John 8:58

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Stephen Carlson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 1st, 2021, 6:08 pm
Jonathan Robie wrote: August 1st, 2021, 5:43 pm
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 1st, 2021, 2:27 pm I would also be interested in hearing if cross-linguistic research could shed some light on this. "Before x happened, y is(PRESENT)" is ungrammatical in English, so is the corresponding sentence in Finnish. In both imperfect or perfect tense form would be used.
That's because in normal discourse, if A happened before B, and B has already happened, then A has already happened. Calling this "ungrammatical" misses the point, I think, the present is being used for effect, the fact that it clashes with the normal expectation is the point.
I don't think I missed the point. I agree that the present is used here for effect and it clashes with the normal expectation. But linguists would mark it with an asterisk, and if I would write something like that in English without any special purpose, an English teacher would mark it with red. Language is fascinating because rules and expectations can be broken for rhetorical purposes.
I'm late to this topic, but the big issue, how I see it, is that the each part of the sentence establishes a different and incompatible topic/reference time (one before Abraham's birth, the other at the momment of Jesus's speaking). So there's a clash, and I don't think this clash is going to be resolved grammatically, because grammar is about convention and conventionalized patterns in the language, and this isn't conventional being any means as the paucity of parallels demonstrates. It seems more profitable then to look how language exploited and we do have some understanding of that (e.g. figures of speech and the like), just not in "grammar" per se.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Stephen if my hypothesis is correct that if a verb doesn’t have a perfect form then the default is to the present tense form then grammar would resolve it…or would this practice be an example of exploiting language?
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Scott Lawson wrote: August 1st, 2021, 8:31 pm Stephen if my hypothesis is correct that if a verb doesn’t have a perfect form then the default is to the present tense form then grammar would resolve it…or would this practice be an example of exploiting language?
Usually γίνομαι supplies the perfect for εἶναι if a perfect form is wanted. Besides, the perfect tense has the same reference/topic time as the present tense, so the clash doesn't go away. So, yes, I think there's some exploitation. The context indicates how Jesus's opponents resolved the clash.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

Stephen in one of my earlier posts I mentioned that γινομαι takes up the slack for the lack of the aorist and perfect forms of ειμι. I mentioned that γινομαι has a semantic force of a change of state which the inceptive Aktionsart of an aorist form of ειμι might have been able to convey. The use of γινομαι instead of the stative ειμι would signal a change of state and evidently not convey the idea of uninterrupted unchanged existence since before Abraham. So γινομαι would be rejected. Right?

Edit:
πριν Αβρααμ γενεσθαι εγω γεγονα

before Abraham was born (came to be) I came to be.
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

I asked Mike Aubrey the following question back in 2019:

Mike I just read your blog on state predicates and Greek perfects. I’m gonna have to read it through a few more times to hopefully understand it more completely. But what came to my mind is the Greek “to be” verb and its incomplete system of “tenses”. There are no perfect forms nor aorist forms. Is this a because a perfect form and aorist form would indicate change of state? Does this explain why γινομαι often serves for the “to be” perfects and aorists?

Mike responded with:

Good question. I haven't considered that particular question and I'm usually hesitant to comment on particular issues that I haven't dug into, but that certainly sounds quite probable.
Scott Lawson
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Scott Lawson »

…and it occurred to me that ἐπίσταμαί at Jer 1:5 is also stative.

Πρὸ τοῦ με πλάσαι σε ἐν κοιλίᾳ ἐπίσταμαί σε καὶ πρὸ τοῦ σε ἐξελθεῖν ἐκ μήτρας ἡγίακά σε, προφήτην εἰς ἔθνη τέθεικά σε.
Scott Lawson
Daniel Semler
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Daniel Semler »

Scott Lawson wrote: August 1st, 2021, 8:02 pm Daniel can you do a search for επιστηκα on Accordance? And perhaps Jonathan Robie can do one on Perseus. I can’t seem to figure out how…maybe it’s because I use my iPhone exclusively.
επιστηκα does not appear in the Accordance modules I have.
I could not find in via Scaife viewer on Perseus either.

But I am not 100% sure of the compound form here. There are odd cases like π -> φ and whether the perfect reduplication would be with ι or ε, and whether the reduplicated consonant has become a rough breather on the redup vowel or not. It appears the present at any rate, displays both forms. Ι suspect ε in the perfect given the active form but that would lead to either επεστηκα (or perhaps εψεστηκα) or εφεστηκα none of which are attested either.

I couldn't get a raw Perseus query to fly. The way you have to enter the Greek there is a bit more tricky.

Thx
D
Eeli Kaikkonen
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Eeli Kaikkonen »

Welcome Stephen and thanks for the breath of fresh air!
Stephen Carlson wrote: August 1st, 2021, 8:03 pm each part of the sentence establishes a different and incompatible topic/reference time (one before Abraham's birth, the other at the momment of Jesus's speaking). So there's a clash, and I don't think this clash is going to be resolved grammatically, because grammar is about convention and conventionalized patterns in the language, and this isn't conventional being any means as the paucity of parallels demonstrates. It seems more profitable then to look how language exploited and we do have some understanding of that (e.g. figures of speech and the like), just not in "grammar" per se.
That raises some questions. You see a clash there, I assume it's a same kind of clash I and Jonathan Robie see. Do you think the clash is grammatical, what Jonathan calls unexpected and I called, maybe immaturely, ungrammatical? Would you expect imperfect here?

You see "paucity of parallels". Do you mean the same thing than I see, πριν + aor. inf referring to past with present tense main verb without (many) parallels?

What do you think about the newly found parallel in Jeremiah (see some posts above)? Does it prove the grammar to be conventional?

I have thought about that parallel over night (not recommended to other attendants! Well, I slept, too...). I still have a problem with. Not that it wouldn't be a parallel, but I just can't shake away the theological content in our texts and in my understanding. Therefore I see there the same thing I see in the mentioned Psalm, namely that it speaks about God. In the Psalm someone talks about God; here God talks about himself. That's why I can't just let this be and think the grammatical problem is solved so that it would be fully conventional grammar without further consequences. I'm waiting for more parallels. Especially those from mundane contexts would be valuable. I'm sorry, but I just can't let this rest.

That said, I agree with those who say that grammar alone can't solve the problem and it's contextual. "So they picked up stones to throw at him" apparently because of blasphemy (see John 10:33). Claiming to be the Messiah or claiming to exist before Abraham wouldn't have sufficed.

But I want also to understand the grammar for its own sake, and it bothers me greatly that commentators and translators bluntly say this is a PPA without actually giving any proof or analyzing or even deeply understanding what PPA is and if there's an alternative grammatical explanation. As far as I can see, this path which we are walking right now is untrodden and therefore very valuable.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Scott Lawson wrote: August 1st, 2021, 9:22 pm Stephen in one of my earlier posts I mentioned that γινομαι takes up the slack for the lack of the aorist and perfect forms of ειμι. I mentioned that γινομαι has a semantic force of a change of state which the inceptive Aktionsart of an aorist form of ειμι might have been able to convey. The use of γινομαι instead of the stative ειμι would signal a change of state and evidently not convey the idea of uninterrupted unchanged existence since before Abraham. So γινομαι would be rejected. Right?
The Greek perfect has a natural fit with change of state verbs, which is why γίνομαι is so appropriate. The Greek perfect isn't really the tense to use for an "idea of uninterrupted unchanged existence." You'd want an imperfective for that.

It sounds like to me that by "perfect" you're thinking of a particular kind of perfect in English, sometimes called a "universal" or "continuative" perfect, which does cover the more-or-less unintertupted interval from point of time in the past to the present, but this is a mismatch between the English and Greek verbal systems.

Plus, as I think Eeli already mentioned, πρίν is the wrong word to set up this reference time interval.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Re: John 8:58

Post by Stephen Carlson »

Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am Welcome Stephen and thanks for the breath of fresh air!
Stephen Carlson wrote: August 1st, 2021, 8:03 pm each part of the sentence establishes a different and incompatible topic/reference time (one before Abraham's birth, the other at the momment of Jesus's speaking). So there's a clash, and I don't think this clash is going to be resolved grammatically, because grammar is about convention and conventionalized patterns in the language, and this isn't conventional being any means as the paucity of parallels demonstrates. It seems more profitable then to look how language exploited and we do have some understanding of that (e.g. figures of speech and the like), just not in "grammar" per se.
That raises some questions. You see a clash there, I assume it's a same kind of clash I and Jonathan Robie see. Do you think the clash is grammatical, what Jonathan calls unexpected and I called, maybe immaturely, ungrammatical? Would you expect imperfect here?
Well, I think the grammatical meaning sets up a clash, but as there appears to be no way to resolve the clash within the grammatical system, the resolution is to be found elsewhere, as with some sort of pragmatic accomodation or rhetorical figure, etc. Usually, people just don't produce sentences with such a clash in reference times.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am You see "paucity of parallels". Do you mean the same thing than I see, πριν + aor. inf referring to past with present tense main verb without (many) parallels?
Well, basically. The parallels discussed here may not be enough for a grammatical convention, but it could show how this kind of exploitation is received.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am What do you think about the newly found parallel in Jeremiah (see some posts above)? Does it prove the grammar to be conventional?
It appears to be a good parallel. I don't know why it wasn't translated with an imperfect. I'd want to see the textual variants. But on the other hand It is poetic, and in the precisely the kind of context I would expect to see more linguistic exploitation for rhetorical effect.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am I have thought about that parallel over night (not recommended to other attendants! Well, I slept, too...). I still have a problem with. Not that it wouldn't be a parallel, but I just can't shake away the theological content in our texts and in my understanding. Therefore I see there the same thing I see in the mentioned Psalm, namely that it speaks about God. In the Psalm someone talks about God; here God talks about himself. That's why I can't just let this be and think the grammatical problem is solved so that it would be fully conventional grammar without further consequences. I'm waiting for more parallels. Especially those from mundane contexts would be valuable. I'm sorry, but I just can't let this rest.
Yeah, it could work as an allusion to this God talk in Jer 1:5 etc.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am That said, I agree with those who say that grammar alone can't solve the problem and it's contextual. "So they picked up stones to throw at him" apparently because of blasphemy (see John 10:33). Claiming to be the Messiah or claiming to exist before Abraham wouldn't have sufficed.
This historical dimension is a bit afield for B-Greek, but it certainly should help us understand pragmatically what's going on. At any rate, the Johannine prologue does prepare the reader for interpreting this claim.
Eeli Kaikkonen wrote: August 2nd, 2021, 4:12 am But I want also to understand the grammar for its own sake, and it bothers me greatly that commentators and translators bluntly say this is a PPA without actually giving any proof or analyzing or even deeply understanding what PPA is and if there's an alternative grammatical explanation. As far as I can see, this path which we are walking right now is untrodden and therefore very valuable.
Well, the PPA almost works, but as you noted: the relevant reference time isn't properly set up for it. And indeed, continual existence over the whole interval to the present doesn't seem to be salient issue. It's the pre-existence.
Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
Melbourne, Australia
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