolute" (whatever they mean) in this respect. It's in the present tense and refers to the time of speaking in any case. But I think this idea of controlling verb is a red herring for you. Where did you get that idea?

EDIT: I need to reread the thread, you kind of answered that in an earlier post. It seems to me that you misunderstood what Wallace was saying. But I have to reread...
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

From Wallace’s GGBB:

Time

This use of the infinitive indicates a temporal relationship between its action and the action of the controlling verb. It answers the question, “When?” There are three types, all carefully defined structurally: antecedent, contemporaneous, subsequent. You should distinguish between them rather than labeling an infinitive merely as “temporal.”15 Overall, the temporal use of the infinitive is relatively common. Each subcategory should be learned.16…

…596] 3. Subsequent (πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + infinitive) [before . . .] The action of the infinitive of subsequent time occurs after the action of the controlling verb. Its structure is πρὸ τοῦ, πρίν, or πρὶν ἤ + the infinitive. The construction should be before plus an appropriate finite verb. There is confusion in some grammars about the proper labels of the temporal infinitives. More than one has mislabeled the subsequent as the antecedent infinitive.22 This confusion comes naturally: If we are calling this use of the infinitive subsequent, why then are we translating it as before? The reason is that this infinitive explicitly tells when the action of the controlling verb takes place, as in “the rabbit was already dead, before he aimed his rifle.” In this sentence, “he aimed” is the infinitive and “was (already dead)” is the main verb. The dying comes before the aiming, or conversely, the aiming comes after the dying. Thus the action of the infinitive occurs after that of the controlling verb.23
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Eeli the term absolute seems to be used in the sense loosening. So a word that is absolute is loosed from the syntax of a sentence. It stands alone in it’s sense. I’m probably telling you what you already know. I’ve never seen the grammatical term “non-absolute”.
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