goolde at mtnempire.net
Thu Dec 23 16:56:13 EST 1999
Steven Craig Miller wrote:
SCM: << Perhaps, but EGW EIMI is just a common phrase which often in both
Classical Greek and the NT simply means nothing more than "I am he"
(assuming a male speaker). There is nothing in the Grammar of this Greek
text which necessarily demands understanding this text to suggests
PRIN + the infinitive clearly means before. The passage *at least* means
that "before Abraham was, I am" We do not usually make too much of the
temporal aspect of the aorist infinitive, but following PRIN the infinitive
acts very nearly as a finite verb (cf Burton #380), thus its secondary
tense implications should be noted. The change from the secondary to the
primary tense of EGW EIMI therefore becomes notable. The context here,
including verse 57, is one of time, not one in which an idea has been
introduced that may be translated as an understood predicate to EGO EIMI.
SCM wrote further:
One could just as easily interpret this passage to mean
(something like): "before Abraham was, I was appointed to this task"
But the context is not discussing "this task." The context is discussing
the relative age of Abraham and Jesus. This is explicit in verse 57. It
seems to me that to change this thrust requires reading into the text. To
supply an implied predicate requires that the predicate has been previously
introduced in the context. No such predicate appears in this context, only
the discussion of the time.
Exactly what was before Abraham?
EGW EIMI ! Is the simple answer.
Of course, as I said before, our interpretations at this point are
undoubtedly influenced by theological presuppositions, but looking at the
Greek text alone I think Carl hit the nail on the head when he pointed out
that there is a certain paradoxical sense that is being clearly portrayed
here. The translation "My existence antedates the birth of Abraham" seems
to be the simple, and dare I say the obvious, point of the passage.
SCM also inquired as to the appropriateness of translating EGW EIMI as a
historical present. ISTM that Exodus 3:14, LXX would be an appropriate
I fully agree that we may well encounter a text where two alternatives are
grammatical, syntactically possible, and that they appear to have more or
less "equal weight." In such cases we generally all would choose an
interpretation that best fits our theological construct. Theology aside, I
have difficulty finding such an "equal weight" in this passage. I would
personally estimate that to set aside what appears to be a "heavy weight on
one side" of the Greek text would require a theological imposition.
George A. Goolde
Professor, Bible and Theology
Southern California Bible College & Seminary
El Cajon, California
goolde at mtnempire.net
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