Present tence copulative verbs

Jonathan Robie jonathan at
Sat Oct 31 14:46:32 EST 1998

At 11:03 AM 9/1/98 -0700, Kyle Dillon wrote:
>Grammarian A.T. Robertson said, "Undoubtedly here [at John 8:58] Jesus
>claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast
>between GENESQAI (entrance into existence of Abraham) and EIMI (timeless
>being) is complete." (Word Pictures of the New Testament - John 8:58)

That's a theological view of a grammarian (one of my favorite grammarians,
incidentally). But there's nothing here but a conclusion, no data to
evaluate so that we can come to our own conclusions.

>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

Well, that's an opinion of a grammarian, but still nothing to chew on.

>My initial conclusion was that Jesus may have been alluding to Exodus 3:14 
>(although that may be wrong). 

Was there a basis for this conclusion?

>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'm confused. Are you saying the existence of Jesus did not continue into
the present?

>Recently, Dan-Ake Mattsson quoted the LXX Jeremiah 1:5, which says PRO TOU
>ME PLASAI SE EN KOILIAi, EPISTAMAI SE, or "before I formed you in the womb,
>I knew [lit. "know] you." This is what I was looking for. Here we see a
>similar grammatical construction to John 8:58 (an imperfective subordinate
>clause and a present tense main verb). If this is indeed a PPA idiom, then
>perhaps John 8:58 is as well. But I think Jeremiah 1:5 needs to be examined
>more closely. I did a search at the Perseus web site, and I was unable to
>find any example of EPISTAMAI in the perfect tense. We also have to consider
>that this is in the Septuagint, a translation of Hebrew writings, and in
>Greek New Testament writings, we never find PRIN or PRO modifying a
>present/perfect tense main verb.

I'm not sure what you are saying here.

>I do apologize if it sounded like I was putting my theology before
>translation. But that is what happens when we discuss the theological nature
>of a Greek text.

Frankly, it *does* feel like you are putting your theology before
translation. I don't see how this message helps me to know how to translate
John 8:58, though it does tell me your conclusion, which seems to be the
conclusion of some grammarians (including one very good one).


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