[B-Greek] PRIN before the birth of Abraham/the Muses.

Carl Conrad cwconrad2 at mac.com
Thu Oct 15 06:10:33 EDT 2009


On Oct 14, 2009, at 9:48 PM, Steven Cox wrote:

>
> Carl
> Sorry. Yes I should have transliterated the Perseus transliterations  
> into BGreek and provided context of complete sentences.  
> Discourteous. My apologies.
>
>
> But, thank you for the time spent on such a complete and helpful  
> answer. Can I further ask:
>
>> PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI points to a moment of time when Abraham was  
>> born, while PRIN ABRAAM GEGONENAI points to a time span prior to  
>> Abraham's existence.<
>
> Is that because time in the clause PRIN...GENESQAI is in itself  
> ambiguous, and in other contexts it could mean "before this (future)  
> happens", wheras GEGONENAI being "before" + perfective, is in effect  
> equivalent to a pluperfect "before this had happened"?
>
> PRIN TI GENESQAI, TOUTO PRASSW  before sth. happens/happened I do  
> this.
> PRIN TI GENESQAI, TOUTO PRAXW  before sth. will happen, I will do  
> this.
>
> PRIN TI GENESQAI, TOUTO EPRAXA before that happened, I did this.
>
> cf. PRIN TI GEGONENAI, TOUTO PEPRAXA before sth. had happened, I had  
> done this.

That's right, except it should be noted that PRIN can take other  
constructions, e.g. with AN + subjunctive or optative, as preposition  
with a genitive. There are 13 instances in the GNT of PRIN in all:
πρίν  before; formerly  (13)
	Matt. 1:18   τῷ Ἰωσήφ, πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν  
αὐτοὺς
	Matt. 26:34   ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν  
ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρὶς
	Matt. 26:75   Ἰησοῦ εἰρηκότος ὅτι πρὶν  
ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι τρὶς
	Mark 14:30   ταύτῃ τῇ νυκτὶ πρὶν ἢ δὶς  
ἀλέκτορα
	Mark 14:72   ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι πρὶν ἀλέκτορα  
φωνῆσαι δὶς
	Luke 2:26   μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον πρὶν [ἢ]
	Luke 22:61   εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὅτι πρὶν  
ἀλέκτορα φωνῆσαι σήμερον
	John 4:49   κύριε, κατάβηθι πρὶν  
ἀποθανεῖν τὸ παιδίον
	John 8:58   λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ  
γενέσθαι ἐγὼ
	John 14:29   νῦν εἴρηκα ὑμῖν πρὶν  
γενέσθαι, ἵνα
	Acts 2:20   αἷμα, 	πρὶν ἐλθεῖν ἡμέραν  
κυρίου
	Acts 7:2   ἐν τῇ Μεσοποταμίᾳ πρὶν ἢ  
κατοικῆσαι αὐτὸν
	Acts 25:16   χαρίζεσθαί τινα ἄνθρωπον πρὶν  
ἢ ὁ κατηγορούμενος

[	Matt. 1:18   TWi IWSHF, PRIN H SUNELQEIN AUTOUS
	Matt. 26:34   TAUTHi THi NUKTI PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI TRIS
	Matt. 26:75   IHSOU EIRHKOTOS hOTI PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI TRIS
	Mark 14:30   TAUTHi THi NUKTI PRIN H DIS ALEKTORA
	Mark 14:72   hO IHSOUS hOTI PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI DIS
	Luke 2:26   MH IDEIN QANATON PRIN [H]
	Luke 22:61   EIPEN AUTWi hOTI PRIN ALEKTORA FWNHSAI SHMERON
	John 4:49   KURIE, KATABHQI PRIN APOQANEIN TO PAIDION
	John 8:58   LEGW hUMIN, PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW
	John 14:29   NUN EIRHKA hUMIN PRIN GENESQAI, hINA
	Acts 2:20   hAIMA, 	PRIN ELQEIN hHMERAN KURIOU
	Acts 7:2   EN THi MESOPOTAMIAi PRIN H KATOIKHSAI AUTON
	Acts 25:16   CARIZESQAI TINA ANQRWPON PRIN H hO KATHGOROUMENOS]

> --- On Wed, 14/10/09, Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com> wrote:
>
> From: Carl Conrad <cwconrad2 at mac.com>
> Subject: Re: [B-Greek] PRIN before the birth of Abraham/the Muses.
> To: "Steven Cox" <stevencox_backonbgreek at yahoo.co.uk>
> Cc: b-greek at lists.ibiblio.org
> Date: Wednesday, 14 October, 2009, 12:21 PM
>
>
> On Oct 14, 2009, at 4:15 AM, Steven Cox wrote:
>
>>
>> Hello folks,
>> please don't jump all over me, this is probably a very basic  
>> question, but wasn't one I could see addressed in the Bgreek archive.
>>
>> I started with John 8:58 PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI (aor. inf. mid.)
>>
>>
>> and TWN PRIN MOUSAS GEGONENAI (perf. inf. act.)
>
> Prefaced Unscientific Peevish PreScript: To be perfectly honest and  
> straightforward, Steven, I don't understand how you can expect  
> anyone to respond to a message like this. While it seems clear  
> enough that you'd like to understand the difference between usage of  
> PRIN with an aorist infinitive and PRIN with a perfect infinitive of  
> the same verb GINOMAI, you illustrate your question with more than  
> half a dozen truncated and semi-digested citations from Platonic  
> dialogues and later from Herodotus and Xenophon -- evidently the  
> fruits of a Perseus search. Your citation style is haphazard, almost  
> never providing sufficient context to grasp how the PRIN +  
> infinitive construction is being used, and you cite these texts  
> using a transliteration scheme (probably the Perseus scheme) that is  
> not unintelligible but awkward to list-members more familiar with or  
> more comfortable with the standard B-Greek transliteration scheme. I  
> found that I had to go to the Greek text
> of the Phaedo and read through the whole section from which you've  
> drawn your illustrations in order to observe the usage you're trying  
> to raise questions about. After doing that I rather think the  
> question could have been posed much more simply without your sending  
> us the contents of your note pad in that undigested format. Enough  
> then of that.
>
>>
>> before the birth of the muses, Plato, Phaidros. Socrates 259b
>>
>>
>> And had the question, why not PRIN ABRAAM GEGONENAI?
>
> Aye, verily, why not? While there's a nuance of difference, I don't  
> think it would have altered the substance of the dialogue or the  
> import of Jesus' response to his questioners in the passage under  
> consideration.
>
> My take on this is as follows: PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI points to a  
> moment of time when Abraham was born, while PRIN ABRAAM GEGONENAI  
> points to a time span prior to Abraham's existence. I tend to think  
> that the aspectual difference between the aorist and the perfect  
> tense -- especially in contexts where the discourse is about events  
> in time as here -- is not observed with any regularity in Koine  
> Greek. I am inclined to think that the perfect tense is less  
> commonly used (it's my belief that it is less commonly used, but I  
> haven't done a search to test that) in the Koine than it was in  
> Classical Attic and that one reason is that it (the perfect) is  
> quite commonly used not in a stative sense but rather as an eventive  
> verb indicating perfective action in the past. However, the perfect  
> tense-forms may also represent a state, as it does in the two most  
> commonly-used perfect-tense forms in Koine, OIDA and its compounds  
> and hESTHKA and its compounds. GEGONENAI, on
> the other hand, when used as a stative, means "exist" or "have  
> existence.," whereas GENESQAI means "come into existence" or "come  
> to birth/get born."
>
> For practical purposes, I'd English PRIN ABRAAM GEGONENAI as "before  
> Abraham's existence" and PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI as "before Abraham's  
> birth."
>
> It's instructive in this context to compare the Johannine prologue,  
> 1:3, particularly if we read it the traditional way, with hO GEGONEN  
> understood as belonging with what precedes rather than with what  
> follows:
>
> 3 πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ  
> χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ  
> γέγονεν
> [PANTA DI᾿ AUTOU EGENETO, KAI CWRIS AUTOU EGENETO OUDE hEN hO  
> GEGONEN]
>
> Here EGENETO points to 'coming into existence' while GEGONEN points  
> to existence as a state.
> I would English this as "Everything has come into existence through  
> his agency and apart from him not a single thing that has existence  
> has come into existence." -- or " ... and apart from him not a  
> single existing thing has come into existence."
>
>
>>
>>
>> Then I've been looking through the "before [the soul] is born"  
>> constructions in Plato's Phaedo 75-77, where PRIN GENESQAI and PRIN  
>> GEGONENAI occur in contrast (?)
>>
>>
>> 75c prin genesthai ara
>>
>> 75c kai prin genesthai kai euthus
>>
>> 75e labontes prin genesthai
>>
>> 76e prin gegonenai
>>
>> 77a prin genesthai
>>
>> 77b hoti prin genesthai
>>
>> 77c hoti prin genesthai hêmas ên hêmôn hê psuchê
>> 77c prin genesthai ei mellei
>>
>> It makes reasonable sense to me why 76e is PRIN + perf.inf.act.
>>
>> [76e] huparchousan proteron aneuriskontes hêmeteran ousan, kai  
>> tauta ekeinêi apeikazomen, anankaion, houtôs hôsper kai tauta  
>> estin, houtôs kai tên hêmeteran psuchên einai kai prin gegonenai  
>> hêmas: ei de mê esti tauta, allôs an ho logos houtos eirêmenos  
>> eiê; ar' houtôs echei, kai isê anankê tauta te einai kai tas  
>> hêmeteras psuchas prin kai hêmas gegonenai, kai ei mê tauta, oude  
>> tade;
>> [76e] which we find existed previously and are now ours, and
>> compare our sensations with these, is it not a necessary inference  
>> that
>> just as these abstractions exist, so our souls existed before we were
>> born; and if these abstractions do not exist, our argument is of no
>> force? Is this the case, and is it equally certain that provided  
>> these
>> things exist our souls also existed before we were born, and that if
>> these do not exist, neither did our souls?”
>>
>> but that still doesn't really help me grasp why not PRIN ABRAAM  
>> GEGONENAI. Can anyone provide any helpful comments. Is it related  
>> to the following being EGW EIMI not EGW HN?
>
> I don't think so. I think that EGW HN would have raised both  
> eyebrows and hackles as much as did EGW EIMI. Well, perhaps it's  
> easier to understand PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI than it is to understand  
> EGW EIMI.  ;-)  Obviously there are many who are convinced that EGW  
> EIMI harks back to Exodus 3 and there are others who rather doubt  
> that. There are some who think that what EGW EIMI must ordinarily  
> mean in Greek is "It's me" or "I'm the one." Perhaps the sense is "I  
> continue to be the one you have to deal with." No doubt the  
> formulation of John 8:56 was intended to be provocative and perhaps  
> a little bit arcane. It still is, isn't it? I personally think that  
> almost everything in our archives about John 8:56 is, at best,  
> inconclusive.
>
>
>> PS - there was a secondary question of why not PRIN ABRAAM  
>> GENNASQAI, but I think I'm okay on that one. Just noting in case  
>> anyone has comments on that too.
>> nb. gennaw, prin .... gennasthai. - not found. except in Suda.
>
> Well, it's perfectly conceivable, but a discussion focused upon the  
> exact pinpointing in time of begetting tends toward the direction of  
> "when you were a sparkle in your father's eye" or the like. As I  
> recall, the lengthy beginning of the length novel, Tristram Shandy,  
> is a digression to end all digressions on pinpointing the moment of  
> the protagonist's begetting.
>
>
>
>
> Carl W. Conrad
> Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)
>
>
>
>
>
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